In Holland, a group of brave young former Muslims has taken a stand – dare I say declared a jihad? – against the de rigueur of Islamic intolerance.
The Committee for Ex-Muslims promises to campaign for freedom of religion but has already upset the Islamic and political Establishments for stirring tensions among the million-strong Muslim community in the Netherlands.
Ehsan Jami, the committee’s founder, who rejected Islam after the attack on the twin towers in 2001, has become the most talked-about public figure in the Netherlands. He has been forced into hiding after a series of death threats and a recent attack.
The Netherlands, in addition to being home base for this site, has also been home to some high-profile slayings related to criticism of the Islamic religion, notably Theo Van Gogh, a film maker whose films were unflattering to Muslims. Clearly Jami would be right to take the threats seriously.
Mr. Jami, a 22-year-old local councilor and member of the socialist Labor Party (PvdA) in the Dutch town of Leidschendam, says:
"Sharia schools say that they will kill the ones who leave Islam. In the West people get threatened, thrown out of their family, beaten up,” Mr Jami said. “In Islam you are born Muslim. You do not even choose to be Muslim. We want that to change, so that people are free to choose who they want to be and what they want to believe in.”
Mr Jami, 22, who has abandoned his studies as his political career has taken off, denied that the choice of September 11 was deliberately provocative towards the Islamic Establishment. “We chose the date because we want to make a clear statement that we no longer tolerate the intolerence of Islam, the terrorist attacks,” he said.
“In 1965 the Church in Holland made a declaration that freedom of conscience is above hanging on to religion, so you can choose whether you are going to be a Christian or not. What we are seeking is the same thing for Islam.”
And rightly so. No religion, no cabal of any kind, can be allowed to demand life-long obedience to its creeds as a condition of retaining one’s life.
In this the question of the religion’s value is irrelevant: individuals determine the course of their lives at their own discretion, for good or ill, and no other has a legitimate right to interfere using force as a weapon.
Even those tolerance atheists and agnostics who wish to accommodate Islam’s harsher dictates cannot deny the fundamental problem that Jami, at great personal risk, is attempting to address.
So far Jami seems to be having a bit of a problem gaining widespread support.
His outspoken attack on radical Islam has led to a prelaunch walk-out from fellow committee founder Loubna Berrada, who herself rejected Islam.
She said: “I don’t wish to confront Islam itself. I only want to spread the message that Muslims should be allowed to leave Islam behind without being threatened.”
Jannie Groen, a writer for De Volksrant newspaper, said: “[Among Muslims] he is getting the same reaction as Ayaan Hirsi Ali that he is too confrontational but you are seeing other former Muslims now coming forward. So he has been able to put this issue of apostasy on the agenda, even though they do not want to be in the same room as him and he has had to pay a price.”
I know little about Mr. Jami and his reputation in his home country. That said, it does seem like he is pursuing a noble goal, that of giving options to a generation of people, some of whom have had no option but to remain active practitioners of a religion they have come to despise.
Cross-posted at The Van Der Galien Gazette.