LIBERALS, ARAB AND MUSLIM, PLEASE… WAKE UP!
By Valentina Colombo
Liberals, of Arab and/or Muslim background, living either in the West or in the Arab Muslim world, please… wake up!
I do know you are there, I do read your articles, I do appreciate your ideas, your love and respect for freedom and life, but I feel really disappointed and embarrassed each time I am asked: “Where are they?”, “Don’t you think they are not organised?”, “Why do they hide?”
We must admit: there is a problem, that has to be solved.
I give you two examples so that you can better understand what I mean.
Last March, the University of Naples, in collaboration with the Center Waleed bin Talal of Georgetown University, held a workshop whose title was very interesting and promising: “Giving Voice to Muslim Democrats” (www.meiad.org). Unfortunately when I had a look to the speakers I had a bad surprise: Tariq Ramadan, Nadia Yassine, Heba Raouf Ezzat. Only representatives of political Islam! Some articles were written against the conference on various newspapers, so we got a change: Nadia Yassine was replaced by… Rached Ghannouchi! You cannot imagine how angry I was.
I know many Liberals threatened by Ghannouchi and his entourage, first of them Lafif Lakhdar. All of us know that he is NOT a democrat. I remember a wonderful article by Raja Benslama about Islamic democracy he wants. Anyway we could not manage to stop this conference since the organisers were convinced that those people were the right ones.
In those days I had just published an anthology (“Stop! Muslims against Islamic Extremism”, Mondadori, Milan 2007) where I collected and translated from Arabic, English and French about 50 articles of many of you. In my foreword I wrote many pages to explain that we have to fight not only jihadi Islam but also the so-called “moderate” Islam of people like Ramadan and Ghannouchi.
Explaing that we have to remember Churchill’s words: “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last”… and our crocodiles are the “moderates”. This is the reason why I proposed to erase the term “moderate” to be replaced either by liberals or reformers or secularists, I underlined that we have to check people very deeply.
It is very easy to issue a fatwa against terrorism, but it depends what we mean with this word. It is very easy , like Tariq Ramadan did, to ask for a moratorium on stoning and then say, like Tariq Ramadan did: “My position is clear, I have expressed it for five years: I am for an absolute moratorium on all the physical punishment and the death penalty. But the Quranic texts and the prophetic tradition refer to these punishments; either [we] one denies them so as to please the Occident, and that will not be followed by the Muslim World, or one [we] considers that it is not applicable, that it is necessary to do a true work on the texts, a debate among Muslim savants, and while waiting, to stop all the punishments ”; “I request a moratorium so that one [we] stops the application of these punishments in the Muslim World.
What counts, it’s the evaluation of ideologies. A pedagogic discourse is needed ”. In March 2005, Ramadan confirmed his position, but explained that he is in favor of a moratorium not because of the cruelty and violence of the punishment, but because “these penalties are applied almost exclusively to women and the poor, the doubly victimized, never to the wealthy, the powerful, or the oppressors" and because the systems that apply them "do not guarantee just or equal treatment of individuals before the law." All of you, without any hesitation, would say we MUST abolish those penalties, without any BUT.
I was and I am very proud of my work, BUT… now comes my BUT! I have decided that liberals have to build a network, they to organise. That is why I have started sending e-mails to all the liberals I knew… result some of them answered straight away, some answered after two weeks, some after the second e-mail, some did not answer! That is why I cry aloud: Liberals wake up!
I was really disappointed so I discussed the matter with a friend of mine, a wonderful Muslim liberal herself, and she gave me an answer, which is sadly true: “As I promised you, I am writing concerning the idea of networking. I believe that the main problem when it comes to the secularists, liberals, or reformers is their tendency to:
A) fell in love with themselves (the “Ana”, or the I, is so huge)
B) they are not organized
C) their ideas are not well publicized”
Then she made some proposals that have to be taken into account: “The first problem it seems is unavoidable: I may not like Nawal Saadawy fondness of herself, but what she writes is simply crucial.
The second needs better organization: one idea would be a kind of international alliance of scholars and intellectuals who are thinking the same way.
This alliance could help distribute news, organize events, and mobilize its members (each with his or her network) in case a member faced prosecution from the state or the Islamists.
This alliance should also be active in confronting the ideas of the Islamists: one reason why these Islamists are saying what they are saying is that no body is telling them Shame on You! We have to turn the tide, turn the concepts, and turn the way people think, talk, and approach a subject. And the more we do that, the more scared they will be.
The third problem requires the establishment of a publishing house that takes on the task of publishing and spreading the ideas of these writers. But this house should also work professionally: meaning the big ego of some of our intellectuals should not interfere with its conduct and judgment.”
So, please, liberals… wake up! You have to use the Islamists’ methods and you will win.
You are not a minority, THEY are a minority!
Wake up and take the first step! I want to prepare a “Who’s who” of Liberals to be handed to institutions and to people that only know the “moderates”.
I only need your details (e-mail, phone number, website, a short resume), to be in touch with you, to know your projects, your associations… I would like to be your mail box.