One year after Theo van Gogh was murdered we are forced to acknowledge that that event has been a benefit to Islam. Anyone who is critical of Islam will still be branded as a “xenofobe” or an “Islamofobe.” Islamophobia is a newly coined word which has already been used by Kofi Annan.
Following the assassination of van Gogh, the Minister of Justice of the Netherlands, Piet-Hein Donner, proposed to reinstate blasphemy as a criminal offence. In the United Kingdom Islamophilia runs amok. The July 7 bombings, which killed 55 people, seem to have reinforced the taboo on criticism of Islam. The London police chief, Ian Blair (Tony’s parrot, though unrelated), said the bombings could not be qualified as “islamic terror” because “Islam and terrorism do not go together.” Politicians and opinion makers assure us that Islam does not condone terror and that we must support the “beleaguered” Muslim community. With every act of terrorism the press becomes more friendly towards Islam. The Guardian has virtually become al-Guardian.
The British government wants to make it a crime to insult Islam and the Muslim community. When the House of Lords rejected this bill the Labour Party, eager to win the Muslim vote, incorporated the proposal into its party platform. Private companies are equally eager to pamper Muslims clients. Piggy banks are banned, as are children’s books featuring piggies, as is pork on the menu in schools and prisons. History has been rewritten to blame the West for the Crusades and the conquest of al-Andalous.
Muslims like to complain about negative media reports. Research by Maarten Hajer and Justus Uitermark of the University of Amsterdam showed that the media are not at all anti-Muslim and that the assassination of Theo van Gogh did not lead to negative reporting about Islam. On the contrary. In spite of this the public is becoming increasingly negative about Muslims. This, however, has nothing to do with media reporting or commenting but with the simple facts: bombings from Madrid to Delhi, riots in Birmingham and Paris, gang rapes in Denmark and Australia, Muslims in Rotterdam and Berlin murdering their daughters for “disgracing” the family, the beheading of Christian schoolgirls in Indonesia, hate sermons in London mosques, and so on.
But how come van Gogh was slaughtered while certain critics of the ayatollahs and Osama bin Laden have not been bothered? Islam is an onion with different layers of sensitivity. One is allowed to mock the ayatollahs but not to touch the holy core. And even there distinctions must be made. As the Persian proverb says: “Ba Chodah diwana basj o ba Mohammed hosjiar!” You can have a laugh at the expense of God, but be careful about Muhammad! And, consequently, also about the Quran, the Prophet’s book. Van Gogh crossed the line in his movie Submission and we have seen the result.
To me the fact that Monty Python makes fun of Jesus and not of Muhammad is not a proof of pro-Islamic feelings, but simply of the fact that most comedians do not know much about Islam. I think that they are quite willing to tell jokes about the Prophet, but I fear that if they do they would soon regret it. Danish cartoonists who drew pictures of Muhammad, some of them not even offensive, had to go into hiding. Maybe the cartoonists were ignorant, maybe they were audacious, but it is a fact that Islam does not allow people to laugh.
There are some mild poems by Muslim authors such as Omar Khayam which were written to make the public smile, but laughter is not appreciated. My Moroccan neighbour never laughs heartily. He has been taught that the devil enters through the wide open mouth of those who laugh. The first blood spilled in the history of Islam was spilled in Mecca when an infidel laughed on seeing some members of the new sect of the Muslims pray with their backsides in the air.
If some of the leading politicians in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, those two former bastions of liberty, have their way, the British and the Dutch will soon not be allowed to laugh at Islam either. The Danish government, however, has set the right example. It has told the Islam lobbyists that it will not restrict freedom of opinion. Yes, laughing is allowed.