people describing themselves as writers, journalists
and intellectuals have published a manifesto.
On its own and in other circumstances this would
normally not amount to very much or attract more
than local interest. It is consistent with the style
of those who regard their vocation as primarily
cerebral. Often their output is regarded or dismissed
as 'academic.' On this occasion, they are not publishing
some thesis which, after exciting a boffin here
or there, will gather dust in some university library.
Hirsi Ali, Chahla Chafiq, Caroline Fourest, Bernard-Henri
Lévy, Irshad Manji, Mehdi Mozaffari, Maryam
Namazie, Taslima Nasreen, Salman Rushdie, Antoine
Sfeir, Philippe Val and Ibn Warraq are literally
risking their lives by publishing their manifesto
against totalitarianism. Most have had fraught relationships
with Islamic fundamentalism. Some have faced extreme
danger because of their beliefs. A fatwah was imposed
on Salman Rushdie in response to his novel The
Satanic Verses. Taslima Nasreen has been threatened
with death many times because of the uncompromising
stand she has taken against theocratic fascism.
A fascist cleric in Pakistan, Maulana Yousaf Qureshi,
has offered a $1m bounty to any taker prepared to
slaughter any one of the cartoonists responsible.
The fate of Theo Van Gogh in Amsterdam in November
2004, who was butchered because he worked on a film
with one of the manifesto signatories, illustrates
that such threats are not to be taken lightly.
manifesto has its origins in their individual and
collective opposition to the orchestrated theocratic
violence that has been inflicted upon people around
the world in response to the publication of cartoons
in the Danish newspaper, Jyllands Posten, depicting
the prophet Mohammed. In their own words:
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
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 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.
are strong words. They leave little room for ambiguity.
Hopefully, they are the sentiments of all at the
The Blanket. While the politics of some of
these writers, journalists and intellectuals may
be anathema to those of us who hail from a left
tradition, their opposition to theocratic fascism
should bind us to them in a common cause. If we
believe in freedom of political expression over
censorship, the light of reason over the darkness
of religion, vibrant equality over rigid hierarchy,
libertarianism over authoritarianism, fear alone
should not dissuade us from standing beside the
people behind the manifesto. There is no reason
to adopt the St Peter stance and deny them for the
sake of an easy life. There will be no easy life.
The tank of religious totalitarianism will crush
every secular value that enriches our lives and
allows us to have a future for our children free
from the dictat of the obscurantists.
Facing the New Totalitarianism, exhorts
us to make a stand. Already the political class
in Ireland is urging us to lie down. The country's
president abdicated her ethical and intellectual
responsibility when she told a segregated audience
in Saudi Arabia that Ireland abhorred the publication
of the cartoons. Who did she ask? Ireland has a
thoroughly dishonourable tradition of censorship.
The supposedly progressive Mary McAleese, through
her Saudi address, in the dark spirit of Section
31 endorsed reaction and validated that tradition.
McAleese does not speak for me. What I abhor is
not the cartoons but the theocratic fascist murder
and intimidation that followed their publication.
Equally abhorrent is the capitulation of many who
make a verbal commitment to free speech but roll
over at the first sign of having to pay a price
to protect the very freedom of that speech. The
twelve advocates of enlightenment have placed themselves
in the vanguard of resistance to censorship, thought
police and mind control. Each of them, the cartoonists
and all those who refused to back down on the matter
in defence of secular values, are worthy of the
support of those who have spent their lives in pursuit
the words of Fahrenheit 451 author Ray Bradbury:
is more than one way to burn a book. And the world
is full of people running about with lit matches.
Every minority, be it Baptist / Unitarian, Irish
/ Italian / Octogenarian / Zen Buddhist, Zionist/Seventh-day
Adventist, Women's Lib/Republican, Mattachine/ Four
Square Gospel feel it has the will, the right, the
duty to douse the kerosene, light the fuse. Every
dimwit editor who sees himself as the source of
all dreary blanc-mange plain porridge unleavened
literature, licks his guillotine and eyes the neck
of any author who dares to speak above a whisper
or write above a nursery rhyme.
the course of the next twelve issues, the Blanket,
holding firm to its editorial commitment to freedom
of speech and in support of and solidarity with
the manifesto, will carry a profile of each of the
signatories of the manifesto along with one of the
cartoons their number represents.
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