by Shaheryar Ali
Of the three great systems of exclusion governing discourse – prohibited words, the division of madness and the will to truth …” Foucault
“If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.”, Noam Chomsky
The most important system of control of discourse working in the moslem societies is “prohibition”. An imagined ‘Islam’ has emerged as the single most important tool for censorship in Islamic world. When it involves other issues like “blasphemy” one could be certain that no voice will ever emerge in opposition to censorship. This is one of the most suffocating experiences to live in when those who struggled all their lives for change and freedom appear to be on board with the tyrants. It is precisely this “ideological gap” within the progressive and modernist moslem establishment which let people like Ayan Hirsi Ali to emerge!
Heroine of the “new Right”, its fashionable these days to slander and dismiss Ali in almost all progressive circles of Europe. The problem unfortunately will not disappear by this continuous “Tabbara” on her. The lacuna within the progressive left ,which has sealed its lips in name of “anti imperialism” on fundamentalism, freedom of expression, and Islamic roots of violence and subjugation of women, has to be filled. The alliances from Lebanon to Islamabad with Islamic fundamentalism have to be broken and progressive position be taken on feminism and other “transitory demands”.
Keeping the Neo-conservative political agenda aside ,Ali stands out as a bold and eloquent lady who has dared to break the silence on Islamic gendricide. “The caged Virgin” and “The Son Factory” stand out as phenomenal contribution on developing a radical feminist discourse in moslem world. The article I have chosen present the core argument of the progressive moslem left , the argument of “moderate moslem majority” – that “the moderates” are silent .
I recall a line: “Since the holocaust, you know what the Jews fear the most?” ” The Silence!”
Islam’s Silent Moderates
Ayan Hirsi Ali
In the last few weeks, in three widely publicized episodes, we have seen Islamic justice enacted in ways that should make Muslim moderates rise up in horror.
A twenty-year-old woman from Qatif, Saudi Arabia, reported that she had been abducted by several men and repeatedly raped. But judges found the victim herself to be guilty. Her crime is called “mingling”: when she was abducted, she was in a car with a man not related to her by blood or marriage, and in Saudi Arabia that is illegal. Last month, she was sentenced to six months in prison and two hundred lashes with a bamboo cane.
The woman and the man guilty of adultery or fornication, flog each of them with 100 stripes: Let no compassion move you in their case, in a matter prescribed by Allah, if you believe in Allah and the Last Day. (Quran 24:2)
Two hundred lashes are enough to kill a strong man. Women usually receive no more than thirty lashes at a time, which means that for seven weeks the “girl from Qatif,” as she is usually described in news articles, will dread her next session with Islamic justice. When she is released, her life will certainly never return to normal: already there have been reports that her brother has tried to kill her because her “crime” has tarnished her family’s honor.
We also saw Islamic justice in action in Sudan, when a fifty-four-year-old British teacher named Gillian Gibbons was sentenced to fifteen days in jail before the government pardoned her this week; she could have faced forty lashes. When she began a reading project with her class involving a teddy bear, Gibbons suggested the children choose a name for it. They chose Muhammad; she let them do it. This was deemed to be blasphemy.
Then there is Taslima Nasreen, the forty-five-year-old Bangladeshi writer who bravely defends women’s rights in the Muslim world. Forced to flee Bangladesh, she has been living in India. But Muslim groups there want her expelled, and one has offered five hundred thousand rupees for her head. In August, she was assaulted by Muslim militants in Hyderabad, and in recent weeks she has had to leave Kolkata and then Rajasthan. Nasreen’s visa expires next year, and she fears she will not be allowed to live in India again.
It is often said that Islam has been “hijacked” by a small extremist group of radical fundamentalists. The vast majority of Muslims are said to be moderates. But where are the moderates? Where are the Muslim voices raised over the terrible injustice of incidents like these? How many Muslims are willing to stand up and say, in the case of the girl from Qatif, that this manner of justice is appalling, brutal, and bigoted–and that no matter who said it was the right thing to do and how long ago it was said, this should no longer be done?
Usually, Muslim groups like the Organization of the Islamic Conference are quick to defend any affront to the image of Islam. The organization, which represents fifty-seven Muslim states, sent four ambassadors to the leader of my political party in the Netherlands asking him to expel me from parliament after I gave a newspaper interview in 2003 noting that, by Western standards, some of Muhammad’s behavior would be unconscionable.
A few years later, Muslim ambassadors to Denmark protested the cartoons of Muhammad and demanded that their perpetrators be prosecuted. But while the incidents in Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and India have done more to damage the image of Islamic justice than a dozen cartoons depicting Muhammad, the organizations that lined up to protest the hideous Danish offense to Islam are quiet now.
I wish there were more Islamic moderates. For example, I would welcome some guidance from that famous Muslim theologian of moderation, Tariq Ramadan. But when there is true suffering, real cruelty in the name of Islam, we hear, first, denial from all these organizations that are so concerned about Islam’s image. We hear that violence is not in the Quran, that Islam means peace, that this is a hijacking by extremists and a smear campaign, and so on. But the evidence mounts to the contrary.
Islamic justice is a proud institution, one to which more than a billion people subscribe, at least in theory, and in the heart of the Islamic world it is the law of the land. But take a look at the verse above: more compelling even than the order to flog adulterers is the command that the believer show no compassion. It is this order to choose Allah above his sense of conscience and compassion that imprisons the Muslim in a mindset that is archaic and extreme.
If moderate Muslims believe there should be no compassion shown to the girl from Qatif, then what exactly makes them so moderate? When a moderate Muslim’s sense of compassion and conscience collides with matters prescribed by Allah, he should choose compassion. Unless that happens much more widely, a moderate Islam will remain wishful thinking.
Miss Ali was born in an influential Somili family, her father was a major political figure who resisted the Marxist dictatorship in Somalia, She was raised a devout moslem and has studied at a Saudi religious school as well, she escaped to Europe to avoid a forced marriage and abuse. She studied dutch and Political Science in Netherlands and soon rose to prominence . She was elected to the Dutch Parliament on a Liberal Party ticket, initially she was in Labour which she soon left due to “Left’s silence” of Islamic fundamentalism. Deeply influenced by “European Enlightenment” she came out strongly against organized religions including Islam and Christianity. She wrote the screenplay of VanGoh’s movie “Submission” that made her a target of extremists. These event made her closer to the Neo-Conservative right. She is fellow of the conservative American think tank “American Enterprise Institute”. An out spoken feminist and secular humanist ,Ali has received many prestigious honors as well as death threats. She is included in Time magazine 100 most influential thinkers. Her work on comparison of thought of John Stuart Mill and Islam and her defense of European Enlightenment as “collective human asset” are especially important.