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Free speech, slavery and Islam


By Bala Ambati

 
Liberals now seem to cover for the most illiberal force on the planet, Islamic fundamentalists who destroy free speech and enslave blacks and heap blame on U.S. policy, but do not ask the Muslim world to take a hard, long look in the mirror.

These trends converge in Europe, where Michael Houellebecq, a French writer, stated that "Islam is the stupidest religion." That dumb and wrong remark landed him in a criminal trial, where a Muslim plaintiff and spokesperson for a Paris mosque stated, "Words have a price. One can kill with a word. Freedom stops when Muslims feel insulted." This suppression of speech is not isolated: Islamic activists in Europe seek to ban Oriana Fallaci's book The Rage and the Pride, and, most ironically, Somali Muslim Ayaan Ali, who immigrated to Holland, was forced by Islamic fundamentalists' death threats to flee the nation because she criticized domestic violence among Muslims.

In America, Muslim author Kola Boof and UCLA law professor Khaled abou el Fadl received death threats from Islamic fundamentalists and no support from free speech advocates. A Muslim legal group tried to censor Alan Dershowitz's writings. David Frum, who defended Isioma Daniel (the Nigerian journalist whose commentary earned a fatwa and led to Islamic fundamentalist riots that killed hundreds), received a letter reminding him of "the fatal consequences" of ignoring what is objectionable to Muslims. Bat Ye'or and Andrew Bostom were shouted down at Georgetown by Muslim students who prevented them from speaking on the history of Jews under Islamic rule. Political correctness yoked to Islamic fundamentalist intolerance bodes ill for free society. Where are the guardians of free speech, liberals, defending Boof, el Fadl, Fallaci, Hirsi Ali, Houellebecq, Ye'or, Bostom, Frum, Daniel and Dershowitz? Preoccupied championing convicted terrorist Laura Whitehorn?

Moreover, liberals blinded to Islamic fundamentalist imperialism's evil are whitewashing slavery's history in Islamic empires as "not as bad as the Atlantic slave trade." Slavery in Islamic empires for centuries involved castration of men guarding harems and religious sanction for masters to sleep with slave-girls, a practice that persists today in Sudan openly and covertly in Saudi Arabia as concubinage. Those saying Quranic verses justifying slavery and sleeping with slave-girls are acceptable given 7th century mores forget that the Constitution's three-fifths compromise has been rightly judged immoral. In any case, such verses compromise shari'a as a timeless, complete and immutable rulebook of ethics; hence, other verses inciting violence should also be questioned. Slavery is always wrong and it is time for the Islamic world to ask forgiveness for its legacy of slavery and conquest, much as several Western leaders have apologized for similar acts.

Shari'a law and imams justify slavery today. Islamic terrorist groups quote Hadith (Sahih Muslim 8:22 and 8:29) that coitus interruptus is permitted with slave-girls and captives (to avoid impregnating women and consequent reduction in ransom value) and that one is permitted to have intercourse with captive women, since their marriages are abrogated upon capture. Official Saudi cleric Sheikh Saad Al-Buraik told "Muslim brothers" in 2002 to "not have any mercy on Jews, their blood, their money their flesh. Their women are yours to take, legitimately. God made them yours. Why don't you enslave their women?" In Sudan, a fatwa in 1992 endorsed by the oil-funded theocracy states "a non-Muslim is a non-believer standing against the spread of Islam, and Islam grants the freedom of killing him".

Hundreds of thousands of black Africans are enslaved by Arab masters. According to Abannik Hino of Wingate University, over 2,000 Sudanese slaves are shipped to the Arab world annually. Dr. George Ayittey, a Ghanaian-born professor at American University, commented on lack of Western outrage: "We feel betrayed, not only by our leaders in Africa, but by our fellow Africans in the diaspora. While African-American leaders played important roles in dismantling apartheid in South Africa, they maintain a passive stance on Arab apartheid and enslavement of black Africans." Where are liberals? Too busy divesting from Israel and bashing America?

Imbued with Wahhabism and Salafism, sects borne in Saudi Arabia, Islamic fundamentalists view most Muslims as apostates. With oil money, they've exported toxic notions and hatched terrorism from Indonesia to Nigeria. Now they want to achieve Islamic fundamentalist empire. Liberals and moderate Muslims must open their eyes: Islamic fundamentalist imperialism suppresses free speech and nourishes slavery as well as wallows in mass murder.

Bala Ambati is a former fellow in the School of Medicine and is
currently on the faculty at the Medical College of Georgia. His
column appears every third Wednesday. This essay appeared in The Chronicle on February 5, 2003.

 

 

 

 

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