The Home Secretary [Jacqui Smith] is best known for an inspired change of terminology: Last year she announced that henceforth Muslim terrorism (an unhelpful phrase) would be reclassified as “anti-Islamic activity.” Seriously. The logic being that Muslims blowing stuff up tends not to do much for Islam’s reputation — i.e., it’s an “anti-Islamic activity” in the same sense that Pearl Harbor was an anti-Japanese activity.
Anyway, Geert Wilders’s short film is basically a compilation video of footage from various recent Muslim terrorist atrocities — whoops, sorry, “anti-Islamic activities” — accompanied by the relevant chapter and verse from the Koran. Jacqui Smith banned the filmmaker on “public order” grounds — in other words, the government’s fear that Lord Ahmed meant what he said about a 10,000-strong mob besieging the Palace of Westminster. You might conceivably get the impression from Wilders’s movie that many Muslims are irrational and violent types it’s best to steer well clear of. But, if you didn’t, Jacqui Smith pretty much confirmed it: We can’t have chaps walking around saying Muslims are violent because they’ll go bananas and smash the place up.
In his first TV interview as president, Barack Obama told viewers of al-Arabiya TV that he wanted to restore the “same respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago.” I’m not sure quite what golden age he’s looking back to there — the Beirut barracks slaughter? the embassy hostages? — but the point is, it’s very hard to turn back the clock. Because the facts on the ground change, and change remorselessly.
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