Ever since 9/11, every time some place or another on the planet has been struck by a major jihadist act, the mainstream media have reliably come out with stories about "backlash" against Muslims. Not accounts of actual backlash, mind you, but pieces in which various academics, public officials, Muslim leaders, and other sensitive souls have been described as wringing their hands over the dreaded possibility that some of us boorish infidels might respond to this latest action by going on the warpath against innocent Muslims. If these "backlash" articles have been such a staple of post-9/11 journalism, it's obviously because they've offered the media an opportunity to focus not on the innumerable Muslim-on-infidel atrocities that have actually taken place but, rather, on hypothetical, and violent, infidel-on-Muslim responses -- and thus to persist in casting Muslims in the role of victim, even while the bodies of those they have slaughtered in Islam's name have yet to go cold.
Yet the fabled "backlash" has never really materialized -- not, at least, on anything remotely resembling the scale that the media have repeatedly predicted. On the contrary, with a very small number of minor, isolated exceptions, people in the non-Muslim world have routinely responded to Muslim violence with civilized restraint. Indeed, it's hard to think of anything that more dramatically reflects the difference between the Islamic and Western cultures than the contrast between the brutality and scale of the jihadist attacks on the West in recent years and the extraordinarily low level and modest scale of actions taken against Muslim targets in revenge. This refusal of non-Muslims to take an eye-for-an-eye approach in response to jihadist acts is a remarkable testament to the native tolerance of Christians, Jews, and other non-Muslims -- and, indeed, to the black-and-white distinction between pretty much every other religion in the world and Islam, which, alone among major faiths, instructs its adherents to see offense everywhere and to respond even to the merest cartoon with murderous violence on a global scale.
Yet now, it seems, things have changed. In the aftermath of the the brutal slaughter of Drummer Lee Rigby on a London street, the British media have finally had a few cases of real "backlash" to report on. Or so, at least, that country's newspapers would have us believe. "Woolwich attack provokes anti-Muslim backlash across UK," blared a Telegraph headline. "The murder of soldier Lee Rigby has provoked a backlash of anger across the UK," the Daily Mail reported. "Woolwich murder sparks anti-Muslim backlash," a headline at the BBC website proclaimed.
For all these references to a nationwide "backlash," however, details were scarce. Newspapers provided particulars on only one genuinely serious-sounding offense. On Sunday, two men "hurled petrol bombs" at a mosque in Grimsby, Lincolnshire. (The police, taking the crime seriously, apprehended the perpetrators without delay.) Although the Independent maintained on Tuesday that there had been no fewer than ten "Islamophobic attacks" on mosques since the Rigby killing, one searched in vain for specifics -- which led one to wonder just what "attacks" meant in this context. (Bombs? Or slices of bacon tossed on the sidewalk?) "Fears that Muslim communities across the country are facing a sustained wave of attacks and intimidation," began a Guardian article, "have intensified after it emerged that almost 200 Islamophobic incidents had been reported since the murder of British soldier Drummer Lee Rigby." What were all these "incidents"? The article didn't say.
The Mail mentioned another "incident," one in which two men had been charged with "religiously aggravated threatening behaviour" at a London fast-food joint. But, again, no details. (Had they pulled a knife on somebody? Or gotten a drop of mustard on a Koran?)
Stateside, the New York Times, which gave the Stockholm riots short shrift, found space to report the claim by Fiyaz Mughal, head of a group called Faith Matters, "that graffiti had been scrawled on mosques and Muslim-owned businesses and that women's head scarves had been yanked off." Assuming these charges were true (and there's good reason not to immediately accept their veracity, given the inflationary accusations leveled on such occasions by the likes of CAIR), the conduct in question is most assuredly inappropriate -- but, needless to say, hardly in a league with decapitation. (Curiously, while the Times article was headlined "Call for Calm after 3 New Arrests in British Soldier's Death," and was devoted mostly to those arrests, its URL, as if to reflect the Times's real preoccupations, was about "anti-muslim-threats.")
As it turned out, when the Telegraph, Mail, and innumerable smaller papers referred to a nationwide "backlash," what they meant was not a wave of beatings, bombings, or anything like that. What they were talking about was, mostly, this: people around the United Kingdom had been exercising what they thought was their right to free speech by posting on Facebook and other social media comments that were critical of Islam. Period. And the British government -- this is by far the most important part -- was treating these speech acts as crimes. Why wasn't that the headline -- that British authorities were using the Rigby murder as an excuse not to finally take action against the countless Muslim "refugees," "asylum seekers," and so forth within its borders whom it has long known to be threats to public safety, but, rather, to clamp down on those few solid citizens who, in the wake of the murder, had dared to tweet the truth about the Religion of Peace?
But no: the British media were going along with the whole chilling business -- reporting on criticism of Islam as if it was indeed a high crime, and reporting on the arrests of those who had engaged in such criticism as if arresting people for such acts were perfectly justifiable.
As of last Friday, according to the Mail, eleven persons had been picked up for anti-Muslim speech crimes. Among them were two Bristol men, aged 22 and 23, who had posted tweets "of an allegedly racist or anti-religious nature" and who had been taken into custody "under the Public Order Act on suspicion of inciting racial or religious hatred." The Mail quoted a detective inspector as saying that the men's tweets, which had been "directed against a section of our community," were "completely unacceptable," as they "causeâ¦harm to our community." The cop warned: "People should stop and think about what they say on social media before making statements as the consequences could be serious."
He wasn't alone in issuing such warnings. In connection with a similar arrest in Surrey, a police superintendent said: "Surrey Police will not tolerate language used in a public place, including on social media websites, which causes harassment, alarm or distress." Another arrest, for posting an "offensive, indecent or menacing message" on Facebook, took place in Sussex. And another in Hampshire. And in what seemed to be related developments, the websites of several British newspapers, departing from their usual practice, blocked comments on articles related to the Rigby murder. Meanwhile, the English Defence League held a big march in London to protest both the murder and the Islamization of Britain that had made it possible. But where was the huge London rally of "moderate Muslims" condemning the murder? (Isn't it interesting that almost nobody even bothers to ask that question anymore?)
On Monday, as if to remind everybody of the difference between "offensive" statements and actual physical violence, three Muslim inmates in Full Sutton Prison responded to an ill-advised suggestion that they pray for Rigby by beating a guard within an inch of his life. The beating lasted five hours. One of the attackers called for his fellow inmates to join in a holy war. On the same day came the news that two war memorials in London had been defaced by unidentified vandals. And on Saturday, a Muslim convert, apparently inspired by the Rigby murder, stabbed a French soldier on the street of a Paris suburb.
It also emerged that at least one of the perpetrators of the Rigby killing, Michael Adebolajo, had been known to the British police for years -- had, in fact, been arrested in Kenya in 2010 for joining a terrorist group, only to be freed on the recommendation of the British High Commissioner. Although that intervention by the Brits was not surprising, given the disinclination of U.K. authorities to round up even its most egregious Muslim enemies, it was hard not to notice the stark contrast between those authorities' tolerance of bloodthirsty Islamic rhetoric within their borders (or sphere of influence) and the alacrity with which they've apprehended apparently peaceable citizens simply for telling the truth about Islam on Facebook or Twitter.
As the days went by, and the stories in the British papers about the Rigby murder and its aftermath gradually diminished in number and prominence, one thing lingered: the sad, newly intensified awareness that dhimmitude in Britain is growing apace and has become well-nigh reflexive. In other words, jihad (both hard and soft) is working like a charm. Are you old enough to remember the world before, say, the Satanic Verses fatwa? If so, can you imagine British police officials, way back then, ever making statements of the kind made in the past few days by those cops in Bristol and Surrey -- statements warning that individuals making comments that cause "harm" or "distress" to Muslims will be subject to arrest and punishment? Such a thing would have been inconceivable in Churchill's Britain, or Thatcher's. The grim fact, alas, is that if the Rigby murder and its aftermath demonstrate anything, it's that Islam is still very much on the march in Britain -- and free speech increasingly in retreat.