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Op-Ed: The 9/11 of Freedom of Speech in Europe

Giulio Meotti



Europe committed suicide toasting a champagne cocktail.
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Published: Friday, January 09, 2015 8:58 AM

The writer, an Italian journalist with Il Foglio, writes a twice-weekly...

Op-Ed: The 9/11 of Freedom of Speech in Europe



Now Europeans all say "We are Charlie Hebdo". Lies. Lies. Lies.
Ask "the invisible". They appeared in a hit list of Islamic terrorism alongside the director 
of Charlie Hebdo, Stephane Charbonnier, killed in his Paris'office. They are cartoonists, 
journalists and intellectuals involved in the publication of the cartoons. Today, most of them 
have become ghosts, untraceable, living in hiding, hidden in some country house, or have 
retired to private life to defuse the fatwa that branded them, victims of an understandable self-

Yesterday, the director of the Independent, Amol Rajan, had the courage to confess that he 
decided not to republish the cartoons. "Too risky," wrote the journalist who heads one of the 
glories of the Anglo-Saxon liberal chattering classes.

This was a common reaction of many other British newspapers on the day when the 
Norwegian publisher of Salman Rushdie, William Nygaard, who in 1989 got three shots of 
gunfire in Oslo, called Wednesday's massacre "the 9/11 of the freedom of speech." And 
despite the affection that now envelopsCharlie Hebdo, freedom of expression today seems to 
wobble, appears increasingly fragile in Europe. Terrorists are winning. 

When three years ago Charlie Hebdo was hit by Molotov cocktails, the magazine Causeur wrote that in Europe there is a strange atmosphere of "auto da fe". This is the terrible word which, in the language of the Inquisition, indicated the act of abjuration pronounced by the heretic. One of the ten "most wanted" in the crosshairs of terror, the director of the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten, Carsten Juste, has made his auto da fe: "We express our apologies and our sorrow for what happened, this is far from our editorial line. We had no intention to offend or insult any religion". Since then, Juste has withdrawn from the debate on freedom of speech.


The senior editor of Jyllands, Flemming Rose, just released his book "The Tyranny of 
Silence"in the USA. He published it for the tiny publishing house of a think tank, the Cato 
Institute. Because "other publishers have hesitated for fear." Today the headquarters of 
the Jyllands Posten has a barbed wirefence two meters high and one kilometer long. It 
seems to have become a US embassy in the Middle East. The conservative daily is located 
on the hill of Ravnsbjerg Viby, near Aarhus. There is also a door with double lock, as one 
once needed only in banks, while employees can only enter one at a time by typing a 
personal code (a measure that did not protect the editors of Charlie Hebdo).

The philosophy professor, columnist and editor of the magazine Les TempsModernes, Robert 
Redeker, was threatened with death for a polemic article on Islam. The threatener, after eight 
years, is still at large and Redeker still lives under police protection. Conferences and courses 
have been canceled, his house sold, his father's funeral celebrated in anonymity and his 
daughter's wedding organized by the police. And even when he goes to Paris, Redeker is 
followed by a car of the security services.

The same condition applies to the head of the International Free Press Society in 
Copenhagen, Lars Hedegaard, who remained miraculously unscathed after being ambushed 
by a man who approached him dressed as a postman and shot him, aiming at the head, but 
missing the target. It was to be a full-fledged execution of the intellectual in front of his house 
in a middle-class neighborhood west of Copenhagen.

Yesterday, after the massacre in Charlie Hebdo, the Swedish security services enhanced 
security measures for the cartoonist Lars Vilks. In England the artist Grayson Perry came out 
from persecution by ceasing to deal with Islam. 


Numerous cultural institutions have chosen self-censorship. The MetropolitanMuseum of Art 
in New York has refused, for fear of attacks, to exhibit  the Danish cartoons and the editors of 
Yale University Press published the book "The Cartoons That Shook the World", dedicated to 
the history of caricatures, without republishing the cartoons.
And "The Jewel of Medina," the American Sherry Jones's novel about the life of the third wife 
of Muhammad, has been rejected by the publisher Random House after purchasing it and 
launching an ambitious campaign. 

The first was the famous Tate Gallery in London, which withdrew the work "God is Great" by 
John Latham from their exhibit. In Holland, the opera Aisha was canceled because it portrays 
one of the wives of Muhammad and the Deutsche Oper Berlin has deleted from the opera 
season the "Idomeneo" by Mozart, because there is the severed head of Muhammad in it.
But it had already started at the time of the Salman Rushdie affair. The French publisher 
Christian Bourgois refused to publish "The Satanic Verses" and so did the German publisher 
Kiepenheuer. Threats reached the employees of the publishing house. Then the largest 
American books' chain, Waldenbooks, withdrew it from the market. There was even fear of 
placing it in the windows.

The Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, author of the caricature of Mohammed with a bomb 
in his turban, his effigy burnt in all the squares of the Arab world, has retired and now lives in 
a house-fortress, with security cameras and security windows and machine gun toting guards 
outside, protected in his melancholy. 

Last November, the mayor of Amsterdam, Eberhard van der Laan, said that ten years after 
the murder of filmaker Theo van Gogh, "the city is more harmonious and peaceful." In the 
sense that no one dares to speak of Islam as did Van Gogh. The collaborator on his film 
"Submission", Ayaan Hirsi Ali, is sheltered in the United States, where she was prevented 
from giving lectures in liberal universities such as Brandeis.
Meanwhile, in The Hague, they now preparing a new process for "Islamophobia" to Geert 
Wilders, the other name that was engraved on the chest of the Dutch filmmaker.

The "Rushdie rules" were then imposed on the community of writers and journalists. The 
irregular Charlie Hebdo was the only exception. The case is now closed. 


Yesterday the eyes of Salman Rushdie, always sleepy behind his thick glasses, did not let us 
glimpse his usual worldly wisdom, but reflected  so much sadness instead. You could read in 
it the retreat and the defeat of the West. 

We are not all Charlie Hebdo, we are cowards who committed suicide toasting a champagne 

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