via Tim Blair;
Out of fear of retaliation from the international brotherhood of radical and bloodthirsty Islamists who seek to impose their will on those who do not believe as they do. This is, frankly, our primary reason for not publishing any of the images in question. Simply stated, we are being terrorized, and as deeply as we believe in the principles of free speech and a free press, we could not in good conscience place the men and women who work at the Phoenix and its related companies in physical jeopardy. As we feel forced, literally, to bend to maniacal pressure, this may be the darkest moment in our 40-year publishing history.
The comment section on Tim Blair’s post of the above contained a link to a speech given by Keith Windschuttle. It is a long read, but definitely worth it.
Here is a snippet:
…personal terrorism affects not just those directly under threat, but all writers and intellectuals. Most are unable to afford the security costs and the state cannot protect them all. The result is that they are silenced by self-censorship.
This is why the debate over the Danish cartoons is so important. To date, the response has been mixed. Newspapers in Norway, Germany, France, New Zealand and Australia have reproduced the cartoons in defiance of the violence that has been perpetrated in Middle Eastern countries and threatened in many Western countries by crowds with signs such as: “Slay those who insult Islam.” “Butcher those who mock Islam.” and “Be prepared for the real holocaust.”
The real problem here was not the Western newspapers who published the cartoons but the Islamic response to them. Our political leaders did not blame the latter but turned the responsibility onto ourselves. Enclosed by a mindset of cultural relativism, most Westerners are loath to censure Muslims who go on violent rampages, burn down embassies and threaten death to their fellow citizens. Many of us regard this as somehow understandable, even acceptable, since we have no right to judge another religion and culture.
The truth is that the riots, the arson, the death threats were not spontaneous outbursts from passionate religious believers but were carefully stage-managed by Muslim leaders. The imams of the Danish Muslim community consciously ignited the response some four months after the cartoons were published. They travelled to the Middle East where they generated support for a campaign quite deliberately targeted at Western culture’s principle of freedom of expression.
Their real aim is not religious respect but cultural change in the West. They want to prevent criticism of its Muslim minority and accord that group special privilege not available to the faithful of other religions. Instead of them changing to integrate into our way of life, they want to force us to change to accept their way of life.
Muslim rage over the cartoons is not an isolated issue that would have been confined to Denmark and would have gone away if nobody had republished them. It is simply one more step in a campaign that has already included assassination, death threats and the curtailment of criticism. And our response, yet again, has been one more white flag in the surrender of Western cultural values that we have been making since Khomeini’s fatwa against Rushdie in 1989.
The Western concept of freedom of speech is not an absolute. The limits that should be imposed by good taste, social responsibility and respect for others will always be a matter for debate. But this is a debate that needs to be conducted within Western culture, not imposed on it from outside by threats of death and violence by those who want to put an end to all free debate.
The concepts of free enquiry and free expression and the right to criticise entrenched beliefs are things we take so much for granted they are almost part of the air we breathe. We need to recognise them as distinctly Western phenomena. They were never produced by Confucian or Hindu culture. Under Islam, the idea of objective inquiry had a brief life in the fourteenth century but was never heard of again. In the twentieth century, the first thing that every single communist government in the world did was suppress it.
But without this concept, the world would not be as it is today. There would have been no Copernicus, Galileo, Newton or Darwin. All of these thinkers profoundly offended the conventional wisdom of their day, and at great personal risk, in some cases to their lives but in all cases to their reputations and careers. But because they inherited a culture that valued free inquiry and free expression, it gave them the strength to continue.
Today, we live in an age of barbarism and decadence. There are barbarians outside the walls who want to destroy us and there is a decadent culture within. We are only getting what we deserve. The relentless critique of the West which has engaged our academic left and cultural elite since the 1960s has emboldened our adversaries and at the same time sapped our will to resist.
The consequences of this adversary culture are all around us. The way to oppose it, however, is less clear. The survival of the Western principles of free inquiry and free expression now depend entirely on whether we have the intelligence to understand their true value and the will to face down their enemies.
Read it. Seriously. Go read it.