Not the first time

Maryam Namazie: Theo van Gogh, a film director and journalist, was assassinated in broad daylight in Amsterdam on November 2. He was repeatedly stabbed and his throat slit. They say his assassin has “radical Islamic fundamentalist convictions”. There is a debate on whether this is the act of an individual or the political Islamic movement. Why have you said it is political Islam?

Azar Majedi: This is not the first time we’ve seen that someone who has criticised Islam has been murdered. Political Islam has been massacring, torturing, executing and beheading people for the exact same thing in the Middle East, in Iran under the Islamic Republic of Iran, Afghanistan, the Sudan, and so on. Even when they are not in power but they have political voice in the opposition – they do the same with their opponents e.g. Algeria is a good example. And we’ve seen what has happened in the west lately, e.g. 9/11. This is the method of political Islam – terrorising people. Terror and intimidation are the only methods they have for gaining power. Here we have a typical classic case of someone criticising Islam, exposing its misogyny, and being threatened a number of times and then killed. And ‘coincidentally’ the person who killed him is said to have ‘has fundamentalist convictions’ – the code word for someone who adheres to political Islam. That is why I have said this is another murder by political Islam, which has to be condemned.

Maryam Namazie: You’ve said this has happened before. You yourself know many friends and comrades who have been killed and assassinated by the political Islamic movement. As you said, it is nothing new, is it?

Azar Majedi: No it’s not. Actually just a week ago, I had a programme in commemoration of Gholam Keshavarz, a good comrade and friend of mine who was assassinated by the Islamic regime of Iran in Cyprus 13 years ago for opposing political Islam, being a communist, a socialist, and atheist. The regime sent agents outside of Iran with an elaborate and detailed plan to assassinate him. This is only one example of what political Islam has done to people in Iran, in the Middle East, North Africa and now to people in the west. What they are trying to do in the west – both in Islamic communities and in the society at large – is increasing more and more every year.

Maryam Namazie: You have said in a previous statement: ‘He was murdered because he cared and dared to expose the inherent misogyny in and the brutal nature of Islam. An act, which sadly, nowadays calls for great courage, due to advancements of political Islam and the rise in religion’s influence in the society.’ We are getting reports that he was a racist and that he didn’t separate people from the ideology or religion. For example, in an interview, with the Cultuur magazine he said: “I like to insult people with a purpose. I want to warn against the fifth column here in the Netherlands that tries to corrode our way of life.” According to the Guardian newspaper (04/11/04) Theo van Gogh previously described Muslims in a derogatory manner. Do you think he really cared and dared and was courageous? I would say you are courageous.

Azar Majedi: I must admit when I heard the news I did not know Theo van Gogh and had not read anything by him. I read and found out that he had criticised Islam and made a film, which exposed Islam’s misogyny. This, the news of the death threats he had received, the method of murder, and the letter found on his body all made it clear to me that he was murdered by political Islam. I became furious and saw it as my duty to categorically condemn this crime and call upon all free thinkers and freedom loving people to do the same. If we do not raise our voice against this reactionary movement, if we do not stand firm, political Islam will continue to terrorize the society and make even more advances. Therefore, I described him as courageous. I must say that unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, his writings are not translated into English. Later I found out that he had made many racist and derogatory comments about Jews, Moslems, feminists, and so on.

Having said that, this murder must nonetheless be categorically condemned for many reasons. First of all, this is a murder. And any decent human being is against the murder and killing of human beings. Second, if it is not condemned, we are giving Islamists a green light to go ahead with their terror and intimidation. Thirdly, if this murder is not dealt with in a right and progressive manner, it will add fuel to the racism that already exists in the society. Racists are going to use this as an excuse to terrorize immigrants and incite racial hatred – something we are witnessing in the Netherlands.

I would like to make one point clear. Criticising Islam, ridiculing it, no matter how harshly, falls within the concept of freedom of expression and criticism, and is not racist. However, insulting people by reference to their religion or race is racist. We need to make this distinction very clearly because we find tendencies among the left who consider criticism of Islam as racist. Islamophobia is an invented concept by Islamists and their apologists, a concept that condemns any criticism of Islam as a racist act. I believe Islamophobia is as hypocritical as it is reactionary. We should raise the banner of unconditional freedom of expression and criticism.

The above is an International TV ( interview dated November 7, 2004.

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