Friday, February 29, 2008

The Enforced Isolation of the Muslim World

In a recent column for the New York Post, exiled Iranian journalist Amir Taheri made some powerful observations about the efforts of Islamists to insulate the Muslim world from the spread of "infidel" ideas, or any form of free thought for that matter. With Osama bin Laden having openly called for the murder of "freethinkers and heretics" and Iran now amending its legal code to make apostasy a capital crime, intellectual freedom is truly under assault in many Islamic nations.

Taheri points out that this campaign to limit contact between Muslims and non-Muslims has had disastrous effects on both. It is a crucial part of the Islamist war on intellectual freedom, makes it easier for them to spread their totalitarian ideology and fosters the growth of anti-Muslim, as opposed to anti-Islamist, sentiment in the West. All of this aids radical Islamists in their quest to bring about a "clash of civilizations" that they believe will pave the way for their eventual triumph:

The closing of Muslim lands has many aspects. With a few worthy exceptions, there's more censorship in Muslim countries today than in the 1950s. The average movie buff can't see foreign films in a cinema where his grandparents viewed freely half a century ago.

And the number of Western novels translated into the languages of Muslim countries has also fallen - partly because translators and publishers fear having a fatwa issued against them. (The translator and publisher of the latest novel by the Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez face prison terms in Iran.)

Al Qaeda, the Khomeinists and other radical ideologies in contemporary Islam are concerned that direct people-to-people contact between Muslims and non-Muslims could contaminate "the true believers" with the same love of life and fear of death that they believe has doomed Western civilization to ultimate extinction.

As direct human contact between the two visions of existence declines, virtual contact through satellite TV and in cyberspace is increasing exponentially. The two sides watch each other from afar - strengthening the feeling that the "other" is a fictitious character in an exotic tale.

The "Infidel Retreat": Islamists' War on Cultural Contact


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