Muslims are somewhat backwards; they suffered so much under western colonialism; their anger at Israel is comprehensible; one should not weigh their every word.

Such racist assumptions must be implicit in the justifiably raging debate on the rehabilitation of Holocaust denier Bishop Richard Williamson. For there is an obvious question: Why is the moral-historical bar being set very high for the Pope and the Catholic Church, whereas in the case of thousands of imams and Islamic scholars it is consciously set extremely low? Why should a Catholic clergyman not be permitted to show contempt for the dead of Auschwitz when the “Holocaust lie” and the “fable of the gas chambers” are commonplace tropes in so many Friday prayers throughout the Muslim and Arab world?

It is not hard to find the answer. Muslims are in fact not taken entirely seriously in the West. The anti-Semitism of Muslims is regarded as a kind of folklore, for which on account of cultural backwardness mitigating circumstances should apply. It is an ideological import from Europe grafted onto the teachings of Mohammed, something artificial and not organic. As a consequence, even in Germany anti-Semitic slogans of the most grotesque sort could be shouted at anti-Israeli demonstrations during the Gaza war — slogans like “Jews out!” and “All Jews must die!” If native Germans had shouted the same slogans, the DA’s office would have started an investigation long ago.

But anyone who employs such double standards is either ignorant or a racist. There is extensive research on anti-Semitism in the Arab and Muslim world. One knows, for instance, the shameful story of the Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, who was received by Hitler in 1941 and supervised the Muslim-SS divisions from Berlin. And various speeches by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad come to mind. (For instance, his speech of February 11, 2006: “[A]s far as several aggressive European governments are concerned…, it is permissible to harm the honor of the divine prophets, but it is a crime to ask questions about the myth of the Holocaust. … On the basis of this myth, the pillaging Zionist regime has managed, for 60 years, to extort all Western governments. … They are lying when they claim they have freedom. They are hostages in the hands of the Zionists.”)