Sunday, November 13, 2005
Douglas Murray introduces Afshin Ellian
On 2nd November 2004 the Dutch film-maker Theo van Gogh was slaughtered on the streets of Amsterdam. His murder – the second killing in Holland of an outspoken critic of Islam – horrified Dutch society.
Many of those who have criticised Islam now live in hiding or under armed guard. Others have stopped writing or speaking on the subject of Islam and extremism - understandably terrified into silence. No one wants to be the next Pim Fortuyn or van Gogh.
But if people do not speak out, and if writers do not write then the terrorists have won. If the freedoms – foremost among them the freedom of speech - which our societies hold so dear are just given up, or simply not exercised, then the terrorists win a victory far beyond the imagination of their disgusting jihad.
Fortunately, the West still has people like Afshin Ellian - one of our most erudite, brilliant and wise minds. Along with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, he remains, at considerable personal risk, one of the few brave individuals still willing to tell truths to our society and to those within our society who stay here, yet despise us so much.
Ellian's work - rightly famed in Holland - has not so far reached a wider audience, largely because there have been no published translations in English of his vital and forthright columns. What follows is a selection of those columns, translated by Benjamin Bilski - a colleague of Ellian's at the University of Leiden – principally relating to the murder of van Gogh.
And Ellian's writing shares something with van Gogh's work. Foremost is the belief that freedom of speech includes asserting the right to criticise, rage and laugh at the absurdities and evil of a group whose intent it is to close debate down, and whose wishes for precisely that reason, we must not only not gratify – but go out of our way not to gratify.
After van Gogh's murder many people who should have spoken out stayed silent. It is a pleasure to honour van Gogh's memory by bringing to the notice of an English-speaking audience, one of the few who saw that that barbaric act was a reason not to become quiet, but to speak up louder than ever, and with an abundance of the humour, intelligence and humanity which our opponents so conspicuously lack.
If the battle against Islamic extremism is to be won it will be won to a great extent by the pen – and there are few pens wiser or mightier than Ellian's.
Douglas Murray is a bestselling author and freelance journalist. His forthcoming book - Neoconservatism: Why We Need It - will be published later this month by the Social Affairs Unit. To read Douglas Murray's own essay on the van Gogh murder, see The Murder of Theo van Gogh, Reaction to the Killing and the Threat of Radical Islam.
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