Unlike many of my countrymen I am no great admirer of Sir Winston Churchill. This is partly political, he got too many economic and social policies wrong; and partly emotional, I had a grandfather who fought at Gallipoli.
However, Churchill had one big idea which thankfully he got gloriously right and which makes him a great man – he knew that appeasement of totalitarianism is not just politically ineffectual, it is moral cowardice. He was prepared to enter the political wilderness and withstand a decade of vilification from those who would appease the ideologies which sought to destroy Western civilisation. This is what makes him different from most politicians today.
In 1989 Andres Serrano, with the help of a grant from the US government supported National Endowment for the Arts, produced Pi$$ Christ, a crucifix submerged in his own urine. A picture of this artwork is on display at the Edward Tyler Nahem Gallery in Manhattan in a show which began yesterday.
Have we heard of massive disturbances throughout the Western world? Do we seriously expect Christians to riot in Manhattan, burn down the gallery, demand the death of Serrano, perhaps murder an ambassador?
More importantly do we really expect any leading American politician, such as perhaps Obama or Hilary Clinton, to say “I support the free speech right of Serrano to produce this work of art but abhor and totally reject the anti-Christian nature of his work. Such art is offensive and has no place in Western society”? Is that you holding your breath? Stop it immediately, you’ll only harm yourself.
Appeasement of the mob is in the political DNA. This is not just double standards, we are used to that from politicians, it is old-fashioned appeasement of those with the power to do damage. Giving in to bullies is not showing respect for their beliefs it is cowardice. Politicians , the self-anointed intellectual elite and the media need to acquire spines.
Politicians kow-tow to those who would destroy our traditions and especially our right to free speech because they are afraid of inciting yet more violence, perhaps even aimed at themselves. Unfortunately every time they give in to those who would murder and riot they encourage their violence and reassure them that the normal rules of behaviour of Western society do not apply to Islam.
As well as being cowardly this is also deeply patronising and feeds into racist assumptions. It announces that we cannot expect civilised rules of behaviour to apply to people with brown skins.
Totalitarians can never be appeased, only resisted. Political bowing in the face of threats is not respect and does nothing to improve relations between the faiths.
People who abuse Mohammed are saying, however ineptly they sometimes do so, “We will not bullied into silence by wicked, violent people.” They do so, sometimes at great personal risk, like the editorial board of Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten which published the infamous Mohammed cartoons.
For those who are not Muslims the Koran is no more special than the Book of Mormon, or whatever demented tract the Scientologists use. For us there is no difference between Mohhamed and Joseph Smith or L Ron Hubbard. If someone wants to draw a picture of Mohhamed that is their right in a free society. Islam itself is only special inasmuch as its more devoted adherents are given to murderous violence at the stroke of a drawing pen.
The Spanish magazine El Jueves has just published a cartoon asking “But what does Mohammed look like?”
As the editor says “If you can’t depict Mohhamed, how do you know it is him in the cartoons?”