Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Manifesto of 12

About a year ago, at the height of the Danish cartoon controversy, 12 intellectuals published a manifesto calling for a full defense of free thought and expression in the face of Islamist threats and violence. On this anniversary of radical Islamism's most infamous assault on intellectual freedom, it is worth posting in full. Fittingly enough, Salman Rushdie is one of the signatories:

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

We -- writers, journalists and public intellectuals -- call for resistance to religious totalitarianism.

Instead, we call for the promotion of freedom, equal opportunity and secular values worldwide.

The necessity of these universal values has been revealed by events since the publication of the Muhammad drawings in European newspapers. This struggle will not be won by arms, but in the arena of ideas. What we are witnessing is not a clash of civilizations, nor an antagonism of West versus East, but a global struggle between democrats and theocrats.

Like all totalitarianisms, Islamism is nurtured by fears and frustrations. The preachers of hate bet on these feelings in order to form battalions destined to impose a world of inequality. 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 greater power imbalances: man’s domination of woman, the Islamists’ domination of all others.

To counter this, we must assure universal rights to oppressed people. For that reason, we reject “cultural relativism,” which consists of accepting that Muslim men and women should be deprived of their right to equality and freedom in the name of their cultural traditions.

We refuse to renounce our critical spirit out of fear of being accused of “Islamophobia,” an unfortunate concept that confuses criticism of Islamic practices with the stigmatization of Muslims themselves.

We plead for the universality of free expression, so that a critical spirit may be exercised on every continent, against every abuse and dogma.

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

Signed,

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



As a result of signing this document, all 12 signatories were subjected to a death threat on an Islamist web site. Irshad Manji has posted a petition where you can express your support for these individuals.

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