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By: Roger Kimball
The most successful form of intimidation, because it is the most economical for the party doing the intimidating, is preemptive intimidation. You get the party being intimidated to do all the heavy lifting. They supply whatever coercion is needed — often very little. They make the concessions, often without a murmur. Any threats or violence are mostly in the past. Every now and then a ritual show of power might erupt to keep memories fresh. But for the most part the really successful intimidator relies on his victims to provide the stick. They don’t call it a stick, though. They call it “prudence,” “being responsible,” “acting with sensitivity towards the feelings of others.”
Consider, to take one example, the action of Yale University Press (and the university itself) over The Cartoons that Shook the World, Jytte Klausen’s book about the Danish caricatures of Mohammed. As all the world knows, Yale insisted at the last moment that the book be stripped of any representations of that 7th-century religious figure — not just the cartoons that were published in September 2005 in a Danish newspaper but also various artistic representations of Islam’s main man. Yale’s stated reason for this extraordinary interference into the business of a scholarly press was fear: it was afraid of Muslim violence if they published the images. Why did they wait until the eve of the book’s publication to make this determination? I think it had a lot to do with money, but that’s not to say that a large dollop of politically correct, reflexive capitulation didn’t enter into the equation, too. Cowards can be cunning. They can calculate the odds even as they watch their backs.
But what about the Metropolitan Museum of Art? According to the New York Post, they have a bad case of “jihad jitters.” “The Metropolitan Museum of Art,” the Post reported yesterday, “quietly pulled images of the Prophet Mohammed from its Islamic collection and may not include them in a renovated exhibition area slated to open in 2011.” Why? “The museum said the controversial images — objected to by conservative Muslims who say their religion forbids images of their holy founder — were ‘under review.’ ”
“Controversial images”? You know what, I’ll bet there are some prudish types who object to the exhibition of naked women. What is the met going to do about that? Maybe atheists object to all those depictions of Jesus Christ and his mother. How is the Met going to deal with those “controversial images”?
There’s more. “Just recently,” the Post reported, the Met “decided its highly anticipated ‘Islamic Galleries’ will be given an awkward new name ahead of the 2011 opening. Visitors will stroll around rooms dedicated to art from “Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia and Later South Asia.”
Someone please call the office of Circumlocution! The Post quoted Kishwar Rizvi, an historian of Islamic Art at Yale, who interjected a bit of common sense into the discussion. “Museums shouldn’t shy away from showing [images of Muhammed] in a historical context,” he said, noting that it was “a shame” the Met dropped “Islamic Art” for a “cumbersome and problematic” rubric.
As Diana West noted on her blog, to speak of “avoiding controversy” in this context is “9/10 talk.” It is, she said, “capitulating to Islamic blackmail.” Yes, but the really scary thing is that the blackmail was performed without the threatening letter or malicious innuendo. There were no offers that the Met “couldn’t refuse.” They supplied the entire cycle: the intimidation a well as the capitulation. If this is blackmail, the Met is the culprit as well as the victim.
We will, I predict, be seeing more and more of these disgusting rituals of surrender. Welcome to the age of Dhimmitude.