As it happens, it was the Rushdie affair that inspired the book in the first place. The essay writing contest was the idea of the Ammar Abdulhamid, a US-educated Syrian who became disillusioned with radical Islam after the fatwa issued against Rushdie by Iran. He pointed out to the American Islamic Congress that while the Muslim world had vast, well-organised networks of people pushing extremist visions, nobody was doing the same thing for liberal ideas. “What we need is an essay contest on liberty with significant cash prizes,” he said.
Long ago, I learned that “the mere tendency of speech to encourage unlawful acts is not a sufficient reason for banning it” (Ashcroft vs. Free Speech Coalition). But, many incidents over the last decade or so have made me wonder: what if someone is intentionally trying to solicit a violent response to serve a particular political agenda that has nothing to do with freedom? Continue reading →
“To Assad, the rallies spurred by the Islam-bashing film were heaven-sent: they have given credence to his claims that the Arab Spring is at heart an Islamist spring and that al Qaeda and its affiliates will be empowered as a result,” says Ammar Abdulhamid, a Syrian activist based in America. “Meanwhile, the rallies have also distracted international attention from the current mayhem unfolding in Syria, and they might give pause to any calls for intervention.”
Ammar Abduhamid is a liberal Syrian pro-democracy activist whose anti-regime activities led to his exile in September, 2005. He currently lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, with his wife, Khawla Yusuf, and their two children, Oula (b.1986) and Mouhanad (b. 1990). He is the founder of the Tharwa Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting democracy, and is currently a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. His personal blog is the Syrian Revolution Digest. Continue reading →
On October 22-23, the Center for Strategic & International Studies organized a workshop under the title Overcoming Extremism. I took part in the Changing Media Landscape session, alongside Anthony Barnett of openDemocracy, and Kathleen Ridolfo of Radio Free Europe. Here is a recording of the entire session hosted on the ever useful Forat.tv. Hope you enjoy.
It is nice to see science lending some justification to heresy, especially that variety of it that claims to be more objective and rational. I have always observed in the process of my occasional debates with Muslim believers that the Golden Age of Islam in the Middle East coincided by most accounts with the First Abbasid period – a time that witnessed the flourishing of both heresy and traditional faith. Continue reading →