This time, no fatwa was necessary. Two decades after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini called for Salman Rushdie's murder, U.K. authorities no longer need instructions in Shariah law. In pre-emptive submission to Islamist sensibilities, Britain barred Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders last Thursday from entering the country and speaking at the House of Lords.
His short anti-Islam video "Fitna," which juxtaposes Quranic verses calling for jihad with footage of Islamic terror, threatened "public security in the U.K," according to the Home Office. Since Mr. Wilder has never called for violence -- in his home country, the only life threatened as a result of his work is his own -- the imagined security threat could come only from people opposed to him, i.e. Muslim radicals. Britain is punishing Mr. Wilders not for his own actions but for the hypothetical actions of his adversaries.
What makes this surrender of free speech and fairness -- the most noble of British traditions -- particularly depressing is its totality. All main British parties support the Labour government's ban against Mr. Wilders -- the so-called Liberal Democrats just as eagerly as the Tories. Contrast this with the reaction in the Netherlands. All main Dutch parties -- although they too reject Mr. Wilders's unbalanced assault on Islam -- condemned the British decision.
It's a fitting coincidence that this suppression of free speech in the motherland of parliamentary democracy happened just two days before the 20th anniversary of the fatwa against Mr. Rushdie for penning "The Satanic Verses." Khomeini reportedly never read the book that so insulted him; rumors of its alleged offensiveness were enough for the leader of the Islamic Revolution. In an eerie parallel, rumors are also enough for the leaders of Britain. Foreign Minister David Miliband admitted on Friday to the BBC that he had not seen the film that he nevertheless found to be "hateful." It seems Britain has not only adopted Islamist standards of free speech but also Islamist standards of proof.
There is a direct line between Khomeini's 1989 death sentence against the British author and last week's detention of Mr. Wilders at Heathrow Airport. The "Rushdie Affair" was the first illustration of the West's conflict with Islamists who believe that the Quran is superior to any man-made law.
The protests in Britain sparked by "The Satanic Verses" contained all the elements of Islamist intimidation and Western appeasement with which we are now so familiar. British Muslims burned the book in the streets of Britain and called for Mr. Rushdie's murder, while the police looked on passively. Leftists began their defense of Muslim fanatics -- perfected today -- as the "real" victims who should not have been provoked. And radical Muslims and their apologists for the first time claimed to represent the British Muslim community, a questionable claim that the state made official by choosing them as their dialogue partners.
"Death, perhaps, is a bit too easy for him (Mr. Rushdie)," Iqbal Sacranie, founding secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said at the time. "His mind must be tormented for the rest of his life unless he asks for forgiveness to Almighty Allah." It is now "Sir Iqbal" as this "moderate" received a knighthood in 2005 "for services to the Muslim community, to charities and to community relations."
The Rushdie Affair was the first time Islamists not just ignored national and international law but acted, successfully, to supersede it. They didn't manage to stop the book's publication or to kill Mr. Rushdie -- although the Norwegian publisher and Italian translator were seriously wounded in separate attacks and the Japanese translator murdered.
But they managed to force Mr. Rushdie into hiding, foreshadowing the fate of later Islam critics -- including that of Mr. Wilders, who has been living for more than four years under 24-hour police protection. Because Khomeini's death sentence could have been carried out by any radical Muslim around the world, there was no escape for Mr. Rushdie, just as there is no escape for those on today's Islamic death lists. For Mr. Rushdie there was only the exile of "safe houses" and body guards.
His ordeal, and that of others, serve as a warning to any potential critic of Islam. This has led to what is euphemistically called "self-censorship" in the media, arts and politics, supposedly a sign of respect for Muslims' "religious feelings." But in truth such self-censorship is no act of courtesy but the result of intimidation and fear.
Islamists are relying not just on threats and violence, though. The 56-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference is pushing for changes to international law and national law in Western countries to make them conform with Shariah law. One of the main goals of the United Nations' "antiracism" conference in April in Geneva will be to commit member states to implement laws to stop the "defamation" of Islam.
No other major Western country seems to have internalized this Islamist mindset to the degree that Britain has. Radical Muslims -- homegrown and from abroad -- can freely preach hatred, but one of their critics has just been banned.
Britain's capital earned its "Londonistan" sobriquet -- supposedly coined by French counterterrorism agents in the mid-1990s -- when it became a center for Islamic radicals fleeing persecution in their Muslim home countries. These Islamists flocked to Britain precisely because of its tradition of tolerance. It's a cruel twist of history that radical Muslims have been allowed to use the freedom they found there to limit freedom for everybody else.
In October 2007, shortly after becoming prime minister, Gordon Brown gave a powerful speech on a central element of British identity: "From the time of Magna Carta," he said, " . . . there has been a British tradition of liberty -- what one writer has called our 'gift to the world.'" Mr. Brown's ill-advised tolerance of the intolerant is now threatening this treasured tradition.http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123482476050494869.html