Free Speech is Relative

Muslims with a small m

Ayaan Hirsi Ali <br />
Ayaan Hirsi Ali
It is virtually impossible to criticise Islam. Theo Van Gogh was murdered and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, his co-author on the video 'Submission', required 24/7 security and eventually left Holland for the USA, (where she still requires police protection).Her Dutch passport was withdrawn despite her being an MP.She had also openly admitted that she had lied so as to to escape from an arranged marriage and claim asylum.

The Dutch people were furious and protested; the government fell. The crime? The production of a video depicting battered Muslim women with words from the Koran written on their bodies in order to illustrate the high incidence of violence against women in the Dutch Muslim community.

A portrait of the Virgin Mary decorated with elephant dung caused offence to Catholics and Christians. It was displayed in prestigious art galleries throughout the world yet the artist, Chris Ofili, lives an open and prosperous life.The mainstream media have no qualms about showing this image. The cartoonists who depicted images ofSubmission video
Submission video Mohammed for the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten are still in hiding from death threats. Several brave editors from Muslim countries lost their jobs or were imprisoned and many lives were lost during the subsequent riots. The crime? Drawing and publishing a few rather innocuous cartoons.The cartoons were published in the Middle East and aroused little comment. However, when a few Danish Imams set out on a tour of the Middle East, they added two crudely drawn and extremely offensive cartoons of their own and rabble-roused. None of the mainstream media dared print them. Only a few brave souls such as Richard North have. Can we blame the media? Yes. They may well have felt unable to publish for financial and security reasons and who could criticise them. However, there is a time honoured method of leaving a blank space to denote censorship. They could honestly have said that they were afraid to print them but no, the UK mainstream media is never afraid. They said the cartoons were offensive.

Gay police advert
Gay police advert The Gay Police Association produced an outrageous advert, paid for using public money, claiming that they were experiencing homophobic abuse initiated mainly by Christians. There have been lots of protests but nobody is in hiding and no-one is dead. Would they have dared substitute the Koran for the bible? Of course not. Recently a student dared to criticise Islam in 'Clareification', the magazine for Clare College, Cambridge. There was an immediate shut down by the authorities: magazines withdrawn, website offline, no comment from the university authorities. Can you blame them? They are responsible for the safety of the students and the buildings and took the easy way out.

It is bad enough that Westerners are afraid to criticise Islam, however, the crying shame is that Muslims are even more scared to do so in the West. Many people come to the West for a financially better life and also for a different type of life.They come to live in a society where they are allowed to protest, criticise, demonstrate and enjoy freedom of speech; where there is a separation of church and state and the freedom to practise any religion or none. We know that our civil liberties are at risk: from ID cards,the prohibition of demonstrations near both Westminster and EU parliaments, the loss of habeas corpus; and it has only recently become possible to sell bananas by the pound! Yet, even these iniquities are as nothing compared to the lack of freedom in many other countries.

Our government talks to 'community leaders' and gives grants and charity status to 'community groups'. For 'community' on many occasions substitute 'religious'. There is an acknowledgement that white or black Britons are not synonymous with Catholic,Christian or Jew. Yet, for Britons of a Sikh, Hindu or Muslim background, it would appear that the government feels that their race is synonymous with a religion.

Behzti playbill
Behzti playbill Hindus and Sikhs may and do convert to Christianity, they may find this relieves them of patriarchal or caste problems. They also find it easier to be secular. However, comments relating to religion may remain a problem. In the Bezhti (Dishonour) scandal, Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti wrote a black comedy involving rape and murder in a Gurdwara. The playwright received death threats and had to go into hiding after the Birmingham Rep was damaged by rioting 'religious' Sikhs and 'community leaders'. Our government cravenly said it was wrong to denigrate a religion in this way and no-one was charged for the damage. The play was withdrawn. The Rep authorities said they had had numerous consultations with the 'Sikh community' regarding possible offence given by the play prior to production. Why? Would they discuss the production of Jerry Springer- The Opera with the Christian community? No, because they know that Christians tend to be non-violent - so far.Many people including secular and non- fundamentalist Sikhs were outraged as were other theatre managers.Censorship by violent blackmail is very worrying.

Infidel For the Muslim, however, apostasy is a sin and may be punishable by death.The Dutch professor and philosopher Afshin Ellian lives under threat of death. Ibn Warraq, author of :'Why I am not a Muslim' writes under an assumed name. Mina Ahadi, who formed the ex-Muslim Council in Germany has had numerous death threats as has Ehsan Jami the founder of the Dutch Committee of Ex-Muslims and then there is poor Salman Rushdie. And so it goes. Brave men and women who are secular or liberal Muslims speak, write and analyse their problems with Islam, yet their voices are rarely heard.

The charity FAIR conducted a sophisticated system of encouraging Muslims to report any slight or abuse against them and then presented a portfolio of islamophobic victimhood.The site seems quiet at present.We are creating ethnic communities in aspic. Some immigrant communities are more conservative than those back home. Politicians say it is our fault that they do not integrate. Yet 60% of marriages in Bradford are arranged and brides brought over from the subcontinent. So, in these families, each generation relives its groundhog day over and over again. Children are raised by a non-English speaking, often poorly educated mother with no knowledge of British culture. According to Forward up to seven thousand girls are at risk of female genital mutilation in Britain. No one has been convicted of the crime of FGM since 1985 when the first law came into force. There are police solely responsible for this area of law, there are reports on service provision and inter-agency guidelines yet, strange for a government so driven by statistics and targets no one is divulging the incidence.

Flashers are put on the sex offenders register but what happens to parents or the people who perform genital mutilation operations? Who knows? Ayaan Hirsi Ali writes about being subjected to FGM in her excellent book 'Infidel'. A harrowing section of a fascinating book.She is from Somalia and it is estimated that 98% of Somali women have undergone this operation and its gruelling consequences.She also tried to prevent this happening in Holland without success.

Nyamko Sabuni
Nyamko Sabuni The West has had its Enlightenment. If this is ever to occur in Islamic countries it has to begin in Europe and the West. By encouraging multicultural apartheid, by accepting violent blackmail as a means to prevent anyone criticising certain fundamentalist religions, by assuming that all people from certain races automatically practise their religion, by encouraging faith schools, by condoning violence against women and children we will find that we are muslims with a small m. That is we comply with the literal meaning of Islam, namely we are people who submit ourselves to Allah's will.

Begin with the women. Emancipate all the women in the West and there is a chance for it to happen in developing countries. Brave men and women who speak out deserve our support. It is short term thinking to simply appease fundamentalists for an easy life.

"All forms of violence against girls and women, including violence in the name of honour, constitute criminal offences. All people regardless of ...cultural and religious traditions are of equal value... When girls and women live in the fear of violence, are restricted from setting the standards of their own lives and prevented from developing into free and independent adults,it is impossible for them to fully enjoy human rights"
Nyamko Sabuni-Swedish Minister. Speech to the UN.