Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Incitement To Kill

By Abu Khawla (*)

The call to murder a fellow Muslim citizen takes, among others, the form of a "Fatwa" (religious edict or pronouncement). Once issued by a prominent Cleric, it becomes binding to the gullible faithful. As a result, countless free thinkers lost -and are still losing- their lives in this part of the world.

And to be established in the West is no panacea. Salman Roshdi learned about it the hard way, after the publication in the UK of his book The Satanic Verses. Moreover, the murder of the publisher of the Japanese version of his book in Tokyo, may mean that no one is safe, including non-Muslims in the West.

But what happened on May 6, 2005, may look somewhat different. On that faithful day, Islamist "Al-Nahda" web site published from London an information, pointing in clear terms to Tunisian prominent secular thinker, Lafif Lakhdar, as being the writer of a newly published book entitled "The unknown in the Life of the Prophet," which was previously posted on Alkalema.us.

The announcement is a clear incitement to kill, as we should now know from previous experience: the murder of writer Farag Foudah in Cairo and the stubbing of Egyptian Nobel Laureate Neguib Mahfoudh, to name but a few.

Indeed, the sequencing of events leaves no shadow of a doubt about the intentions. On May 2, the Pan-Arab newspaper "Al-Shark Alawsat" reported from its correspondent in Khartoum how riots erupted in the Sudanese capital against the journal of Islamist leaning "Al-Wifaq" for its publication of the first and one of the most controversial chapters of the book. The angry protesters belong to "Ansar Al-Sunna" student group, shouting for the murder of the "Murtad" (apostate).

Hence, the information notice posted four days later by Al-Nahda was nothing but the identification of the apostate. And since apostasy is to be punished by the death penalty, according to the current consensus of Islamist scholars, the call to murder the writer is straightforward.

This was not lost on the writer himself. On May 13, 2005, Mr. Lakhdar issued a call for support on the Internet to help him bring the leader of Al-Nahda, Sheik Rashed Al-Ghannouchi to justice (more details on the subject are available on the English, French and Arabic sections of Metransparent.com). The first reaction to the call came from Al-Nahda itself. It immediately withdrew the information from its site.

In his call, Lafif LAKHDAR -lonely, ill and almost completely paralyzed- asked from his bed for the support of all believers in free thought, first and foremost, international organizations active in this field. Indeed, organizations like Lawyers Without Borders, Pen International, and countless other humanist societies worldwide, have been instrumental in defending similar cases in the past. Their support to writer Lafif Lakhdar is no less warranted today.

For nearly five decades, Lafif Lakhdar has been leading the fight to expose the dark side of Islamism, the danger for nowadays Muslims to remain hostage to Salafi (forefathers) teaching, given its enmity to women, non-Muslims, and the requirements of modernization in general. Central to Lakhdar thinking is the need to adapt Islam to modernization, given the futility to attempt the other way around.

Recently, Lafif Lakhdar led the fight with two other prominent Arab liberals by issuing a Declaration addressed to the United Nations, calling for the trial of Clerics found guilty of issuing "Fatwas" calling for murder. And it named Rashed Al-Ghannouchi, among others. The Declaration collected more than four thousand signatures so far, from Arabs from all walks of life. And it was recently handed over to UN secretary general Kofi Anan.

Lafif Lakhdar deserves well our support today. And the least we can do, in this respect, is to help him hire a lawyer in London to take his case to justice, and urge the French authorities to provide appropriate protection for the writer as long as he resides on its soil. And it could never be overstressed how urgent is the case, for tomorrow may indeed be too late.


(*) Coordinator of Lafif Lakhdar International Defense Committee. Contact: LLIDC@hotmail.com

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