In his Wall Street Journal "Global View" column on foreign affairs, Bret Stephens takes on the British government's decision last week to ban Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders from British soil as an "undesirable person." Citing the controversies, twenty years ago, surrounding the artist Andres Serrano and the novelist Salman Rushdie, he argues that Wilders' travails present a test for both liberals and conservatives.
For liberals, the issue is straightforward. If routine mockery of Christianity and abuse of its symbols, both in the U.S. and Europe, is protected speech, why shouldn't the same standard apply to the mockery of Islam? And if the difference in these cases is that mockery of Islam has the tendency to lead to riots, death threats and murder, should committed Christians now seek a kind of parity with Islamists by resorting to violent tactics to express their sense of religious injury?
The notion that liberals can have it both ways -- champions of free speech on the one hand; defenders of multiculturalism's assorted sensitivities on the other -- was always intellectually flimsy. If liberals now want to speak for the "right" of this or that group not to be offended, the least they can do is stop calling themselves "liberals."
For conservatives, especially of the cultural kind -- the kind of people who talk about defending Western Civ. -- Mr. Wilders's case should also provoke some reconsiderations. It may not be impossible to denounce the likes of Mr. Serrano while defending the likes of Mr. Wilders. But a defense of Mr. Wilders is made a lot easier if one can point to the vivid difference between a civilization that protects, even celebrates (and funds!), its cultural provocateurs and a civilization that seeks their murder.
Wall Street Journal - Geert Wilders Is a Test for Western Civilization