Thursday, March 02, 2006

Writers against "Islamism" + "Roman Catholicist" Town in FL + CBA Reading Tomorrow

Recently, twelve major writers published the following manifesto in the Danish Jyllands-Posten in response to the widespread protests and riots, some resulting in deaths, against that conservative paper's publication of cartoons depicting and joking about the Islamic prophet Muhammad, and as an appeal to the Muslim world concerning the spread of what they call "Islamism." In spite of the strong criticisms I have against the paper's overall politics and its unnecessary provocation, I support the principle of free speech and the writers who drafted it, and am reprinting it in full.

"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 Muhammed 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 civilisations nor 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.

"We reject cultural relativism, which consists in accepting that men and women of Muslim culture should be deprived of the right to equality, freedom and secular values in the name of respect for cultures and traditions. We refuse to renounce our critical spirit out of fear of being accused of "Islamophobia", an unfortunate concept which confuses criticism of Islam as a religion with stigmatisation of its believers.

"We plead for the universality of freedom of expression, so that a critical spirit may be exercised on all continents, against all abuses and all dogmas.

"We appeal to democrats and free spirits of all countries that our century should be one of Enlightenment, not of obscurantism."

Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Chahla Chafiq
Caroline Fourest
Bernard-Henri Lévy
Irshad Manji
Mehdi Mozaffari
Maryam Namazie
Taslima Nasreen
Salman Rushdie
Antoine Sfeir
Philippe Val
Ibn Warraq


Ave MariaSeveral days ago I saw this report, maybe on Yahoo! News, and then saw it yet again on HuffingtonPost, under the headline "No Porno, No Condoms, No Birth Control," so I'm going to include a link, a quote, and minimal commentary, though it's closely linked to some of what I was gabbing around in my long statement about the absolute anti-abortionists. It looks like the Roman Catholics among that crowd just may have the village of their prayers, at least on earth, if Thomas Monaghan, the founder and former owner of Domino's Pizza and the Detroit Tigers baseball team, has his way. (I never eat Domino's pizza if I can help it, in part because of his long history of supporting extremist causes, and also because in every place I've ever lived, there's always been a better and more economical pizza parlor that delivers.)

In Monaghan's Catholic community/cult village of Ave Maria (pictured above, from its website), there will be zero abortions (big surprise!), zero contraceptives (including condoms) will be sold in any stores within its borders, and zero pornography will be available via the local cable providers (I guess they haven't heard about Internet porn, but hey, that's a good thing; then there's satellite dishes, etc.). Legalities shmegalities. I wonder if this restricted community will allow a mosque or synagogue to be built on its territory. Can they stop this? What about Protestant churches? What if Dignity, the gay Catholic group, decides to set up camp there. Will they have restrictive laws against homosexuals, bisexuals, transgender people, and people they even vaguely imagine might fall under these categories? How will they deal with their various "Huguenots"? God(s) bless America....

If Domino's Pizza founder Thomas S. Monaghan has his way, a new town being built in Florida will be governed according to strict Roman Catholic principles, with no place to get an abortion, pornography or birth control.

The pizza magnate is bankrolling the project with at least $250 million and calls it "God's will."

Civil libertarians say the plan is unconstitutional and are threatening to sue.

The town of Ave Maria is being constructed around Ave Maria University, the first Catholic university to be built in the United States in about 40 years. Both are set to open next year about 25 miles east of Naples in southwestern Florida.

The town and the university, developed in partnership with the Barron Collier Co., an agricultural and real estate business, will be set on 5,000 acres with a European-inspired town center, a massive church and what planners call the largest crucifix in the nation, at nearly 65 feet tall. Monaghan envisions 11,000 homes and 20,000 residents.


Frances Kissling, president of the liberal Washington-based Catholics for a Free Choice, likened Monaghan's concept to Islamic fundamentalism.

"This is un-American," Kissling said. "I don't think in a democratic society you can have a legally organized township that will seek to have any kind of public service whatsoever and try to restrict the constitutional rights of citizens."

Perhaps she's unaware of the long history in America of restricted neighborhoods, real estate covenants and redlining, "sundown" towns, and so on. Or maybe she thinks that in 2006 such nuttiness sounds unconstitutional. Also, local laws can't trump state laws, which can't trump federal laws. Or are they planning to secede? I thought the "Christian" homeland was supposed to be in South Carolina?

Center ReadingOn a much more positive note, tomorrow there'll be a big shindig at New York City's Center for the Book Arts (at left, photo CBA Website), which in the fall of 2004 published the exquisite chapbook version of the book that I collaborated on with artist and poet Christopher Stackhouse. Chris will be one of the readers, as will Cave Canem fellow Linda Susan Jackson, and other well-known poets like Rachel Levitsky and Susan Wheeler.

Center Broadsides Reading Series
Fifth Year Anniversary Reading
Friday, March 3rd , 6:30 pm
Series Curators Sharon Dolin, Marcella Durand, Jackie Sheeler, Christopher Stackhouse, Rodney Terich Leonard, with special guest poets Linda Susan Jackson, Rachel Levitsky, Mark Nickels, Angelo Verga, and Susan Wheeler. Hosted By Rory Golden.
Suggested donation $5 members/ $10 non-members


  1. How interesting that Salman Rushdie would lend his name to the manifesto.

  2. Charles, I wasn't surprised at Rushdie's boldness and, truth be told, bravery; perhaps after surviving the period of the Iranian fatwa against him, he feels he has nothing to lose. I believe the manifesto is a major and very important statement, especially coming from so many well-known Muslim authors (or authors reared in Muslim countries and societies), and even more so because it was published in the Jyllands-Posten (in English no less, not Danish), but it doesn't seem to have gotten hardly any press at all. That's not that surprising either...