In the last week of September, shortly after the terrorist assaults on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the Prime Minister of Italy, Silvio Berlusconi, made an extraordinary statement. During a visit to Germany, he declared Western civilization superior to Islam. He said:

We must be aware of the superiority of our civilization, a system that has guaranteed well-being, respect for human rights, and—in contrast with Islamic countries—respect for religious and political rights.

The minute he had uttered these words, a bevy of European politicians rushed to denounce him. The Belgian Prime Minister, Guy Verhofstadt, said: “I can hardly believe that the Italian Prime Minister made such statements.” The spokesman for the European Commission, Jean-Christophe Filori, added: “We certainly don’t share the views expressed by Mr. Berlusconi.” Italy’s center-left opp ...