Europe Raising Its Voice Over Radical Islam

Los Angeles Times Jeffrey Fleishman October 16, 2006

Some say the continent is betraying its ideals by trying to appease fundamentalists.

BERLIN — In Europe’s cafes, the newspapers are as wrinkled as always, the conversations still veer toward the abstract, but tempers these days are riled.

Artists and influential leftists are warning that the rise of radical Islam is threatening the tradition of European liberalism. Theater directors, cartoonists and writers say the continent is betraying its identity by practicing self-censorship aimed at appeasing a fundamentalist Islam they believe is determined to impose its will on free speech and creativity.

The German Opera in Berlin recently canceled its revival of a production of Mozart’s “Idomeneo,” fearing that a scene showing the severed head of the prophet Muhammad — as well as those of Jesus, Buddha and Poseidon — would anger Islamists.

In 2005, the Tate Gallery in London withdrew a glass sculpture titled “God Is Great” because officials did not want to offend Muslims with images of the Bible, Talmud and Koran.

The decisions are part of what liberals regard as a timidity that emerged after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the U.S. and intensified during this year’s Muslim protests against a Danish newspaper’s cartoon caricatures of Muhammad.

“It’s a fear of brutality, and you submit to that brutality,” said Henryk M. Broder, whose book “Hurray, We Capitulate” is a polemic on what he sees as Europe’s submission to Islamists. “It’s surrender to an enemy you’re deathly afraid of…. Europe is like a little dog on his back begging for mercy from a big dog. The driving factor is angst.”

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