Friday, February 16, 2007

Islam and Self-Censorship

Youssef Ibrahim analyzes the tendency towards self-censorship when discussing Islam in a piece for today's New York Sun:

Bottom line: You can't talk about Islam, not really. Those transgressing are hounded like hunted animals.

The persecuted British-Indian author of the 1988 book "The Satanic Verses," Salman Rushdie, is a refugee here in America. Nearly two decades later, he's still living under a death edict issued by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini the year after the book came out.

A more recent refugee is the Dutch-Somali writer Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who is facing death threats of her own in the Netherlands after collaborating on a film about the oppression of women in Islam. One of her collaborators, the Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, was assassinated in Amsterdam in November 2004; a knife pinned a note to his body that said Ms. Hirsi Ali was next. Islamic history is served up airbrushed in academia, and the result is a public denied knowledge. The reason many in the West are so surprised by the Sunni-Shiite split now tearing apart the Persian Gulf is that few know the history of early Islam, when a bloody succession to the Prophet Muhammad yielded that split 13 centuries ago. The storm around the cartoons of Prophet Muhammad last year was a perfect example of what happens when willful ignorance and self-censorship come together.

To this day, self-censorship about Islam is the norm. The only works that study, analyze, and teach Islam are those by politically correct Arabs, Muslims, or a few "vetted" Westerner scholars who know where not to go.

Thanks to incidents such as the Rushdie affair and Van Gogh murder, Islamists have succeeded in curtailing what can and can't be said about Islam, even in the West.


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