author and Muslim dissident Ibn Warraq argues that freedom of
expression is our western heritage and we must defend it against
attacks from totalitarian societies. If the west does
not stand in solidarity with the Danish, he argues, then the Islamization
of Europe will have begun in earnest.
Warraq: "How can we expect immigrants to integrate
into western society when they are at the same time
being taught that the west is decadent, a den of iniquity,
the source of all evil, racist, imperialist and to be
great British philosopher John Stuart Mill wrote in On Liberty,
"Strange it is, that men should admit the validity of the
arguments for free discussion, but object to their being 'pushed
to an extreme'; not seeing that unless the reasons are good for
an extreme case, they are not good for any case."
The cartoons in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten raise
the most important question of our times: freedom of expression.
Are we in the west going to cave into pressure from societies
with a medieval mindset, or are we going to defend our most precious
freedom -- freedom of expression, a freedom for which thousands
of people sacrificed their lives?
A democracy cannot survive long without freedom of expression,
the freedom to argue, to dissent, even to insult and offend. It
is a freedom sorely lacking in the Islamic world, and without
it Islam will remain unassailed in its dogmatic, fanatical, medieval
fortress; ossified, totalitarian and intolerant. Without this
fundamental freedom, Islam will continue to stifle thought, human
rights, individuality; originality and truth.
Unless, we show some solidarity, unashamed, noisy, public solidarity
with the Danish cartoonists, then the forces that are trying to
impose on the Free West a totalitarian ideology will have won;
the Islamization of Europe will have begun in earnest. Do not
in 1946 in India and raised in Pakistan, Ibn Warraq
was educated in Koran schools in Pakistan and
later in England. He currently lives in the United
States and writes under the pseudonym Ibn Warraq,
a pen name traditionally used by dissidents in
Islam. He is the author of the best-
seller "Why I am Not a Muslim"
and the editor of "The Origins of the Koran"
and "The Quest for the Historical Muhammad."
raises another more general problem: the inability of the West
to defend itself intellectually and culturally. Be proud,
do not apologize. Do we have to go on apologizing for the sins
our fathers? Do we still have to apologize, for example, for the
British Empire, when, in fact, the British presence in India led
to the Indian Renaissance, resulted in famine relief, railways,
roads and irrigation schemes, eradication of cholera, the civil
service, the establishment of a universal educational system where
none existed before, the institution of elected parliamentary
democracy and the rule of law? What of the British architecture
of Bombay and Calcutta? The British even gave back to the Indians
their own past: it was European scholarship, archaeology and research
that uncovered the greatness that was India; it was British government
that did its best to save and conserve the monuments that were
a witness to that past glory. British Imperialism preserved where
earlier Islamic Imperialism destroyed thousands of Hindu temples.
On the world stage, should we really apologize for Dante, Shakespeare,
and Goethe? Mozart, Beethoven and Bach? Rembrandt, Vermeer,
Van Gogh, Breughel, Ter Borch? Galileo, Huygens, Copernicus, Newton
and Darwin? Penicillin and computers? The Olympic Games and Football?
Human rights and parliamentary democracy? The west is the source
of the liberating ideas of individual liberty, political democracy,
the rule of law, human rights and cultural freedom. It is the
west that has raised the status of women, fought against slavery,
defended freedom of enquiry, expression and conscience. No, the
west needs no lectures on the superior virtue of societies who
keep their women in subjection, cut off their clitorises, stone
them to death for alleged adultery, throw acid on their faces,
or deny the human rights of those considered to belong to lower
can we expect immigrants to integrate into western society when
they are at the same time being taught that the west is decadent,
a den of iniquity, the source of all evil, racist, imperialist
and to be despised? Why should they, in the words of the African-American
writer James Baldwin, want to integrate into a sinking ship? Why
do they all want to immigrate to the west and not Saudi Arabia?
They should be taught about the centuries of struggle that resulted
in the freedoms that they and everyone else for that matter, cherish,
enjoy, and avail themselves of; of the individuals and groups
who fought for these freedoms and who are despised and forgotten
today; the freedoms that the much of the rest of world envies,
admires and tries to emulate." When the Chinese students
cried and died for democracy in Tiananmen Square (in 1989) , they
brought with them not representations of Confucius or Buddha but
a model of the Statue of Liberty."
Freedom of expression is our western heritage and we must defend
it or it will die from totalitarian attacks. It is also much needed
in the Islamic world. By defending our values, we are teaching
the Islamic world a valuable lesson, we are helping them by submitting
their cherished traditions to Enlightenment values.