* * *
I am in Denmark, speaking to the Free Press Society, an organisation set up in the wake of what is now humourlessly referred to as "the cartoon crisis". After my speech I am presented with a mug with the famous drawing of Muhammad on the side. It is, I am told, a "Mo mug". I thank my hosts but wonder where I will keep it. Is it compatible with a dishwasher? And if a cartoon can continue to spark protest, of what horrors might my mug be capable?
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From Denmark I head to Brussels to speak at a conference on the "rise" of populism in Europe. By "populism", it becomes clear, people are not thinking of a wide range of movements including, say, anarchist protesters around St Paul's. With few exceptions, participants focus on the "rise" of "far-Right" parties. Into this latter term they throw everything they do not like, making few distinctions between liberals and fascists. Afterwards questions are asked about how we can better "educate" the populace. It is horribly revealing.
The event ends with George Soros mulling over the financial crisis and its implications for politics. Speaking of the Tea Party and other US groups he dislikes, he refers negatively to "powerful and well-financed special-interests". I do a double-take and recheck the speaker schedule.
* * *
The Catholic blogger Cristina Odone believes that critics of Islamic extremism must be condemned because they represent an attack on all religion; that in the face of this "secular assault" the religions must stick together. Cristina has previously made this claim alongside a number of controversial figures, among them people close to the Islamists now taking over North Africa. I wonder what her co-religionists in North Africa would make of her argument? Who are the greater threat to Christians in that region: atheists and secularists, or Islamists? We will have to wait a few years for the point to clarify further. Perhaps then Cristina can join me on a trip to the region. I will try to show her a secularist and she can try to find me a Christian.