Commentary Magazine


The New Dissidents

Over the past few weeks the German media and culture portal Sign and Sight has played host to an impassioned argument (featuring Pascal Bruckner, Ian Buruma, Timothy Garton Ash, and others) over the conflict between Islam and the West, the nature of Enlightenment political thought and religious tolerance, and the duty of European governments to protect the Muslim dissidents in their midst. Ulrike Ackermann enters the fray today with a fascinating essay, in which she makes a trenchant point:

Whereas the freedom-loving dissidents in Central Europe were considered “trouble-makers of detente” between East and West, today’s dissidents of Islam like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Taslima Nasrin, Irshad Manji, Necla Kelek (more) or Seyran Ates (more) fall into disgrace because their criticism purportedly disrupts the dialogue of cultures. Their passionate defence of self-determinism and freedom of the individual against a domesticating religious collective deserves vocal support, which Pascal Bruckner offers for the “rebels of the Islamic world.” For who else can initiate self-reflection and reform in Islam, if not these courageous dissidents?

The whole piece is eminently worth reading.