Another week and another completely random attack by a gunman hunting down cartoonists before inexplicably heading to the local synagogue. My guess is that events in Copenhagen yesterday have already been put down in many quarters to what President Obama describes as ‘a random bunch of folks’ being targeted by somebody who has ‘misunderstood’ what every Western leader agrees is an entirely peaceful and harmless religious tradition.
As it happens, I know the people who put together the Lars Vilks committee and had a number of friends who were in the room in Copenhagen yesterday when the gunman attacked. One of them wrote a brief account of events for us here yesterday. Of course at a time like this it is appropriate to stress how brave these individuals are. And they most certainly are. But what is more striking to me are two things.
The first is that supporting an artist in 21st century Europe should have become a brave thing to do and that a conversation about free speech in Europe in 2015 should have — and need — substantial police protection. Today’s UK newspapers refer to Vilks as ‘controversial.’ But Vilks wouldn’t be ‘controversial’ if almost the entirety of the Western media and the political and arts establishments had not in recent years abandoned their principles and chosen to avoid mentioning anything negative or worthy of satire in one single religion. The jihadists just want to kill Lars Vilks. It was the Western media and political class that made him ‘controversial’.
And then there is the second point — which is how many attacks like yesterday’s have to happen before there is a semblance of serious discussion around all this? A few years ago when the offices of Charlie Hebdo were firebombed in Paris the French Foreign Minister said about drawing cartoons of Mohammed and thus potentially ‘insulting’ Islam: ‘Is it really sensible or intelligent to pour oil on the fire?’ My reply to which is ‘Who made our societies into this powder-keg apparently able to catch fire at any moment?’
On the BBC earlier today there was an interview with a Danish Jewish leader. He mentioned that of course nowadays Jews in Denmark don’t dare to wear anything that marks them out as Jews. The interviewer perfectly rightly put to him that the Jews in Denmark have a problem, don’t they, because the Jewish population is so many times smaller than the Muslim population in Denmark now is after decades of mass immigration. Sure, was the essence of the reply – Muslims outnumber Jews in Denmark many times over and this is a challenge.
Now the pretence of the current European political class continues to be that that’s all just fine. We’re all nice cool Europeans once we live under the same roof. When a Somali arrives in London they become as local as a cockney. And when an Arab Muslim arrives in Copenhagen they become as Danish as Carlsberg.
Except that they don’t, do they? Or at least a substantial number certainly don’t. And although the vast majority of European Muslims obviously don’t want to gun down cartoonists and Jews, a certain percentage do, or are happy to carry water for those who do. But why worry when it’s just a ‘small percentage’ who want to do things like the Copenhagen gunman did yesterday?
For the time being we are all meant to say how racist it would be to talk about immigration restrictions, and so countries like Sweden continue to commit a form of cultural suicide. And soon it becomes totally normal to point out to Europe’s remaining Jews and free speech advocates that they are kind of out numbered these days, aren’t they. The answer to which is yes, they are. And are likely to remain so. And what happens after that?