LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

Part of the entrance fee into a free society is acceptance that while you have the right to believe as you choose, you have no right to expect others will share or even respect those beliefs.

No one should expect to come to a new place and say, "I'm here now, so you change who you are to accommodate me." Newcomers can and certainly do add beneficial cultural layers to a diverse society. But when they demand that their new home become just like the one they left, it sets up inevitable clashes.

Paris saw the most deadly version of that dynamic last week, when two armed Islamic radicals stormed through the offices of a satirical newspaper and murdered 12 people. The jihadists claimed to be avenging the Prophet Muhammad, a frequent target of the publication's cartoonists and writers.

Much of the content of the Charlie Hebdo newspaper is vile and disgusting. It features grotesque drawings and inflammatory, irreverent articles that often appear at the most inappropriate times.

It is an equal opportunity offender with a particular fondness for skewering religion, targeting Muslims, Christians and Jews alike. But it is most relentless in poking Islam, likely because that's where it gets the greatest reaction. Satirists have no fun if their victims don't howl.

As a result, Charlie Hebdo staffers have been under a continuous death threat and its offices were firebombed in 2011. And yet it has never backed down. That's a show of journalistic courage rare today.

The newspaper, as crude as it is, understands what too few do: Bowing to bullies and acquiescing to their irrational demands only invites more of the same.

Europe has spent much of the past two decades frantically trying to avoid conflict with its growing Muslim population. It has tried to shield them from insult, bent its rules so they wouldn't have to assimilate to European norms, allowed them to live separate from mainstream society, ignored their anti-semitism and welcomed their religion into the public square.

And still it constantly harbors the fear that even the slightest offense will invite another terrorist bombing. When courage is demanded, it cowers.

In 2006, after an assassination attempt on Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard by Islamic radicals for drawing images of Muhammad in an archaic affront to the religion, most European newspapers refused to reprint the cartoons, afraid they would provoke more violence. (Most American publications, including this one, refused as well, to our shame.)

Every newspaper in the free world should have published those cartoons, which were a legitimate news item and well within our standards of good taste (see example here). Instead, we granted Islam a concession we wouldn't consider for any other religion.

I wonder if last week's rampage would have happened if Charlie Hebdo weren't so alone in its willingness to goad Islam. If the press took off the kid gloves and treated Islam the way it does Christianity and Judaism, would the target have been too big? That's what should happen coming out of this tragedy. It's the only way to honor the martyred journalists.

nfinley@detroitnews.com

LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: http://detne.ws/1IBMBlk