First published in Charlie Hebdo, 1st March 2006
After having overcome fascism, Nazism, and Stalinism, the world now faces a new global threat from a form of totalitarian: Islamism. We, writers, journalists and intellectuals, call for resistance to religious totalitarianism and for the promotion of freedom, equal opportunity and secularism for all.
Recent events, in the wake of publication of drawings of Muhammad in European newspapers, have revealed the need to fight for these universal values. This battle will not be won with weapons, but in the field of ideas. It is not a clash of civilizations or an antagonism between East and West, but rather a global struggle pitting democrats against theocrats.
Like all varieties of totalitarianism, Islamism feeds on fear and frustration. The preachers of hatred rely on these feelings in order to recruit their battalions which they will use to fight for even more repression and inequality. But we say loud and clear: nothing, not even despair, can justify choosing obscurantism, totalitarianism and hatred. Islamism is a reactionary ideology which kills equality, freedom and secularism wherever it goes. Its success can only lead to a world of injustice and domination: domination by men over women and domination by fundamentalists over others. Instead, we must ensure access to universal rights for those who are oppressed or discriminated.
We reject “cultural relativism” which consists in accepting that men and women of Muslim culture be deprived of the right to equality, freedom and secularism in the name of respect for cultures and traditions.
We refuse to renounce our critical faculties out of fear of encouraging “islamophobia,” an unfortunate concept which confuses criticism of Islam as a religion with stigmatization of believers.
We call for the universality of freedom of expression, so that a critical thought may be exercised on all continents, against all abuses and all dogmas. We launch an appeal to democrats and freethinkers of all countries, that this century be one of enlightenment and not of obscurantism.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali