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An Islamic Reformer Who Can't Be Silenced
by Paul Berman
In the April 5 edition of The New Republic I published an essay called "The Thought Police" on Islamist campaigns to suppress independent thinking, as described in a Hudson Institute human rights report by Paul Marshall and Nina Shea. My essay listed a great number of reformers from Muslim backgrounds who have come under threat or have actually been attacked, with the names drawn largely from Marshall and Shea's study. I mentioned in passing that Irshad Manji, a Muslim writer from Vancouver, Canada, had been threatened. Now I have to report that Irshad Manji is all right, but she has, in fact, come under attack in Jakarta, Indonesia, and not everyone around her is all right.
Manji is a fellow of the European Foundation for Democracy. The EFD has issued a press release describing the attack, which I quote:
Irshad was presenting her latest book Allah, Liberty and Love which has been translated into Indonesian at an event in Yogyakarta, when the building was stormed by masked Islamic extremists wielding iron bars and sticks, intent on disrupting the panel discussion and silencing the Muslim reformist thinker. A group of women activists who attended the discussion formed a human cordon around Irshad, protecting her from the worst excesses of the attacks. Her assistant, however, was rushed to hospital, having been struck by an iron bar. Two others sustained head injuries. It is regrettable that the authorities capitulated to the fundamentalists and closed down the event. Freedom of speech and democracy are not served by giving in to those—radicals Islamists—who shout loudest.
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