Those who comment on the Muslim world and Islamo-fascism are likely to receive death threats. What is to be done about that ? Rebecca West, someone whose courage matched her intellect, showed the way. Years ago, when the PLO under Arafat was casting its first shadows over the Middle East, she went to Jerusalem. There she met lots of people. One of them was evidently a secret PLO agent. Her next stop was Beirut. The telephone rang in her hotel there – the famous and now burnt-out Saint Georges – and a voice told her that she had been fraternising with the Israelis, and they’d come to kill her. She replied that she’d had a long and wonderful life, had written the books she’d wanted to write, and had nothing more to look forward to. She told me how she had explained to the PLO chap which room she was in, and how she would leave the door open for him. She had called him “dear boy” and added that he had to be sure to bring his gun and take off the safety catch, and aim straight.
This morning, I heard that some al-Qaeda thug is offering $100,000 to anyone who can kill Lars Vilks – he is Swedish and last month drew and published in his local newspaper an unflattering cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad. He had already received a number of threats, The Times reported, but none so explicit as this call to murder him. “I suppose that this makes my art project a bit more serious,” he went on, “It is also good to know how much one is worth.” Whereupon I remembered Dame Rebecca and the marvellous sarcasm she had put into telling about how she’d seen off her would-be gunman. And by the way, she knew Sweden, and liked the fierce dramatist August Strindberg, and I bet she’d have approved of Lars Vilks too.