“East is east, and west is west, and in both we take offense at anything: Santas saying ‘Ho ho ho,’ teddy bears called Mohammed. And yet the difference is very telling: The now-annual Santa lawsuits in the ‘war on Christmas’ and the determination to abolish even such anodyne expressions of faith as the Pledge of Allegiance are assaults on the very possibility of a common culture. By contrast, the teddy bear rubbish is a crude demonstration of cultural muscle intended to cow and intimidate. When east meets west, when offended Muslims find themselves operating in Western nations, they discover that both techniques are useful: Some march in the streets, Khartoum-style, calling for the pope to be beheaded, others use the mechanisms of the West’s litigious, perpetual grievance culture to harass opponents into silence.
“Perhaps somewhere in Sydney there’s a woman who’s genuinely offended by hearing Santa say ‘ho ho ho’ just as those New Hampshire atheists claim to be genuinely offended by the Pledge of Allegiance. But their complaints are frivolous and decadent, and more determined groups are using the patterns they’ve established to shut down debate on things we should be talking about. The ability to give and take offense is what separates free societies from Sudan.”