The WaPo today carries an op-ed from Die Zeit's Washington Bureau Chief Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff on the Muhammad cartoon fracas. He's right on the money (which is why you'll find below this post that I, as well, have reprinted the cartoon in solidarity with those who have the courage to withstand violence and intimidation on principled grounds).
Much of the U.S. reporting about the fracas made it appear as if Europeans just don't get it -- again. They struggle with immigration. They struggle with religion. They struggle with respect for minorities. And in the end they find their cities burning, as evidenced in Paris. Bill Clinton even detected an "anti-Islamic prejudice" and equated it with a previous "anti-Semitic prejudice."It's frightening to see that people -- particularly the U.S. journalism community and government -- just don't understand that if free speech isn't allowed for anyone then it's in jeopardy for eveyone.
The former president has turned the argument upside down. In this jihad over humor, tolerance is disdained by people who demand it of others. The authoritarian governments that claim to speak on behalf of Europe's supposedly oppressed Muslim minorities practice systematic repression against their own religious minorities. They have radicalized what was at first a difficult question. Now they are asking not for respect but for submission. They want non-Muslims in Europe to live by Muslim rules. Does Bill Clinton want to counsel tolerance toward intolerance?
On Friday the State Department found it appropriate to intervene. It blasted the publication of the cartoons as unacceptable incitement to religious hatred. It is a peculiar moment when the government of the United States, which likes to see itself as the home of free speech, suggests to European journalists what not to print.