The Diamond Mine
Despite the idiotic sneer that such principles are “fashionable”, it is always the ideas of secularism, libertarianism, internationalism, and solidarity that stand in need of reaffirmation.
On 7th December last year, some twenty Muslim men stormed a book launch in Amsterdam and promptly declared a death sentence upon the book’s author. They unfurled a black banner adorned with hateful Arabic, began chanting “Takfir!”, and threatened to break the author’s neck. When the audience bravely formed a human shield around the hunted writer, the men began demanding that the event be shut down. The writer and the audience, to their credit, stood their ground, until the Dutch police arrived, eventually arresting a number of the extremists, whereafter discussion of the recently published book resumed. What is important to note about this small but sordidly telling episode is the nature of the book and the person that had driven these men into such an apparently murderous rage. For the author – a slight but brightly articulate woman called Ishrad Manji – is no apostate, and her book – Allah, Liberty, and Love: The Courage to Reconcile Faith and Freedom – is no Satanic Verses. Manji is, in fact, an avowed believer in Islam, and her book, as its title suggests, is nothing more threatening or ‘offensive’ than a reasoned call for a reformist approach to Islam and a plea for moderation amongst her fellow Muslims. For this, apparently, did she deserve nothing less than death.
What must be understood about the reactionary mind it that it hates its own moderates and progressives before it even begins to hate its nominal enemies. “The first aim of religious violence,” argues Nick Cohen in his new book, “is to stop experiment by the faithful and enforce taboos.”