On Aug. 1, we lost another great battle in our war against Islamofascism, and the defeat went by almost without notice. On Aug. 1, the book publisher, Random House, announced that it had reversed its decision to publish a historical novel about the child bride of Muhammad because the company feared the book "could incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment."
The cancellation came after review copies of the novel had already been sent out, and it was about to be sent to bookstores. The 432-page novel, The Jewel of Medina, was described by Random House as "a fascinating portrait of A'isha, child bride of the prophet Muhammad, who overcame great obstacles to reach her full potential as a woman and a leader."
Random House came up with a lame excuse after receiving unsolicited advice not to publish and after consulting with experts. A Random House spokesman said, "We thought it was not a good time, with tensions running as high as they do, to publish this."
The censorship came about because an American academic, Denise Spellberg, associate professor of Islamic history at the University of Texas, was sent an advance copy and strongly objected to this fictionalized account of A'isha's life. Ms. Spellberg alerted the editor of a popular Islamic Web site, who sent e-mails out saying that Ms. Spellberg found the book "incredibly offensive." And that protest made it to Random House. (Our academic institutions, which should be in the forefront of free speech, are now in the forefront of political correctness that destroys free speech.)
The author of the cancelled novel pointed out that Random House caved in not because of terrorist threats but because of threats of terrorists threats - in other words, fear. A Random House executive admitted the company had received "cautionary advice" ... that the book "could incite violence by a small, radical segment." Random House would feel free to offend Christians or almost any other group, but not the one in question.
Salman Rushdie, the author, upon hearing of the cancellation, said, "I am very disappointed to hear that my publishers, Random House, have cancelled another author's novel apparently because of their concerns about possible Islamic reprisals." Mr. Rushdie, you'll recall, spent years in hiding after Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, i.e. a death edict, for the publication of his book, The Satanic Verses.
Consider the meaning of this precedent set by a leading American publisher. Whenever any book might offend any small radical segment capable of violence the book will be censored. I thought this is the beginning of the end of freedom of speech and freedom of the press in America. There will be no end to such threats at the slightest offense, and the small group of radicals will now think they have censorship control of what Americans read. Do they?
Then I came across an article by Mark Steyn, who wrote the classic America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It and whose columns appear in The Bulletin. Mr. Steyn, one of the most important writers of our time, makes a compelling case for the proposition that these small incremental surrenders to Islam and the threats of terrorism are "ultimately a bigger threat than terrorism." He argues if we give in on every such matter, we start riding the Shariah Express. He says we may work on the assumption that once we get on the Express, we can get off after a few stops but that is "an almighty leap of faith." He fears a weak multicultural leadership will not draw the line and may not even know where the line should be drawn. Europe is already well down the path of incremental surrender to Islam and Islamofascism and we may well be starting on the way.
Mr. Steyn's article, "Lights Out on Liberty," appears in that wonderful (and free) publication Imprimis (August 2008), from Hillsdale College. He starts with an observation made by British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey, who on Aug. 3, 1914, the eve of World War I, stood on the window of his office at dusk and thought, "The lamps are going out all over Europe." Mr. Steyn says the lights may now be going out all over the Western world in that subtle, incremental say. Perhaps they go out one at a time, but it is still ever darker and it is still darkness at the end of the line.
He points to Europe where incremental surrender has already proceeded far enough to suggest total capitulation. He cites three examples:
* When perfectly legitimate Danish cartoons sparked violence all over the world, the European Union Commissioner for Justice, Freedom, and Security, responded to the violence -not by denouncing it - but by proposing that newspapers exercise "prudence" on controversial subjects regarding Islam. Note, prudence, non-violence and reason are only required on one side of the equation.
* The great Italian author, Oriana Fallaci, who wrote on the contradiction between Islam and the Western tradition of liberty, at the time of her death was being sued in France, Italy and Switzerland and other European jurisdictions, because it was alleged her views were criminal.
* In France, Michel Houellebecq, an author, was being sued by Muslim and other "anti-racist groups" because the opinions of a fictional character in one of his novels were criminal.
Getting closer to home, Mr. Steyn gives the example of what's going on with his own writings in Canada. He is accused of "flagrant Islamophobia" by the Canadian Islamic Congress. He is being sued because in reviewing a book, Prayers for the Assassin, he cites twists in the plot of the book. He says it is customary in a review of a novel to describe the plot. For example, in a review of Moby Dick, the reviewer will usually mention the whale. But the Canadian Islamic Congress would make it illegal for a reviewer to describe the plot of the book being reviewed.
Mr. Steyn sees these as small parts of a much bigger and more ominous picture. He notes that after the London subway bombing and the French riots a few years ago, commentators said the Western Muslims were not sufficiently assimilated. Mr. Steyn writes, "But in their mastery of legalisms and the language of victimology, they're superbly assimilated." He says every week somewhere in the West, one of these groups is filing a lawsuit of the kind filed against him. And at the same time, in London masked men marched through the streets, protected by a phalanx of London policemen. The masked men had signs reading, "Behead the Enemies of Islam," and promising another 9/11 and another Holocaust.
So there you have it. Our multicultural Western societies tolerate "the explicitly intolerant and avowedly unicultural," but won't permit anyone to point out the fact of that intolerance. But this diseased state of the Western mind is not new. Steyn traces its beginning to the fatwa, the edict of death, issued on Mr. Rushdie by the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989. At the time of that fatwa, British Muslims marched through the streets openly calling for Mr. Rushdie's death.
Mr. Steyn tells the story of one of his readers who asked the policeman on the street during the parade why the Muslims weren't arrested for inciting to murder. He was told to cool it. When the calls for Mr. Rushdie's blood became more raucous, the reader asked the policeman again why action was not being taken to stop this call for murder. This time the policeman replied, "Push off or I'll arrest you."
Mr. Steyn notes with all the talk of Islamophobia, it's never the Muslims who are in fear of dying, but always "the other party."
Mr. Steyn says he wrote the book, America Alone, to make it clear that we do not fully understand the war we're in. It is not all being fought in some faraway lands. It is taking place in our major cities at home. Even if no bombs were going off, we'd still be in danger of losing the war without even a shot being fired.
Consider some of the things going on, some of those incremental retreats and surrenders:
* The British government recently announced it would be issuing Shariah-compliant Islamic bonds, that is, bonds compliant with Islamic law and practice as prescribed in the Quran.
* The Fortis Bank has stopped giving children piggy banks as they might offend Muslims, and the bank has dropped its mascot for the same reason, who was called Knorberi the piglet.
* Recently a local government prohibited its workers from keeping knickknacks on their desk representing Winnie the Pooh's sidekick, Piglet.
Mr. Steyn says all these stories add up to excessive deference to and excessive fear of Islam.
Mr. Steyn takes issue with the notion that the problem emanates only from a tiny group of radicals. He cites some astounding poll results of Muslims living in functioning democracies:
* 36 percent of those 16 to 24 years of age who are Muslims in the United Kingdom believe that someone who converts to another religion should be put to death.
* 40 percent of British Muslims would like to live under Shariah.
* 20 percent have sympathy for those who bombed the London subways.
Because Mr. Steyn discussed those statistics in print his publisher is being sued by three Canadian human rights commissions. The plaintiff who brought the case against Steyn is Dr. Mohamed Elmasry who announced on Canadian TV that he approves of the murder of all Israeli civilians over the age of 18. Mr. Steyn writes, "I don't begrudge him the right to his opinions, but I wish he felt the same about mine."
So Mr. Elmasry poses as a leader of an "anti-hate" group while using, Mr. Steyn writes, "the squeamishness of a politically correct society to squash freedom." Thus such groups as the Canadian Islamic Congress are trying to criminalize vigilance, and destroy the right to free speech and the right to a free press.
This all means we're on a slippery slope, and may soon be sliding down it without control. Mr. Steyn cites a few examples of what this kind of incremental surrender leads to:
* Thousands of polygamous husbands in Britain and Ontario, Canada, are receiving welfare payments for multiple wives.
* Muslim nurses in British public hospitals, riddled with hospital infections, refuse to comply with hygienic procedures, as that requires them to bare their arms (to scrub them), something that is un-Islamic.
You can see why Mr. Steyn thinks Europe may already be lost, but we better understand what he says if we are to save America. He says his book is not Islamophobic, and really isn't even about Islam. The most important line in this great book is this one from historian Arnold Toynbee: "Civilizations die from suicide, not murder." He says our society is killing itself by illiberal notions passed off in the disguise of liberalism - such as tolerance of intolerance and such as the many examples of incremental surrender noted above. To survive, we have to preserve and protect our culture, and before that we better understand what our culture is all about.
Mr. Steyn writes, "Ultimately our crisis is not about Islam. It's not about fire-breathing Imams or polygamists whooping it up on welfare. It's not about them. It's about us. And by us, I mean the culture that shaped the modern world, and established the global networks, legal systems and trading relationships on which the planet depends.
"To reprise Sir Edward Grey, the lamps are going out all over the world, and an awful lot of the map will look an awful lot darker by the time many Americans realize the scale of this struggle."
I'd add one postscript. If the Toynbee quote is the most important sentence in the Steyn book, I'd say that the following paragraph may be the second most important thought, because it shows what we seem to lack now but what we need to survive:
"This book isn't an argument for more war, more bombing, or more killing, but for more will. In a culturally confident age, the British in India were faced with the practice of 'suttee' - the tradition of burning widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands. Gen. Sir Charles Napier was impeccably multicultural. 'You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours."
We seem to have lost respect or perhaps even knowledge of our own customs and culture and have gained excessive and often irrational deference for the customs and culture of others. Perhaps we need more Gen. Napiers and fewer of the politically correct, spineless, wimpy politicians that pose as leaders.