OK to Be Concerned About Radical Islam, As Long As You're Not "Extremist" or "Far Right"

A Wednesday A1 story by Dan Bilefsky and Ian Fisher, "Across Europe, Worries on Islam Spread to Center." It's a useful story, but annoying in its assumption that previous concerns about radical Islam came only from "far right" radicals, and have become acceptable only now that "moderates" are concerned as well.

"Europe appears to be crossing an invisible line regarding its Muslim minorities: more people in the political mainstream are arguing that Islam cannot be reconciled with European values.

"'You saw what happened with the pope,' said Patrick Gonman, 43, the owner of Raga, a funky wine bar in downtown Antwerp, 25 miles from here. 'He said Islam is an aggressive religion. And the next day they kill a nun somewhere and make his point. Rationality is gone.'"

Thenthe Times raises a question that could only have occurred to a Times reporter.

"Mr. Gonman is hardly an extremist. In fact, he organized a protest last week in which 20 bars and restaurants closed on the night when a far-right party with an anti-Muslim message held a rally nearby.

"His worry is shared by centrists across Europe angry at terror attacks in the name of religion on a continent that has largely abandoned it, and disturbed that any criticism of Islam or Muslim immigration provokes threats of violence."

"For years those who raised their voices were mostly on the far right. Now those normally seen as moderates - ordinary people as well as politicians - are asking whether once unquestioned values of tolerance and multiculturalism should have limits."

Wrong. Those moderates aren't "questioning tolerance and multiculturalism" but are in fact defending those valuesagainst radical Muslims who would rip them away.

After quoting recent comments on Muslim women's veils by former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw andsome historical quotes on Islamfrom Pope Benedict XVI, Bilefsky and Fisher wring their hands: "The line between open criticism of another group or religion and bigotry can be a thin one, and many Muslims worry that it is being crossed more and more."

Still, the article is useful for collecting threats of violence by radical Muslims and showing they aren't merely isolated incidents.

"Perhaps most wrenching has been the issue of free speech and expression, and the growing fear that any criticism of Islam could provoke violence, collecting some of the stories.

"In France last month, a high school teacher went into hiding after receiving death threats for writing an article calling the Prophet Muhammad 'a merciless warlord, a looter, a mass murderer of Jews and a polygamist.' In Germany a Mozart opera with a scene of Muhammad's severed head was canceled because of security fears.

"With each incident, mainstream leaders are speaking more plainly. 'Self-censorship does not help us against people who want to practice violence in the name of Islam,' Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany said in criticizing the opera's cancellation. 'It makes no sense to retreat.'

Some more hand-wringing: "Many Muslims say this new mood is suddenly imposing expectations that never existed before that Muslims be exactly like their European hosts." How sad.