Stories of resistance

report3Recently the Centre for Social Cohesion released a report, Victims of Intimidation: Freedom of Speech within Europe’s Muslim Communities (pdf) a series of profiles of Muslim and ex-Muslim politicians, writers and artists. All of them have been persecuted and threatened by religious fundamentalists.

The researchers don’t judge or theorise: they take a step back and let the activists do the talking. You may not agree with what these activists have to say, you may think the Centre for Social Cohesion is a Zionist/neocon front but it can’t be denied that the stories of the men and women profiled are studies in courage and dissidence.

Mohammed Anwar Sheikh was an Indian immigrant to Britain whose critical work on Islam earned the inevitable death threats from conservative clerics. As a young man he was a devout Muslim and in 1947 he killed three Sikhs during the riots that accompanied Partition. The murders would haunt him his whole life:

If it had not been for my fanaticism, engendered by the Islamic traditions those people might have been alive even today. And I might not have felt the guilt which I still do.

Before his death, living as a writer in Britain, he said this:

Britain is my home and unless you do something about Muslim fundamentalism there is going to be a huge fifth column in our midst. England must wake up. You [the British] spent hundreds of years getting Christian fundamentalism out of this country. Don’t let fundamentalism come back.

Now I’ve never believed in the ‘Eurabia’ conspiracy theory (which depends on the racist myth that all Muslims are fundamentalist by nature) but I do agree with Sheikh that Britain has not learned the lessons from its dark centuries of medieval Christianity. We’re faced by a resurgent fundamentalism: not just Christian or Islamic but ecumenical.

It reminded me of this post from Iranian immigrant Azarmehr, writing about the Channel 4 Undercover Mosque programme:

To think that secular pro-democracy activists, like Arash, who stood up to theocracy in Iran are locked up in Britain’s detention centres waiting for deportation, while Saudi sponsored preachers of hate like Um-Saleem and others, shown in the documentary, are free to enter this country and spread their gospel of hate and destruction is beyond the comprehension of any sane person.


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