Is Freedom Subjective?
On March 14th, Ehsan Jami, a politician in the Netherlands, was in Denmark to accept the Danish Free Press award. What follows below his is speech at that event.
Before you watch it, here’s some background on Mr. Jami. He is a former Muslim, a naturalized Dutch citizen, and the co-founder of the Central Committee for Ex-Muslims.
Ehsan Jami was born in Iran, to an upper-class family, in 1985. His father was a doctor and politically active, which forced the family out of the country. They landed in the Netherlands when Mr. Jami was nine years old.
It wasn’t until after 9/11 that he began to read the holy books of Islam. His father was nominally Muslim and his mother was a Christian. As he began to question the tenets of Islam, he says the greatest gift his family gave him was the freedom to ask questions and to choose. He found Islam unacceptable; at some point he identified himself as an atheist.
By 2007, having gone public with his denunciation of Islam, he was aggressive in his founding of the Committee for ex-Muslims.
In late 2008, Mr. Jami made the infamous film “An Interview with Mohammed”, which you can see here.
Predictably, he was beaten up, threatened with death, and lives in hiding. He quit school. Because of the large immigrant student population, Ehsan Jami is not safe, as Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Geert Wilders are not safe.
Here is his speech on March 14th, at the Danish Free Press Society’s award ceremony:
Ehsan Jami from Snaphanen on Vimeo.
Mr. Jami says many things you’ve heard before; perhaps sentiments you have expressed yourself. However, I trust you are not in hiding, or living in the presence of bodyguards because of saying these things.
I won’t go through the whole thing, but there were several points he made that struck me, coming as they do from someone who was born and raised in Mashhad, Iran. Next to Mecca, this is the holiest city of the Shi’ite Muslims. His has been a long path to Copenhagen.
Most of what I say will be paraphrases; I’m not fast at dictation so I took some short-cuts, some of which I had trouble deciphering afterwards. But I think I did get the gist of what Mr. Jami wanted to get across to his audience and to us.
These are the things he said which most stood out for me. They may not be what you find most memorable, but I’d like to hear from people about that: what stood out for you?
Before beginning his speech, he dedicated his award to his mother, expressing his gratitude to her for allowing him to decide his own religious path. After the government put him under security, it was she who came to visit him. You can hear how isolated he felt.
Mr., Jami does not regret the path he has taken. Even if he had known what was to happen, he would still do it again. For him, freedom is an empty word; it exists for people. Thus, he must act.
He thinks the current system in the Netherlands is “dysfunctional”. Paraphrasing, he says:
“They have freedom of speech in Parliament but if a journalist asks you what you said, telling him is against the law. How insane is that?”
Hamas uses “freedom” all the time. Mullahs use it. Ahmadinejad talks about it. But groups like the Free Press Society are fighting for freedom.
Mr. Jami then asks: But is freedom objective? Is it subjective?
They say every terrorist is a freedom fighter after all [laughter]
I don’t believe that, of course.
Freedom has no color or age.
Freedom is what reminds us that we are all born free men.
We are free men to decide what the course of our life will be, not the government.
We are free to decide if we will marry, how many children we will have, what religion we will believe in.
Gay or straight, no shame, no hiding from what we are.
In other words, freedom of religion is a freedom of expression.
Freedom of religious expression is under attack in Europe. In Holland, 60% of Muslims say they want to use violence against those who leave Islam. That’s 60,000 Muslims who want to use violence against ex-Muslims…
I don’t want to play with words.
I refuse to say that my fight is against radical Islam…there is no radical Islam. There is only Islam. No radical Muslims, only Muslims
You can’t change a book, especially a holy book, but you can change people.
I know six hundred people in my country who changed. And people in the world are changing their minds about what liberty and religion mean. The numbers are growing.
We are the enemy. Look in the mirror. It is you, me, us. We are sleeping while they are making plans. In order to stabilize the world we should strike preemptively.
A lot of people criticize Bush. But he liberated people. We thank him. [applause] For thirty-five years before him we heard “negotiate”. They made bombs. Enough is enough. As Europe, as NATO, declare war on Iran and liberate the people.
Iran will nuke Israel.
One thing is as clear to me as the blue sky: we cannot depend on the government.
Freedom of expression means toleration of a great deal of nonsense and bad taste. I once said Mohammed could be compared to Osama bin Laden. They considered it a great compliment. Here, it was wrong to say.
They abuse our laws and turn them against us. They use terrorism and threats.
It is not negotiable. If they don’t assimilate, they can leave. If they won’t leave, we will kick them out.
Does any of that sound familiar? How would his words go down in your country? Would he be harassed, sneered at, jailed and silenced? What college in your country would invite him to speak?
He’s right: we need to look in the mirror to find the problem. And then what?