Saturday, 17 February 2007

Religion, OR Freedom, ... Or

A Sociology Professor at the University of Exeter in England, Prof Grace Davie, also the Director of their Center for European Studies, told a meeting in Wittenberg, Germany on Feb 16, 2007, that "You cannot privatise Islam", and that "The presence of Islam is a catalyst that re-opened issues that Europeans thought closed".

She was addressing a joint 15-18 Feb meeting of the Roman Catholic "CCEE" [ Council of European Bishops Conferences] and "CEC" [Conference of European Churches] which represents Protestant and Eastern Orthodox Churches, in preparation for the 3rd European Ecumenical Assembly in Sept 2007 in Sibu, Romania. She quoted the Danish Cartoons crisis and the French head-scarf ban as examples.

Far from being undeniable, this academic waffle betrays fundamental human freedoms. The right to censor free expression was not granted to Islam, or to any other faith, by either the US Constitution, or post-war by the UN Declaration of Human Rights, or the European Convention of Human Rights. We have the right to reject, or criticise, Islam, or any other faith, without fear, or threat, and the Jihadi concept of censorship was illustrated when Dutch film-maker, Theo Van Gogh, was murdered on the street, and Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali forced to live with permanent armed bodyguards, for exercising their right to free speech.

Nothing needs to be "re-opened", but our hard-won rights need to be vigorously defended, and any Muslims who choose to reject our basic values need to be confronted, on all levels, and left in no doubt that our culture and fundamental rights are not up for surrender, or re-negotiation. We have been fully warned, first with Salman Rushdie, then Van Gogh. If some Muslims in the West want their Sharia enforced on the rest of society, let them find another battlefield for that project. We are not for sale, or surrender.

Turkey has long shown that Muslims can be free to live as they choose, to follow their beliefs and rules, in their own lives and families, without needing to enforce their Sharia on anyone else. Why should we dream of allowing any minority, however determined, to reverse the flow of our history, and re-instate dictatorship in any form ?

How odd, and indeed sickening, that compromise in the face of Jihadi terror is advocated by another woman academic. Fortunately, from the ranks of Muslims are coming brave and clear-thinking women, like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, with her new, well-argued book, "Infidel", who know well the risks posed to all, and particularly to women, by Sharia, by clerical dictatorship, and by Jihadi terror. And the late Oriana Fallaci was another brave such voice, like Irshad Manji in Canada, or Egyptian Nonie Darwish.

Its about time that some Western women academics [like Grace Davie] learnt some courage and insight from such defenders of freedom, and abandoned their present "multi-culturalism" which pretends that all cultures are equally valid, and that there are no universal human rights. The women in Kabul know the price they [but not Western academics and "liberals"] have paid for such denial and betrayal of universal rights and freedoms. Let not Baghdad or Gaza or Beirut or Mecca or Chicago or Leeds or Tehran be treated as ghettoes where brutal bigots are allowed to enslave women, or where free-spirits are denied the right to think and speak for themselves. Freedom may not always be the "best policy", but it is certainly better than any mere "policy". And it is indivisible. But only attained, and defended, by constant vigilance, together with determined strength.