I've Become an Enemy of the People for Speaking the Truth About Islam

The “shadow report” is 68 pages long, and is divided into five articles. Article 5 is entitled “Prohibit and Eliminate All Forms of Racial Discrimination and To Ensure All Equality before the Law.” The first item under this heading is “Islamophobia.” And the section about Islamophobia is entirely devoted to HRS and me. HRS, which has formulated laws that are now on the books in Denmark and Norway and that help to protect the rights of Muslim women and girls, is described as “a state funded advocate of anti-muslim prejudice. ... HRS has a constant negative focus on Islam and muslims. ... HRS is both a major actor in and of themselves and a major resource for anti-Islamists.” The report further denounces HRS for having posted articles on its website in support of Geert Wilders.

But HRS’s major offense, it would appear, is having employed me. I am the subject of no fewer than three items under the category “Islamophobia.” The first item notes that when my book While Europe Slept was named a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for 2006, the president of the NBCC called the book an expression of “Islamophobia” and an NBCC board member (who, by the way, later turned out not to have even read the book, only the title and subtitle) called it “racism as criticism” (whatever that means).

The second item about me reads as follows:

Bawer himself states in the book that rising Muslim birth-rates and a “refusal” to integrate will allow them to dominate European society within 30 years, and that the only way to avoid such a disaster is to abolish the politically correct and multicultural doctrine that, according to him, is rife within the continent. He also suggests a physical solution for the problem he perceives: “European officials have a clear route out of this nightmare. They have armies. They have police. They have prisons. They’re in a position to deport planeloads of people everyday. They could start rescuing Europe tomorrow.”

Actually, that quotation doesn’t come from While Europe Slept.  It’s from a blog entry dated January 26, 2007, in which I compared Europe’s situation vis-à-vis its enemies within -- the Muslim imams and other radicals who condemn freedom and call for sharia law -- to that of somebody with Stockholm syndrome: “Europe,” I wrote, ”is being held captive. Yet just as Shawn Hornbeck, who had a cell phone and computer, was in theory perfectly free to flee his captor or contact his parents, European officials have a clear route out of this nightmare. They have armies.  They have police.  They have prisons. They’re in a position to deport planeloads of people every day. They could start rescuing Europe tomorrow. Yet how have they responded to the gangsters who are holding it hostage? In precisely the same way Shawn Hornbeck apparently did: like prisoners under lock and key. They’ve been incredibly docile, compliant, submissive.”

As it happens -- and this is just a parenthetical curiosity I feel compelled to share -- I’ve seen those exact same lines from that blog entry cited several times by Norwegian reporters in the last year or two. In the Norwegian media, those few brief sentences from my blog have now come to define me. For months I wondered: why do the reporters here keep quoting that same old blog entry, instead of -- say -- actually cracking open one of my many books and finding out what’s inside?  Also, how did they dig up those lines?  Had some member of the Norwegian press corps -- which is notorious for its laziness and lack of enterprise -- actually read through several years’ worth of my blog entries, amounting to heaven knows how many hundreds of thousands of words, in order to find just the right quotation?  Nope. It turned out that the blog quote was on my Wikipedia page.  That’s where they’d all found it: on Wikipedia. In Norway, that counts as investigative journalism.

Anyway, back to the “shadow report.” The last of its three items about me returns to the subject of Geert Wilders, and quotes a single sentence I wrote at the HRS website about the court case against Wilders: “In fact, Wilders has only done one thing: he has made visible important truths about a very dangerous ideology.”

And that’s it. To sum up, two members of the NBCC think I’m a racist; I hold certain views about Islam; and I’ve deplored the fact that Geert Wilders is on trial for holding essentially the same views. These offenses on my part are sufficient, apparently, to qualify me officially as (to borrow the title of a play by Norway’s greatest playwright) an Enemy of the People.

Controversy is one thing. I’ve been a professional writer for three decades, and have long since become accustomed to controversy -- accustomed to being criticized severely, to seeing my words misquoted and my views misrepresented, to being attacked in print and to answering back.  But this is something entirely different. We’re talking about the government of a supposedly free country stepping in, tapping me on the shoulder, and telling me: You’re not supposed to say that. It’s a chilling development, and the more I think of it the more chilling it feels.

The question is: what comes next? I’ve now been singled out, in a report commissioned and funded by the government of the country in which I live, as a perpetrator of Islamophobia. The items about me appear under the heading “Prohibit and Eliminate All Forms of Racial Discrimination and To Ensure All Equality before the Law.”  Exactly how does the Ministry of Children, Equality, and Social Inclusion propose to “eliminate” the supposed “racial discrimination” on my part?  Will I be arrested and prosecuted under the Discrimination Law of 2005?  Am I about to join the company of those who have been hauled into court for daring to speak the truth about Islam, Muhammed, and the Koran? What say you, Herr Lysbakken?