If we want to fight extremism of all colors, the best weapon is our Freedom of speech
When I told my Mother that I was going to participate in a seminar on islam and Blasphemy her reply to me was that she'd rather not know about it, that I'm looking for trouble. She thinks it’s dangerous and to be perfectly honest, I believe she’s Right.
Of course, everything is relative and here in Norway, I hope I can count on a certain level of security but for quite a few years now, we are all well aware that islam is an explosive topic. Blasphemic pun intended.
I don’t know how much my Mother knows about Blasphemy, however I know that she doesn’t know much about islam, but she certainly is aware that it can be lethal to take a public stance that is even remotely challenging it. So, in my opinion, she knows pretty much everything there is to know about islam. I’m no expert on islam theology either, I’ve read the quran and a few hadith but I am no expert on it, I don't want to pretend to be one and I don't think I need to either. If I’m doing this it's because I think it is the right thing to do despite the risks, despite the fear.
Ever since I have learned about Ayaan Hirsi Ali, I'm convinced Ex-muslims have the voice of reason we should all pay attention to in conversations like those about religious ideologies and immigration. During the past few years, I witnessed the development of an Ex-muslims movement that has bloomed around the whole world. I contacted Cemal about 2 years ago, as soon as I had been made aware of the existence of the Ex-muslims of Norway organization I was waiting for without knowing it. Naively, I thought critics of islam could finally dodge some accusations of racism, I was wrong about that. Anyway, I wanted to help however possible. I’m a bit of a photographer so I wanted to document their work maybe or I don’t know, help promote them and their message a way or another, not much of that happened but our relationship grew and keeps growing.
For some reason, Cemal offered me to become a member of the board which I accepted self-justifying it is using a loophole in muslim scriptures: Apart from muslims, we're all Ex-muslims. Later, he asked me if I would like to be part of a panel of infidels and participate to a discussion in front of an audience when I asked him why? He answered "Because you’re a good atheist". I don’t know if that is true or what that even mean, really, but I couldn’t find the strength to turn down his invitation and coming from him, I take it as a compliment.
To be perfectly honest, I’d rather not be in this position but I accepted because I think I don’t have a choice in order to stay true to myself and to live by my opinions, values and ideals. I believe that Freedom of conscience and Freedom of speech are fundamental individual ones. To me, ANY ideology that tries to limit those is ill intended at its core and so I insist that we have to be able to question and/or challenge absolutely everything but especially the sources of the authority some claim to have over others.
When I was younger in France, I used to read Charlie Hebdo often. A friend of mine would buy it every week and I would read them all when I was going to his home. I would certainly give them credit for shaping a lot of the humanist views I hold today and I think they achieved that by treating everybody the exact same way even if only with an absolute irreverence. I have been fairly traumatized by what happened to them. It made me feel extremely sad, desperate and angry. The top of my anger was reached because of a certain type of people. People who, when discussing the tragic events, would find a way to argue that "they asked for it", "we knew this was going to happen". To those people I want to ask: "You knew, and you did nothing to even try to prevent it?" I mean, I certainly knew there was a risk for it to happen and Charlie Hebdo's people definitely knew, but I had hope France was a country where the right to challenge authorities, religious ones included, was a given and to see that Right being so grossly taken away by these fanatics! I thought it would have sparkled an outrage, it should have been a wake-up call. In our cultural luggage, we have the Enlightenments, the Revolution, the law on Laicity, the resistance to the nazis... and the french are generally proud of that heritage... I believed it was part of our culture, but I was forced to realize that it is obviously not the case if we are not even able to condemn such atrocity as it should nor if we can’t even question the ideology that is used to justify it by the perpetrators themselves.
I don't know how this became the norm, but we want to tell you that it shouldn’t be like that. Not in France, not in Palestine, not in Saudi Arabia, not in Turkey, not in Norway. Nowhere.
When Charlie Hebdo published the Danish cartoons, which sparkled the outrage that culminated in their summary execution, they were not "looking for trouble". They were showing solidarity to the Danish cartoonists who were already in trouble. They were showing us how to fight the ideology that had been threatening them for so long. They were doing what our leaders have been telling us to do systematically after each and every islamic terrorist attacks: They kept living as usual, they kept doing what they always did, what they were supposedly free to do and it got them killed.
So, when I decide to stand with my fellow Ex-muslims and share the stories they have to tell, I’m not "looking for trouble", I only want to show solidarity with people who are already in trouble. We are not "looking for trouble", we found trouble, or trouble found us. Either way if we want to tackle yet another fascist ideology as our ancestors did time and time again in the past. We have to stand united against it and we have to show it or else, they already won.
By reacting so strongly to criticism and disbelief, religions in general but islam in particular tell us what they fear the most and that, without the shadow of a doubt, has to be their weakness. If we want to fight extremism of all colors, the best weapon is our Freedom of speech. If we have any, we ought to use it to question, challenge and denounce anyone who pretends to have authority over us. Those who claim to get a legitimate authority from god but tell me to shut up when I ask about that god or how they know what he wants? Those are the very ones convincing me the most that all the things they claim to be or to believe in, is nothing more than utter bullshit, all of it, and I can’t just stop saying this when I see all the wrongdoings in the world that are inspired by it or justified by it.
Morgan Flament-Wallin / Board member of EX-MN