This surprises me. I admire and respect Hannan, who is an eloquent man and who represents the Conservative Party for South East England as a Member of the European Parliament. I have never found him to be naive or overly optimistic.
So if he sees a silver lining to this cloud, I tend to listen. Hannan perceives a sea-change in Europe as a result of the Charlie Hebdo massacre:
We all know the traditional routine that follows an Islamist terror attack: momentary shock, then platitudinous disapproval, then condemnation of Western foreign policy, then hand-wringing about an imagined Islamophobic backlash…
But not this time. Something in Europe has changed — changed utterly. A decade ago, Trafalgar Square was filled with Muslims complaining about the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed — not, to be clear, about the assassination attempts they had triggered, but about the cartoons themselves. This time, crowds in the same place, including many Muslims, held pencils and “Je Suis Charlie” signs.
A decade ago, it was a rare and brave newspaper that reprinted the Jyllands-Posten cartoons. Today, it’s the papers that hang back that find themselves under pressure…
This time, the repudiation was unambiguous — not least from the main Islamic organizations.
So, why the change? Hannan thinks it was because “even the dimmest multi-culti sloganizers are starting to see that their cant about freedom not being an absolute right has led us to a bad place.” Again, I trust that Hannan has his finger much more firmly on the pulse of Europe than I do, but I’m not sure why this incident would be a turning point if previous incidents haven’t done it.
What could be so different this time? Not numbers of victims; there were many more killed in the Madrid train bombings of 2004 or the London subway bombings of 2005, to name just two. Their victims were random people going about their business on an ordinary day, surely a group whose murder by terrorists would engender enormous sympathy and outrage.
If Hannan is correct that the recent Paris murders are a turning point, it could be because the Charlie Hebdo victims weren’t randomly chosen. The killings were targeted assassinations of people who were well-known in France and somewhat known elsewhere in Europe, and who were murdered for exercising their right of free speech.
Conservatives have been saying for quite some time that jihadis are at war with Western civilization and/or the Enlightenment, although liberals and the left have often scoffed at that claim. However, one of the pillars of the West is freedom of speech, so when Muslim terrorists murdered the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists for exercising that right in France, a Western country, the act gave credence to the idea that the terrorists are in fact out to destroy our civilization and our liberties. That could be a harder threat to ignore than previous ones, especially coupled with the ISIS beheadings of members of the Western press that have become frequent in the past year.
[NOTE: On the other hand, I don’t get any sense that anything has fundamentally changed in the attitude towards terrorism in the US, including and especially the attitude of the Obama administration.]