“Art is not what you see,” noted Edgar Degas, “but what you make others see.” Ninety years after his death, a new maxim applies to Europe: The art that you do not see reflects what everyone already sees. And what we see is the preemptive surrender of public freedoms in the name of appeasing the continent’s restive Muslim underclass.
Grayson Perry serves as the ideal poster boy — or perhaps poster girl — for this discomfiting trend. A Turner Prize recipient and England’s most famous cross-dressing potter, Perry has been heralded for his controversial explorations of religious imagery, which include a vase entitled “Transvestite Brides of Christ” and a portrayal of the Virgin Mary that is best left to the imagination. Yet apparently there are some boundaries that even groundbreaking artists dare not cross.
“I’ve censored myself,” Perry told the Times, admitting that he treads lightly around radical Islam. “With other targets you’ve got a better idea of who they are but Islamism is very amorphous. You don’t know what the threshold is. Even what seems an innocuous image might trigger off a really violent reaction so I just play safe all the time.” Self-censorship thus boils down to self-preservation. “The reason I haven’t gone all out attacking Islamism in my art is because I feel real fear that someone will slit my throat.”
Particularly “not good” is the preemptive nature of these capitulations. “At this point, it seems, terrorists don’t even need to issue a specific threat in order to intimidate us,” observed Der Spiegel. Indeed, many of the above productions or exhibits faced no threats at all. Some Muslims are even helping to expose the hypersensitivity for what it is. Regarding the Pigs fiasco, the Daily Mail reported that “Islamic leaders condemned the politically correct move as misguided and said decisions like this were turning Muslims into ‘misfits’ in society.”
There can be no true freedom in a climate of fear. Given the history of Islamist violence directed at European artists, a significant portion of that fear is justified. However, the continent’s groveling cultural elites have needlessly exacerbated this atmosphere. Their inability or unwillingness to distinguish between Islam and Islamism magnifies the perceived strength of the radicals, while their eagerness to assume the role of dhimmis — subjugated infidels living under Islamic rule — can only demoralize the population and embolden the extremists.
Will Europe ultimately choose to preserve the foundational values of classical liberalism forged during its Renaissance and Enlightenment? Or will it suffer a long, slow decline into the dark ages of dhimmitude? For now, only one conclusion appears certain: somewhere in a Dutch prison cell, Mohammed Bouyeri is smiling.
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