Column: The Academy avoids

By David Johnson

I usually find the Oscars insulting to my intelligence and moral sensibilities. But this year’s Academy Awards were especially offensive and guilty of omission – there was no mention of slain Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh.

Last year, Van Gogh teamed with Dutch politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali to produce the short film Submission. Ali’s experiences growing up in Muslim Somalia led to her prominence as a vocal critic of the atrocious treatment of women under certain strict interpretations of Islam. Submission highlights many of the barbaric practices that practically enslave women in hard-line Muslim society. Ali has received death threats throughout her political career, but it was Van Gogh who paid with his life when he was murdered by a suspect of Muslim origin.

The treatment of women that Van Gogh exposes seems distant to us in America, but it is not in Europe. These practices include so called “honor killings,” wherein a male relative murders a woman who has “disgraced” the family, perhaps by committing adultery, or even by merely deciding to divorce. Honor killings are widespread throughout Europe – the city of Berlin alone has seen six in the last four months. Under certain interpretations of Islamic law, women are considered property of men and have decisions such as marriage forced upon them. Other practices include forcing women to stay fully covered in public, a practice many Muslim women around the world are free to choose whether or not to follow. But many women in Europe are not so lucky.

According to CBS news and the New York Times, emergency personnel such as police, fire and medical won’t dare venture into the immigrant ghettos in cities such as Paris and Malmo, Sweden. Such communities aren’t ruled by liberal European laws, but rather by those forcefully imposed by the ruling immigrant gangs.

The Muslim communities of Malmo, Paris and Berlin are hardly isolated. Immigrants in the Netherlands form 10 percent of the population. The vast majority of immigrants are Muslim. If this seems small, imagine if a particular United States’ immigrant population were twice as large, showed little interest in assimilating into broader society and were overrepresented in violent and sexual crime. Furthermore, imagine if 40 percent of it were receiving welfare benefits from the government, as is the case of the Muslim population in the Netherlands.

This Islamization of Europe is leading to alarming backlashes – opinion polls suggest 75 percent of Swedes “dislike” Muslims, joining 35 percent of Dutch who harbor negative feelings towards Muslim immigrants. And this brings us back to Theo Van Gogh – the treatment of women in many Muslim communities in Europe is an anathema to Europe’s liberal ideals and is thus strikingly representative of the disconnect that exists between Europe and its new immigrant population. Van Gogh’s murder shocked many on the continent – emigration rates of native Dutch middle class have skyrocketed since, yet anecdotal evidence suggests that throughout the Muslim communities of Europe, the belief is that Van Gogh got what he deserved for criticizing certain Islamic practices. That Van Gogh lost his life over his views signifies the importance of this conflict and forces us to realize that we in America, and especially our friends across the pond, can’t sweep the issue under the table much longer.

And sweep under the table is exactly what Hollywood did to Theo Van Gogh. One might argue that such matters aren’t within the scope of the awards. Yet last year, while honoring prominent figures in film who died the year prior, the Academy Awards commemorated the achievements of Leni Riefenstahl, director of famed Nazi propaganda such as Triumph of the Will. As I see it, they either feared bringing the subject up for safety concerns (seeing where it got Theo) or are uncomfortable going near a story that violates a cardinal rule of political correctness: don’t criticize Islam. Either way, it demonstrates that the entertainment industry is either morally depraved or morally bankrupt – something I could have told you before this year’s Academy Awards. They honor a peacefully deceased Nazi, but ignore a filmmaker who died for his beliefs. Next year, I’ll just skip this abomination.