Together facing the new totalitarianism

A number of influential international writers, journalists and intellectuals have just released a manifesto: “Together facing the new totalitarianism”, stating that we need to protect the universal rights (freedom of expression, equality of man and woman, …) from attacks by militant muslims.

After having overcome fascism, Nazism, and Stalinism, the world now faces a new totalitarian global threat: Islamism.
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 stigmatisation of its believers.
Jyllands Posten via

The authors are the following 12 people: Ayaan Hirsi Ali (NL), Chahla Chafiq (FR), Caroline Fourest (FR), Bernard-Henri Lévy (FR), Irshad Manji (CA), Mehdi Mozaffari (DK), Maryam Namazie (US), Taslima Nasreen (SE/US), Salman Rushdie (UK), Antoine Sfeir (FR), Philippe Val (FR), Ibn Warraq (US).

Wow, the balls you must have to put your name on that list. You open your front door for accusations of racism, anti-secularism, islamophobia. You risk your manifesto being recuperated by fascist movements. You risk being a pariah for any political or cultural movement that does not want to roughen up anyone’s feathers. You risk the the quasi-certainty of a fatwa for your execution. You do exactly what the freedom of expression allows you to, but because that freedom is under danger, it is a very gutsy thing to do. Respect!

While I find the language in the manifesto quite harsh, I agree that the fundamental rights we take for granted now are to be protected from religious attacks (islam as well as christian fundamentalists) and from capitalist attacks (RIAA, Berlusconi). I don’t know what the reaction to the manifesto will be (burn the embassies of France, US, UK and Sweden too?) but even if the reactions are exaggerated, that doesn’t mean writing such manifestos should be forbidden. The “freedom to express yourself except if you might hurt someone’s feelings” aka ‘political correctness’ isn’t worth an awful lot.

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