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    “You know there isn’t one”

    Via Bruce Bawer (13 February 2007 post), who really needs someone to show him how permalinks work, this priceless exchange on CNN. Glenn Beck is the CNN interviewer; Irshad Manji is a lesbian Muslim who lives in Canada:

    BECK: OK. Real quickly, we have about a minute. What — who is standing with you as a woman’s organization? Who — what National Organization of Women is coming up and saying I’m with you?

    MANJI: You know there isn’t one.

    BECK: Why?

    MANJI: Fear. Fear of offending. So many people today in America come up to me to say, “Irshad, I wish I could support your call to reconcile Islam with human rights, but if I do, you know I’ll be called a racist for sticking my nose in somebody else’s business.”

    Bawer’s comment: “Against people who are willing to die in the cause of destroying freedom, people who are unwilling to stand up for freedom for fear of being called a name don’t stand much chance of victory.”

    Beck and Manji focused on women’s groups, but of course the gay organizations are mostly just as bad. And a lot of rank-and-file gays, too. Plenty of gay men and women who “don’t care what people think” when they’re having a noisy good time at brunch–or giving conservative relatives a heart attack with their views about social policy–will turn into the most craven protocol-followers alive when it’s time to venture, even gingerly, the opinion that maybe there are strains of thinking in non-Western cultures that are incompatible with human rights and are not the fault of Western imperialism. Or that gay advocacy groups often choose cheap partisan expediency over gay interests.

    Something Bawer and Pieter Dorsman, whom he cites, didn’t quote, gives a little bit of perspective:

    BECK: And everybody is crying out, where are those Muslim voices? You and people like you are in so much danger. How much — how much does fear play a role in silencing the voices of Islam?

    MANJI: Huge. And fear of many things. Fear not just of being ostracized in your community, but obviously fear of violence, as well.

    You know, Glenn, I speak at university campuses right across not just North America, but around the world. And invariably, young Muslims come up to me afterwards to whisper thank you in my ear. And when I ask them, why are you whispering? They say to me, “Irshad, you know, you have the luxury of being able to walk away from this campus two hours from now. I don’t, and I don’t want to be stalked for supporting your views.” And if they’re women, a lot of them say, “I don’t want to be raped for supporting your views.”

    So this is happening in America, and I don’t want to suggest, Glenn. Let me just be clear. I don’t want to suggest that every Muslim feels this kind of fear. But every Muslim does know that, if you take on the most mangled aspects of our faith today, you will be subject to such a vitriolic smear campaign that it will bring shame and dishonor upon your family. So there is huge pressure to say nothing.

    It isn’t just from women’s groups dominated by non-Muslims that Manji isn’t getting support. Moderate Muslims who think Islam needs reform are going to have to speak out eventually, or it’s not going to happen. As Manji herself said a few years ago, “Society needs people who offend, otherwise there will be no progress.” (She’s also addressed gay activists’ problems with Islam and Israel.)

    2 Responses to ““You know there isn’t one””

    1. Connie says:

      And some of us will be right there, watching their backs, if they do decide to (finally) speak up.

    2. Sean Kinsell says:

      I know. And some people do have legitimate reasons for discretion. I just wish people who want to keep quiet about their beliefs realized that they can’t get away with styling themselves fearless truth-tellers.

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