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Reaction to the Manifesto

English Translation by Liam O Ruairc

Caroline Fourest • 14 March 2006

The proclamation of the twelve only had one ambition: to provoke debate within the highest number of newspapers and thus of countries. To proclaim high and strong that Islamism is a new totalitarianism. Against which one will not win through the criticism of weapons but through the weapons of criticism. This resistance through ideas is possible only if one does not abdicate the only genuine weapons of resistance: freedom of expression, the pen, a sense of humor. However the cartoons controversy showed that many were ready to give up resistance under pretext of not "offending", of not "adding oil on fire".

This renouncement is not simply that of governments terrorised by the threat of economic boycott, but also that of a certain left paralysed by "cultural relativism" (humor, feminism and secularism are good for everyone except for the Moslems, locked up in their archaic and exotic essence) and the concept of "islamophobia" (a concept which confuses the unacceptable stigmatization of the Moslems with the legitimate criticism of Islam as a religion to the point of transforming antiracism into an anti-blasphemy censorship machine).

Salman Rushdie, Taslima Nasreen and Ayaan Hirsi Ali once received support when they were attacked as "apostates" but were left on their own when an obscurantist left accused them of being "islamophobes", denying them the right to criticize the religion in whose name they are oppressed. On their side were intellectuals who have a long record of writing against fundamentalism, including several Iranian refugees in Europe, who expressed their concern at the growing confusion on the words and thus on the principles, about this global and totalitarian threat. Those experienced the time when the same confusion, and the priority to fight against imperialism, had convinced the Marxists to give 'critical support' to islamist and Khomeiny in power… Never again. That is also the meaning of this manifesto, which provoked reactions of enthusiasm for some and the unease of those which do not like "to put oil on fire", as if the fire had not started a long time ago.

The Iranian blogs, where a civil society avid of freedom and change connects itself, were the first to circulate the text and to translate it into Farsi. The very morning of its original publication in Charlie Hebdo. The previous day, an AFP (Agency France presses) press release caused a mountain of phone calls and requests for interview, in France but especially abroad; especially from Denmark, where the cartoons controversy continues. Not all the daily newspapers, in particular the more left wing ones, did want to support Jyllands-Posten's publications of the caricatures. It is true that the Danish context is not ours. Xenophobia prevails there, including at the top of the State. But is this not encouraging right wing populism by constantly leaving to it the monopoly of resistance to totalitarianism? And what will the European left in a few years resemble if it ceases to be anti-fundamentalist and antifascist? All the debate is there. And it is sufficiently important for all the Danish newspapers to publish the Manifesto. Some with enthusiasm, others more critical.

Thus the leading article of a left wing newspaper states that: "the goal is right… but the analysis and the means to arrive there are false". The rest of that article is a digest of inaccuracies as the newspaper explains that "terrorism is the weapon of weak (...)therefore the moral panic which can be felt in the Manifesto is without base".

The Danish newspaper fell into the trap set up by the hawks from the Pentagon since it is unable to make a difference between "terrorism" (about which the Manifesto is silent) and Moslem fundamentalism, that is the political ideology about which the Manifesto speaks. Its confusion continues when it adds:

"the Manifesto commits the error to attack the weak, but malicious enemy on its only strong point: religion. (...) if one makes Islam the enemy the risk is that we will finish in a war between civilizations, that the authors of the Manifesto seek to avoid with their just opposition between democrats and theocrats."

The problem is that the Manifesto does not attack Islam but Islamism, i.e. the reactionary political instrumentalisation of Islam. That is the proof that confusion about words can trap critical intelligence and thus paralyse any intelligent response to fundamentalism. Happy days for the Hawks of the Pentagon. Because while they position resistance to Islamism on the sterile field of the war against the "axis of evil", every time intellectuals, even feminist and secular, even of Moslem culture, try another approach, confused spirits such as The Brussels Newspaper in Belgium or The Toronto Star in Canada, accuse them of "islamophobia".

Fortunately, many journalists preferred to let the signatories speak for themselves rather than to judge without understanding: The Express was the first French magazine to reproduce the Manifesto in its entirety, as well as TOC magazine. Many radios (RTL, RMC, France Information) relayed the initiative. Al Jazira reproduced the AFP press release, without commenting on it. The BBC and Sky news in Italy mentioned the Manifesto. On the Internet, the Manifesto was reproduced by many sites, in particular Proche-orient.info and France2.fr. To date, the Manifesto was circulated in Switzerland, in Denmark, in Belgium, in Germany, in Italy, in Canada, in Cyprus and in Colombia. The English and American newspapers, which issued a kind of embargo against the publication of the Mahomet cartoons, are the most reticent. As if the war in Iraq put less "oil on fire" than the publication of caricatures on religion or a Manifesto signed by Salman Rushdie calling for the resistance of ideas…

Many readers circulated the Manifesto by email to support Charlie Hebdo. Some compared us to the Aurore Journal which more than a century ago published the J'Accuse of Emile Zola. Others would like "twelve millions" to sign. But one should recall that this Manifesto is a not a petition to sign but a text to circulate. However, other petitions can be signed:

- A call by atheist and agnostic muslims for the freedom of the press: http://www.histoiresdememoire.org
- Defend Free Speech and Secularism, launched by Maryam Namazie, connected to a communist resistance movement based in Britain: http://new.PetitionOnline.com/namazie/petition.html


Those two petitions and day to day news about the Manifesto can be found on the website of the Pro Choix journal: www.prochoix.org

 

 


 



 

 


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Index: Current Articles



14 June 2006

Other Articles From This Issue:

The Mark of Cain
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Debris of the Dirty War
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More Claims
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Case Unproven
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Chain Gang
John Kennedy

Better to Put the Past Behind US
David Adams

The Gamblers
Dr John Coulter

Diarmaid Ferriter's The Transformation of Ireland
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Profile: Caroline Fourest
Anthony McIntyre

Le «manifeste des douze» fait réagir
Caroline Fourest

Reaction to the Manifesto (English Translation)
Liam O Ruairc

Freedom of Speech index


6 June 2006

We Believe Freddie McGuinness
Anthony McIntyre

Under Scrutiny
John Kennedy

Unionism's New Puppetmasters
Robert Matthews

Omens
Dr John Coulter

Two Peace Processes
Mick Hall

'The Beginning of the End has Past …'
Davy Carlin

How Many Grannies?
Dr John Coulter

Even the Dogs Bark in Irish?
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Bards for St Brigid's
Paul Dougherty

USA v Iran
John Kennedy

Threat to Iran Based on Duplicity
David Adams

Manifesto of the Third Camp against US Militarism and Islamic Terrorism

Profile: Bernard Henry-Levy
Anthony McIntyre

BHL: Bernard Henri-Levy
Liam O Ruairc

Freedom of Speech index

 

 

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