Of course, we don't yet know what this delegation to the Middle East will be saying, but comments made in an interview with the London Daily Telegraph by the EU's sinisterly named Commissioner for Freedom, Security and Justice reveal some clues. Saying that millions of Muslims felt "humiliated" by the cartoons, and referring to a supposed "real problem" faced by the EU in reconciling freedom of expression with freedom of religion (actually, there's no "problem" at all, unless fanatics choose to make one), he suggested that the press should adopt a voluntary code of conduct. By agreeing to this "the press will give the Muslim world the message: we are aware of the consequences of exercising the right of free expression, we can and we are ready to self-regulate that right." Why the "Muslim world" outside Europe, much of which is represented by dictatorships, mullah-states and kleptocracies, should have any say in the contents of the continent's supposedly free press was not discussed.Read the whole thing.
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The president of the EU's "parliament," and thus a man supposedly dedicated to the freedom of debate, could bring himself to defend free expression only "within the boundaries of respect for the religious beliefs and cultural sensitivities of others." Javier Solana meanwhile, paved the way for his trip by telling Al-Arabiya television that "respect does not stop at countries' borders and it includes all religions and specifically what concerns us here, our respect for the Islamic religion." As so often in the last week, the idea that "respect," if it is to mean anything other than capitulation, has to flow both ways, seems not to have merited a mention.
The overall point, of course, is that fringe crazies who demand "respect" for their feelings of "hurt and offense" should not be permitted to control the perfectly lawful conduct of the free press, and the rest of us who speak out (be it ever so inartfully) shouldn't have to kowtow to loons who threaten us not with argument, but with violence. I am uncertain why western nations, with traditions of freedom of the press and expression that are, in fact, not just quaint old traditions but actual laws, tolerate this kind of outright intimidation. Apologizing for the freedoms we have earned through the years is a sure-fire way to encourage those radicals whose goal is to subject all of us infidel either to Islam or the sword. Worrying about "humiliating" people who use every slight as a reason to riot or threaten is insane. We should be shouting from the rooftops about how, in free societies like America, we can publish offensive political cartoons and there is not violence, but a debate on the merits. The "muslim world," whatever the hell it may be, appears not to want to debate the merits of anything, but carp about our giving offense and humiliating the muslim world. Well, if you don't want to be humiliated, stop burning down embassies after being whipped into a frenzy by a couple of cartoons. Cartoons!!!