Islamism prevails even as we suppress free speech

Jul 9, 2015

by Nick Cohen

No one could have predicted that the Bangladeshi writer Rafida Bonya Ahmed would make it to London last week. That she is alive at all is a miracle – to use a word of which she would thoroughly disapprove. As I watched her deliver the British Humanist Association’s annual Voltaire lecture , I saw a dignified and principled intellectual it was our duty to emulate and defend. I could not understand why anyone would want to harm, let alone kill, her

But many do. In February, Islamist fanatics hacked her husband, Avijit Roy, to death with meat cleavers as the couple left a book fair in Dhaka. They nearly killed Ahmed too: slicing off her thumb and covering her body with wounds. To hear her talk about her murdered husband made me long to have met him. He was a typical intellectual – hopeless with anything practical but in love with literature, science and free debate.

Together, Ahmed and Roy ran a secular blog that promoted the writings of young liberal Bangladeshis They wrote on evolution and humanism; they condemned extremism fearlessly, as the title of Roy’s 2014 book The Virus of Faith makes clear. Seeing and fearing a courageous opponent, the enemies of free thought killed him for his ideas.

Ahmed talked about how compromised the Bangladeshi state had become, and you could easily make the mistake of thinking her story had nothing to do with us. Yet there were guards at the doors of her lecture room, searching bags for bombs and guns. A widow, still recovering from the slash of meat cleavers, with no weapon to threaten anyone beyond the power of her thought, is as much a target in London as Dhaka.


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21 comments on “Islamism prevails even as we suppress free speech

  • What a wonderful article!

    “…they’ll conquer the world and love, they’ll spread over the deserts, cross the seas, fill the light of Europe with their black veils – strike the belly, yes, strike the eyes – sow their salt on the continent, all vegetation, all youth will die out, and dumb crowds with shakled feet will plod beside me under the cruel sun of the true faith….” Albert Camus, The Renegade, 1957



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  • 2
    NearlyNakedApe says:

    Yes indeed. A concise and efficient critique of the Western PC liberal intelligentsia and complacent so-called secular governments. Further proof of the urgent need to eradicate blasphemy laws and defend freedom of speech.

    BTW, I really like that passage you quoted from Camus. There’s an ominous prophetic ring to it. One more to add to my “must read” list.



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  • It’s only a short story, not directly about Islam, but it’s metaphorical and allegoric, and there’s no doubt that Islam is one of its main targets. Camus had it in for belief whether occult or political. He knew the Islamic world well, as he was brought up in Algeria, and actually played in goal for Algiers. The story is in Exile and the Kingdom, it’s confusing and difficult to follow, but there’s some excellent critique of it in Wikipedia.



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  • The lack of western politicians commitment to preserve the hard earned civil liberties,is mind boggling.Appeasing religious fanatics by suppressing freedom of speech can only inflame racist sentiments against Muslims and inviting more demands for farther concessions.



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  • I totally agree Kamel and NNApe. But, faced with the most violent religious movement in the history of mankind, potentially far more violent than the European Reformation, armed as it is with 21 century weapons and communications, and recognising no law or government; there are no constraints upon it. Appeasement is always an unpalatable option, but provocation is likely only to exacerbate the situation.

    Locking up some of the worst mullahs for hate speech, arresting a handful of returned terrorists and killing a few in the field, is hardly scratching the paintwork. Ad nauseam there are reports of military victories and senior leaders being picked off by Israelis or drones, but the hydra just grows stronger! No one has any better ideas, and every the situation gets worse.

    European freedom was won over hundreds of years of intellectual endeavour, revolution, civil uprisings and war, but the cost of maintaining it is likely to be unsustainable, and the cost of losing it will be worse.



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  • 6
    NearlyNakedApe says:

    Locking up some of the worst mullahs for hate speech, arresting a handful of returned terrorists and killing a few in the field, is hardly scratching the paintwork. Ad nauseam there are reports of military victories and senior leaders being picked off by Israelis or drones, but the hydra just grows stronger! No one has any better ideas, and every the situation gets worse.

    Military action by itself is definitely not going to solve this huge problem. In fact it has become largely counter-productive because it gives ammunition to the argument put forth by the PC liberal crowd like Chomsky et. al that occupation and interference typical of US foreign policy is driving the violent response from “oppressed people who then have no choice but to retaliate”.

    This is complete bunk in the case of Jihadist organizations like ISIS or Boko Haram: they will kill and maim regardless of US presence in Muslim countries. But the emotional blackmail that Islamists are subjecting the West to is hitting the bullseye in PC liberals’ sense of guilt and mortal fear of being labeled as bigots.

    I believe than this problem can only be solved from the inside. True moderate muslims or ex-muslims are the only ones who can engage in the honest criticism of Islam and its toxic ideas with any hope of succcess because even thought they can and will be accused of Islamophobia by the media (case in point: Aayan Hirsi Ali), they can’t be labelled as outsiders.

    The greatest challenge for them is that it requires an extraordinary amount of courage since the moment they start to question the ideas, dogmas and scripture of Islam, their well-being is immediately threatened. Not just by the clergy but often by members of their own family. Pure unadulterated heroism is what is required of them and that’s a lot to expect from anybody.

    These people are in a prison, the worst kind of prison: a prison of the mind. A totalitarian ideology that makes thought crime a capital offense worthy of eternal torment in hell. George Orwell really nailed it in 1984. Little did he know that the terrifying evil he envisionned would materialize at the beginning of the 21st century in the form of a ruthless religious ideology: Islam.

    On this topic, I do recommend the eye opening read provided by Aayan Hirsi Ali’s latest book: Heretic.



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  • These people are in a prison, the worst kind of prison: a prison of the mind.

    The hardest type to escape from, and the one that takes the longest time, usually generations. Meanwhile the whole world suffers, and the terrifying evil shows no signs of halting its inexorable advance. Evil prospers when good people do nothing, but the problem is that no–one can tell us what to do.

    Thanks for the tip about Aayan Hirsi Ali’s book. It’s a great shame that this topic has attracted so little attention from other contributors, as it is incredibly important, perhaps the most important issue facing the world today.



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  • Excellent article! One explanation for today’s oft flung accusations of Islamophobia by some of the so-called “enlightened” liberals:

    Compare the bravery of Bangladeshi intellectuals with the attitude of the bulk of the western intelligentsia. Whole books could be written on why it failed to argue against the fascism of our age – indeed I’ve written a couple myself – but the decisive reason is a fear that dare not speak its name. They are frightened of accusations of racism, frightened of breaking with the consensus, frightened most of all of violence. They dare not admit they are afraid. So they struggle to produce justifications to excuse their dereliction of duty.



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  • Civil liberties are the primary target for Islamic terrorists,unfortunately they are making excellent
    progress,thanks to the political correctness ( hypocrisy ) of western democracies politicians for never missing an opportunity to make known the unfounded believe that Islam is a religious of peace.Distancing Islam from the shockingly dreadful crimes that is directly causing is the greatest impediment to the war efforts to defeat jihadism.



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  • On the other hand, perhaps the only tactic likely to give us a chance of surviving the Islamic tsunami, is to find some way of splitting the militants away from the rest. At the moment, that tactic doesn’t seem to have much success, some brave people do stand out, at tremendous risk to themselves, but from the outside it seems that in the “mainstream” attitudes range from outright support, to grudging acquiescence.

    Who knows why; fear, reluctance to break group solidarity, a confused feeling that the militants’ hearts and minds are in the right place, but they go a bit far sometimes…?



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  • eejit
    Jul 13, 2015 at 6:37 am

    At the moment, that tactic doesn’t seem to have much success, some brave people do stand out, at tremendous risk to themselves, but from the outside it seems that in the “mainstream” attitudes range from outright support, to grudging acquiescence.

    Who knows why; fear, reluctance to break group solidarity, a confused feeling that the militants’ hearts and minds are in the right place, but they go a bit far sometimes…?

    I think we have seen it on this site! –
    The generic term “religion” is used as if all faith-thinking was a consensus of view: – where religions, – which have been at each other’s throats for centuries, suddenly present a buddy-buddy face when confronted by atheists, secular legislation, or atrocities committed in the name of religion.

    They rush to the defence of each other’s delusional, blinkered and compartmentalised thinking!

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/11/30/us-pope-turkey-mideast-idUSKCN0JE0AD20141130

    Pope Francis said on Sunday that equating Islam with violence was wrong and called on Muslim leaders to issue a global condemnation of terrorism to help dispel the stereotype.

    Francis, the leader of 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, told reporters aboard his plane returning from a visit to Turkey that he understood why Muslims were offended by many in the West who automatically equated their religion with terrorism.

    Francis’ predecessor, Benedict XVI, caused storms of protest throughout the Islamic world in 2006, when he made a speech that suggested to many Muslims that he believed Islam espoused violence.

    Benedict said he had been misunderstood and apologized. But this year, the image of a violent religion has once more been promoted by Islamic State, who have seized swathes of Syria and Iraq, slaughtering or driving out Shi’ite Muslims, Christians and others who do not share their radical brand of Sunni Islam.

    The Argentine pope, who has been trying to foster cooperation with moderate Islam in order to work for peace and protect Christians in the Middle East, said it was wrong for anyone to react to terrorism by being “enraged” against Islam.

    “You just can’t say that, just as you can’t say that all Christians are fundamentalists. We have our share of them (fundamentalists). All religions have these little groups,” he said.

    “They (Muslims) say: ‘No, we are not this, the Koran is a book of peace, it is a prophetic book of peace’.”

    The collectivised “true Scotsman”, is living in religious leaders as usual when they find it convenient to distance themselves from reality!



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  • In this correspondence the word “western” has been used twice, neither time in precisely flattering terms. The term “West” was used once, to identify the target of Islamist propaganda. No one here “keeps talking about” the West; I have not mentioned it, even by implication.

    I cannot discover any element of western chauvinism or condescension in anything that I, or the others, have written. I would however, argue that for a time in history imperialism was a progressive force, but that time has long since passed.



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  • I don’t really follow Soccer, much more Rugby and above all, Cricket. The first Soccer game I saw, on telly, was the Cup Final when Bert Troutman, Man City keeper broke his neck and continued playing, as there were no subs permitted then. The rest has been an anti-climax.



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  • That, for instance, one of the most productive hotbeds of “islamic” extremists, Saudi Arabia, is a key ally of “the West” in southwestern Asia.

    That, for instance, “the West” supported, armed and abetted extremist Muslim guerrillas in Afghanistan circa 1978, against a secular government. Gee, it wasn’t even a Republican who did it – it was James “Jimmy” Carter, proud member of the “Democratic” Party and winner of a Peace Nobel Prize.

    It is not necessary, indeed, to even have “personal views” on the issue. Those are cold facts, not ideological assertions.



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  • Indeed, and these are the unflattering terms in which “the West” was referred to:

    A concise and efficient critique of the Western PC liberal intelligentsia and complacent so-called secular governments.

    In other words, that stupid “West” that doesn’t bomb the savages enough, does not topple their governments enough, does not occupy their countries enough. Indeed, a concise criticism of Western lack of bigotry.



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  • 20
    NearlyNakedApe says:

    In other words, that stupid “West” that doesn’t bomb the savages enough, does not topple their governments enough, does not occupy their countries enough. Indeed, a concise criticism of Western lack of bigotry.

    Neither the original OP or ANY of my comments say anything about bombing or toppling governments or occupying countries. That is a gross misrepresentation of the author of the OP’s views and of my views as well. This is a perfect example of how some people only see what they want to see.

    If you had bothered to read my second post in this thread, you might have noticed that I DID write…

    “I believe than this problem can only be solved from the inside. True moderate muslims or ex-muslims are the only ones who can engage in the honest criticism of Islam and its toxic ideas with any hope of succcess”

    I’m sorry to have to say this but you remind me of people like Noam Chomsky who are so blinded by their vitriolic hatred of the US and the West (YES the West) that they seem to have forgotten the most important aspect of critical thinking: one needs to apply it equally to everything and everybody. And most of all towards oneself.

    IOW, there are things happening in the Muslim world that can be blamed on US foreign policy and there are things, rather big things that simply, logically CANNOT. The totalitarian ideology of Islam is wreaking havoc and victimizing millions of people, the vast majority of which are Muslims. And THAT is what the topic of the discussion is supposed to be.

    Blaming the US for violence perpetrated by brutal Islamists on their own people is intellectually ridiculous. And frankly, I’m quite fed up of hearing and reading this kind of nonsense that only serves to derail a badly overdue conversation that needs to happen yesterday in the Muslim world.



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  • The West, mainly Europe and the United States, should implement a policy of enforced containment. Apart from foreign policy directing interventions on economic, humanitarian, diplomatic, and surgical military fronts, enforced containment would vigorously enforce domestic criminal, civil or human rights law ignoring defenses citing Muslim “custom’ or Sharia Law. Weighing misogynist practices integral to Islam, Muslim women, usually family members, would enjoy special victim status invoking harsher penalties for fanatics convicted of targeting women. Public officials at all levels of government should not only recognize the rights, dignity and equal opportunities for law-abiding Muslims within their jurisdictions, but also affirm support and respect for those who practice Islam peacefully. Meeting such conditions, the religion of Islam and reasonably moderate Muslims should not be renounced by western governments. Democratic societies support freedom of religion, “the free exercise thereof,” as long as others are not harmed or oppressed in violation of law or community standards.

    In my view, the policy of containment will allow Islam to collapse from within under the growing weight of its own aversive impact on younger generations. Following the course of secularization in the prosperous, democratized societies of Western Europe and the United States, a similar consensus will develop among younger populations in the Muslim world that Islam is its own punishment, emanating from superstitious oppressive nonsense. Just as European Catholics and protestants came to realize that self-flagellation was gratuitously painful, so youthful Muslims will reject the virulent forms of the faith for a brighter, civilized future. Curbing declining flare ups at home and abroad, we will just have to wait out the demise of Islam as we know it.



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