Why did Martin Schulz, chairman of the European Parliament, feel called upon to comment on the film ‘Innocence of Muslims’ asks René van Leeuwen, just when the columnist had decided to ignore the whole thing?
I decided to ignore the hype surrounding the anti-Islam film ‘Innocence of Muslims’. I wasn’t trying to trivialise what was happening but it all seemed a bit too much. Protect the people who might be in danger and let the handful of radicals stew in their own humourless juice and move on, I thought.
But then there was Martin Schulz..
He was bending over backwards, bowing, scraping, giving in, capitulating. That is what Martin Schulz was doing on Wednesday, on the news.
Flanked by two Arab parliamentarians, Schulz said, in the name of the European parliament: ‘We agreed about the necessary condemnation of the blasphemous and humiliating anti-islam movie. I condemn strongly not only the contents but the distribution of such a movie which is really humiliating to the feelings of a lot of people all over the world.’
It wasn’t a very edifying spectacle. At least Schulz is not a banker so he can’t be all that important to Europe. But what I would like to know is why some (sic) Muslims set themselves up (sic again) to be humiliated? Take a leaf out of Ahmed Aboutaleb’s book. The mayor of Rotterdam, my mayor, just laughs. He won’t let himself be humiliated one little bit.
It gets worse. This from a press release from a press agency in Kuwait which quotes Khalid bin Hilal Al Mawali, a political bigwig from Oman, as saying: ‘We must eradicate any cause of violence such as blasphemous films and disrespect for the holy symbols of any religion.’
Excuse me? That’s turning the world on its head.
Is Al Mawali entitled to his opinion? Of course he is! But should the chairman of the European parliament then nod and condemn the film? No! He can think whatever he likes in the privacy of his home but as the chairman of the European parliament he should know better than to buckle when faced with a couple of radicals with a grievance.
Al Mawali can think what he likes as long as I am free to disagree with him. I’m afraid that freedom may not be safe with people like Schulz.
It’s a scary thing when the chairman of the European parliament can’t be trusted with the protection of the freedom of expression. That freedom must be absolute. Stephane Charbonnier, editor of Charlie Hebdo, put it like this: ‘If we give in to angry radicals, we will give in to any group with a grievance.’ And where will that leave us?
Some people insult and humiliate. The best thing to do is simply to grow a thick skin. Martin Schulz hasn’t understood this. Sometimes it pays to be diplomatic. But if you are willing to sacrifice your principles and basic rights, you will have nothing left to base your diplomacy on.
René van Leeuwen is a sociologist and columnist
This article was published earlier in the Volkskrant
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