Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A New Cold War

October 3, 2006

In the September 19 Le Figaro, French philosophy teacher Robert Redeker wrote a 1,140- word op-ed, "In the face of Islamist intimidation, what must the free world do?" The soundbites made news, but his argument got lost in the din. So readers can make up their own minds, we offer a longer excerpt:

"The reactions aroused by Benedict XVI's analysis of Islam and violence are an attempt by that Islam to destroy that which is precious in the West and doesn't exist in any Muslim country: freedom of thought and of expression. Islam tries to impose on Europe its rules: opening swimming pools at certain hours exclusively for women, forbidding the caricaturing of this religion, demanding a special diet for Muslim children in school cafeterias, fighting to wear the veil in school, accusing free-thinkers of Islamophobia....

"Islam wants to force Europe to bend to its vision of man. As once with communism, the West is under ideological surveillance. Islam presents itself, like defunct communism, as an alternative for the Western world. It asserts a legitimacy that troubles the Western conscience, which is attentive to other people: It claims to be the voice of the poor of the planet. Yesterday, that voice claimed to originate in Moscow, today it comes from Mecca! You are excommunicated for Islamophobia, as once for anti-communism. As then, Islam sees generosity, the openness of spirit, tolerance, sweetness, the freedom of women and morals, democratic values, as signs of decadence....

"Where Judaism and Christianity are religions whose rites forsake violence and remove its legitimacy, Islam is a religion that, in its very sacred text, as much as in some of its everyday rites, exalts violence and hatred. Hatred and violence dwell in the very book that educates any Muslim, the Koran. As in the time of the Cold War, violence and intimidation are the methods used by an ideology with hegemonic ambitions, Islam, to suffocate the world."

A day after this commentary appeared, the prominent Sunni cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi attacked Mr. Redeker on al-Jazeera and Tunisia banned Le Figaro, followed soon after by Egypt. By the end of that week, Mr. Redeker was in hiding and under police protection -- and remains so -- after he and his family received numerous death threats from Islamists.

Mr. Redeker deserves to be argued with. But thus silenced and intimidated, he has strengthened his own case.

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