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 civilizations 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 stigmatization 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.
Salman Rushdie, author, The Satanic Verses
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Somali-born Dutch MP
Taslima Nasreen, exiled Bangladeshi writer
Bernard-Henri Levy, French philosopher
Chahla Chafiq, exiled Iranian writer
Caroline Fourest, French writer
Irshad Manji, author, The Trouble with Islam
Mehdi Mozaffari, professor of political science, University of Aarhus
Maryam Namazie, producer, TV International English
Antoine Sfeir, editor, Cahiers de l'Orient
Ibn Warraq, author, Why I Am Not a Muslim
Philippe Val, editor, Charlie Hebdo
The above statement was issued in early 2006 and published, among other places, in the Summer, 2006 issue of the Middle East Quarterly. Below is the accompanying statement from the editors of that publication:
On October 22, 2005, the France 2 television talk show Tout le Monde en Parle aired an interview with writer Salman Rushdie and French actor and Islamist Sami Nacéri. Left on the cutting room floor was an ugly incident during taping when Nacéri accused Rushdie of debasing Islam. If an imam asked him to kill Rushdie, Nacéri went on, he would himself shoot the bullet into Rushdie's head. He then pantomimed firing a gun at Rushdie.
Philippe Val, editor of the French left-wing weekly Charlie Hebdo, described the omitted segment in the November 2 issue of the magazine. French reaction was minimal. While some journalists debated whether celebrities made appropriate commentators, there was little discussion of France 2's decision to delete the offending segment.
On February 28, 2006, in response to Nacéri's threat, France 2's censorship, and the decision of several newspapers not to publish cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, twelve prominent Muslim and non-Muslim intellectuals issued a manifesto first published on the French website Proche-Orient.info. The translation, replicated below, was later published in the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten. The willingness of prominent thinkers, both Muslim and non-Muslim, to stand together suggests that intellectuals recognize the totalitarian nature of Islamism and are determined not to cede terms of the societal debates to Islamists.
The statement was also published in the February 28, 2006 issue of the Danish language Jyllands-Posten newspaper, which also ran the following brief biographies of the signatories of the statement. Some of the English is a little sketchy -- I cleaned it up some, but left it mostly "as is". Links have been added:
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, from Somalian origin, is member of Dutch parliment, member of the liberal party VVD. Writter of the film Submission which caused the assassination of Theo Van Gogh by an islamist in November 2004, she lives under police protection. [AHA Foundation website]
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). [chahlachafiq.com]
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 fanaticism : 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 recieved the National prize of laicité in 2005. [Le blog de Caroline Fourest]
Bernard-Henri Lévy French philosopher, 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. [bernard-henri-levy.com]
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. [Irshad Manji blog and official website]
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. [Professor Mozaffari's web page at the University of Aarhus]
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. [maryamnamazie.com]
Taslima Nasreen is born in Bangladesh. Doctor, her positions defending women and minorities brought her in trouble with a committee of integrist called « Destroy Taslima » and to be persecuted as « apostate ». [Official website of Taslima Nasreen]
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. [Salman Rushdie's website at Random House]
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). [Website of Charlie Hebdo]
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. [ibnwarraq.net]
Antoine Sfeir : Born in Lebanon, christian, Antoine Sfeir chose 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). [Columbia World Dictionary of Islamism, edited by Antoine Sfeir]
The 12 signatories (from left to right): Ayaan Hirsi Ali – Chala Chafiq – Caroline Fourest – Bernard-Henri Lévy – Irshad Manji – Mehdi Mozaffari – Maryam Namazie – Taslima Nazreen – Salman Rushdie – Antoine Sfeir – Philippe Val – Ibn Warraq