Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Recognizing dissent

A group of twelve well-known writers, journalists and intellectuals have put their signatures on a manifesto against "Islamism" in Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper that first published the Muhammed cartoons. Eight of the twelve are or once were Muslim. Among them are Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Salman Rushdie. Bernard-Henri Levy is one of the non-Muslim signers.

Here's an excerpt:
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 ...

I'm not hopeful that this manifesto with catch on. Most likely the mainstream media will stuff it down the memory hole, preferring to devote yet more coverage to bearded troglodytes hurling stones at embassies. I've written before pointing out the dangerous tendency in the west to ignore dissent in the Muslim world. Reuters and other major news outlets regularly print statements such as this: "Muslims consider any images of Mohammad to be blasphemous." (That winner is from a February 2, 2006, Reuter's article about the cartoon controversy.) I doubt any of the Muslim signers of today's manifesto would grant the concept of blasphemy any validity at all. Yet Reuters apparently thinks that the ummah is sufficiently of one mind that disagreement is not worth mentioning.

Clearly there are Muslims who can lead the faith into a new stage, an Islam capable of detente with modernity, humanism, and women's rights. But if we ignore those Muslims, they will very likely disappear, one by one. And then all we'll have left is the mullahs and the fearful silence around them.

Read the whole thing.

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