"Salman Rushdie is a champion of free speech, bravely standing up for Western ideals when so many shy away from the fight. If only more people could follow his example, instead of taking the path of appeasement in the name of cultural sensitivity, the long years of murder and mayhem wrought by the Islamists on the West might come to an end." — Ayaan Hirsi Ali (pictured). Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images
"Salman Rushdie is a champion of free speech, bravely standing up for Western ideals when so many shy away from the fight. If only more people could follow his example, instead of taking the path of appeasement in the name of cultural sensitivity, the long years of murder and mayhem wrought by the Islamists on the West might come to an end... I know all too well the threat Islamism poses. After I came out as an apostate, I was forced into a bubble of protection that still surrounds me to this day. I have 24-hour security. I still receive death threats. My friend, the sweet, vulgar, brilliant Theo Van Gogh was murdered simply for making a film with me. His attacker used a knife to stab a letter into Theo's chest: it said that I would be next".
That is how Ayaan Hirsi Ali reacted to the attempted murder of Salman Rushdie in Chautauqua, New York.
Many of the slogans, paraphrases on "free speech" and demonstrations of solidarity to the author of The Satanic Verses hide a terrible and different reality: the fatwa is gaining ground, and more and more people have to live under protection due to criticism of Islam. In the words of the Algerian writer Boualem Sansal writing for L'Express last week:
"[T]o speak only of France, the police will soon no longer be enough, it will be necessary to recruit battalions or form a new body of bodyguards, who know Islam and can recognize under which dress it is presented."
Islamic extremists in 2012 published a terrifying "most wanted list", like those of the FBI. Title: "Yes we can. A bullet a day keeps the infidel away..." What happened to the faces and names on that list? They have been killed, left the public arena to protect themselves, or died under police protection.
"Lars Vilks was a man and artist of enormous courage. He should never have been in this situation, and if other artists and others across Europe hadn't been so cowardly then he never would have been".
Carsten Juste, who as editor of the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten published the cartoons on Muhammad in 2005, apologized and left journalism. Flemming Rose, the editor of the Jyllands Posten who commissioned the cartoons (the Taliban put a bounty on his head), resigned and published a book with the eloquent title The Tyranny of Silence. "The drama and the tragedy is that the only ones to win are the jihadists," Rose told the Danish newspaper Weekendavisen.
Kurt Westergaard, the cartoonist of the most famous of the Danish cartoons, passed away in his "bunker house" where Islamists had tried to assassinate him.
Molly Norris, a Seattle Post cartoonist, became a "ghost". She changed name and disappeared. Nothing is known about her after the FBI put her in the witness protection program.
Geert Wilders is alive only because he is protected by a military unit of the Dutch army generally assigned to ensure the security of the embassy in Afghanistan. Wilders still lives in safe houses and must wear a bulletproof vest during televised debates.
Stéphane Charbonnier, editor-in-chief of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, was murdered along with eight of his colleagues.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali left the Netherlands and sought asylum in the United States, where she is under around-the-clock protection.
Now there was the attempt to assassinate Salman Rushdie. "The lesson of this story is atrocious: Rushdie is alive, but the camp of the killers has not completely lost, it has even won a little", wrote Etienne Gernelle, the editor of French weekly Le Point. British columnist Kenan Malik told the BBC that if Salman Rushdie's critics "lost the battle", they "won the war".
The Egyptian-German scholar Hamed Abdel-Samad just recalled his meeting with Rushdie:
"'So, you are the Egyptian Salman Rushdie everyone is talking about?', Salman Rushdie said with a smile during our first and only meeting in Berlin three years ago. It was a celebration of the thirty-year anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and coincided with the 30th anniversary of the fatwa issued by Ayatollah Khomeini against Rushdie. 'Thirty years ago, there was a single Salman Rushdie in the world, today there is at least one Salman Rushdie in every Islamic country not to mention those in the western countries. That should please you', I replied".
We do not even know they exist: our fearful conformist media never tell their amazing stories. They live among us, in Paris, London, Oslo, Copenhagen, Berlin, Amsterdam and all the other European capitals. They live according to a strict security protocol: they have to tell the police in advance what they will do during the day, who they will see and where they will go, and if any place is not considered safe, these captives are forced to change plans. Often, if there is a not a new threat, they change homes, and disappear for a while to be protected by anonymity. They are not "repentants of the Mafia", mobsters turned into witnesses for the state prosecution. No, they are academics, activists, writers, journalists, intellectuals. We are talking about more than a hundred personalities in Europe. Their "fault"? They criticized Islam. Their precautions to protect themselves are never too many. Rushdie had ceased to be protected for many years.
A professor of Iranian origin and a critic of Islam, Afshin Ellian, works at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, where he is protected by bodyguards. On the second floor of the Law Department, where he teaches, Ellian can be reached through a corridor with electronic access and armored glass. The place looks more like a bank vault than a normal law department.
In Denmark, Lars Hedegaard, director of the International Free Press Society, who miraculously survived an attack at his home, is under police protection. An assassin dressed as a postman came to Hedegaard's front door in Copenhagen and shot at his head, missing him only narrowly.
The Turkish writer Lale Gül is under protection for having denounced Koranic schools in the Netherlands.
The new address of the Charlie Hebdo newspaper offices is secret and it has six armored doors and a safe room that the journalists can enter in case of attack. The entire editorial office of Charlie Hebdo is now protected by 85 police officers. Former Charlie Hebdo director Philippe Val lives in a house with bulletproof windows, police officers and an armored safe room where there is a special telephone line to call for help. Each Charlie Hebdo employee is always accompanied by a car with two policemen. If the need arises, another police motorcycle or armored car should arrive.
Mina Ahadi, who founded the Council of Former Muslims in Germany, does not move without an escort, and like the novelist Fatma Bläser, who was the victim of a forced marriage, is protected by the police.
Turkish-born lawyer Syran Ates, in Berlin, is protected by six police officers. "She receives three thousand threats," her lawyer said.
When Can Dündar, the bravest Turkish journalist, who as the director of the newspaper Cumhuriyet expressed solidarity with Charlie Hebdo, left Turkey for Germany, he would never have imagined that he would need the police protection. The biggest difference is that in Turkey, policemen searched his house looking for items to compromise him, while in Berlin they are guarding his home.
"Critics of Islam must fear for their lives: death threats and attacks," notes the German website Tichys Einblick.
"Anyone who criticizes Islamism must expect to be violently attacked in this country and without anyone being offended," said journalist Jan Aleksander Karon. "In Germany it is increasingly dangerous to criticize Islam".
In Denmark, the editorial office of Jyllands Posten today resembles a military bunker. With a razor wire barrier, bars, metal plates and cameras that surround the newspaper for a kilometer, the office is now protected by the same mechanism as river locks. A door opens, a car enters, the door closes and the one opposite opens. Journalists enter one at a time, typing in a personal code (a measure that did not protect Charlie Hebdo reporters). The Jyllands Posten cartoonists have escaped numerous attacks, including at home. Even after the January 7, 2015 massacre in Paris at the Charlie Hebdo office, which was targeted partly because it had republished the Danish Mohammed cartoons, Jyllands-Posten announced that, out of fear, it would not republish its own cartoons, saying:
"We have lived with the fear of a terrorist attack for nine years, and yes, that is the explanation why we do not reprint the cartoons, whether it be our own or Charlie Hebdo's. We are also aware that we therefore bow to violence and intimidation."
Also under protection is the French-Algerian journalist Mohammed Sifaoui. His photograph and name are published on jihadist websites next to the word "apostate". Many people under protection are women, such as Marika Bret, a Charlie Hebdo employee who was "exfiltrated" from home, and the French television presenter originally from Turkey, Claire Koc. Or the journalist Ophélie Meunier, the reporter from Zone Interdite who reported on the Islamization of Roubaix in prime time with the French politician Amine Elbahi, of the Républicains Party, who received threats of beheading.
Threats and intimidation demonstrate the tenacity of the journalistic work done by these courageous people. They demonstrate a commitment to show the Islamization by force and terror of sectors of French society, while the Islamists answer them: Do you disagree with me? Do you criticize me? I will kill you, slit your throat, behead you.
Meanwhile, the states and institutions, which find themselves trying to protect dozens of people, prove to be paper tigers. Terrorism works. Nobody wants to live between two cops or see his name on the internet. Meanwhile, the journalistic class goes looking somewhere less hazardous.
The French state has to protect simple teachers such as Fatiha Agag-Boudjahlat, who reproached some students for not respecting the minute of silence during the homage to Samuel Paty, a high school teacher who was beheaded by an Islamist.
Imams such as Hassen Chalghoumi are included in "Uclat 2", the protection program enjoyed by the ambassadors of the United States and Israel in Paris. Chalghoumi, protagonist of many battles in favor of the French Republic and against Islamic fundamentalists, told BFMTV that he has not slept more than three nights in the same place and that he wears a bulletproof vest during prayer:
"I never talk about it, but I have been wearing it for years. I take care of my life. I have responsibilities towards my family and myself. I continue to fight at a very high price. I cannot be at my mosque every day, it is impossible".
Professor Didier Lemaire recounted his last visit to Trappes for a TV documentary:
"I was only allowed a five-minute filming in front of the police station, surrounded by a dozen officers. The rest of the time I had to stay hidden in the car. One of the policemen told me: 'If they bring out the Kalashnikovs, we have nothing to answer with, so we won't stay long.' The reporter wanted me to say a few words in front of the school, but the police refused for security reasons. I was allowed to pass by without stopping. I was escorted to a hotel, whose entrance was guarded by four police officers, to conduct the interview".
"Give us his head," Islamists shouted outside a British school in Batley. They wanted to murder a teacher whose name we do not even know and who was forced to leave the school after heavy death threats. What was he guilty of? Having shown in class some of the Muhammad cartoons during a lesson on freedom of expression. He now lives in a safe house with his wife and children, out of fear of being killed. The threat is deemed so serious that not even the family's relatives know where they live. "The windows of the house where the teacher lived for more than eight years are covered with white sheets".
All decent people should stand with Salman Rushdie and against his persecutors. Is it now a little bit clearer that radical Islam is today one of the biggest threats to Western culture and that we are not winning, but instead becoming like turkeys celebrating Thanksgiving?
Giulio Meotti, Cultural Editor for Il Foglio, is an Italian journalist and author.