Anne Applebaum has an absolutely essential column on the flap over the Pope and Islam. She argues that the Pope shouldn’t be apologizing for a speech which is perfectly reasonable and that the Muslim reaction to the speech only proves that Muslim society is acting in a way that is fundamentally incompatible with human freedom:
By this, I don’t mean that we all need to rush to defend or to analyze this particular sermon; I leave that to experts on Byzantine theology. But we can all unite in our support for freedom of speech — surely the pope is allowed to quote from medieval texts — and of the press. And we can also unite, loudly, in our condemnation of violent, unprovoked attacks on churches, embassies and elderly nuns. By “we” I mean here the White House, the Vatican, the German Greens, the French Foreign Ministry, NATO, Greenpeace, Le Monde and Fox News — Western institutions of the left, the right and everything in between. True, these principles sound pretty elementary — “we’re pro-free speech and anti-gratuitous violence” — but in the days since the pope’s sermon, I don’t feel that I’ve heard them defended in anything like a unanimous chorus. A lot more time has been spent analyzing what the pontiff meant to say, or should have said, or might have said if he had been given better advice.
All of which is simply beside the point, since nothing the pope has ever said comes even close to matching the vitriol, extremism and hatred that pour out of the mouths of radical imams and fanatical clerics every day, all across Europe and the Muslim world, almost none of which ever provokes any Western response at all. And maybe it’s time that it should: When Saudi Arabia publishes textbooks commanding good Wahhabi Muslims to “hate” Christians, Jews and non-Wahhabi Muslims, for example, why shouldn’t the Vatican, the Southern Baptists, Britain’s chief rabbi and the Council on American-Islamic Relations all condemn them — simultaneously?
I think she’s right. We can’t keep giving Muslim radicals a pass because they embody the post-modernist concept of “the Other” and therefore are somehow beyond reproach. Either human rights apply to everyone or the whole concept is utterly worthless. We can’t ignore the doctrine of human rights just because the right people are violating them. Either the suppression of legitimate criticism is an affront to human dignity or it is not: there is no wiggle room to argue that Catholics have an ethical duty not to criticize Muslims because it might offend them.
Years ago, Jesse Jackson ran around the Stanford campus with a group of postmodernist radicals shouting ”Hey hey, ho ho, Western Culture’s got to go.”. Indeed, the doctrines of multiculturalism have taken Rousseau’s idea of “the noble savage” to their illogical extreme — fetishizing non-Western cultures and ignoring the systematic deprivations of basic human rights that go on throughout the undeveloped world. This kind of simplistic moral relevance is coming home to roost as butchers from Baghdad to Burma can easily exploit Western nihilism and guilt to buttress their own bloody claims.
Sooner or later the West is going to have to take a stand in defense of its own values. Each day we fail to do so only encourages our enemies and leads to the spread of more violence and oppression. We cannot allow that to happen, not for our own interests, and not for those who live in the shadow of violence and oppression.
The only thing we should be apologizing for is not taking action to stop this madness much earlier.