Most people have taken the news of the ban on the book Freedom Of Religion, Apostasy and Islam in their usual submissive way.
To silence our freedom of expression with ‘religious’ censorship is a direct assault on our most fundamental freedoms and destroys the most basic fundamental human freedom under our Universal Human Rights. To censor our right to examine, to question, to debate any subject, does not benefit anyone, and must be opposed.
“If anyone sees the book in the country, please inform the Supreme Council. And if anybody has the book, please send your copy to the council without delay.”
Community Censorship Plagues the House of Islam
Even worse than the official censorship is censorship imposed by the community, which then becomes self-censorship. Friends, colleagues and even ordinary acquaintances all impose strict censorship rules on me under the guise of being concerned about my personal safety or honor. They demand that I tone down my strong views about sensitive issues.
Freedom of the press in the Muslim world cannot be separated from freedom of expression in general. Journalists, due to their conspicuous public role, risk their lives everyday. They have been targeted and killed in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Palestine, Somalia, Sudan and other countries. The Muslim world is not a friendly place for freedom of speech at all.
Journalists, creative writers and artists all share the same fate. The writer in a Muslim society is in shackles. Every time I put pen to paper it is a struggle against the tyranny of community-imposed self-censorship. Nowhere is Rousseau's statement that "Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains," truer than in the House of Islam.
Everything is a taboo. Whenever a Muslim writer takes up a pen he starts tiptoeing in a minefield. You have to follow the flag signs of religious, cultural and social taboos. You should tread carefully avoid shame, social estrangement or even death.
The beheading of the Sudanese journalist Mohamed Taha Mohamed Ahmed in early September was the latest example of community punishment of a journalist/writer.
Writers have to endure internet blockages and black ink splashed on their art magazines and school textbooks. One of the most bizarre censorship actions I have ever seen was the blotting out of the sexual organs of a historical picture of donkey standing in an old Arabian market.
In the House of Islam, you cannot have a principle other than that of the community. Every thing you do is referred to Islam. The mantra is "that's stupid BUT...But we cannot do this because we are Muslims." One hears this expression ad nauseam. In the Islamic world you cease to be a human being. You become only a Muslim, whatever that entails.
You are not allowed to be a person with vices and virtues, you cannot follow your own reasoning, and you cannot be unpopular or defend an unpopular idea. You cannot go out of the circle. To express yourself freely means to risk death. And death indeed if you change your faith. Invention itself is considered as an act of blasphemy.
Thanks to Bashir Goth
In an article titled "Ban... Ban...," published in the Tunisian French-language weekly R‚alit‚s,(1) Tunisian columnist Zyed Krichen denounced the policy of censorship and denial of free speech that he said had been implemented by most Arab states and Islamist groups "since the advent of printing." In the second part of his article, he lists instances of censorship and persecution in the name of Islam from various Muslim countries, from 1925 to date, including banned works and writers and artists who have been imprisoned, flogged, and/or killed.
"Where they burn books, they will end in burning human beings."