Thursday, February 23, 2006

Denmark: Freedom of expression under attack from Islamists!

Denmark: Freedom of expression under attack from Islamists!

By: Houzan Mahmoud

Politicised religion – of whatever denomination – will leave no place for freethinking, reason, or the conscious will of humans. This is a stark truth, but one that needs to be stated. Instead of the conscious ability of human beings to shape their world, we are subordinated to an imaginary “God”. In the particular case of Islam, we are meant to live our lives according to a long dead “prophet” who has become a symbol of the oppression of women and a rigid patriarchy

A Danish newspaper - Jyllends Posten - has recently published a story about 12 different portraits of the prophet Mohammed. This has provoked a backlash from political Islam, both in the form of groups and states. The common denominator - whatever the relative size or political weight of these protesters - is that all preach that people cannot use that most intrinsic of human capabilities – our imagination – to depict the prophet. Islamists assert that Mohammed never sat for a portrait, so – by definition – his pictorial representation is an act against Islam, a blasphemy.

The political Islamists in Denmark have not been alone in this: ambassadors of countries including Iran, Turkey, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Pakistan have objected. They have fired off letters of complaint to the Danish prime minister and demanded he condemn this newspaper and clamp down on it.

This is not surprising. For those of us who have bitter first hand experience of Islamist groups and Islamic states in the Middle East, it is a depressingly familiar story. This is a template for how they maintain their ferocious, anti- egalitarian rule over the people of that part of the world.

By making Islam the “exceptional religion” – with the clear implication no one has the right to even mildly criticise it, let alone paint a portrait of its prophet – effectively a gag is placed on any radical, dissenting voice. The people who want to raise their voices against the suffocating blanket of religiosity in their societies are silenced.

The brutal truth is that for the last two decades Islam – in the contemporary Middle East – has justified people killing, stoning, imprisoning veiling and forcing women into Borqa’s. Women are imprisoned in the name of political Islam – a crime against all of humanity.

Not only women have suffered. Progressives and secularists of all kinds have been persecuted simply because they have challenged political Islam’s intrusion on the private realm of human beings, their right to decide their faiths and how these might impinge on their lives.

Islamalicists in power rule according to the precepts of sharia law. This institutionalises the oppression of women and the suppression of any kinds of democratic rights. Yet, in Europe, where this reactionary political trend has no opportunity to come to power, so-called ‘freedom of choice’ is cited to impose the veil on young girls and ‘freedom of expression’ to open Mosques, religious schools to bring up a brain washed generation of young people, and to silence those of us who want to tell the truth about them to society.

Many of us secular women live with death threats issued by Islamists for the simple fact that we are liberated, secular and use our brain to think, decide and live the way we want. We do not accept their rule, but actually question and challenge their power over us. They attempt to impose their thinking on us even in a European context; if someone dares to say something critical about Islam they are labelled an “islamaphobe” or even a “racist”. This is a tactic to silence criticism, not engage in a dialogue.
But now women like us in Iraq have formed a women’s organisation that is outspoken against political Islam, despite the daily threats from their terror gangs. Our Organisation of Women’s Freedom of Iraq (OWFI) has been exposing the Islamists and their crimes against women in our society. This shows the potential for secularism and free-thinking among our people. Activists of OWFI inside Iraq and abroad are pioneering a movement against political Islam and have been exposing it on an international level and telling the whole world about the notorious nature of this dangerous contemporary trend which is political Islam.

The fact that women in our society are standing up to oppression, in the face of political forces that force us to wear the veil at a gun point, is an inspiration to friends of freedom, equality and secularism the world over.
In Europe, the Islamists use every possible opportunity to advance their agenda and to de-sensitise people to its reactionary inhumane content.
They refuse to accept the fact that in Europe people have won the right to criticize all religions and political ideologies. So far Islam has escaped this. They have used the western states’ espousal of “multiculturalism” to inflict violence against women and girls and practise the most barbaric “traditions” within these so-called “Muslim communities”. This, we are told, is part of the ‘traditions’ of people from that part of the world. This must stop! Islam, like any other religion, must be a private matter and separate from politics.
I see no reason why ambassadors of all these countries and Islamic exiles make such a fuss about these portraits in Jyllends Posten. Of course, I don’t have to agree with or approve of how artists have portrayed Mohammed – that is not the point. I believe strongly that artists should be free to create art without threats hanging over them.

Freedom of speech and expression should be protected. Criticism of all religions and Islam must be viewed as a normal right of all people. The progress of any human society can be measured by how free it is from religion. Questioning, criticizing and finally separating religions from politics is the only guarantee for a healthy, secular and egalitarian society.

Date: 1st November 2005


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