When a taxi driver, after dropping him off at home, said "now I know where you live" to the famous Tagesschau journalist Constantin Schreiber, it was time to stop. He will no longer comment on Islam. Schreiber won't say anything more. He will be like the three little monkeys: "See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil."
"I won't write any more books on the subject, I will refuse requests from talk shows; I won't do it again," Schreiber told Zeit editor Giovanni di Lorenzo. Schreiber had written investigations and criticized sermons in mosques and Koranic schools. On August 29, during a conference at the University of Jena, Schreiber had a cake thrown in his face by left-wing activists. "I don't want that negativity in my life", says Schreiber, whose book about a Muslim woman who is about to become chancellor in 2050 caused a sensation. It deals with the "creeping Islamization of Germany." Since he won't talk about Islam anymore, Schreiber says, some might "celebrate and open bottles of sparkling wine."
Schreiber learned Arabic and moderated the program "Marhaba – Arrival in Germany" during the refugee crisis. For this he was awarded the Grimme Prize. His "crime"? He addressed the role of mosques in Germany. Enough for some left-wing groups to defame him as "persona non grata." Activists who claim to defend tolerance and diversity do exactly the opposite: they condemn those who think differently and promote a climate of fear and self-censorship.
Schreiber doesn't want to end up like Molly Norris, the Seattle Post cartoonist who became a "ghost." She changed her name; she wasn't seen around anymore. Nothing more is known about her after the FBI placed her in a witness protection program.
And she certainly doesn't want to end up with a bulletproof vest, with which she has to speak in public in Germany to the Egyptian sociologist Hamed Abdel-Samad.
And censorship works in full force when journalism denies it even exists.
"Whether it is Islam, climate, or immigration: the costs of freedom of expression can be enormous," writes the Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Bild also comments on Schreiber: "Abandoned and threatened, Schreiber retreats to protect his private life and family. It's easy to understand and yet it's devastating. Because Schreiber's fate proves that anyone who raises their voice critically puts themselves in danger. He cannot count on any support."
A valuable self-criticism was described in Welt by the Green MP Max Lucks: "The discourse on Islam is rejected, ignored, and misunderstood by progressives. We try by all means to prevent a critical debate from taking place. And we shoot ourselves in the foot because Islamism is spreading in society."
And who knows if German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier also meant this when, visiting a mosque in Cologne in the same hours as Schreiber's announcement, he said: "Islam has taken root in our country."
Like Schreiber, dozens of personalities have abandoned the field. Islam, as Ross Douthat writes in the New York Times, is the only taboo in the West. And it is no coincidence that this incredible self-censorship takes place while Europe is massively settled by populations from the Islamic world.
Dutch-Turkish novelist Lale Gül, after a deluge of death threats, said: "I will no longer write about Islam. Absolutely not." After the publication of a novel critical of her own culture, Gül had become the target of intimidation and threats. But we are in Holland, where the publishing house Blossom Books has just removed Muhammad from Dante's Inferno in a new translation of the Divine Comedy.
In France there are 120 people under police protection due to Islamist threats. Hamed Abdel-Samad's book, Islamic Fascism, had been purchased by the Parisian publishing house Piranha, and there was also a release date on Amazon. But at the last moment, the publishing house engaged in self-censorship.
And the Sorbonne canceled a conference by anthropologist Florence Bergeaud-Blackler, who was placed under police protection after the publication of a book on the Muslim Brotherhood.
And when Le Parisien, the newspaper of the French capital, published an article about an academic fired in America for showing an image of Muhammad, the magazine did so by obscuring Muhammad's face.
Not bad, for being the homeland of laïcité.
Even "South Park" self-censored on Muhammad. Director Roland Emmerich cut a scene about the destruction of Mecca from the "2012" film (on the other hand, he destroys the Vatican). Too afraid of a fatwa.
When Czech artist David Cerny created a sculpture of Saddam Hussein as a shark, the mayor of the Belgian town of Middelkerke thought it was "controversial" and banned it. He didn't want to "irritate Muslims," said the Wall Street Journal.
A Turner Prize-winning British artist, Grayson Perry, censured himself: "The reason I no longer attack Islam in my works is that I have a real fear of ending up with my throat cut."
Even the winner of the last English Booker Prize, Shehan Karunatilaka, self-censored on Islam. "I had written a story about a radicalized teenager for a collection I was preparing, and my wife suggested I cancel it. All it takes is one person to get offended, and suddenly you're an Islamophobic writer." And when he heard about the attack on Rushdie in New York, he had no doubts: "My wife said: 'You have two small children; take that story away.'"
For our media gatekeepers, there is really only one thing "unsayable" today: Islam. My profession reeks of cowardice and hypocrisy.
Giulio Meotti, Cultural Editor for Il Foglio, is an Italian journalist and author and a Middle East Forum Writing Fellow.