Freedom of speech is a hot topic these days, and those who speak more freely than others (or about more controversial issues, such as Islam), can now expect to get protection from EU. Few days ago, I wrote about Aayan Hirsi Ali, the Dutch politicians who is living with constant death threats on her shoulders, and yesterday, EU promised her and other threatened individuals protection across Europe, according to the EUobserver:
“Security commissioner Franco Frattini said that EU member states are to draft special measures to guarantee freedom of movement across the Union for Ms Hirsi Ali and other individuals similarly targeted for what they have written or said.”
I think it is great the Hirsi Ali and others such as Salman Rushdie will get the protection they need, and that EU makes a stand on this issue. But sadly, I’m afraid more people will need this kind of protection with the harsh climate for free speech because of threats from religious fundamentalists these days.
I went to hear the Canadian Muslim Irshad Manji last week, and she told that she was living behind bullet proof windows at home, she is always taking different routes when she is walking, she knows how to look for bombs under her car, she is very restricted in the way she uses her cell phone – but she is living and traveling without body guards. She is very brave and outspoken, and she told that in order for her to be a role model for other young Muslim girls, she can’t encourage them to be outspoken and critical of Islam, if she is walking around with body guards, and they are not. That would be hypocrisy, and as she said, “hypocrisy is never a way to sell policy”.
She mentioned a conversation she had some year ago with Salman Rushdie where she asked him how he handled the death threats. “A book is more important than a life”, he said, and Manji laughed nervously and asked what he meant. He went on explaining: “Whenever an innovator puts out a thought, it can be struggled, but it can’t be unthought. That is the greatest gift the innovator can give”. Manji has given lots of thought on these sentences, and continued with some more of her own life wisdom: “The purpose of which you live, is more important than the number of years you live”.
This woman has plenty of smart sayings, here is another of my favorites: “Courage is not about absent of fear, but the recognition that some things are more important than fear”.