One of the European newspapers which found itself caught up in the scandal last week involving cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed was the French comix and left-politics rag Charlie Hebdo (the name of which means roughly Chuck Weekly). Charlie is well known in France and the French-speaking world for publishing pretty much whatever, including gross cartoons of the private sexual lives of leading French and world politicians (and the imagined sexual lives of Catholic leaders).
So it was pretty weird for those of us who read it regularly to see it mentioned in the mainstream global media -- in part because we know it as a mag which mainly parodies Frenchmen and the Catholic Church. American readers should know that one of the cartoons in question pictured a bishop, a rabbi and an imann using vacuum cleaners to suck the brains out of followers whilst condemming a cartoonist pictured in the corner of the frame -- the magazine takes pot-shots at any and all religions, not just Islam.
The debate engaged by the "twelve cartoons" of Mohammed must be pursued in
the realm of ideas and not that of mindless curses. Refusing to let
themselves be intimidated in the name of respect for cultures and above all
religions, twelve intellectuals -- of which several are Islamic dissidents
exiled in Europe and the United States under the the threat of death at
home because of their secular positions -- have decided to sign this
manifesto calling for ideological resistance to fundamentalism, the new
totalitarianism which threatens us in this century. This manifesto is
meant to be republished far and wide.
The Manifesto of Twelve Against the New Totalitarianism
Having vanquished Fascism, Nazism and Stalinism the world is facing a
new global threat: Islamic totalitarianism.
We, writers, journalists, and intellectuals issue this call to resist
religious totalitarianism and to promote liberty, equal opportunity,
and religious freedom for all.
Recent events arising following the publication of drawings of Mohammed
in European newspapers have highlighted the need for a struggle for
these universal values. This struggle will not be won by arms, but in
the realm of ideas. It is not of a clash of civilizations or an
east-west opposition, but a global struggle between democrats and
Like all totalitarianisms, Islamism feeds on fear and
frustration. The preachers of hate form their armies from the
oppressed and dissatisfied with which they attempt to create a world
where, once again, liberty dies and inequality rules. But we say to
them, strong and clear: nothing, not even dispair, justifies choosing
ignorance, totalitarianism, and hate. Islamism is an reactionary
ideology which murders equality, liberty, and religious freedom
everywhere it goes. Its success can only lead to a world of injustice
and domination: where men rule women and fundamentalists rule us all.
We must on the contrary spread these universal rights to all of those
populations of the world who are oppressed or discriminated against.
We renounce this "cultural relativism" which says that we must accept
that Muslim men and women should be deprived of their universal rights
to equality, liberty and religious freedom in the name of respect for
their cultures and traditions.
We refuse to renounce critical thinking for fear of encouraging
"Islamophobia", an unhappy concept which confuses the criticism of
Islam as a religion with the stigmatization of its believers.
We plead for universal freedom of expression so that critical thinking
may someday be exercised on all continents against all abuses and all
We issue a call to democrats and all those who love liberty in all
lands to make ours a century of light and not of darkness.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, born in Somolia, is now a deputy in the Dutch Parliament
and a member of the liberal party VVD. Screenwriter of the film
"Submission", which cost Theo Van Gogh his life at the hand of an Islamist
in Nov. 2004, she lives under police protection.
A writer of Iranian origin exiled in France, author of major works on
Islamism and its sociopolitical consequences, including "Le Nouvel Homme
Islamiste (The New Islamist Man)", "La Prison politique en iran ("The
Prison: politics in Iran") (Félin 2002), and a novelist, author of a
collection of novels, "Chemins et Brouillard (Trails and Fog)" (Grasset,
Essayist, winner of the National Prize for Secularism 2005, editor in chief
of the journal "ProChoix" (which defends liberties in the face of dogmatic
ideologies and Fundimentalism), author of several major works of reference
on the subject of Secularism and Fundimantalism, including "Tirs croisés:
la laïcité à l'epreuve des intégrismes juif, chrêtien et musulman)
(Crossfire: the ordeal of Secularism against Jewish, Christian, and Muslim
Fundamentalists)." "Frère Tariq: discours, stratégie, et méthode de Tariq
Ramadan et la Tentation obscurantiste" (Grasset, 2005)
French Philosopher, of Jewish decent and born in Algeria, engaged against
all "isms" of the 20th century (Fascism, Anti-semitism, Totalitarianism,
and Terrorism), author among others of "Barbarie à visage humain",
"L'Idéologie français", "La Pureté dangereuse", and recently "American
Former student of Yale University, author of the best-seller "Muslem but
Free" an appeal of a Muslim for the reform of her faith. She pleads for
liberty of expression founded in the Koran. Born in Uganda, she fled her
country at the age of 4 years with her family, all Muslims of Indian
origin. She now lives in Canada where her radio show and books have brought
her great success.
University instructor of Iranian origin exiled in Denmark, author of
several journal articles and works on Islam and Islamism among others,
"Authority in Islam: from Muhammed to Khomeni", "Fatwa: Violence and
discourtesy", and "Globalazation and Civilizations".
Writer and producer of Iranian origin exiled in Great Briton, official in
the Worker's Communist Party of Iran reponsable for international
relations. She has been designated the Secular Person of the Year 2005 by
the National Secular Society.
Taslima Nasreen was born in Bangladesh. A physiscian, her position in
favor of women and minorities and has earned her attacks from a
fundamentalist committee calling itself "Destroy Taslima" and has been
prosecuted as an "apostate".
He has written nine novels, including "The Children of Midnight", "The
Satanic Verses", and more recently "Shalimar the Clown". He has received a
number of literary prizes 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
Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters, an honorary professor at MIT,
and president of the PEN American Center. His books have been translated
into more than forty languages.
Born in Lebinon, Christian, he chose French nationality so he could live in
a secular and Universalist country. He directs the journal "Cahiers de
l'Orient" and has published sereveral works of reference on Islamism
including "Les Réseaux d'Allah (the networks of Allah)".
Director and publisher of "Charlie Hebdo".
Author of "Why I am not Muslim", of "Leaving Islam: Apostates Speak Out"
and of "The Origins of the Koran". He is a leading researcher at the New
York Institute working on the origins of Islam and it's holy book.