An Islamist group called for a Muslim lesbian author to be killed and invaded a discussion on Islam in Amsterdam last week.
A December 8 debate, which included the Canadian Muslim lesbian author Irshad Manji and MP Tofik Dibi on a panel, was disrupted when extremists from the group Sharia4Belgium stormed the event, held at the De Balie theater in Amsterdam. The mob threw eggs and called for Manji’s neck to be broken.
The group of about 20 men and boys arrived halfway through the evening, chanted slogans and pelted the audience with eggs. A police mobile unit had to be called to eject the rioters, and two Belgian men aged 19 and 22 were arrested.
The people who disrupted the debate were members of the Belgian group Sharia4Belgium, an offshoot of Sharia4Holland. Irshad Manji has experienced death threats for several years since her outspoken attack on traditional Islam in her book The Trouble with Islam Today.
Dibi is a young, gay Dutch-Moroccan GreenLeft (GroenLinks) MP. In September, he launched a campaign calling on Muslims around the world to stop blindly following decrees issued by a handful of extremists, and to start thinking for themselves.
Manji was in Europe to promote her new book, Allah, Liberty and Love. She says that the key teaching of the book is “moral courage, the willingness to speak up when everyone else wants to shut you up.”
The mob made clear that they felft that Dibi and Manji had no right to talk about Islam because they were too liberal, said Dibi. When the riot started, the audience made efforts to protect both speakers.
“What was really nice to see, and I have never seen, was that the whole audience stood up for us. And we have said, while they were shouting: ‘We will not move. We do not go off the stage, we continue to stand here. You only have to listen to us. And if you do not like to hear us speak, then you zapping’” said Dibi.
I never felt afraid. Not once. Neither did Tofik. In fact, all of us refused to leave, even when police asked. We wouldn’t play on Jihadi terms. Some things are simply more important than fear.
The disruption shows that even in the Netherlands it is necessary to continue the debate on reforming Islam.
Watch: Manji and Dibi talk on Dutch television program Pauw & Witteman about the incident:
Irshad Manji picture by now_photos