Monday, February 27, 2006[posted by jaed at 2:15 PM]
The cold breath of the silence
Douglas Murray writes in the London Times:
...The silencing happens bit by bit. A student paper in Britain that ran the Danish cartoons got pulped. A London magazine withdrew the cartoons from its website after the British police informed the editor they could not protect him, his staff, or his offices from attack.A few days ago, this silence breathed past me, just for a moment. I was considering a project involving the history of Islamic thought in light of the life and times of Muhammed; some of my prospective research topics are likely to lead to uncomplimentary conclusions. And I had a strange thought in the midst of this: I asked myself, would I be in danger if I wrote about such-and-such a topic? Would there be death threats? Could I get it published by normal channels in the first place, or would the publisher fear bombing or threats? If I published on the web, would the web host demur on grounds of safety?
It was a foreign sensation and very strange. I cannot remember ever before wondering whether it might be unsafe - physically unsafe - to write certain things about history. Unsafe politically, perhaps, or bad for the reputation, but the prospect of death? Absurd. I had never thought such a thing before. Yet here I was, thinking it now. The cold breath of the silence wafted past me and I shuddered at it.
For an American, this fear is almost purely hypothetical. There have been very few violent jihadist attacks here, although one of the most spectacular and deadly occurred in the US, and none against individuals. In Europe, however, it's a different story. Theo van Gogh, Pym Fortuyn, Salman Rushdie all those years ago... these stand as scarecrows warning European thinkers away from certain topics.
Those scholars who analyzes Islam in Europe today in anything less than the most obsequious terms are taking a serious risk. I am not, at least not yet. The silence hasn't touched us here; as yet, it's only a brief cold sensation, a momentary thought, a slight drift away from what might be dangerous and into safer waters.