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Paris attack wakes Europeans to importance of free speech

by DANIEL HANNAN

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. We’ve seen it again and again, even following such abominations as the murder of Theo Van Gogh in Amsterdam in 2004 and the London Tube bombings in 2005.

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.In 2009, when the anti-Islamic Dutch politician Geert Wilders was banned from entering Britain by the Labour Home Secretary, bien pensantcommentators growled their approval. After last week’s attack, few of them would dare.

Nor, these days, do we hear the equivocal semi-condemnations that were perhaps the single most depressing response to terrorist outrages. “Of course I oppose violence, but as long as Western powers support the Zionist occupation…” “Of course I condemn the killings, but we have to understand the alienation caused by racism and poverty…” As a former editor of mine liked to say, “everything before the ‘but’ is bullshit.”…

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