Saturday, March 11, 2006

MANIFESTO: Together facing the new totalitarianism


After having overcome fascism, Nazism, and Stalinism, the world now faces a new totalitarian global threat: Islamism.

We, writers, journalists, intellectuals, call for resistance to religious totalitarianism and for the promotion of freedom, equal opportunity and secular values for all.

The recent events, which occurred after the publication of drawings of Muhammed in European newspapers, have revealed the necessity of the struggle for these universal values. This struggle will not be won by arms, but in the ideological field. It is not a clash of civilisations nor an antagonism of West and East that we are witnessing, but a global struggle that confronts democrats and theocrats.

Like all totalitarianisms, Islamism is nurtured by fears and frustrations. The hate preachers bet on these feelings in order to form battalions destined to impose a liberticidal and unegalitarian world. But we clearly and firmly state: nothing, not even despair, justifies the choice of obscurantism, totalitarianism and hatred. Islamism is a reactionary ideology which kills equality, freedom and secularism wherever it is present. Its success can only lead to a world of domination: man's domination of woman, the Islamists' domination of all the others. To counter this, we must assure universal rights to oppressed or discriminated people.

We reject "cultural relativism," which consists in accepting that men and women of Muslim culture should be deprived of the right to equality, freedom and secular values in the name of respect for cultures and traditions. We refuse to renounce our critical spirit out of fear of being accused of "Islamophobia," an unfortunate concept which confuses criticism of Islam as a religion with stigmatisation of its believers.

We plead for the universality of freedom of expression, so that a critical spirit may be exercised on all continents, against all abuses and all dogmas.

We appeal to democrats and free spirits of all countries that our century should be one of Enlightenment, not of obscurantism.

12 signatures

Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Chahla Chafiq
Caroline Fourest
Bernard-Henri Lévy
Irshad Manji
Mehdi Mozaffari
Maryam Namazie
Taslima Nasreen
Salman Rushdie
Antoine Sfeir
Philippe Val
Ibn Warraq
Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, from somilian origin, is member of Dutch parliement, member of the liberal party VVD. Writter of the film Submission which caused the assasination of Theo Van Gogh by an islamist in november 2004, she lives under police protection.
Chahla Chafiq
Chahla Chafiq, writer from iranian origin, exiled in France is a novelist and an essayist. She’s the author of "Le nouvel homme islamiste , la prison politique en Iran " (2002). She also wrote novels such as "Chemins et brouillard" (2005).
Caroline Fourest
Essayist, editor in chief of Prochoix (a review who defend liberties against dogmatic and integrist ideologies), author of several reference books on « laicité » and fanatism : Tirs Croisés : la laïcité à l’épreuve des intégrismes juif, chrétien et musulman (with Fiammetta Venner), Frère Tariq : discours, stratégie et méthode de Tariq Ramadan, et la Tentation obscurantiste (Grasset, 2005). She receieved the National prize of laicité in 2005.
Bernard-Henri Lévy
French philosoph, born in Algeria, engaged against all the XXth century « ism » (Fascism, antisemitism, totalitarism, terrorism), he is the author of La Barbarie à visage humain, L’Idéologie française, La Pureté dangereuse, and more recently American Vertigo.
Irshad Manji
Irshad Manji is a Fellow at Yale University and the internationally best-selling author of "The Trouble with Islam Today: A Muslim’s Call for Reform in Her Faith" (en francais: "Musulmane Mais Libre"). She speaks out for free expression based on the Koran itself. Née en Ouganda, elle a fui ce pays avec sa famille musulmane d’origine indienne à l’âge de quatre ans et vit maintenant au Canada, où ses émissions et ses livres connaissent un énorme succès.
Mehdi Mozaffari
Mehdi Mozaffari, professor from iranian origin and exiled in Denmark, is the author of several articles and books on islam and islamism such as : Authority in Islam: From Muhammad to Khomeini, Fatwa: Violence and Discourtesy and Glaobalization and Civilizations.
Maryam Namazie
Writer, TV International English producer; Director of the Worker-communist Party of Iran’s International Relations; and 2005 winner of the National Secular Society’s Secularist of the Year award.
Taslima Nasreen
Taslima Nasreen is born in Bangladesh. Doctor, her positions defending women and minorities brought her in trouble with a comittee of integrist called « Destroy Taslima » and to be persecuted as « apostate »
Salman Rushdie
Salman Rushdie is the author of nine novels, including Midnight’s Children, The Satanic Verses and, most recently, Shalimar the Clown. He has received many literary awards, including the Booker Prize, the Whitbread Prize for Best Novel, Germany’s Author of the Year Award, the European Union’s Aristeion Prize, the Budapest Grand Prize for Literature, the Premio Mantova, and the Austrian State Prize for European Literature. He is a Commandeur of the Ordre des Arts et Lettres, an Honorary Professor in the Humanities at M.I.T., and the president of PEN American Center. His books have been translated into over 40 languages.
Philippe Val
Director of publication of Charlie Hebdo (Leftwing french newspaper who have republished the cartoons on the prophet Muhammad by solidarity with the danish citizens targeted by islamists).
Ibn Warraq
Ibn Warraq , author notably of Why I am Not a Muslim ; Leaving Islam : Apostates Speak Out ; and The Origins of the Koran , is at present Research Fellow at a New York Institute conducting philological and historical research into the Origins of Islam and its Holy Book.
Antoine Sfeir
Born in Lebanon, christian, Antoine Sfeir choosed french nationality to live in an universalist and « laïc » (real secular) country. He is the director of Les cahiers de l’Orient and has published several reference books on islamism such as Les réseaux d’Allah (2001) et Liberté, égalité, Islam : la République face au communautarisme (2005).

For more information see: Maryam Namazie. Feel free to reproduce this statement. Renegade Eye


beatroot said...

You know that I am passonate about Enlightenment values and I think they should be defended...especially in the West, where we are loosing faith in them. And I am a big fan of Rushdie.

But I can not support this manifesto. Islamicism is a problem for many in the middle east and underdeveloped countries, but it is not the main problem for us in the West.

Our problem is to do with social atomoization, post-modernist relativism, lack of faith in the Enlightenment, lack of social solidarity...I could go on.

But the Manifesto way of thinking buys into this 'war of terror' nonsense. Once you do that then American and Uk foreign policy starts to make sense.

But it doesn't make any sense at all.

Lynn said...


Thanks for the post and the link.

Frank Partisan said...

This manifesto is a progressive document, opposing Islamism from the left. I think it's careful, not to be a document supporting intervention.

Unfortunately this manifesto, is reprinted on several rightist blogs.

If the left doesn't have a program against Islamism, it will leave open Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Nigeria etc to the right, as liberators.

beatroot said...

You are right, Renegade. That's why we should try and keep the debate about here, in the West.

The left (New Labour) and the right (Neocons) these days use conflict in foreign lands to prove themselves as 'moral authorities', as they are so vacuous that they can't win that moral authority at home. I honestly think that it is the ruling elites in the West that are the main threat to the West - not 'them' over there.

Martin Wisse said...

No, it's not progressive at all, it is just using the language of the left to drive through a rightwing, racist agenda, as the presence of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, neoliberal and Muslim hater, should've made clear.

If not that, the presence of code words like "cultural relativism" should be a warning sign as well, as that is a rightwing hobby horse.

Or the overhyping of "Islamism" (another codeword) as on a par with nazism or fascism, as a sort of world conquering movement.

In reality, "Islamism" is a reactionairy backlash against the imposition of global capitalism on Muslim societies and the disruption and grief it brings.

It is not the main problem the world faces: capitalism is. You should know this, as a socialist.

roman said...

Martin Wisse,
"It is not the main problem the world faces: capitalism is. You should know this, as a socialist."

What planet have you been living on these past 50 years or so? If capitalism is so bad, why are people risking life and limb to try to enter, even illegally, into countries with strong capitalist based economies?
With the failure or obvious stagnation evident in almost every far-left socialist economic model during the 20'th century and into the 21'st, when will it finally sink in that capitalism is the catalyst for true progress in every human endeavor. Even the last great socialist experiment, China, has seen the light. Why can't you?

sonia said...

Great thread, Ren!

Stimulating discussion. I agree that the manifesto is progessive. Those allegedly "right-wing" sites that re-print it probably aren't "right-wing" at all but libertarian...


Your opinion about Islaminism not being a problem in the West is very short-sighted. Even if there were no Muslims living in the West, it would still affect us greatly.

But I agree that the fundamental Western problem is our inability to definine and live by our own values. "Something" will always beat "nothing". Middle East has something to offer, even if it's medieval, sexist and oppressive. We have nothing to offer, because deep down, we don't really believe in freedoms we talk about.


Even Islamists are capitalists, so that not an issue. Whether Bush or Osama wins, capitalism stays.

In fact, in a supreme act of irony, US is a "socialist" force in Afghanistan, telling farmers what crops to plant... And that's the reason number 1 why there is still civil war there. If we just allowed them to plant their opium and sell it (like any self-respecting capitalist would), Afghanistan could become rich and presperous very quickly.


Great retort. Couldn't say it better.

Frank Partisan said...

The discussion is diverted from the subject of the manifesto.

Martin was speaking to the subject. The retorts were diversions.

roman said...

Yes, you're right the discussion has strayed off topic. It's very difficult to let nonsensical statements go unchallenged.
I do not agree with this manifesto's broad term of "Islamism". I would just add the
qualifier "fundamentalist" and go with it. I suspect that an overwhelming majority of Muslims are peaceful and would like nothing more than to live by the true values of Islam, the religion of peace. It's the Wahabe-style extreme fundamentalist adherents that should be put under scrutiny and tightly kept in check. This broad-worded manifesto has the appearance of racism and, I suspect, will play right into the fundamentalist's plan and draw more and more "converts" into their global web of terror.

roman said...

Are you the new Daniel Webster? What is "atomoization"? New word?

Bob said...

The main problem with this Manifesto, is the broadness of the term "Islamism" when it should really be rephrased to "Islamofascism." It is not fundamentalism, because if religious fundamentals as they were taught by the various founders of the religions are actually followed, all forms of government would be consequentially destroyed as there would be no need for such to exist.

All religions by their nature are anti-authoritarian. Unfortunately, the organizations that exist today have conveniently forgotten this fundamental tenant of religion.

beatroot said...

Atomization! It's a bit like hospitalization, but smaller.

Sorry RE for the diversion, but capitalism is a progression from some forms of social organization - like feudalism. Afghanistan is ...I don;t know wnhat to call it, but it is pre-capitalist. So capitalism for Afhhanistan would be a massive step forward.

I think you will find that in the Communist Manitesto and the Hitch.

As for the manifesto being progressive...identifying the wrong enermy is not progressive. It can be regressive. The 'scary muslim' thing is based on the politics of fear that has infested politics in the west. We, as individuals, are not at significant risk. Nor is 'our way life'.

Playing the fear game (P&O) has reactionary consequences.

beatroot said...

Apologies for terrible typos in that last comment...but you get the point.

Frank Partisan said...

See: Manifesto Hit List

This is from an Islamist forum.

Jeff Richards said...
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Jeff Richards said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
ninglun said...

Thanks for your comment, in the light of which I have revised and expanded my entry on this at Books and Ideas:

Jennifer said...

what beatroot said.

Anonymous said...

I agree completely with Comrade Wisse. This is possibly the most disgusting left-wing surrender to right-wing created hysteria I've seen in my life (and I live in goddamn Israel - to compete with our left you gotta *work*).

This item has so much trash in it that to attack all of it I'd need to spend hours writing. But let's just say this: who supported fascism and Nazism if not the imperialists? Was Stalinism not the cause of imperialist aggression against Soviet Russia? Oh and, coming to think of it, who exactly used the Islamic fundamentalists if not the imperialists in their fight against the same Soviet Russia?

Not supporting intervention? It supports intervention a hundred percent. What, in your opinion, is "resistance to religious totalitarianism and for the promotion of freedom"? For me it seems like something Dubya could've easily said in one of his speeches.

Disgusting, utterly disgusting. And for this to be presented as some left-wing criticism of Islam!

Adam Marks said...

"After having overcome fascism, Nazism, and Stalinism, the world now faces a new totalitarian global threat: Islamism."

This is complete madness, madness that completely ignores rampaging neoliberalism which is attacking civil liberties across the globe. The only excuse for signing this petition is that you've been on the moon for six years and only had e-mail contact with the Worker-Communist Party of Iran (who fucking doesn't, they spam like nobody's business).

Jeff Richards said...

Response to the manifesto. (repost with corrections

I agree with most of the sentiments in this manifesto except for the description of Islam as ‘totalitarianism’. I think that the concept of ‘totalitarianism’, while popular among some political philosophers is a sociological and political impossibility (even in fascist Germany, let alone an ‘underdeveloped’ society like pre-revolutionary Russia or China). I find the idea of a religion being ‘totalitarian’ somewhat strange, especially when it is a major worldwide religion like Islam. Islam today strikes me as a religion that is swimming in a mass of contradictory ideas… hardly totalitarian. I thought about this issue of totalitarianism in another context recently* in my blog. In any case, given what is going on in Iraq** there is hardly a community of interest among Muslims that could take shape as a totalitarian ideology. In fact, the depth of the crises within Islam is illustrated by the fact that when they were protesting about the Danish cartoons I heard of not one protest among organised interests within Islam about the horrifying civil war between Sunni and Shia that is surely going to spread past the borders of Iraq. Islam is a religion that has been plunged into a major historical crises, for a number of reasons that include the impact of a neoliberal world order. It may also involve the structures of authority (i.e. the way the religion organises itself and chooses its elites) and the way it creates its doctrinal legitimacy.

Jeff Richards said...

By the way, I have a copy and translation of a letter written by Zarqawi, mentioned in reference 93 of the International Crisis Group report ‘The Next Iraqi War: Sectarianism and Civil Conflict?” Middle East Report No 52. I requested it from the author of the ICG report. If anyone wants a copy I can send it. .( The letter is essentially a declaration of war on the apostate Shia from your local friendly Sunni headchopper. Its a long letter. Here is a bit of it:

“….The rafida (Shiites) like the Tatars (Mongols) and their state, because through the latter they achieve a glory, which they do not attain in the state of the Muslims, and when the Muslims defeat the Christians and polytheists, this is a cause for distress to the Shiites, and if the polytheists and Christians prevail over the Muslims this is a feast and a source of happiness for the rafida (Shiites).” It is as though he lives amongst us, and describes the actual reality. Ibn Taymiyya says:

“And so if there is a state for the Jews in Iraq and other places, the Shiites would be their greatest helpers, for they always have allegiance to the polytheists, Christians and Jews, and they help them to fight and oppose the Muslims”.

Ariel Sharon writes in his memoirs: “We have dwelt on the relations of the Christians with the other sects, particularly the Shiites and Druzes. Personally, I asked them to strengthen ties with these two minorities, to a point where I proposed give a part of the arms given to Israel, just as a symbolic gesture to the Shiites who also suffer from serious problems with the PLO, and without going into any details, I have never perceived in the Shiites enemies of Israel in the long run”.

Reidski said...

Superb debate and, if I can have my go Renegade ...

Would agree with beatroot on this one. While I abhor the Islamic religion, much as I abhor all other-wordly myths and fantasies, a fight against it alone is not our fight .... yet.

Yes, let us start a renewed fight FOR the Englightenment and against capitalism - those are the two priorities for us in the West.

I would add, however, that the idea that, for example, those Danish cartoons were racist, is wrong, in my humble opinion. Religions do not have a race - religions are ideologically based, not culturally or racially based.

And, finally, just because the so-called "right wing" say certain things and post certain manifestos, doesn't mean that we should necessarily be against them. Some of the most politically stimulating evenings I enjoy are populated by what some observers would describe as right-wing libertarians.

brian said...

To me, it seems like this document is meant to single out the Muslim faith for all that is wrong in the world, which is a complete load of BS. Perhaps it would be a bit better if it was about religious totalitarianism, or religious radicalism, or something, instead of singling out one particular religion. Terrorists, war criminals, and other unsavoury characters come from all faiths. For example, there are Jewish war criminals in Israel, such as Sharon, motivated by an ultranationalist religious agenda, ie, seeking to establish a Jewish state encompassing all of Palestine. So it is not really fair to single out one religion as being the evil one which all others must crush, and instead focus on the entire opiate of the masses. Plus, this document can justify US imperialism in the middle east, which pretty much always has negative consequences (the Shah, Saddam in the 80s, selling weapons to both Iran and Iraq in the war, etc.)

Clay said...

great post ... capitalism is the root of so many evils

beatroot said...

Capitalism might be crap but it is not as bad as environmentalists!

I can't remember who commented, but they picked up the 'cultural relativism' bit...that is important. When the left went all relativist and multicultural it signed its own death certificate. The left used to believe in treating everyone equally and being united by our humanity, Not seperated into cultural geoups.

So its not supriaing young muslims in somewhere like Britain can't get a handle on what they are supposed to believe in.

Frank Partisan said...

First I want to thank everyone, for such a good discussion. This is what political bloggers dream of.

I don't use the term Islamofascism, since fascism is such a precise term. I think Islamism is the same as islamofascism. It is different than something as Islamic.

I never knew of the Worker-Communist Party spamming. I personally talked first to Maryam Namazie, who is in charge of their outside Iraq work. Spam is hair growth emails. I don't know about them spamming.

Everyone agrees capitalism, as manifested in neoliberalism, is the main problem in the world. The left has to develop a critique of religion, including third world religion. The Islamists may be a reaction to neoliberalism, it's a reaction that challenges the left.

Go to the Islamist message boards. The manifesto signers are marked for assasination. They are not debating how to be more effective fighting capitalism. They hate communists.

The manifesto doesn't say don't fight imperialism. You need to be anti-Islamist as well.

Check out Ninglun's blog. He has a post about this discussion, with more reference materials.

I want to thank everyone for your contribution to this thread.

brian said...

I don't know why it singles out Islam, though. Shouldn't we be fighting all religious intolerance and fundamentalism. I mean, Sharon ranks up there with Osama in terms of killing (Sabra and Shatila, Beirut, etc.), but why should we focus on one and not the other? Both are insane right-wing war criminals motivated by religious fundamentalism, so why shouldn't we be going after both, just because Osama is Muslim and Sharon is Jewish? Why should we single out one with this manifesto and not the other? If you replace the word "Islamism" with "religious fundamentalism," it might then be a decent document

Frank Partisan said...

We are against both. Sharon is in fact the a benefector to Hamas. He always prefers Islamism, then dealing with a leftist, secular and socialist Palestine.

When we attack Zionism, nobody says why not mention fundamentalism. The threat of Islamism to the left needs clarification as well.

Unleashing Islamism is going to be used as a pretext to continue occupation in Iraq.

Do we protect mullahs, or protect women and gays from stoning in Iran.

I subscribed to a local Trotskyist newspaper. There was no news in it about Iraq.

Again thank you comrades and friends, for this discussion.

sonia said...

Sharon (...) always prefers Islamism, than dealing with a leftist, secular and socialist Palestine

The question is, why are the Palestinians so accomodating to Sharon? A 'leftist, secular and socialist' Palestinians are a rare breed indeed, despite the the quasi-worship they receive from Western leftists. I mean, what is so appealing to leftists about being a 'victim'? Being victimized doesn't automatically make you good, or moral or worthy of respect. So far, all the Palestinians can show for themselves is their undeniable victimhood. But unless they elect a Gandhi (and soon!), they won't be getting much sympathy from me.