Monday, March 16, 2009

Are we living in the era of Islamic censorship?

In last few months three important developments took place which were although directly not related with each other but they have some connection between them. First, just before Indian economic capital Mumbai was attacked by Islamic terroists on 26 November last year the largest Islamic body OIC approached the supreme law making body of the world UN with a resolution to make it compulsory for the countries of this world to declare vilification of prophet of any religion as illegal as well denouncing the efforts to use term Islamic terrorism in reference to terrorism.

Second, Government of Nederland decided to prosecute president of a political party of this small European state for hurting the sentiments of Muslims with his film “Fitna” based on some controversial ayats of Quran. After the decision of government of Nederland Geert Wilders decided to visit few European countries with message of his controversial film and United Kingdom was one of them. Geert Wilders was banned from UK government and was told to refrain himself from entering into the borders of Britian. Geert Wilders tried to defy the government orders but he was arrested at the airport and expelled from Britain. Geert called this development as a great set back to the freedom of expression.

In third incident, one leading English news paper published from West Bengal in India “The Statesman” reproduced an article from a British news paper and this article become bone of contentious between News paper and Muslim society. Local Muslim groups objected to this article as they found it with some objectionable remarks on their prophet and in few hours of this publication anger come out on streets and local administration intervened and later succumbs to pressure of Muslim groups and decided to arrest editor of news paper with one of his employees although both were released immediately on bail.

All those examples that have been described above did not have any connection between them but still they indicate for one common question. Are we living in the era of Islamic censorship?

This question should be answered by us if we boast to be living in modern world where everyone enjoys the equal freedom. Some times it seems as we are surrounded with hypocrites and pseudo-liberals where Islam has been given privilege on every other religion because no author, publisher, commentator find itself in any regulation or self imposed censorship when it comes to the subject of critical review of any religion other than Islam. Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and Jainism all the religions and its scriptures, deities and prophets have been painted in every possible ways which is nothing less than vilification of these sacred figures but any of this religion never approached UN to pass a resolution to stop the criticism or critical review of their scriptures or deities. This difference is pregnant with some larger implications on the society.

Values of modern world could not be imposed on other religions giving full immunity to one because one religion has potential to turn their anger in violence which could ultimately culminate in clash of civilizations.

In last few years world has been exposed to a new threat of extremism and intolerance and this phenomenon is cultivated with theory of atrocity on Muslims. It is very difficult to understand why Muslims around the world always talk about their grievances and impose the responsibility of their grievances on other countries and people. Core of this theory revolves around the exploitation of resources of Middle East from western countries in common and US in particular but it is not the only case even India is also not out of the orbit of this theory. Indian Muslims also being taught how they have been treated with second class partisan behavior. But the most important aspect of this theory is how honest its propagators are and this is the parameter from which we can measure the honesty and political motivation behind this theory.

Theory of atrocity on Muslims is very much related with privilege of Islam and danger of Islamic censorship. Muslims around the world have not only been told how that they have become victim of exploitation but they are told their religion has also been targeted. This theory has made the Muslim across the world over conscious about their religious identity and every step for modernity is proportionate to merging of their religious personality with modern world. This fear psychosis of Muslim society has been exploited by Islamic religious and political leaders very shrewdly.

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Sunday, March 8, 2009

The dysfunction of the Muslim world corresponds directly to the persecution of dissent.

Emerging Muslim Freethinkers and the Battle of Civilizations

The Muslim world is obviously in a mess. Political instability, unbridled corruption, lack of economic development, widespread intolerance and violence, and lack of freedom, liberty and human rights are some of the traits that characterize Muslim societies most glaringly. All indications suggest that things will get only worse over coming decades.

Amongst many factors that differentiate Muslim societies from most other progressive and more peaceful societies are its missing freethinkers—namely critics and reformers—who are able to criticize the troublesome aspects of its societal core, its religious foundations. Other societies had its problems in the past. However, those societies allowed the emergence of progressive freethinking scholars, philosophers and reformers. They exercised variable measures of liberty to criticize, to point fingers at, the underlying reasons, including the religious ones, of the many ills of their societies. Jewish societies produced brilliant minds like Benedict de Spinoza, Carl Marx and Albert Einstein amongst many other; Christianity produced great thinkers like Rene Descartes, Emmanuel Kant, David Hume, John S Mill, Bertrand Russell and many more. Some of these thinkers, Spinoza for example, attracted ire from religious authorities, faced excommunication. Nonetheless, their ideas and views were not choked out; instead, they were disseminated with some measure of ease; security to their life was not threatened. The resilience, the power, of their progressive and reformative social, political and philosophical ideas eventually triumphed. As a result, those societies reformed, secularized, progressed and prospered.

But Muslims societies, the core of which is most intimately integrated with its religious ideals, have never really allowed the emergence of its own breed of freethinkers and progressive reformers, particularly over the past eight centuries.


As long as intolerance of dissenting ideas remain in force, Islamic world will unlikely emerge from its current malaise and lack of material progress. It is unlikely to change any time soon. There is, however, a glimmer of hope. Kicked out of their home countries, some Muslim dissidents—harbored by the liberal West—are showing their intellectual prowess. Muslim apostates like Ibn Warraq and Ayaan Hirsi Ali have written bestselling books. Most of all, they, for the first time, are pointing fingers at the debilitating nature of the Islamic theology, which must undergo modernization as have other creeds.

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Saturday, March 7, 2009

A Muslim Hero Defies Threats as he Fights Radical Islam

Dr. Sami Alrabaa
If what happened to Salahuddin Shoaib Choudhury, editor in chief of the Bangladeshi Weekly Blitz and peace activist, and his colleagues, happened in Tibet or Burma, for instance, the international media would rush to these regions and report about them meticulously, and human rights activists worldwide would take to the streets and demonstrate against the oppressors.
Mr. Choudhury is fighting radical Islam in one of largest Muslim countries of the world (150 million). If the West does not support Choudhury’s struggle, a whole society will increasingly drift to Islamism. Bangladesh is being Talibanized day after day.
Choudhury was assaulted on February 22, 2009 by a bunch of radical Muslims affiliated with the Awami League, the party of the recently elected Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed – the same party that claims that it is secular and supports the rule of law.
To add insult to injury, after the premises of the Weekly Blitz were infiltrated by a radical gang affiliated to the Awami League which accuses Choudhury of being an agent for Israel, he and his colleagues were attacked and severely abused by officials of the DGFI (military intelligence).
Choudhury and his co-workers suffered critical injuries.
Choudhury filed a case against the attacking gang and officials of the DGFI. However, a lawyer and advisor to the Prime Minister by the name Shintu urged Choudhury to drop his charges, otherwise he would face fatal consequences – including an extortion of TK 500,000 (about $8,000).
The current atrocities against the Weekly Blitz mark a series of attacks. From 1996-2001, numerous journalists were assaulted by members of the Awami League. In 2003 Choudhury was also attacked, arrested, and brutally tortured for 17 months by government agents. His “crime?” He called for establishing relations with Israel and advocated moderate Islam. He also advocated genuine interfaith dialogues between Muslims and followers of other faiths.
The persecution of Chouhury was meant to appease Islamists across the country, whose number is rising dramatically; an outspoken moderate Muslim must be muzzled by all means.
Since 2003, a court in Dhaka has charged Choudhury with blasphemy, treason, and sedition, and he has been subjected to all kinds of harassment.
Dr. Richard Benkin and Congressman Mark Kirk eventually managed to bail Choudhury out. If these outspoken peace-loving gentlemen, the U.S. Congress, the European Parliament, the Australian Senate, and numerous human rights organizations had not interfered, Choudhury would be dead by now. According to the Bangladeshi law, sedition charges deserve the death penalty.
Yet Choudhury is not intimidated. He says,
People are punished for crime, for creating anarchy and for putting humanity into horrifying terror. But, could we ever believe that someone would be arrested, tortured and imprisoned for long 17 months just for being in favor of global peace, inter-faith dialogue, ending religious hatred and thinking of everything good and noble for mankind? In my case it did happen and after being released on bail keeping the sedition charge very much alive. According to the allegations, my crime is: I am a living contradiction to today's phenomenon in the Muslim world, a Zionist, a defender of Israel and a devout, practicing Muslim living in the second largest Muslim country in the world."
On the issue of interfaith dialogue, which all peace-loving people cherish, Choudhury says,
"Through dialogue we can learn about one another's beliefs and faith. You and I, yes we can challenge belief and build on faith. By this simple action we deepen what it means to us as individual and as a group the idea of being guided, inspired and even acting according to God's plan. The whole idea of faith, trust, and belief is a philosophical debate between individuals from the central point our self and the peripheral our community. Religions can be based on theology but more importantly it should be based on our perception and understanding of God's words as individuals and not as a mass. This had been the reason as to why I promote interfaith dialogue. Religion does not promote hatred however men have promoted hatred by favoring one religion over the others; usually it is their interpretation of what religion means which is based on theology or the word of God as interpreted by men of small minds. Some monotheists accuse others of worshipping idols and having false gods. Some radicals go as far as destroying historical temples. This can be seen when Christians had statues to represent images of Jesus or the Virgin Mary they were either destroyed or painted over. Romans destroyed the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Christians and later Muslims destroyed Hindu temples in India or parts or other parts of the world. The first Christian priests were destroying the spiritual icons of natives, and saying they worshipped idols in nature. Hindus destroyed Muslim and Christian Mosques and Churches. The list goes on an on. However, there is another aspect of religion that is often forgotten those from the tradition who have made a contribution to stopping hatred, which promotes better understanding."
Also, Choudhury vehemently opposes the Islamist propaganda spearheaded by Saudi Arabia which propagates that Jews are the enemy of Allah. Choudhury advocates peace among followers of all faiths, and demands that the culture of hatred and violence be out-rooted.
Choudhury is a real hero. He is a valiant fighter who chose to stand up in a hostile environment and fight radical Muslims. He was offered asylum in several Western countries, where he could live in peace. But he turned down all these offers and opted for fighting the virus of out times: Islamism, and added, “If someone is willing to say no to Jihad, he must say it on the ground.”
If the West, and in particular America, is serious about the war on terror, they should wholeheartedly and by all means support Choudhury and all those Muslims who are in the same front on the ground.
All of those writers, Muslim-born, who live in the West, like myself, or Westerners who write about Islam and the need for its reform are undoubtedly doing a good job, but they are preaching to the converts. For reform to become a tangible reality on the ground the world needs heroes like Choudhury.
A Nobel Peace Prize for Choudhury would fuel further his energy and rally more public support for his noble fight. Choudhury is sacrificing himself for peace in his country and the world at large. Contributing Editor Dr. Sami Alrabaa, an ex-Muslim, is a professor of Sociology and an Arab-Muslim culture specialist. Before moving to Germany he taught at Kuwait University, King Saud University, and Michigan State University. He also writes for the Jerusalem Post.