Thursday, January 20, 2005

Return to the forefront

A Dutch MP whose name was on a "death list" pinned to the body of Theo van Gogh after his murder by an Islamic fundamentalist has returned to public life after more than two months in hiding. And the message that she has given in her press conference following her return to Parliament is one that should be more widely heard:

“I prefer to confront people with the principles that cannot be combined with liberal democracy than to choose a strategy that denies the whole issue. And even if you deny the issue, we are still all on the death list.”

No matter how much some people may try to hide it, there is an organised group of fundamentalists who are hell-bent on the destruction of western civilisation. We may quibble about how well-organised they are, but the fact that they exist is undeniable. And unless we are sensitive to the problems that this can cause, then we are only going to help them in their aims. It is disgusting that there appear to be many on the left who support the Iraqi resistance because it will teach America a lesson. These people don't care about the Iraqis, they care about spreading their vile message as far as possible.

In this country we have got to stop allowing the islamofascists to hide under the mask of calling themselves a religion. We have got to say that there are limits beyond which a religion can stop being treated as such - instead we will treat them as the extremist political organisation which they are.

“I will go on with my work here in parliament. I will attend all the meetings, I will control our government. And, beyond that I will keep on writing articles, I will keep on writing scripts for not just Submission Part II but Part III and so on. I will do anything in my power to keep the oppression of women on the agenda.”

It is nice to hear about a politician with such seeming conviction. A liberal democracy demands that injustices of all kinds are exposed. And this is what Ayaan Hirsi Ali is trying to do with her political career - to point out that there are many aspects of Islamic culture that are not and should not be accepted by those of us who want to hold up the values of liberal democracy. Hirsi Ali focuses on the oppression of women, and it would also be more than legitimate to look at the way Islam treats its apostates (all Islamic schools of law believe it should be punishable by death).

This article from Charles Moore (a man who I normally disagree with vehemently) shows how Muslim leaders believe that however unpleasant their views may be, they should not be challenged by Christians - perhaps more worrying is his assertion he cannot find a Muslim association in Britain that will unequivocally condemn the killing of British soldiers in Iraq. I do not wish to sound Islamophobic - but I have no qualms about saying that I believe some of the views of Islam to be repugnant, and I feel similarly about the public statements of some leading Muslims.

And this is why laws on inciting religious hatred worry me so much. Liberal democracy demands that if you hold a viewpoint, you have to be able to justify it in argument. Or, if you cannot, that you accept that other people have the right to conflicting viewpoints just as much. To try and deflect criticism of "dearly cherished beliefs" under the veil of religious hatred is not acceptable. The key distinction between religious and racial hatred is that you CAN choose which religion you are. The government's proposals on this issue seem to be ill-thought out, and border on making punishments for hate crime. We must protect the values of liberal democracy from those who wish to carve out protection for their beliefs.