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The Battle That Dare Not Speak Its Name: 48 Hours in the Life of an Anti-Islamist

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Posted on April 14 2011 9:08 pm
Phyllis Chesler is an Emerita Professor of Psychology and Women's Studies at City University of New York. For extended biography visit The Phyllis Chesler Organization.

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The information is in and I don’t like it one bit. On the other hand, if one remains flexible, realistic, and calm and persists in telling the truth, one may also prevail.

I am talking about the hoops one has to jump through in order to be heard on any subject having to do with Islam.

I am not talking about the Danish Mohammed cartoon controversy, the criminal trials of the heroically determined Dutchman, Geert Wilders, or the unexpectedly great Austrian, Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff. I am not even talking about Lars Hedegaard of the Danish Free Speech Society, who was put on trial for making “racist” statements about Muslims, Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, or Lars Vilks, the Swedish cartoonist, who has required 24-hour protection. I am not even talking about the high-profile and world-class beauty, Aayan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-Dutch-American feminist anti-Islamist.

Nor am I talking about Random House’s 2008 decision to renege on its contract to publish “The Jewel of Medina,” a novel about Mohammed’s wife Aisha—and all because a single professor suggested via e-mail that the book “might lead to violence”—or about the Yale University Press 2009 decision to omit the Danish cartoons from a book they published about the Danish cartoon controversy; they did not even bother to tell the author.

No, I am not talking about any of this. I am only talking about what happened to me personally in the course of one 24-48 hour period.

A deservedly popular network radio program asked to interview me—but then begged me to “work with them” because they are being closely monitored in terms of their “Islamic” content. “Please be sure to say something like ‘Many Muslims are moderate,’ or ‘All Muslims are not jihadists.’” I assured him that I usually say these kinds of things anyway because I believe them—but still, a cold wind blew across my grave.

A distinguished American government publication had previously interviewed me at great length and very respectfully about honor killings. The editors ultimately asked me to participate in a debate about whether coverage of honor killings in the West “stigmatizes” Muslims. I said it did not—that if anyone was “stigmatized” it was Hindus, whose India-based honor killings are covered by the same American mainstream media which will not cover Muslim honor killings in America. Guess what? When they sent me the final version for my approval I saw that they had dropped the word “Muslim” before “honor killings” and had added a sentence that softened what I had to say about such Muslim-on-Muslim crimes. I immediately re-inserted the word “Muslim” and hope that the piece sees the light of day as I wrote it.

I believe it will. I did not raise my voice or lose patience. Calmly but firmly, I re-inserted my own words and once more explained why they were logically necessary.

But I did wonder: To what extent have the Saudis bought up our government media? Or are the same-old-same-old “politically correct” speech code censorship regulations operating behind the scenes without benefit of legislation?

Finally, on the same day, a magazine commissioned me to write a piece about honor killings but the editor asked me to “try to be balanced so that his bosses will approve the piece more easily.” I pointed out that it was an opinion piece, not a news item. I wrote the piece. It is slated to run—but alongside a piece which will oppose my point of view.

The message is clear: Either steer clear of all Muslim subjects or write only positive things about Islam. At the very least, be prepared to have a companion piece which differs from your own, not in the next issue, but right alongside you, speaking over you, as you speak. Be prepared to have to “debate” as the price for being able to present your own arguments.

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