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SilencedHow Apostasy and Blasphemy Codes are Choking Freedom Worldwide$
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Paul Marshall and Nina Shea

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199812264

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199812264.001.0001

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Enforcement by Violence and Intimidation

Enforcement by Violence and Intimidation

(p.259) 13 Enforcement by Violence and Intimidation

Paul Marshall

Nina Shea

Oxford University Press

While blasphemy laws are dangerous, a more pervasive and deeper problem is threats and violence against those accused of insulting Islam. Those targeted include not only politicians but also Muslims living in the West, converts from Islam, and others who are intentionally outspoken, attempting to reform ideas, or simply careless with words. Violent intimidation is becoming familiar in Western society, especially in some Muslim communities, where threats of violence follow words and actions are deemed “insulting to Islam.” The gruesome 2004 murder of Dutch director Theo Van Gogh, and related death threats against Somali-born ex-Muslim Ayaan Hirsi Ali, powerfully illustrate this growing trend. The murderer, Mohammed Bouyeri, was not enraged for any purely personal reasons. Instead, he declared, “From now on, this will be the punishment for anyone in this land who challenges and insults Allah and his messengers.” Western states still remain a relative haven for free debate, for voices of Islamic reform, and for those with unorthodox views of Islam but they stand at a crossroads between robust defense of free speech and a flaccid response to the persistent encroachment of anti-blasphemy restrictions, whether imposed through legislation, or enforced outside the reach of law by radical vigilantes.

Keywords:   vigilantism, intimidation, chilling effect, death threats, Theo Van Gogh, Hirsi Ali

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