Opinion: "We Have Lost Our Voice"

February 7, 2006

Source: The Guardian


On February 7, 2006 The Guardian ran an opinion piece by Tabish Khair, assistant professor of English at Aarhus University, Denmark. Khair comments, "Like many other moderate Muslims, I too have been silent on these cartoons of the prophet Muhammad and the ensuing protests. Not because I do not have anything to say, but because there is no space left for me either in Denmark or in many Muslim countries. This does not appear so to many Danes. Here the local controversy seems to be raging between two 'Danish Muslim' public figures: Abu Laban, the Copenhagen-based imam who has coordinated much of the protest, and Nasser Khader, a member of the Danish parliament. Khader, liberal, clean-shaven, is posited against the bearded Abu Laban and seen as standing on the side of such 'Danish' values as freedom of speech and democracy. He is supposed to represent sane and democratic Muslims. On the other hand, there is repeated talk of kicking Laban out of the country. In actual fact, of course, both Khader and Laban make it even more difficult for moderate Muslims to be heard... Between the Danish government and Islamist politicians, between Jyllands-Posten and the mobs in Beirut, between Laban and Khader, the moderate Muslim has again been effectively silenced. She has been forced to take this side or that; forced to stay home and let others crusade for a cause dear to her - freedom - and a cultural heritage essential to her: Islam. On TV she sees the bearded mobs rampage and the clean-shaven white men preach. In the clash of civilisations that is being rigorously manufactured, she is in between. And she can feel it getting tighter. She can feel the squeeze. But, of course, she cannot shout. She cannot scream. Come to think of it, can she really express herself at all now?"