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Salman Rushdie, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Bernard-Henri Lévy, and Others

publish a Manifesto, "Together facing the new totalitarianism":

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

We, writers, journalists, intellectuals, call for resistance to religious totalitarianism and for the promotion of freedom, equal opportunity and secular values for all.

The recent events, which occurred after the publication of drawings of Muhammed in European newspapers, have revealed the necessity of the struggle for these universal values. This struggle will not be won by arms, but in the ideological field. It is not a clash of civilisations nor an antagonism of West and East that we are witnessing, but a global struggle that confronts democrats and theocrats.

Like all totalitarianisms, Islamism is nurtured by fears and frustrations. The hate preachers bet on these feelings in order to form battalions destined to impose a liberticidal and unegalitarian world. 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 domination: man's domination of woman, the Islamists' domination of all the others. To counter this, we must assure universal rights to oppressed or discriminated people.

We reject « cultural relativism », which consists in accepting that men and women of Muslim culture should be deprived of the right to equality, freedom and secular values in the name of respect for cultures and traditions. We refuse to renounce our critical spirit out of fear of being accused of "Islamophobia", an unfortunate concept which confuses criticism of Islam as a religion with stigmatisation of its believers.

We plead for the universality of freedom of expression, so that a critical spirit may be exercised on all continents, against all abuses and all dogmas.

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

12 signatures

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

Presentations:

Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, from somilian origin, is member of Dutch parliement, member of the liberal party VVD. Writter of the film Submission which caused the assasination of Theo Van Gogh by an islamist in november 2004, she lives under police protection.

Chahla Chafiq
Chahla Chafiq, writer from iranian origin, exiled in France is a novelist and an essayist. She's the author of "Le nouvel homme islamiste , la prison politique en Iran " (2002). She also wrote novels such as "Chemins et brouillard" (2005).

Caroline Fourest
Essayist, editor in chief of Prochoix (a review who defend liberties against dogmatic and integrist ideologies), author of several reference books on « laicité » and fanatism : Tirs Croisés : la laïcité à l'épreuve des intégrismes juif, chrétien et musulman (with Fiammetta Venner), Frère Tariq : discours, stratégie et méthode de Tariq Ramadan, et la Tentation obscurantiste (Grasset, 2005). She receieved the National prize of laicité in 2005.

Bernard-Henri Lévy
French philosoph, born in Algeria, engaged against all the XXth century « ism » (Fascism, antisemitism, totalitarism, terrorism), he is the author of La Barbarie à visage humain, L'Idéologie française, La Pureté dangereuse, and more recently American Vertigo.

Irshad Manji
Irshad Manji is a Fellow at Yale University and the internationally best-selling author of "The Trouble with Islam Today: A Muslim's Call for Reform in Her Faith" (en francais: "Musulmane Mais Libre"). She speaks out for free expression based on the Koran itself. Née en Ouganda, elle a fui ce pays avec sa famille musulmane d'origine indienne à l'âge de quatre ans et vit maintenant au Canada, où ses émissions et ses livres connaissent un énorme succès.

Mehdi Mozaffari
Mehdi Mozaffari, professor from iranian origin and exiled in Denmark, is the author of several articles and books on islam and islamism such as : Authority in Islam: From Muhammad to Khomeini, Fatwa: Violence and Discourtesy and Glaobalization and Civilizations.

Maryam Namazie
Writer, TV International English producer; Director of the Worker-communist Party of Iran's International Relations; and 2005 winner of the National Secular Society's Secularist of the Year award.

Taslima Nasreen
Taslima Nasreen is born in Bangladesh. Doctor, her positions defending women and minorities brought her in trouble with a comittee of integrist called « Destroy Taslima » and to be persecuted as « apostate »

Salman Rushdie
Salman Rushdie is the author of nine novels, including Midnight's Children, The Satanic Verses and, most recently, Shalimar the Clown. He has received many literary awards, including the Booker Prize, the Whitbread Prize for Best Novel, Germany's Author of the Year Award, the European Union's Aristeion Prize, the Budapest Grand Prize for Literature, the Premio Mantova, and the Austrian State Prize for European Literature. He is a Commandeur of the Ordre des Arts et Lettres, an Honorary Professor in the Humanities at M.I.T., and the president of PEN American Center. His books have been translated into over 40 languages.

Philippe Val
Director of publication of Charlie Hebdo (Leftwing french newspaper who have republished the cartoons on the prophet Muhammad by solidarity with the danish citizens targeted by islamists).

Ibn Warraq
Ibn Warraq , author notably of Why I am Not a Muslim ; Leaving Islam : Apostates Speak Out ; and The Origins of the Koran , is at present Research Fellow at a New York Institute conducting philological and historical research into the Origins of Islam and its Holy Book.

Antoine Sfeir :
Born in Lebanon, christian, Antoine Sfeir choosed french nationality to live in an universalist and « laïc » (real secular) country. He is the director of Les cahiers de l'Orient and has published several reference books on islamism such as Les réseaux d'Allah (2001) et Liberté, égalité, Islam : la République face au communautarisme (2005).

Thanks to Agora and InstaPundit for the pointer.

Palladian:

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


I would have expanded Stalinism to include communism in general, but I suppose the (worrisome) inclusion of the director of the "Worker-communist Party of Iran's" International Relations precluded that.
2.28.2006 11:44pm
Defending the Indefensible:
Worst of all of these, the dreaded isolationism.
3.1.2006 12:58am
Kovarsky (mail):
Palladian,

Are you being sarcastic, I can't tell.
3.1.2006 1:39am
Wintermute (www):
I've watched Submission two days running now. Any idiot who could murder Van Gogh and mutilate his body because of that short film and its videographer's eccentricities is beyond the pale. I do not want to repeat the Netherland's immigration mistakes and wind up dead at the hands of idiots. As for isolationism mentioned by the previous commenter, check out my clarification in my piece "Non-interventionism."
3.1.2006 1:41am
Defending the Indefensible:
Nicely done Wintermute. I was being slightly sarcastic, there.
3.1.2006 3:56am
Bob Bobstein (mail):
I hope that this group's activities further its values-- do more than reinforce the views of those who already agree with them.
3.1.2006 7:55am
elohimus (mail) (www):
I personally reject that all people of muslim culture should be deprived of my secular values...I don't think we are witness theocratic views classing with democratic views, if we were we would witness the burining of democratic establishments. They needed an excuse to burn things, they feel persecuted. The whole room/world was primed and ready to blow, all they needed was a match, and the cartoons were it. Something to focus their energy on.
3.1.2006 8:44am
Ken Arromdee (mail):
One of the ironies of the original Salman Rushdie persecution was that Rushdie was anti-Western, but the West and Western culture tried to protect his freedom while the third world wanted his death.

The same irony exists when he signs this, of course.
3.1.2006 10:07am
Palladian:
Kovarsky, no I am not being sarcastic. Communism, whether Stalinism or Maoism or the mythical "correctly implemented" version, was/is a totalitarian global threat to freedom as great as any of the other threats listed in this letter. I suppose it couldn't have been added to the list of defeated threats because sadly it still nominally exists and continues to justify the enslavement of billions of people in the world today.
3.1.2006 10:39am
John Mark:
How precisely is or was Rushdie "anti-Western"? It seems as silly to say that as to say that he was or is anti-Islamic in some reductive sense. At least in his best novels and essays, he celebrates hybridization and creative cultural fusion in a way that makes it very hard to accuse him of being simplistically "anti-" any of these big geopolitical/cultural monoliths. He's always been very pro-free speech, though, even before the Satanic Verses.
3.1.2006 10:41am
Hank:
The manifesto does not define "Islamism." Does it mean "Islam" or does it mean the fascist and violent aspects of Islam? It defends criticism of Islam as a religion, and that's fine -- one ought to be free to criticize any religion, whether it is fascist and violent or not. But, if it's not fascist and violent, then it is not "a totalitarian global threat." The Manifesto's second sentence calls for the promotion of secular values for all, whereas the third paragraph from the end speaks of the "right" to secular values. I suggest that they stick to the latter so that people -- including Muslims -- who reject secular values but respect others' right to hold them will be able to join the Manifesto. I say that as an atheist.
3.1.2006 10:52am
Hank:
Maybe the drafters of the Manfesto consider tolerance a secular value -- that would explain the confusion I perceive in the Manifesto.
3.1.2006 10:54am
Broncos:

The manifesto does not define "Islamism." Does it mean "Islam" or does it mean the fascist and violent aspects of Islam? It defends criticism of Islam as a religion, and that's fine -- one ought to be free to criticize any religion, whether it is fascist and violent or not. But, if it's not fascist and violent, then it is not "a totalitarian global threat."

I share Hank's question. For a collection of exceptional writers, I am suprised they chose to allow such an obvious and important ambiguity to exist. Their argument is much stronger if they clarify that they criticise a particularly authoritarian, violent, and sexist strain of ideology; that it should not be immune from criticism because it is religious; but that they don't take issue with Islam as a whole.
3.1.2006 11:15am
Hank:
Maybe they should have had a lawyer draft it.
3.1.2006 11:20am
Taimyoboi:
"...resistance to religious totalitarianism and for the promotion of freedom, equal opportunity and secular values for all."

While I laud the intent of the authors, I wonder to what extent they are pressing for the last condition--secular values.

By secular values for all, do they mean that everyone has the right to abide by secular values if they so choose, or that secular values are the only basis for which to build other rights off of?
3.1.2006 12:47pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
As to Islamism, maybe they thought that readers would assume from context that they're speaking about the first definition in the dictionary.
3.1.2006 1:10pm
Hank:
Who would have thought to look it up? The first definition to which Eugene links is: "An Islamic revivalist movement, often characterized by moral conservatism, literalism, and the attempt to implement Islamic values in all spheres of life." It doesn't sound good, but it doesn't on its face necessarily include implementation by force. Googling "Islamism" reveals more; e.g., "Islamism is not one ideology. Inside the same society, several directions of Islamism can be found, and these are seldom cooperating." I'm not surprised.
3.1.2006 2:14pm
Inspector Callahan (mail):

attempt to implement Islamic values in all spheres of life." It doesn't sound good, but it doesn't on its face necessarily include implementation by force


To implement Islamic values in ALL spheres of life would require implementation by force. Unless all secularists suddenly change their minds, and decide to become Muslims themselves.

TV (Harry)
3.1.2006 4:25pm
Lover of Zion (mail):
Lots more on this here:
Righteous Muslims

You might want to check this out too:
anti-Semitic Cartoons
3.1.2006 5:08pm
jvarisco:
I don't know about this thing...but Irshad Manji a Yale fellow? Can that be correct? I've read her book, and she doesn't have the slightest grasp of Islamic history. I would be surprised if she has even read the Koran, let alone created a critique of Islam based upon it. She's quite a bit more lesbian, and feminist, than she is Muslim. She's about as Muslim as the Unitarians who welcome pagans to worship the nature goddess in church with them. Not to mention that she is unable to read Arabic, and has never lived in the Middle East.
3.1.2006 7:10pm
DJ (mail):
"Obscurantism?"
3.1.2006 8:53pm
Kovarsky (mail):
DJ,

That term is most frequently invoked in association with Hegel (I think it's foul that I know that). Anyways, it is connotatively quite correct here.
3.2.2006 3:22am