Bruce Bawer. Published in City Journal.
Yesterday, a friend sent me a link to an article entitled “Eurabian Follies” on the website of the journal Foreign Policy. The author, Justin Vaïsse, took to task several authors, including me, who have warned in recent years of the Islamization of Europe. Vaïsse countered these authors’ mountains of hard facts with a big helping of the usual supercilious sneering. His thesis: Europe is chugging along just fine; Islam poses no real challenge to the continent’s freedom and prosperity; after all, the “experts” say so. Never mind the draining of European welfare systems by Muslim families, the explosion in rapes and gay-bashings and Jew-baitings, the proliferation of honor killings and forced marriages and no-go zones; never mind the murders of Pim Fortuyn and Theo van Gogh by fanatics who objected to those men’s positions on Islam; never mind the threats directed at critics of Islam, such as Geert Wilders, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and Robert Redeker, which have obliged them to live in hiding or with round-the-clock bodyguards.
The timing of Vaïsse’s article was unfortunate—for him, anyway: it appeared around the time of the Christmas Day terrorist attack on Detroit-bound Northwest Flight 253 and the New Year’s Day assassination attempt on Kurt Westergaard, creator of the famous Mohammed-in-a-bomb-turban cartoon published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. (Only a bathroom that had been converted to a panic room in Westergaard’s house saved the artist from an axe-wielding Islamist maniac.) Let’s not even mention the over 1,000 cars torched in French cities on New Year’s Eve, which is becoming an annual tradition among that nation’s Muslim youth.
As it happened, I received the link to Vaïsse’s article on the same day that I discovered that my dear friend Hege Storhaug had once, like Westergaard, been a target of violence, apparently because of her criticism of Islam. Hege is a former journalist and longtime women’s rights activist in Oslo whose concern about the treatment of women and girls in Muslim communities made her a pioneering critic of Islam in Norway. Time and again she has taken extraordinary personal risks to stand up for females who are confined to their homes, who are denied educations and careers, and who are the victims (or potential victims) of honor killing, genital mutilation, forced marriage, and sundry forms of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.
In 2006, her book But the Greatest of All Is Freedom: On the Consequences of Immigration became a huge—and controversial—best-seller in Norway. At the time, Hege lived in a neighborhood called Kampen, a part of Oslo that brings to mind the Haight-Ashbury or East Village of the 1960s. Hege notes that after her book began to sell big—and draw harsh media attacks—her neighborhood was papered over with posters featuring a photo of her with an X drawn over her face, along with the slogan NO TO RACISTS IN KAMPEN. Then one day—as Hege revealed in a powerful account posted yesterday on the website of Human Rights Service, the small foundation where she works—one or more people broke into her home, beat her, and left her bruised and unconscious in a pool of blood on the floor. Nothing was stolen. The date was January 1, 2007—three years to the day before the attempted murder of Westergaard.
At first, Hege kept the crime secret, for fear that publicizing it would discourage other critics of Islam from speaking out. Not until a month later did she report the brutal event to the police, and then only after a lawyer friend had secured a guarantee that the report would not be made public. But the steady rise in Muslim violence in Europe, culminating in the Westergaard attack, helped changed her mind about publicly revealing the assault. She also wanted to underscore the fact that many in the media—people like Vaïsse, I might add—were by their see-no-evil approach to the subject encouraging physical attacks on people like her and Westergaard. This state of affairs, she felt, needed to be addressed publicly and its real-world consequences made clear.
The fact is that for years Hege has been the target of a ruthless, tireless, and breathlessly mendacious campaign of criticism by the far-left Norwegian media. She’s become Public Enemy Number One among not only radical Muslims but also Communists, socialists (whose numbers in Norway’s capital are not insignificant), and what Hege calls “organized anti-racists.” These are members of Scandinavia’s many government-funded organizations who claim to be liberal opponents of racism but are in fact largely concerned with defending even the most illiberal aspects of immigrant cultures. Indeed, Hege doesn’t believe that her assailants were Muslims; she suspects that they were far leftists of the sort who proliferate in neighborhoods like Kampen and who have made common cause with European Islamists. Hege is also convinced—as am I—that the media’s concerted effort to identify her as a racist and Islamophobe influenced her attackers. This is not difficult to believe: it was, after all, the Dutch media’s demonization of Fortuyn that helped put him in an early grave instead of in his country’s prime ministership.
In her Monday post, Hege suggested that if all the influential newspapers in Europe had published the Danish cartoons, “it would have been much more difficult to build up the increasingly brutal climate we see now all over Europe: the fact that people are not just the subjects of attacks, and of attempted murder, but are denied virtually all personal freedom in their daily lives, so that Westergaard cannot set foot outside his home without the police on his heels, just as Robert Redeker is living underground in the homeland of Voltaire.” And she asked: “Will Europe manage to set its foot down strongly enough . . . that there will be no doubt that the continent never will give up its founding values? Or will the commentariat and political elite continue to give way, inch by inch . . . ?” Any of us, she warned, can end up a Kurt Westergaard if we dare to speak our minds. But don’t tell that to the “experts” at Foreign Policy.