What is the Future for a Post-Liberal Europe?


Law and Liberty’podcast with Danish journalist Flemming Rose, publisher of the 2005 Muhammed cartoons in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, took place in November. The occasion of our interview was the publication by the Cato Institute of Rose’s book The Tyranny of Silence, about the consequences he experienced after the cartoons were released. Rose’s voice is obviously powerful given what he endured, but he is also incredibly thoughtful on Europe’s post-liberal order. Europe, he says, now struggles to understand what it is about save for its thin belief in transnational EU governance and a nearly blinding commitment to egalitarianism, itself a contributing factor to the rise of politically correct curbs on speech in many European countries. And in this confusion many fail to see the point of defending free speech now that it comes with a cost.

The murders yesterday of 12 French journalists of the Charlie Hebdo newspaper in France for publishing similar cartoons and images have, unfortunately, proven Rose to be prescient. The weaknesses displayed by many in the defense of free speech, and of the institutions that regularly exercise and depend on that right, has not led to greater peace or to tolerance. The killing of journalists working for a newspaper long known for its satirical work in a ruthlessly efficient, military-style operation is nothing less than a direct attack on the essence of a free society.  Many of us would prefer to engage radical Islam with philosophical and theological dialogue rather than satire. But that seems almost beside the point in the aftermath of this attack.

As he limns a Europe that no longer knows its inches, Rose also pinpoints a new phenomenon: of certain Islamists viewing Europe as now falling within the Islamic world. He quotes his conversation with leading Muslim scholar Bernard Lewis in 2006, where Lewis stated that

I don’t think anyone would say as much, but there seems to be an underlying assumption that Europe is now a part of the Islamic world or at least is becoming as such. It is in a state in which a country can be categorized as neither infidel nor Muslim, a state in which it is populated by infidels and governed by infidels, yet has made a treaty with the Islamic state. This was the case in some countries in Europe bordering the Ottoman Empire. But it’s odd inasmuch as Europe has a long tradition of insulting the Prophet, and that has never before triggered this kind of reaction, because what the infidels do in their own lands is basically no business of Islamic law.

If Lewis is right, the business of Islamic zones in French and other European cities, where governmental authority does not run, is only the tip of the iceberg. French leaders now bear an immense burden. One early sign that corrective action is being taken will surely be if the rising departures of that nation’s Jewish citizens to other lands ceases.