Thursday, February 09, 2006

Cartoon Crisis: Defend Freedom of Press

Defend Freedom of Press and the Right to Blasphemy
By Mahmood Ketabchi
February 9, 2006

The publication of cartoons of Muhammad by several European newspapers has given the political Islamists an opportunity to launch a brutal international assault against freedom of press and the right to blasphemy. Islamist demonstrators attacked and burned a few European embassies, launched sectarian attacks on people from other religions, and threatened the lives of European citizens. In the streets of London, they called for murder and beheading of the cartoonists and anyone who insults Islam and threatened a special 9/11 massacre for Europeans. It went so far that a demonstrator in front of the Danish Embassy in London wore suicide bomber's gear. The US and European governments declared their regrets over the cartoons and apologized to the Islamists. Even the Pope, representing the catholic establishment, pitched in his two cents condemning the cartoon, maybe out of fear that someone might draw caricatures of church's collusion with pedophilic catholic priests raping little children. The apologies only added more fuel to the Islamist's rage and outcry, for they saw it as justification for their actions.

It is naive to believe that these protests were “spontaneous movements of Muslims against Islamophobia” as some Islamists and their western apologists would like to tell us. This assault has been in the making for a few months. In September a right-wing Danish newspaper publishes 12 drawings of Muhammad. Islamist groups in Denmark began a campaign against the caricatures of Muhammad. Then, despotic and reactionary Arab regimes, friends or foes of the west, in solidarity with their brethren in Denmark, mounted a diplomatic pressure on Denmark. In fact in December the issue was discussed at the Organization of Islamic Conference (made up of 57 “Islamic countries”) that later condemned the cartoons as an “act of blasphemy.” In January, Copenhagen prosecutor refused to press charges against the paper. After all efforts to silence the Danish press failed, the Islamist attack dogs were unleashed to commence a violent protest to teach the west a lesson. Professional Islamist hooligans and paid agents of authoritarian and fascist nationalist and Islamist governments and organizations for the most part formed the core of these protests. As the Islamists and the nationalist forces find themselves in a growing conflict with the US and western governments, the cartoons of Muhammad gave them a chance to try to gain advantage over the European and the US government in order to reinforce their position internationally and specifically in the Middle East.

The fascist mobs who are asking the world to hold their prophet in reverence and are expressing outrage at the mocking of Muhammad are the same people who waste no time to impose their rein of terror and barbarity when they come to power or gain any significant political strength. They do not hesitate to spit on and trample upon every bit of human decency and values. They are the same currents who commit daily crimes against humanity. They are the same criminal club and knife-wielding crowd , resembling brown shirt fascists, who beat up protesters and progressive forces that dare to stand up for freedom, equality, and human dignity. They are the same misogynists who brutalize women and regard them as subhumans, the same homophobics who kill and maim those who do not fit their man-fuck-woman only life style, the same anti worker forces who suppress any independent workers protests and organizations, the same people for whom child molesting is a law of god- the list of atrocities has no end. Islamism is not a “protest movement of oppressed nations;” it is an offshoot of the US and western governments' campaign against communism, freedom, human decency, and a better world in collusion with the nationalist bourgeoisie in Islamic stricken countries.

The Islamist campaign to impose their taboos and intimidate the world into submission must be confronted head on. It is an attempt to spread their message of hate and brutality across the world. Since long ago, when Ronald Regan called Afghani Islamic criminals “freedom fighters,” Islamist regimes and forces, with the knowledge and clear understanding of the western powers and the US government and oil money behind them, have started a quiet but concerted effort to spread their Islamist propaganda machinery across the world (including Europe), build political power, and shape Islamist hate groups that are now being instrumentalized to their advantage. Benefiting from “multiculturalism” and “moral relativism” in the west, they have sought to create and maintain Islamist ghettos and implement their oppressive and reactionary practices. Islamism is a dreadful and grim political movement. The recent uproar over the cartoons only helps highlight the challenges political Islam pose to progressive humanity. The western powers and the US government, as they have demonstrated repeatedly, have no intention to confront this movement. In fact, they have no problem to work hand in hand with the Islamists as long as their cooperation can be secured. They are concerned with their capitalist economic and political interests and domination over the world not anyone's freedom.

Islamism must be defeated in a political arena. First and foremost, the Islamist's call to limit and suppress freedom of expression must be strongly opposed. Religion and for that matter Islam should not be above criticism. No religion, no god, and no prophet should hold any special privilege. Islamists are free to praise their prophet as long as and as much as they want. However, that is the limit. To demand that the freethinkers must succumb to their taboos is outrageous and preposterous. Islamists should not be allowed to impose their ignorance, taboos, and superstitions on humanity. The right to blasphemy, to question and protest against god, to criticize religious beliefs, to mock religious personalities is not just equally as important as freedom of worship and religious beliefs but is rather more essential given the rise of sectarian religious tendencies in the world. Religion as an oppressive industry continues to be a human malaise and catastrophe. It does nothing but propagate ignorance, superstitions, human bondage and submission, bloody conflicts, sectarian wars, and genocides. Freedom from religion is an important safeguard for human liberation and dignity. Requesting respect for “religious sensitivities” as an argument to curb freedom of expression is as preposterous and dangerous as the attempts to silence freethinkers. Freedom has no boundaries and the religious sectarians and fundamentalist fanatics should get used to it. Putting limits on freedom under the pretext of “respect for religion,” “emergency situation,” national interest,” “security,” “war,” etc can only give brutal forces the opportunity to suppress people.

Moreover, separation of religion and the state must be vigorously enforced. Religion and for that matter Islam should be pushed out of public life into mosques, churches, and synagogues where they belong. Reactionary and brutal religious practices that undermine and denigrate human life have to be prohibited. Religious bigotry and discriminatory practices must be outlawed. Children need to be protected from religious proselytizing and industry. Religious teachings should be banned from education, public or private. Children rights and women rights should be expanded and strongly implemented. No public money, not even a cent should go to religious institutions. Tax laws should be equally applicable to all properties and revenues belonging to religious institutions. To fight religious movements it is inseparable that we fight against bigotry, racism, xenophobia, and anti immigrant policies, and ghetoization of immigrant communities, all of which feed into Islamist movement. Islamism grows in a swamp; that swamp must be dried up.
Freedom from religion and the right to blasphemy must be of particular importance for progressive forces, socialist, and communists in the US. Bush calls himself a “Born Again Christian.” Some of his followers believe god chose him to become president of the United States. He is a man who believes his “War on Terrorism” is his “Holy Mission.” Bush's ascendancy to power became possible to a large extent due to the growing power of Christian religious bigots who are dreaming of their own apocalyptic Christendom. These reactionary forces, with their vast resources, as well as public money at their disposal through “Faith Based Initiatives,” and with their president in office, are chipping away slowly but steadily at our freedom, particularly woman rights under the guise of “religious sanctities.” These are the same people who unleashed criminals who bombed abortion clinics, murdered physicians, and assaulted women seeking abortions, all in defense of “sanctity of life.” These messengers of hate have enough taboos and “sanctities” that can create a hellish life if enforced upon the society. To the extent that the power of religion and religious movements grows, freedom and human dignity becomes its inevitable casualty. Stopping Islamists from imposing their taboos on us is inseparable from our struggle to prevent the Christian bigots from forcing their sanctities on the society.

It is similarly crucial that we defend freedom of press and expression. This is a hard won achievement for humanity that is under a brutal assault by the Islamists. Succumbing to Islamist's demands will be a dangerous precedent. Not only will it allow them to come up with other outrageous demands, it will also create an fertile ground for all other reactionary forces to make the same argument that such and such “sanctity” or “interest” is in jeopardy, and therefore demand their own limits on press freedom.

It is no secret that the US mainstream media are by and large in the pocket of the US government. We know that without their help, for example, the Iraq war could not have happened. They deliberately refused to publish information that challenged the lies about Iraq Weapon of Mass Destruction. We know that under the pretext of “national security,” they withhold crucial information from people, or only reveal a a very insignificant part of it. As the Isalmists mount an attack on freedom of press, the US media once again has shown their cowardliness by refusing to take an stand in defense of freedom of expression. It is a no-brainer that fighting for press freedom, here in this country, is of significant importance and that includes beating back the Islamists who want to impose their taboos on the world.

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