In my 2006 book While Europe Slept, I expressed concern about the will of Europeans to defend their freedoms in the face of the continent’s Islamization. I contrasted them in this regard with Americans, for whom, I argued, freedom is a living reality for which they are willing to fight and to sacrifice.
My book came out in the midst of the Danish cartoon crisis. And during that crisis I saw things in Europe that — quite frankly — surprised and impressed me. I saw the editors of a Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, stand up for freedom of expression in the face of worldwide rioting, vandalism, and murder by Muslims and contempt on the part of foolish Westerners. I saw a Danish prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, in defiance of the UN, the EU, and most of the “international community,” stand by that newspaper and refuse to meet with Muslim ambassadors who were out to intimidate his country and to force Sharia-like restrictions on Western liberties. I saw the people of Denmark, in overwhelming numbers, stand behind their prime minister in his refusal to yield to jihad. And I saw major newspapers across Europe reprinting the Jyllands-Posten cartoons in acts of free-speech solidarity.
I don’t mean to paint too rosy a picture. The Danish response wasn’t perfect. Not a single newspaper in Britain reprinted the cartoons. And both the Swedish and Norwegian governments provided textbook cases of cowering dhimmitude. But none of that was really a surprise. What did surprise, and disappoint, me was the American political and media establishment. Both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush condemned the Jyllands-Posten cartoons out of hand. The State Department denounced them too, and only reversed itself after getting an earful from the Danish government, one of its few allies in Iraq. In the entire United States of America, exactly one major newspaper, the Philadelphia Inquirer, reprinted the cartoons. And while the major broadcast networks, as well as CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC, reported extensively on the cartoon riots, none of them ever showed the cartoons at all.
A big part of the reason for this dismaying American response to the cartoon affair is, of course, that Islamization hasn’t progressed as far in America as in Europe, and there’s consequently an incredible level of ignorance in America both about what’s really going on in Europe and about the very nature of Islam. In the current presidential campaign, only a small portion of the electorate seems to think that the war with jihadist Islam is a major issue. The one candidate who understood best what we’re up against, and who took it most seriously, Rudy Giuliani, was ridiculed across the political spectrum for being obsessed with 9/11 — as if the events of that day had been some kind of fluke or accident that has virtually no meaning for us today.
In depressing numbers, in short, Americans seem not to grasp the lessons of 9/11 — which should hardly be a surprise, considering how many journalists and politicians keep repeating that the terrorists are betraying a great and peaceful religion, that jihad means doing good works, and so on. A while back, in response to rumors that Barack Obama is a closet Muslim, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof argued that it would be a matter of utter indifference if the president of the United States were a Muslim. Of the hundreds of people who commented on this article on the Times website, the overwhelming majority applauded Kristof for his extraordinary courage in standing up to Islamophobia. Only a tiny handful of readers noted that there are, in fact, good reasons for free people to be concerned about the possibility of a U.S. president with a devout commitment to Islamic theology and law. The American media that do report honestly on the less attractive truths about Islam, moreover, tend to be media that people are encouraged to look down upon.