MADRID – Despite the impression given by massive unity rallies throughout France, the recent attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo does not mean that freedom of expression is under any serious threat in Western Europe. Nor does it indicate that Islamic radicalism is somehow about to engulf or transform Western societies. The threat that it does highlight is a less publicized one: the resurgence of discrimination and violence against Europe’s Jews.
Charlie Hebdo – the last vestige of a bawdy and somewhat savage nineteenth-century French tradition of outrageous caricature of religious and political figures – may well be an ideal icon of free expression. Europeans rose to defend a vital principle; free speech, however vicious, retains a place in any democracy.
Likewise, “Eurabia,” Bat Ye’Or’s prophecy of Islamic doom for the West, simply is not emerging. No Islamic parties hold seats in European parliaments; few leading Muslim figures feature in Europe’s major centers of cultural and political power; and European Union institutions are practically bereft of Arabs and Muslims.
Efforts by radicals to recruit and indoctrinate young European Muslims do not reflect the inexorable rise of Islamist – or even Islamic – influence in Europe. Rather, they highlight the radicals’ desperation to influence a region where the overwhelming majority of Muslims aspire to integrate into, rather than challenge, the established order.