Jeremy Harding in the London Review of Books:
The press in Continental Europe has gone about insulting Muslims, and defending its right to do so, with a zeal which ought to alert us to the fact that this is an ‘all-faith’ conflict, with staunch believers in either corner: ‘secular’ and ‘religious’ are more the trappings of the fighters’ retinue. The solemn talk about democratic values, the dire imprecations of the ultra-godly, the pious tantrums: these are among the reasons neither opponent can quite pick the other out, let alone the end of his own arm. From time to time it must be tempting to take a wild swing. Torching a legation in the Middle East is one possibility. Another is to flail around with such commendable gusto as to propel oneself over the ropes and into the crowd, leaving the adversary untouched. In a recent opinion piece for Le Figaro, Renaud Girard, a senior foreign correspondent, gave a spirited show of how this is best achieved, on an off day, by an intelligent heavyweight (‘grand reporteur au service étranger’). ‘If the 5000 Muslims who demonstrated in Brussels are so horrified by the Western values of freedom and secularism,’ he declared . . . the rest is easy to guess.
Not every advocate of the right to break a religious taboo believes that European Muslims who find it upsetting should pack up their grievances and head for Saudi Arabia – Girard’s destination of choice. There are more serious points to make.