Where the real fight for free speech is being fought

Where the real fight for free speech is being fought

: The Dutch are struggling with painful ironies: They treasured free speech so much they tolerated the intolerance of Muslim fanatics; now Theo Van Gogh is dead because of nothing more than what he said; and now war is breaking out between the Dutch and fanatic Muslims with bombs launched against both sides.

Oh, and there’s another level of irony here: It appeared that the battleground between fanatic Muslims and modernity would be on American soil while Europe looked on. Now I’m coming to believe this war will be fought on European soil, where Europeans and Muslims are living in close and uncomfortable proximity.

In Sunday’s New York Times, Bruce Bawer reports from Amsterdam, where he once lived:

During my time there, I quickly came to see that the city (and, I later recognized, Western Europe generally) was a house divided against itself.

The division was stark: The Dutch had the world’s most tolerant, open-minded society, with full sexual equality and same-sex marriage, as well as liberal policies on soft drugs and prostitution; but a large segment of the fast-growing Muslim population kept that society at arm’s length, despising its freedoms.

Instead of addressing this issue, Dutch officials (like their counterparts across the continent) churned out rhetoric about multicultural diversity and mutual respect. By tolerating Muslim intolerance of Western society, was the Netherlands setting itself on a path toward cataclysmic social confrontation?…

In the 1930’s, Europe faced a struggle and, many thought, a need to choose between two competing totalitarianisms. Many analysts are wondering if this is Europe’s future, as well. They also wonder whether the Dutch people’s anger will blow over or whether they will act decisively to protect their democracy from the undemocratic enemy within.