They say that the Lord works in mysterious ways. Last year's remarks by Pope Benedict XVI -- when he spoke of the Qur'an's commands to spread Islam by the sword as incompatible with reason -- were met with the usual rage from many in the Muslim community and their sympathizers. Though it did not immediately seem so, this might just have signaled a watershed event in the global struggle against those who are most willing to use that sword.
Soon after the Pope's remarks, rare yet un-isolated cases of common sense seem to be breaking out all over and resistance, armed and otherwise, to the Islamist threat has manifested itself in some unexpected places. And although these voices still represent a woeful minority, they are no less welcome or hopeful.
When typical Islamist outrage threatened the cancellation of a Berlin staging of Mozart's Idomeneo which depicted the severed head of the Prophet Muhammad -- along with those of Jesus Christ, Buddha and the Greek god Poseidon -- German politicos reacted swiftly. Said Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit, without naming names:
Our ideas about openness, tolerance and freedom must be lived out on the offensive. Voluntary self-limitation gives those who fight against our values a confirmation in advance that we will not stand behind them.
But Bavarian state premier Edmund Stoiber went further, adding, "We must never give up our constitutional freedoms out of fear of Islamist thought-terrorism." Quite a remarkable reaction and one that was partially responsible for newly scheduled performances of the opera -- with the offending scene still included -- taking place without incident this month.
Meanwhile, deep in the heart of old Europe, Robert Redeker, a French philosophy professor, is still on the run in fear of his life from you know whom. His crime? An op-ed in the newspaper, Le Figaro, a translation of which is here. And although most of his countrymen have not been terribly forthcoming in his defense, the threats on Redeker's life were condemned by his fellow French philosophers who published a letter reading:
A handful of fanatics brandishes alleged religious laws to jeopardise our most basic freedoms. To which threats are now added the murmurings audible across Europe about the 'provocations' we must avoid in order not to antagonise these supposed foreign sensibilities. Times are getting tough in Europe. Now is not the moment for cowardice.
In Great Britain, Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly announced that funding will be cut off to Muslim groups that teach hate: "It is only by defending our values that we will prevent extremists radicalising future generations of terrorists." While Home Secretary John Reid added, "You don't have to love everything George W. Bush stands for to hate everything that Osama Bin Laden stands for."
And most recently in Somalia, Ethiopian forces have deposed the radical Islamic Courts Union that had controlled much of the country since early last year. On Monday, U.S. forces launched air strikes against terrorist elements there and the USS Eisenhower and three other warships have been dispatched to the Somali coast to block any retreat by sea they might seek.
Typically, al Qaeda's number-two man, Ayman al-Zawahiri released a statement urging "all Muslims to respond to the appeal for jihad in Somalia." But in the face of this, returning Somali president Yusuf Ahmed has vowed that there will be no negotiation with the fleeing Islamists. Most encouraging though, is the response of brave Somali Muslims, like Bashir Goth who wrote of the vanquished Islamists:
[A]s is often the case with all self-aggrandizing megalomaniacs, they fizzled into thin air when the hour of truth has arrived and all their bravado had ended into a farcical denouement. While they threw the young children they recruited in the name of jihad into the fray, the Islamist leadership took flight liked scared chickens. None of them was reported to have died heroically fighting at the front. They just burst like a bubble. Even their prolific website qaadisiya.com fell silent. Although its editors have spewed enough hatred against the West and sang daily hymns for the Sept. 11 suicide bombers and all jihadist martyrs of the world, they couldn't dare to sign off the last chapter of their fantasy medieval caliphate.
Now it is time for the people of Mogadishu to reclaim their freedoms and their true religion. Time to read the Koran with piety and not with politics; ...It is time to throw away the Arab head rags; the sign of the shabby dressed Islamists; and time to be proud of our native names, cleansing our ears of the alien Arab noms de guerre of the Islamists. It is time to let our women come out to the sunshine and swim with their children in the lido beach; time to shave the beards, watch cinema, and let our youth revel, sing, dance, and ring in the New Year with Mohammed Suleiman's eternal lyrics... "Be a year that brings us good fortune and high expectations." Amen.
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