Fouad Ajami recently spoke to a gathering of Toronto’s intellectual and business elite. The Toronto Star has just published an edited transcript. One theme that struck me is that the global grievance export/import business is not all that different from other global supply chains. You never know where all the parts were manufactured and assembled.
The real precursor to what is happening in Denmark today happened a generation ago, when Salman Rushdie wrote The Satanic Verses. The issues are exactly what we are witnessing today.
With Satanic Verses, the troubles began in Bradford, England. The book burning began in England. The activists who got hold of this issue and wanted to stay with it were in England. Ayatollah Khomeini, when he wrote his famous fatwa, came in on this issue a good month or two after. He happened onto it. He sensed its importance. He understood that this is really what you need to do, that this is a meaningful issue, and that if you are trying to walk away from the wreckage of the Iran/Iraq war and the defeat of Iran in this long war, if you want to give your revolutionary children, as he called them, something to think about, and if you want to situate Iran as the centre of the Islamic world, then why not turn to The Satanic Verses?
You would have expected European Islam to be more tolerant, but it was the other way around. The troubles migrated from England and made their way through the Islamic world, and we saw what happened.
In the case of these cartoons, this is exactly what happened. The Muslim activists in Denmark took their cause to the Islamic world. As they worked their way through the Islamic world, there was this exquisite little irony: They went into regimes that oppress Islamists, which kill Islamists, but which were more than willing to lend a helping hand, because such is what you have to do….
The city I grew up in, Beirut, has played a part. We watched the attack on the Danish consulate in Beirut. The people who assaulted the consulate came into a Christian area of Beirut, a city that is divided in the old-fashioned Ottoman way. There are Christian neighbourhoods and Muslim neighbourhoods. And the Lebanese know better than to go into a neighbourhood that is not their own. They know the rules of the road. But nevertheless, they stormed this consulate and they attacked a Mennonite church in east Beirut. [Mennonite? Perhaps Star reporters–and editors–can’t tell Mennonites from Maronites.]
When the police rounded up some of these suspects, we learned something about them. The largest number of people who were rounded up were Syrians. The second largest were Palestinians. And the third, finally, bringing up the rear, were the Lebanese themselves.