The Islamist Tantrum

By Bret Stephens

Wall Street Journal

November 16, 2015

We live in the age of the sanctified tantrum—the political and religious furies we dare not name or shame, much less confront.

Students bully college administrators with contrived political demands. The administrators plead they can do better, then capitulate. Incompetent writers pen trite racial screeds aimed at the very society that lifts them above their ability. They are hailed as geniuses. Donald Trump’s bid for the Republican presidential nomination epitomizes the politics of the tantrum. He’s angry as hell, and so is his base. We’re supposed to respect this.

And then there is the tantrum of Islam, another eruption of rage that feeds off our astonishing willingness to indulge it.

Before Friday’s carnage in the City of Light, the world was treated to the hideous spectacle of Palestinians knifing Jews in Israel. The supposed motive of these stabbings was a rumor among Palestinians—fanned by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas—that the Israeli government intended to allow Jews to pray on the Temple Mount.

This was a story the Israeli government adamantly denied and every serious person knew was false. Yet no senior Western leader dared call out Mr. Abbas to correct the record. Palestinian tantrums are sanctified tantrums. The violence they breed might be condemned, but the narrative on which they rest has the status of holy writ. It is no more to be questioned than the Quran is to be burned.

“To counteract the radicalization [in Europe],” Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström said in a televised interview only hours after the Paris attacks, “we must go back to the situation such as the one in the Middle East in which . . . the Palestinians see that there is no future; we must either accept a desperate situation or resort to violence.”

Here was the sanctified tantrum par excellence: People murder and maim because they have been put (by Israel) to a bleak choice. Rage is not to be condemned but understood, mitigated and mollified.

Later that day, at the Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton and the two noncontenders for the Democratic presidential nomination each refused to use the term “radical Islam” in referring to the ideological force behind the Paris killings. The furthest Mrs. Clinton would go to naming the enemy was to say “you can talk about Islamists who also are clearly jihadists.”

Apparently, however, you cannot mention Islamists who are not yet “clearly jihadists,” lest some other invisible line be transgressed. To do so might set off another tantrum among people who tend toward violence whenever they are accused of violent tendencies.

Nowhere are Islamist tantrums so richly indulged as in Europe.

Take the Brussels neighborhood of Molenbeek, which turns out to have been home to at least one mastermind of Friday’s attacks. “In Molenbeek, the newspaper Het Volk published a study of the local Muslim population,” I noted in this column in August 2006. “The editor, Gunther Vanpraet, described the commune as a ‘breeding ground for thousands of Jihad candidates.’ ”

For many years the mayor of Molenbeek was a man named Philippe Moureaux, a Socialist best known as the author of the 1981 Law Against Racism and Xenophobia. In 2004 he helped pass a law allowing noncitizens to vote in municipal elections. Roughly a quarter of Molenbeek’s 96,000 residents are not Belgian citizens.

Mr. Moureaux was also instrumental in engineering the political marriage of his Socialist Party with Muslim arrivals from Turkey and North Africa—a Europe-wide phenomenon that accounts for left-wing sympathies for Islamists whose views on subjects such as gay rights or the equality of women are less than progressive.

It was under Mr. Moureaux’s indulgent eye that Molenbeek became what it is. For years, a group called Sharia4Belgium—no prizes for guessing its goals—was active in the neighborhood until a Belgian judge shut it down in February. The Muslim fanatic who last year opened fire on the Jewish museum in Brussels, killing four, also once lived in Molenbeek, as had the man who tried to open fire on a high-speed train in August. “I notice that each time [there is a jihadist attack] there is a link with Molenbeek,” Charles Michel, Belgium’s prime minister, admitted Sunday. Nice of him to connect the dots.

I lived near Molenbeek for two years when I worked for this newspaper’s European edition and used to jog along the canal that cuts through the neighborhood. It took no special insight to see what was likely to come out of the place.

Now 129 people are dead in Paris because Europe decided to make a fetish of its tolerance for intolerance and allow the religious distempers of its Islamist communities to fester over many years. That’s what happens when you sanctify political tantrums, explain and appease them, refuse to name them, try to look away.