18/04/2006 - 22:00

Moderate voices speaking out

18/04/2006 - 22:00

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March 2006 was important for several reasons, including the arrest of several alleged jihadists in Melbourne, showing that what US President George W Bush calls ‘the long war against terror’, continues.

March 2006 was important for several reasons, including the arrest of several alleged jihadists in Melbourne, showing that what US President George W Bush calls ‘the long war against terror’, continues.

Also around this time, Melbourne cab driver and Muslim convert Jack Thomas was sentenced to five years’ jail for receiving funds from a terrorist organisation and trying to use a false passport.

Understandably, both events had extensive media coverage.

But what never gained such attention was something that may well be markedly more significant.

On March 1, 12 individuals – some of them Muslims others former Muslims – issued what they’ve called The Manifesto – Together Facing the New Totalitarianism.

Since only one Australian newspaper reported the release of this manifesto, State Scene reproduces it in full.

“We, writers, journalists, intellectuals, call for resistance to religious totalitarianism and for the promotion of freedom, equal opportunity and secular values for all.

“The recent events, which occurred after the publication of drawings of Muhammad in European newspapers, have revealed the necessity of the struggle for these universal values. This struggle will not be won by arms, but in the ideological field.

“It is not a clash of civilisations nor an antagonism of West and East that we are witnessing, but a global struggle that confronts democrats and theocrats.

“Like all totalitarianisms, Islamism is nurtured by fears and frustrations. The hate preachers bet on these feelings in order to form battalions destined to impose a liberticidal and unegalitarian world.

“But we clearly and firmly state: nothing, not even despair, justifies the choice of obscurantism, totalitarianism and hatred. Islamism is a reactionary ideology which kills equality, freedom and secularism wherever it is present.

“Its success can only lead to a world of domination: man’s domination of woman, the Islamists’ domination of all the others. To counter this, we must assure universal rights to oppressed or discriminated people.

“We reject ‘cultural relativism’, which consists in accepting that men and women of Muslim culture should be deprived of the right to equality, freedom and secular values in the name of respect for cultures and traditions.

“We refuse to renounce our critical spirit out of fear of being accused of ‘Islamophobia’, an unfortunate concept which confuses criticism of Islam as a religion with stigmatisation of its believers.

“We plead for the universality of freedom of expression, so that a critical spirit may be exercised on all continents, against all abuses and all dogmas.

“We appeal to democrats and free spirits of all countries that our century should be one of Enlightenment, not of obscurantism.”

The signatories were: Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Chahla Chafiq, Caroline Fourest, Bernard-Henri Levy, Irshad Manji, Mehdi Mozaffari, Maryam Namazie, Taslima Nasreen, Salman Rushdie, Antoine Sfeir, Philippe Val, and Ibn Warraq.

To most Australians these names, with the possible exception of Salman Rushdie, whose life remains threatened by an Iranian fatwa, mean nothing.

But each is important; they are people who are already having an impact upon many across the Islamic world despite living under permanent threat of assassination, meaning they must be constantly on guard.

Their manifesto may well prove to be more important than the one penned in 1848 by the Jewish Rhineland activist, Karl Marx, which so dramatically affected 20th century humanity.

To gain some appreciation of the manifesto’s authors, State Scene presents brief sketches of only two of the signatories; Ibn Warraq, a male, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a female, since space precludes highlighting the others.

However, readers shouldn’t hesitate searching for them on the internet. And while doing so it’s also worth reading about Swiss historian Bat Ye’or, and expatriate Iranian columnist, Amir Taheri.

Ibn Warraq, a pseudonym, means ‘son of a papermaker’ in Arabic.

The name has traditionally been adopted in Islamic history by dissident writers.

He was born in India in 1946 of Moslem parents and attended Edinburgh University, where he studied under the Orientalist, Montgomery Watt.

Warraq now lives in the US and is critical of the oppressive aspects of Islam.

His best selling books include: Why I Am Not a Muslim, Leaving Islam: Apostates Speak Out, What the Koran Really Says, Quest for the Historical Muhammed, Origins of the Koran, and Essay on Edward Said’s Orientalism: Debunking Edward Said: Edward Said and the Saidists: or Third World Intellectual Terrorism.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali was born in Somalia in 1969.

Today she sits in the Tweede Kamer, Netherlands’ lower house, for the centre-right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy.

Her family fled Somalia and eventually settled in Kenya, where she attended the English-language Nairobi Muslim Girls’ Secondary School and was deeply influenced by a fundamentalist Islamic teacher.

This made her a fervent backer of Iran’s Khomeini regime and the Muslim Brotherhood. She wore a hijab and aspired to becoming an Islamic martyr.

In 1992 her family arranged for her to marry a distant cousin then living in Canada whom she had never met.

On her way to Canada she visited relatives in Germany, where she decided instead to go to Holland, where she gained political asylum and took the name Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

She held several jobs and also gained a masters degree in political science from Leiden University.

After publishing her book, De Zoontjesfabrike (The Son Factory), a critique of Islamic culture, she received the first threat on her life, prompting her to hide in the US for some time.

This year Reader’s Digest declared her European of the Year.

In her acceptance speech she urged action against Iran becoming nuclear armed and warned that Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – who sees the US and Europe as being part of a “sunset civilization” (ofuli) while seeing Iran as a “sunrise nation” (tolu’ee) – should be taken seriously.

Commenting on a proposed conference and Ahmadinejad’s denial of the Jewish Holocaust she said: “Before I came to Europe, I’d never heard of the Holocaust.

“That is the case with millions of people in the Middle East. Such a conference should be able to convince many people away from their denial of the genocide against the Jews.”

She claims that what are called Western values – individual freedom and justice – should apply to all of humanity.

Such values, she said: “Are universal and Europe has done far better than most areas of the world at providing justice, because it has guaranteed the freedom of thought and debate that are required for critical self-examination; and that communities cannot reform themselves unless ‘scrupulous investigation of every former and current doctrine is possible’.”

Hirsi Ali entered the Dutch parliament in 2003, has been a script writer, and was involved in producing the controversial film, Submission, directed by Theo Van Gogh, who was gunned down in Amsterdam.

She has been awarded no fewer than seven major prizes for backing liberty and freedom, including the prestigious Prize of Liberty by Nova Civitas, a major Low Countries liberal think tank, and Denmark’s Liberal Party’s Freedom Prize “for her work to further freedom of speech and the rights of women”.

Last April, Time magazine named her “amongst the 100 most influential persons of the world”.

If these brave individuals weren’t regarded as a threat by the backers of jidadist causes, as promoted worldwide by Tehran and Osama Bin Laden, most especially, they wouldn’t be leading such precarious lives.

Time will tell if the pen is mightier than the assassin.

If so humanity will owe these brave signatories of this so far little-publicised manifesto an enormous debt.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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