Editor’s note: This article first appeared in today’s edition of the Daily Mail.
The cold-blooded outrage in Paris is not a story about one magazine or one country – and it is not just about freedom of the Press.
It is about the right of every single one of us to be free to express ourselves. And it is high time the nations of Europe woke up to how gravely that right is under threat.
Because what happened yesterday – though the most appalling incident of its kind yet – is in many ways far from unprecedented. It is just the latest chapter in a long, concerted campaign to shut down criticism and discussion of one religion, its founder and its teachings.
The aim of the campaign is to place that religion – Islam – above the level of all other religions or ideas and make it immune from criticism. And the tactic is working.
This campaign has been gathering pace for at least 25 years. It really started in the West in 1989 after the publication of Salman Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses, which contained passages considered deeply offensive by some Muslims.
The novel resulted in Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran issuing a fatwa – a religious judgment, in this case a death sentence – on Rushdie that forced the author into hiding. Though Rushdie survived, the fatwa was followed by the murder of a translator of his works and knife attacks on two others.
Then, as now, some people claimed that Rushdie had been deliberately provocative. Then, as now, even if that were the case it would matter not a jot. No society can be considered truly free if its members are terrorised into silence and hiding by fatwas and mortal threats.
Even so, ever since the Rushdie affair, most authors, artists and publishers have avoided producing anything that might stoke the ire of fundamentalist Muslims.