Friday, April 27, 2007

The Perils of "Writing Against Islam"

In an April 25th column for FrontPage Magazine, Robert Spencer addresses recent assaults on Muslim reformers in Norway and Canada. He notes that such incidents are part of a long and tragic pattern:

Of course, “writing against Islam,” or being perceived as having done so, has always been dangerous, as Salman Rushdie and many others can attest. The New York Times reported in 2002 that a professor at the University of Nablus in the West Bank, Suliman Bashear, who “argued that Islam developed as a religion gradually rather than emerging fully formed from the mouth of the Prophet,” was for this novel and, from the point of view of traditional Islam, heretical teaching, thrown out of a second-story window by his students. In 1947, the Iranian lawyer Ahmad Kasravi was murdered in court by Islamic radicals; Kasravi was there to defend himself against charges that he had attacked Islam. Four years later, members of the same radical Muslim group, Fadayan-e Islam, assassinated Iranian Prime Minister Haji-Ali Razmara after a group of Muslim clerics issued a fatwa calling for his death. In 1992, the Egyptian writer Faraj Foda was murdered by Muslims enraged at his “apostasy” from Islam — another offense for which traditional Islamic law prescribes the death penalty. Foda’s countryman, the Nobel Prizewinning novelist Naguib Mahfouz, was stabbed in 1994 after accusations of blasphemy. Under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, many non-Muslims have been arrested, tortured, and sentenced to die on the slimmest of evidence.

While I find Mr. Spencer's vision of Islam, as expressed at his blog and in his books, to be too negative and reductionist, he does a superb job of documenting the widespread use of violence and intimidation as tools of censorship in the Islamic world. He concludes this essay with a well founded warning of the dangers posed by the export of Islamist censorship to the West:

The attacks on Kadra and Faizi show that there are many others in the West today who believe that they must likewise act upon Allah’s commands and victimize those whom they deem to have offended Islam.

This is a challenge to all Western governments, for it is a challenge to the freedom of speech that is rooted in the constitutions and laws of Western states, and ultimately is intimately connected with the freedom of conscience and the Judeo-Christian view of the dignity of the human being before God. Western leaders should move now to make it abundantly clear that attacks on “blasphemers” and “heretics” will not be tolerated; that those who believe that Sharia should be the highest law of the land are not welcome here; and that the West will defend our Judeo-Christian culture and heritage.

Otherwise, only one thing is certain: there will be many, many more such attacks.


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