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Taming Islamic Intolerance Through Provocations

by Alamgir Hossain

11 April, 2008

Freedom of expression, a basic human right, is the most prized achievement of the human society. It is the central marker of the liberal civilized society‚€”achieved solely in Western democracies at the cost of great sacrifice.

The fight for freedom of expression started in ancient Greece with Socrates' insistence on speaking his mind‚€”for which, he was put to death in 399 BC. Dead for long, the struggle was revived in Europe during the Renaissance. John Milton‚€”emphasizing that freedom of expression was central to government's duty of serving the people‚€”urged the British parliament in 1644: "Give me the liberty to know, to utter, to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties." After another 145 years, a government charter, the French Constitution, adopted freedom of expression as a fundamental human right for the first time in 1789, which gradually became the hallmark of all Western democratic constitutions.

The U.N. also adopted it in Article 19 of its Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), which reads: "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."

However, the arrival in the West of large number of Muslim immigrants, whose home countries have no concept of freedom of expression and tolerance for dissenting views, have posed a serious threat to the survival of this hard-earned prized achievement of humanity. Muslims are a supersensitive people with unrestrained propensity towards violence and vandalism. Any criticism of their customs, culture, behavior, and particularly their religion, sends them into violent fury‚€”which obviously is a serious threat to freedom of expression.

The first eruption of Muslim intolerance took place in the Salman Rushdie affair (1989), for his novel The Satanic Verses, critical of Islam's Prophet. Then came Dutch film-maker Theo van Gogh's film, Submission in August 2004‚€”depicting Quranic justification for mistreatment and violence against Muslim women. Van Gogh was shot and stabbed to death by a Muslim zealot in November 2004.

The Rushdie and van Gogh affairs had their terrorizing effect on Western society imposing a de-facto gag on any criticisms of Islam‚€”frustrating the artists, writers, and critics.

To break the spell of unspoken taboo and censorship surrounding criticisms of Islam‚€”cartoonists in Denmark, braving sheer dangers, published caricatures of Prophet Muhammad in September 2005, depicting him in unflattering and violent lights. Predictably, Muslims unleashed widespread violence and vandalism all over the world, causing death of dozens of people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya and Nigeria. The cartoonists, and their publisher Fleming Rose, are still being hunted by Al-Qaeda assassins.

Next, Pope Benedict provoked the Muslim sensitivity in a speech in September 2005 by unwittingly referring to a 1391 document based on a conversation between Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaeologus and a Persian Muslim scholar‚€”in which, the Emperor charged that Prophet Muhammad brought only violence and nothing new. Muslims responded with violence and vandalism in early 2006, only to prove the Pope right. It, however, passed off with more protests than violence with only one known death, namely of an Italian nun, in Somalia and attacks on a few churches.

Next, all Danish newspapers recently republished Prophet Muhammad's cartoons simultaneously as a protest against a plot to kill one of the cartoonists, foiled by Danish authorities. The reaction to this provocation in Europe and the Islamic world has been much more civilized and muted than that of 2006.

The latest in this saga of provoking Muslim sensitivity is Dutch politician Geert Wilders' much anticipated anti-Quran film, Fitna. After watching this film, one would wonder how copying a few passages from the Quran to show their consistency with the behaviors, actions and speeches of Muslim radicals and imams, make it an anti-Quran and anti-Islam film.

However, against widely anticipated violence, the Muslim reactions both in Europe and the Muslim world have been rather calm. There have been condemnations and protests but no street violence. If it passes without vandalism and loss of life, despite the pre-release hysteria and anticipation of violence‚€”fit will be a monumental success for the exercise of one's right to speak freely without intimidation and violence.

Muslim leaders and the OIC have summarily condemned the film and its maker. This, although unfortunate, is within the limits of civilized exercise. Most unfortunately though, most Western governments, the EU and the UN‚€”the supposed vanguards, not only of defending, but also of spreading liberal-democratic values, such as freedom of expression--have joined in the chorus of condemnations of Wilders' right to free expression.

One agrees or not, the West's tolerant, liberal and democratic future will depend on creating tolerance and appreciation of these values among its Muslim populace‚€”who will undeniably become a dominant force in most European countries in a few decades. I argued during the Danish cartoon controversy in 2006 that 'the inclusion of freedom of expression in the Constitution of Western democracies was meant for negating the sensitivity of any individual or racial and religious groups, not to protect it; and to foster tolerance‚€”which can be achieved only by blunting or desensitizing any kind of sensitivity through its exposure to criticisms.'

The blunting of the too sensitive Muslim feelings by exposing them to criticisms is obviously working. Provocations to Muslim sensitivity‚€”from Salman Rushdie's novel to Wilders' film‚€”have achieved significant success towards desensitizing them, and making them relatively tolerant. Nonviolent protests, instead of intimidations, death threats and violent eruptions, are becoming more common among Muslims.

Freedom-lovers cannot rest until Muslims show their true sense of tolerance--say, by accepting the display of a Piss Muhammad painting, like that of Christ, in major exhibitions and museums, preferably in Islamic countries. For that to happen, many more provocations have to come over a long period of time. Incidentally, another provocation was brewing in the Netherlands. Eshan Jami, an Iranian born ex-Muslim, was going to release a cartoon film on Prophet Muhammad's life, which was surely going to create another outcry. But the plan to release the film was abandoned fearing violence by Muslims.

As long as brave souls and dissidents like of Rushdie, Ayaan Hirsi, Theo van Gogh, the Danish cartoonists, Ibn Warraq, Wafa Sultan, Wilders and Eshan Jami et al. are born, who Muslim sensitivity and intolerance will gradually be tamed. The future of freedom and liberty in Western societies will survive the ongoing Islamic assaults, likely with some healable scars. The Western governments, the EU and the UN can make the difficult job somewhat easier for these brave provokers by offering support, instead of condemnations.

Name: judeo christianity islam is a disease and truth is the only cure
Date: Friday April 11, 2008
Time: 03:08:08 -0700


judeo christianity islam is a disease and truth is the only cure. 

Name: Tommy Peters
Date: Friday April 11, 2008
Time: 03:54:20 -0700


An soothing angle most have missed. Thank you Alam 

Name: crejzypiple
Date: Friday April 11, 2008
Time: 04:41:00 -0700


Do muslims ever herd of humor, irony, sarcasm...?? Don't think so. :// 

Name: More tolerance, please!
Date: Friday April 11, 2008
Time: 05:59:44 -0700


We should try to tolerate each other! Arenīt we all made from the same clot, as declared in the quran? Clotties should not fight against other clotties! We are all clot-derivates and should love each other. May the holy clot be with you!  

Name: Another apostate
Date: Friday April 11, 2008
Time: 07:40:52 -0700


I agree that exposing the truth is an effective way to tame Islamic intolerance. Could it be that the relatively calm response is due to the fact that many 'moderate' musims (who actually do not know anything about their religion) have now began to wake up from their ignorance? 

Name: vj
Date: Friday April 11, 2008
Time: 20:49:29 -0700


People who believe in real islam are evil people. Not all people who happen to be born into muslim families, but there are people who use islam as an excuse to show their violent and cruel nature and hate non-muslims. Islam is evil by itself, but it also gives a "valid" reason for bad people to do what they might do anyways. 

Name: Philip Saenz
Date: Friday April 11, 2008
Time: 23:42:43 -0700


I'm glad to hear that violent Muslims are gradually transforming into human beings. 

Name: claspur
Date: Saturday April 12, 2008
Time: 04:27:40 -0700


Sure hope IW can soon get an option to forward(e-mail) these articles on your site? 

Name: This is for clot lady
Date: Saturday April 12, 2008
Time: 06:57:02 -0700


I guess your clitoris has been smashed 'somehow' and it's been bleeding! Now, you can see blood clot each and every time when you look at your clitoris! 

Name: Sorry, but the glass is half empty
Date: Saturday April 12, 2008
Time: 08:11:15 -0700


"But the plan to release the film was abandoned fearing violence by Muslims." It's difficult to see how someone suppressing his own work because of the threat of violence is a victory for freedom of expression. The Danish cartoons were published in September, 2005 but they didn't cause a stir in the Islamic world. Why? Because Muslims hadn't seen them. Why? Because they had no access to them. Only when they were shown did the brouhaha begin. Muslims were the ones who started the cartoon controversy, not the Danes. The death threats might be fewer but they are still there. Wilders is under constant threat of assassination. The cartoonists are under guard. How is that "freedom"? 

Date: Saturday April 12, 2008
Time: 18:27:42 -0700


Know the enemy. Once we know his mind, we know his weaknesses and his vulnerabilities. The weakness of Muslims is Islam. They cling to it for their identity and pride. They want you to respect Islam and with that feed their narcissistic craving. When a million Muslims can go berserk over no*t*h-i-n-g. Attack. The character of Muhammad and the credibility of the Quran. Don't waste time, separate Muslims from Islam. Muslims must be psychologically whipped. Until there is no respect for Islam left. Muslims are glued to a lie put together to please a tasty group of cereal killers. 

Name: Zaidi
Date: Saturday April 12, 2008
Time: 20:42:02 -0700


Dear Mr. Hussain. Salam Alaikum. I would like to ask you that who was the first person in Islamic history violating freedom of expression right? Do you know that when Prophet Mohammad SAWAW wished to express his will during his illness who made objection to it? Who restricted Muslim public by force from expressing their views during the very first election of Muslim history when first caliph was elected? If you keep faith upon such personalities how do you deserve to write about freedom of speech or expression? 

Name: Thomas Justin Kaze
Date: Sunday April 13, 2008
Time: 23:10:43 -0700


As the old truth says, the true virtue fears no criticism. But what can we expect of the Muslim mobs, if they are mostly illiterate? Let's keep provoking! 

Name: Double Standards
Date: Tuesday April 15, 2008
Time: 14:27:50 -0700


Freedom of Speech in Europe? Ever heard of David Irving And the same hypocrites who call on freedom to insult Islam want imams they dont like banned from speaking! Gert "Free speech" Wilders wants the Quran banned !!! 

Name: Hussain ---> Zaidi
Date: Wednesday April 16, 2008
Time: 06:20:30 -0700


The Problem of freedom of expression in Islam was started by Prophet Muhammad much earlier than at the time of Prophet's death (by Umar as you want to mean). You may consult my two earlier essay: 

1: Walking in Prophet's Footsteps: Indian Muslims Hound Taslima 

2. Strangulating Freedom of Expression: Prophetís Footprint Reaches the West

BTW, why such an evil person like Umar (as you want us to believe) was chosen by the Prophet as one of his greatest companion? Allah never had a problem with it either! 

Name: starwars
Date: Wednesday April 16, 2008
Time: 10:26:04 -0700


Why is having an opinion for muslims an insult?? Ignorants! 

Name: To Mr. Hussain
Date: Saturday April 26, 2008
Time: 11:33:00 -0700


Another good article. Thank you. Truthseeker 

Date: Wednesday May 07, 2008
Time: 22:25:40 -0700


This exercise in desensitizing the pathologically inclined is called "button-pushing." We need to keep pushing the buttons until there are no more knee-jerk reactions. That's what's happened with Christianity to tame it from its incredibly violent past, and that is what must happen to Islam. Once that occurs, more people will be able to leave Islam. 

Name: Azfar Saeed
Date: Friday June 13, 2008
Time: 11:24:53 -0700


Mr. Hussain you speak of Freedom of expression. Hmmmm lets see, if I call you a Mother-fucking son of a bitch, who excels in incestuous relations with his kith and kin. What do you think about that......hmmmm what else if I call your mother a whore who fornicates with every other man on the street, your father if you know who he is a homo bent on pedophilic behaviour. Why don't you start your own piss Hussain cartoons in a museum where you can exhibit your naked mother. All visitors will have a free hand at her, you can use your sisters as strippers, that's going to be a good marketing ploy. It's SOB's like you who think that offending others is part and parcel of Freedom of expression. Where the fuck are you when the debates about the holocaust are being stopped????? Do us all a favour and shut the fuck up. BTW I heard that you are a bastard....seriously is that really true. 

Name: heads you lose
Date: Wednesday July 30, 2008
Time: 08:46:51 -0700


Frankly, I don't share your sense of optimism. As you well know, there is such a thing in Muslim beliefs called taqiyya. The word "al-Taqiyya" literally means: "Concealing or disguising one's beliefs, convictions, ideas, feelings, opinions, and/or strategies at a time of imminent danger, whether now or later in time, to save oneself from physical and/or mental injury." By way of taqqiya, the Muslim community can therefore lull Western societies into a false sense of security. So when you say that Muslims would react more sensible in the long run to provocations, I really think that this would rather constitute "the calm before the storm". You never know what other tricks they have in their sleeves. Besides, if you ask me, the real people in the know would be found within the Western intelligence agencies. Unfortunately for us, regular citizens, those people work behind the screens. I really think intelligence agencies hold the key in putting their ear to the ground at what's really happening, and I think they would not share your optimism either. Taking such a laid-back attitude could prove to be dangerous. Thank God for intelligence agencies in the Western world, that's what I say. Who knows how many attempts at destabilizing our society they have already foiled, while you where writing this essay. 

Name: Mafarka
Date: Thursday July 31, 2008
Time: 14:46:07 -0700


Truth of the matter is : Muslims are perpetually offended. Let's see : offended by women, offended by Christians, offended by Jews, offended by Buddhists, offended by Hindus, offended by secularism, offended by dogs, offended by pigs, offended by free speech, offended by homosexuals/lesbians, offended by science, offended by socio-economic progress, offended by cultural identity/self-awareness, offended by culture in general,...The list is next to endless. It gets boring after awhile. Islam is offended by all things that are contradictory to it's teachings, and, as a consequence, are part and parcel of Western thinking. What can I say ? I don't think we will ever succeed in "deprogramming" the minds of these people, because they have been indoctrinated by joyless, puritanical over-sensitivity from the cradle. If you are offended by all of this, there is no turning back from it. Because it leaves you with only one option and that would be to perpetually hate those things and wage war on those things. Show me one thing Muslims are not offended by.  

Date: Wednesday September 24, 2008
Time: 14:57:10 -0700


Good article, but never trust a muslim 

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