I’ve been meaning to touch on this topic in a proper post since the inception of this blog, but it’s such an emotionally and ethically loaded one that a starting point has yet to present itself. This is precisely part of the problem: no one should feel, on any topic, like they need to wait for the driftwood of an affirmation or like-mindedness to come their way in order to safely enter the currents. As Nawaz expresses here, in regard to the topic of Islamism, “those who shout the loudest are dominating the discourse,” and giving credence to voices in proportion to the level of outrage, anger or offense expressed, is a perfect strategy to steer us away from what should be the heart and focus of the discussion. It illegitimizes voices and discourages participation (dialogue) on the grounds of proportionate authority, and who, I ask you, grants this authority? To ask this is essential, always and without special clause.
Everyone, it’s true to say, holds a unique position in conversations like these, but likewise this should truly not have to be said. Never, never should it be taken to such extremes as censure, and worse still. “The Voldemort Effect” as outlined by Nawaz is not exclusive to the topic of Islamic extremism and Jihad, but it is here that it is the most pronounced, of most consequence at present to us societally and globally, and which most tempts declarations by supposed moderates and liberals about whom has the right to speak on – no – mention it. We each must recognize our respective positions in any discussion, and not hesitate to defer to those whose relationship to the given issues therein is more intimate, informed and pivotal to progress, as is Nawaz’s, Raif Badawi’s, Sarah Haider‘s among others, but we also musn’t render any topic off limits. Criticize what is said in discussion; do not criticize the right to discussion itself. If you’re critique extends, in any way, to the right of free speech, you yourself are the most deserving of criticism. Tolerance of intolerance is just intolerance, as Harris, Hirsi Ali, and many others have said. No idea has more authority than what we allow, and Islamism is one resplendent with intolerance. There’s not a single one among us who should be disallowed from saying it.
Islam and the Future of Tolerance: A Dialogue releases online and in bookstores next month.