After the horrific attacks on Charlie Hebdo earlier this month, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls identified “radical Islam” as the enemy of France. In an almost surreal attempt not to mix Islamist terrorists with the wide community of Muslims around the world, however, President Obama and his administration went to great lengths to insist that the attacks had nothing to do with Islam.
Flemming Rose, now foreign editor of the Danish newpaper Jyllands-Posten, was its cultural editor in 2005 when it published a series of cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammad. Deadly protests in several countries followed, along with making Mr. Rose a marked man. Mr. Rose says of the Obama approach of putting a fig leaf over a problem that is not going away: “There is something nearly Orwellian in this refusal to call things by their names. If we say that terrorists are not radical Islamists, we might as well say that truth is lie, that right is wrong, that black is white.”
Laure Mandeville, U.S. bureau chief for the French newspaper Le Figero, explains in the WSJ how this self-deceiving approach is not only affecting the debate about the limits of free speech, but also jeopardizing freedom of speech itself. Ms. Mandeville asks, “Where will we draw limits?”
Will we also give in when radical Islamists say they are offended to see European women wearing bikinis or going to swimming pools while men are present? The latter question is already being raised in some French cities.
The answer will define our future. Americans have some difficulty understanding the depth of the European challenge. Given the marginal size of the Muslim community in the U.S., Americans are not confronted by the same questions or urgency. In France, as in much of Europe, these daunting challenges are rapidly becoming existential, despite the fact that we have been promoting different models of integration, some as in Great Britain or the Netherlands much closer to those in the U.S. Only if we are sure of the values worth defending will we be able to convince our Muslim compatriots to fight for France, its liberal order and magnificent heritage.
Muslim democrat Naser Khader, a former member of the Danish Parliament and now at the Hudson Institute in Washington, says that by denying that this is about Islam, the West fails to grasp that Muslims will be crucial in the fight against Islamic terrorism. “President Obama does us a disservice, because doing so deprives the Muslim community of its responsibility to fight this radical monster.”
Much of today’s modern world enjoys France’s rich heritage of the lessons, wisdom and freedoms enumerated by Voltaire, Montaigne, Montesquieu and Tocqueville, all of which are worth remembering. Read more here from Ms. Mandeville who “calls a cat a cat”—the threat that is radical Islam.