Muslim reformers and critics of Islam around Europe are being silenced by Islamic extremists, according to a new report by the Centre for Social Cohesion. The report warns that unless European governments take urgent action to protect these individuals and their right to freedom of speech, Islamic extremists will be empowered and the evolution of a peaceful, tolerant 'European Islam' will never take place.
Victims of Intimidation: Freedom of Speech within Europe's Muslim Communities by Douglas Murray and Johan Pieter Verwey tells the stories of nearly 30 Europeans of Muslim background - some believing Muslims and others not - who have been threatened by Muslim extremists. Based on interviews with many of these individuals, the report details the substantial threats and violence they have faced as a result of critical inquiry into aspects of their faith or lifestyle.
The victims of this intimidation include politicians, journalists, writers, artists and human rights activists. Their personal stories are diverse and wide-ranging. Some have criticised Islam itself; others seek to reform traditionalist practices. All, however, have been targeted on the pretext that they have broken Islamic rules and traditions. Cases highlighted in the report include:
*Deepika 'Deeyah' Thathaal - Norwegian pop star of Afghan and Pakistani origin, whose 2006 video highlighted honour-based violence and showed the singer removing a burqa to reveal a bikini, she has received numerous death threats for challenging traditional patriarchal values.
*Naser Khader - Danish politician from Syria who publicly supported the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten for publishing satirical drawings of Mohammed, received numerous death threats, was attacked by local religious leaders and lives under 24 hour police protection.
*Seyran Ates - Lawyer and activist of Turkish origin, Ates has been shot and repeatedly assaulted for criticising the growing influence of political Islam in Germany and advocating women's rights within Germany's Turkish communities.
*Mohamed Sifaoui - Algerian journalist and author, known for exposing al Qaeda cells in France, was openly attacked in Paris by Islamists and frequently receives death threats for criticising political Islam. In 2008, the French Government withdrew his police protection.
Many of the individuals featured in Victims of Intimidation have suffered physical assault and are forced to live under constant police protection as a result of their words and actions. Several tell of community and religious leaders' failure to support proponents of moderate Islam. Others warn of ineffectual government responses to coercion by extremists.
Douglas Murray, director of the Centre for Social Cohesion and author of the report says:
"The inalienable right to freedom of speech and expression has come under threat by Muslim extremists. Fellow Muslims are finding it increasingly difficult to criticise elements of their faith or culture without fear of significant reprisal. In a free society, no belief or set of values should remain beyond open criticism. To grant a belief system amnesty from discussion concedes that intimidation and violence can succeed. Unless Muslims are allowed to discuss their religion without fear of attack there can be no chance of reform or genuine freedom of conscience within Islam."
The report is available online at: http://www.socialcohesion.co.uk/pdf/VictimsofIntimidation.pdf
The Centre for Social Cohesion is an independent non-partisan think tank.