"The secret of freedom... a brave heart."

In The History of the Peloponnesian War (431–413 BCE), recounting the Athenian leader Pericles’ Funeral Oration (delivered after the first year of the war with Sparta), the historian Thucydides (c.460–400 BCE) wrote the following passage, which I hope youngsters still study:
Fix your eyes on the greatness of Athens, as you have it before you day by day, fall in love with her, and when you feel her great, remember that this greatness was won by men with courage, with knowledge of their duty, and with a sense of honor in action… For the whole earth is the sepulcher of famous men; and their story is not graven only on stone over their native earth, but lives on far away, without visible symbol, woven into the stuff of other men’s lives. For you, now, it remains to rival what they have done and knowing the secret of happiness to be freedom and the secret of freedom, a brave heart, not idly to stand aside from the enemy’s onset.
But I’m sorry to say, it appears that many Westerners have not taken that message to heart. Yet, some have – and so have some brave ex-Muslims.

An example of a “brave heart” is the Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders. In last week’s post I suggested why he shouldn’t release his promised film (entitled Fitna, Arabic for ‘chaos’ or maybe ‘ordeal’), which he said would show that the Koran (or Quran or Qur’an) was “a fascist book inciting hatred and killing.” In that blog, I didn’t question Wilders’ bravery but argued that, rather than release his film, he could help Holland and humanity more by hiring some comedians to try to rid the world of all religions using ridicule.

This week, Wilders announced that he wouldn’t proceed with a March 28 press conference where he intended to show his film (although it’s expected that the film will become available on the internet). As reported by Thomas Landen in the Brussels Journal:
The Nieuwspoort Press Center in The Hague, which is run by a board of journalists, publishers and government press officers, demanded that Wilders pay 400,000 euros for extra safety measures. “Apparently, you have to be a millionaire to organize such an event,” Mr. Wilders said. “Even if I had the money I am not going to spend it on a press conference.”
Viewed from essentially any angle, the entire episode seems sad – and bad – save for Wilders’ courage.

Of course Wilders’ freedom of speech to criticize some “holy book” shouldn’t be constrained, and the Dutch Foreign Minister’s statement that “…freedom of expression doesn’t mean the right to offend” is about as despicable as they come. But as described in the above-referenced article by Landen, for Islamic extremists to threaten Wilders’ life (and this week, even threaten the lives of children whose last name is Wilders, even though they’re unrelated to the politician) and for Wilders to be living in Army barracks for his protection are absolutely horrible. We must defeat the terrorists.

Further, for a member of the board of directors of the Anglo-Dutch multinational Unilever Corporation (no doubt most concerned about Unilever’s sales in Muslim countries) to state to the Dutch media that “Geert Wilders is evil, and evil has to be stopped” plus call upon the Dutch people to “rise in order to stop Wilders from preaching his evil message” are enough for me to boycott Unilever products. Even few prostitutes, I suspect, adopt profit as their prime motive.

And if that’s not enough, consider the following paragraph from Landen’s article (referenced above):
Last week Henk Hofland, the nestor of Dutch journalism, proposed on Dutch television that the Dutch authorities lift Geert Wilders’ police protection. “Let him feel what it is like for those whose lives he endangers,” Hofland, the former editor of NRC Handelsblad, the leading newspaper in the Netherlands, opined. Mr. Hofland, who was given the title “Dutch journalist of the century” by his colleagues in 1999, asserted that, if Dutch citizens get murdered in retaliation for Wilders’ opinions on Islam, not the assassins are to be blamed, but the politician. Apparently, to Hofland and his ilk being critical of Islam is worse than slaughtering innocent people in the name of Islam.
Both the courage of some people and the cowardice of others are astounding.

Last week in this blog I gave another illustration – an astounding illustration – of courage. I quoted what the brave Syrian-American Wafa Sultan said on Al-Jazeera TV. She deserves America’s Medal of Freedom. This week, the “Saudi intellectual” Turki Al-Hamad provided the world with another astounding example of courage. On Al-Arabiya TV, he stated the following:
The taboos in Saudi Arabia are different from the taboos in Lebanon, and from the taboos in Egypt, and so on, even though I believe that in all these countries, they tend to view the taboo itself as fundamental. This was not the case in the past. I believe that we've reached the point where everything is ruled by prohibitions. Everything is prohibited unless it is proven to be permitted. This is the problem of Arab society and culture. Instead of making progress, we are regressing – and if only we were regressing in a reasonable manner. Unfortunately, we are regressing in a superstitious and unreasonable manner.

We… have forsaken this future for the sake of myth. We live in the world of the supernatural, not in the real world, which we have completely neglected…

In the past, our society was more open, more accepting of other opinions and different behavior. But [in] the so-called 'religious awakening' – and I regard it as a religious 'slumber,' not as an awakening … everything has turned upside down. The dead have taken control over the living.

I blame the political regime. I blame the Arab intellectual. I blame the prevalent culture. It is a mixture of many things. Let me give you an example. The prevalent culture is backward, yet the political regime uses this culture to glorify itself, without realizing that it is destroying the future. That's one reason. Another example is when intellectuals turn everything into ideology, riding a wave of populism and flirting with the peoples, instead of enlightening them. They flirt with the peoples and follow them, rather than leading them. I place the blame to some extent on these intellectuals. The prevalent culture is stagnant. It does not recognize the ‘other’, and does not want to recognize that it is one of many cultures in the world. It considers itself to be the ‘number one’ culture – the world itself. Therefore, as said by a poet from the age of pre-Islamic ignorance – and I believe that we are still living in that age – “We are a people of worthy of world leadership – or the grave.” We cannot live in the middle ground between these two extremes, and that is the problem…

From the early 20th Century to this day, we constantly hear people say: “We should adopt the good things [from the West] and ignore the bad.” You cannot do such a thing. When you consider the products of modern civilization – the car, the computer, and so on – these are all products of a certain philosophy, a certain way of thinking. If you adopt the product, but ignore the producer – you have a problem. You cannot do such a thing. [For us,] the product is new, but the thought is not. We move forward with our eyes looking backward.

After this period of my life, I am very pessimistic about the possibility of making real changes in our culture and society. I hope I am wrong. In any case, this does not mean we should not try. Future generations will ask what we did about this. At least we tried; at least we made our voice heard. Time will tell whether we were successful in achieving any result…
Perhaps some people might be unimpressed with Turki Al-Hamad’s courage (and I expect that there are brave producers of this TV show who also should be congratulated, especially given the recent rulings by the Arab Propaganda ministers, mentioned in an earlier post). But if people are unimpressed, they should realize that in 2006, the cowardly fool Osama bin Laden included Al-Hamad in his list of those who should be killed:
The freethinkers and heretics who defame Islam, and mock and scorn our noble Prophet – their case and the law concerning them have been clearly expounded by Imam Ibn Qayyim [Al-Jawziyya]. He made it clear that the crime committed by a freethinker is the worst of crimes, that the damage caused by his staying alive among the Muslims is of the worst kind of damage, that he is to be killed, and that his repentance is not to be accepted...

Among these heretics is Ahmad Al-Baghdadi in Kuwait, and Turki Al-Hamad in the Land of the Two Holy Shrines – a fatwa concerning the latter was issued by Sheikh Hamud Al-'Uqala – and many others like them.

It is intolerable and outrageous that the heretics are among us, scorning our religion and our Prophet… Therefore, you must fear Allah and do His will. Do not consult anyone about the killing of these heretics. Be secretive in carrying out that which is required of you.
I describe bin Laden as a coward (as are all Islamic terrorists), because it takes zero courage to die believing that you’ll be instantly transported to paradise for eternity, and I describe him as a fool (as are all Islamic terrorists) for staking his life on an idea that doesn’t have a shred of evidence to support it.

But I must leave it to competent, future historians to identify all the brave and intelligent people who were raised as Muslims and tried to transform and/or eliminate still another of the past’s silly superstitions. Nonetheless, I would call their (and the reader’s) attention to those Muslims, “secular Muslims”, and ex-Muslims who endorsed the St. Petersburg Declaration, namely,
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Magdi Allam, Mithal Al-Alusi, Shaker Al-Nabulsi, Nonie Darwish, Afshin Ellian, Tawfik Hamid, Shahriar Kabir, Hasan Mahmud, Wafa Sultan, Amir Taheri, Ibn Warraq, Manda Zand Ervin, and Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi.
I encourage readers to study what they wrote. It starts with:
We are secular Muslims and secular persons of Muslim societies. We are believers, doubters, and unbelievers, brought together by a great struggle, not between the West and Islam, but between the free and the unfree.

We affirm the inviolable freedom of the individual conscience. We believe in the equality of all human persons.

We insist upon the separation of religion from state and the observance of universal human rights.

We find traditions of liberty, rationality, and tolerance in the rich histories of pre-Islamic and Islamic societies. These values do not belong to the West or the East; they are the common moral heritage of humankind.

We see no colonialism, racism, or so-called “Islamaphobia” in submitting Islamic practices to criticism or condemnation when they violate human reason or rights…
As more examples, there are the brave and intelligent ex-Muslims (all of whom have received death threats by Muslim maniacs) who produced and signed the Manifesto: Together facing the new totalitarianism, namely:
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Chahla Chafiq, Caroline Fourest, Bernard-Henri Lévy, Irshad Manji, Mehdi Mozaffari, Maryam Namazie, Taslima Nasreen, Salman Rushdie, Antoine Sfeir, Philippe Val, and Ibn Warraq.
I again encourage readers to study what they wrote; it starts with:
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 Muhammad 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 civilizations or 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…
In addition, Ali Sina deserves special recognition, for the many contributions at his website, such as the Letter to Mankind. This letter from “the ex-Muslim Movement” includes the following:
Today humanity is being challenged. Unthinkable atrocities take place on daily basis. There is an evil force at work that aims to destroy us. The agents of this evil respect nothing; not even the lives of children. Every day there are bombings, every day innocent people are targeted and murdered. It seems as if we are helpless. But we are not!

The ancient Chinese sage Sun Zi said, “Know your enemy and you won’t be defeated”. Do we know our enemy? If we don’t, then we are doomed.

Terrorism is not an ideology, it is a tool; but the terrorists kill for an ideology. They call that ideology Islam…

We are a group of ex-Muslims who have seen the face of the evil and have risen to warn the world. No matter how painful the truth may be, only truth can set us free. Why this much denial? Why so much obstinacy? How many more innocent lives should be lost before YOU open your eyes? A nuclear disaster is upon us. This will happen. It is not a question of “if” but “when”. Oblivious of that, the world is digging its head deeper in the sand.

We urge the Muslims to leave Islam. Stop with excuses, justifications, and rationalizations. Stop dividing mankind in “us” vs. “them” and Muslims vs. Kafirs. We are One people, One mankind! Muhammad was not a messenger of God. It is time that we end this insanity and face the truth. The terrorists take their moral support and the validation for their actions from you. Your very adherence to their cult of death is a nod of approval for their crimes against humanity.

We also urge the non-Muslims to stop being politically correct lest they hurt the Muslims’ sensitivity. To Hell with their sensibilities! Let us save their lives, and the lives of millions of innocent people.

Millions, if not billions of lives will be lost if we do nothing. Time is running out! “All it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.” Do something! Send this message to everyone in your address book and ask them to do the same. Defeat Islam and stop terrorism. This is your world, save it.
Although my opinion is incidental, I would like to humbly express my gratitude to each and every one of those people (and I’m sure, many others should be mentioned, but in my ignorance, I have failed to identify them), for so bravely trying to help humanity.

Meanwhile, in contrast to my praise, the following illustrates a little of the stupid, maniacal responses from Muslim extremists:
Now we have drawn out a hit list of a “Who’s Who” guide to slam into. Take your time but make sure their (sic) gone soon – oh, and don’t hold out for a fatwa it isn’t really required here… Has anyone got that Christian kaffir “Ibn Warraq’s” real name yet…?

Well them [sic)] disbelievers [the signatories] have in effect signed a death wish via this statement so to hell with them, we’ll just provide the help that they so dearly crave.
Still, though, the question continues: What actions should we take to stop the cowardly, stupid, Muslim supremacists? Certainly I’m in favor of bombing their terrorist training camps (wherever they are, including Pakistan), exposing their hate-filled handbooks (such as the Koran), and ridiculing their stupid supernaturalism. But none of that is enough. Just as a single murderer can terrorize a community, it takes only a tiny number of fanatics to terrorize a nation: it’s astoundingly simpler to destroy than to create; any fool can throw a monkey wrench into a machine; any idiot can be wrapped with explosives that are wired to blow up within a crowd; a small group of trained Islamists can find a way to detonate a weapon of mass destruction in the West.

To stop them, I must admit that threatening to retaliate for any further attacks by eliminating Mecca seems increasingly appealing: given that the terrorists are living in a fantasy land in which they and their “holy shrine” are protected by an invisible f[r]iend in the sky, then as H.L. Mencken suggested, heaving a dead cat in their sanctuary could be the most sensible approach to get them to smarten up. To those who say that it's unwise to fight hornets by striking at their nest, that it’ll cause an even bigger swarm of hornets to attack, I’d point out that there’s already a huge swarm of them; so, a good start toward eradicating them is to put on protective gear and fire-bomb their nest. Therefore, as a first step, I’d encourage the U.S. Congress to withdraw our agreement to the Article of the Geneva Convention that prohibits destroying “cultural and historical sites” and to promulgate: if Muslim maniacs conduct another large-scale attack on the West, then the President is to request Congressional approval for obliterating Mecca – of course with suitable warnings, so that those who desire could abandon it and those who desire could "protect it" with their "martyrdom" . If consequences would include the needs for a regime change in Saudi Arabia and incarcerating all Wahhabi clerics, then so be it.

Yet, for the longer term, I’d suggest an additional approach. Since the long-term solution to Muslim madness is to educate Muslim children to learn how to think critically (i.e., to learn how to hold beliefs only as strongly as relevant evidence warrants), then I’d encourage all western nations to establish their own, new type of Peace Corps. Maybe call them IPSO FACTOs: International Peace Squadrons for Objective, Factual and Appropriate, Critical Thinking and Operations. I’d like to see at least a million European and American Muslims per year (committed to freedom and to human rights and who have been tested to demonstrate that they understand and can instruct others in critical-thinking skills) fan out across the Muslim world and, fluent in the language and sensitive to the culture in the country of their destination (maybe for a two-year assignment), teach Muslim children how to apply the scientific method in their daily lives. For that matter, we could help humanity if suitably trained and suited IPSO FACTO members (Muslims, Christians, Free-thinkers, whatever) were deployed also to much of Africa and South America.

But even that wouldn’t be enough: it’s not enough that a few intellectuals are brave; it’s not enough to be protected by brave men and women in uniform; it would not be enough to threaten to bomb Mecca or to send out IPSO FACTO members to teach children critical-thinking skills. As an illustration of why it’s not enough, consider the final few paragraph of Landen’s report (referenced above):
The Dutch showed what stuff they were made of two years ago, when they made life impossible for Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an elected member of their parliament, just like Mr. Wilders. Her neighbors sued to get her removed from the apartment where she was living under police protection. The court of appeal ordered Ms. Hirsi Ali to leave her house within four months, invoking… the European treaty for Human Rights. As the judges said:

The court considers in its ruling that the neighbors have been put into a situation that has contributed to them feeling less safe in their own house. That feeling is extended to the communal living spaces of the apartment complex, but also to their own apartments. The court argues that this is a severe violation of one’s private life (as per Article 8 of the European Treaty for Human Rights).

Ms. Hirsi Ali [now living in the U.S.] was booted out of her own house by virtue of the European Treaty for Human Rights because Muslim fanatics threatened her, thereby causing her neighbors to “feel less safe in their own house.” Soon, Mr. Wilders, whatever one thinks about his opinions, his motives or the wisdom of his decisions, will be booted out – also in the name of grand principles such as human rights – because he makes others feel less safe. That is his crime: While the majority of the Dutch are willing to submit, he is not.
Thucydides said, “The secret of freedom [is a] brave heart”, but it doesn’t follow that, if you’re brave, then you’ll feel free: the brave fight so that their loved ones, who in a civilized society should include their neighbors, will be free.

For my part, I have checked that I can rapidly assemble the gun in my bedroom and I’ve decided to apply for a permit to carry it while I go for my daily walk: I don’t feel so free as I did when I was a youngster, but I hope that, eventually, my grandchildren and other youngsters will feel freer.


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