Choose Freedom

Choose Freedom


Just when I was lamenting the lack of a new equivalent of the Congress for Cultural Freedom, comes a timely manifesto, “Together facing the new totalitarianism.”

After having overcome fascism, Nazism, and Stalinism, the world now faces a new totalitarian global threat: Islamism.

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 Muhammed 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.

12 signatures

Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Chahla Chafiq
Caroline Fourest
Bernard-Henri Lévy
Irshad Manji
Mehdi Mozaffari
Maryam Namazie
Taslima Nasreen
Salman Rushdie
Antoine Sfeir
Philippe Val
Ibn Warraq

They’re all names worth knowing, by the way, if you don’t already.

[Hat tip, CQ]

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  • Bob Aman

    I’m not at all surprised to see Salman Rushdie’s name on that list, but the others on the list are unknowns to me. But yes, I’d say they are names worth knowing. If they weren’t before, they sure are now.

  • Callimachus

    Here’s a few more:

    Ayaan Hirsi Ali – Somali-born Dutch politician, friend of Theo Van Gogh, now living under constant guard, if not in hiding outright.

    Bernard-Henri Lévy – French leftist philosopher who makes sense to Americans, even conservatives (but the Lake Woebegone guy hates him).

    Irshad Manji – ex-Muslim Canadian woman, lesbian, whip-smart, funny, in-your-face, and also a frequent target of death threats.

    Ibn Warraq – another former Muslim, who has written a book on why he left the religion. (Apostacy is punishable by death under the stricter interpretations).

    Mehdi Mozaffari – Iranian scholar of Shi’ite jurisprudence and critic of the hard-line Tehran regime.

    Chahla Chafiq – author of a scathing critique of the treatment of women in modern Iran.

    Caroline Fourest – Has done heroic work in calling attention to radical Islamists preaching in France.

    Maryam Namazie – another Iranian dissident living in exile in the West. A member of the Worker-Communist Party of Iran, like many on the list she is firmly of the left.

    Taslima Nasrin – award-winning Bangladeshi writer whose novel “Shame,” which depicts Muslim persecution of Bangladesh’s Hindu minority, brought death threats and drove her from her homeland. The Bangladesh government banned her book.

  • Joshua

    Eugene Volokh has also blogged about this manifesto, including an introduction to all twelve signatories.

    I do respectfully disagree with their assertion that “[i]t is not a clash of civilisations”; at the very least I think this is a prelude to such a clash. As I noted last night in the first post on my new blog, I fear – actually fear isn’t the right word; it’s more like I’m resigned to the idea – that future events in the “Long War” will make the so-called “cartoon intifada” look like a picnic. I’m also resigned to other great cultural institutions, including the one that’s the main subject of my debut post, either disappearing or being radically altered in the wake of this war even if the West ultimately prevails, as I believe it will.

  • Bob Aman

    Speaking of “clash of civilizations”, #1050 on this list is interesting.