Today's Islamists seem to have not even a sense of irony. They fail to see the richness of the following sequence. The pope makes a reference to a 14th-century Byzantine emperor's remark about Islam imposing itself by the sword, and to protest this linking of Islam and violence:
• In the West Bank and Gaza, Muslims attack seven churches.
• In London, the ever-dependable radical Anjem Choudary tells a demonstration at Westminster Cathedral that the pope is now condemned to death.
• In Mogadishu, Somali religious leader Abubukar Hassan Malin calls on Muslims to "hunt down'' the pope. The pope not being quite at hand, they do the next best thing: shoot dead, execution-style, an Italian nun working in a children's hospital.
"How dare you say Islam is a violent religion? I'll kill you for it" is not exactly the best way to go about refuting the charge. But of course, refuting is not the point here. The point is intimidation.
And the intimidation succeeds: politicians bowing and scraping to the mob over the cartoons; Saturday's craven New York Times editorial telling the pope to apologize; the plague of self-censorship about anything remotely controversial about Islam -- this in a culture in which a half-naked pop star blithely stages a mock crucifixion as the highlight of her latest concert tour.
If people are really upset about Hollywood taking pot-shots at Christianity, there's the strategy they need to adopt. All they need is Christian shock troops willing to slay anyone who insults their religion, and Christianity will receive the same deferential treatment Islam gets.
Of course, the problem then is that Christ would no longer be a figure worth following.