Firoozeh Bazrafkan’s Passion For Freedom: The Elite Censor The Artist Scared Of Islamism
WHO is speaking truth to power? Nick Cohen writes:
If you listen to artists, writers, academics and journalists, you would think that thousands of them operate in a radical underground. They say the right things. They ‘speak truth to power’, ‘transgress boundaries’, and all the rest of it. But you will have noticed that they are careful only to challenge religions that won’t hurt them (Christianity) and governments that won’t arrest them (democracies).
He goes on to talk of a who by Iranian-born artist Firoozeh Bazrafkan. You might not like her. But you have to admit she’s not easily intimidated. This how she celebrates the Iranian Revolution:
In September, she was convicted of racism:
Firoozeh Bazrafkan was charged with racism after writing in a blog entry, published in Jyllands-Posten newspaper in December 2011, that she was “very convinced that Muslim men around the world rape, abuse and kill their daughters”.
She added: “This is, according to my understanding as a Danish-Iranian, the result of a defective and inhumane culture – if you can even call it a culture at all. But you can say, I think, that it is a defective and inhumane religion whose textbook, the Koran, is more immoral, deplorable and crazy than manuals of the two other global religions combined.”
Fined 5,000 kroner fine, or five days in prison, she said:
“The court argued that what I wrote about Muslim men was condescending and a generalisation,” Bazrafkan told The Copenhagen Post. “But that’s unfair, because there are many Islamic codes that are being used by Islamic men to justify their actions against women and children.”
She argues that she was not accusing all Muslim men of using Islamic codes to justify horrific acts against women, only that violence against women and children was often excused by citing Islam.
“It’s not the same thing. For example, Muslims around the world protested at the Mohammed cartoons, and doctors around the world misdiagnose patients, but not all Muslims protested, and not all doctors misdiagnose.”
She added: “It’s idiotic to suggest that I think that all Muslim men are rapists.”
Why did she write what she did?
“I wrote it as an artistic manifesto to show that we cannot say what we want and we cannot criticise Islamic regimes. I wanted to show Lars support because, as a Danish Iranian, I know what a big problem Islamic regimes are in both Iran and the Middle East. These Islamic codes give men the rights to do whatever they want to women and children and I think it’s disgusting. They also prevent people in Iran from discussing and saying what they want. This is what I wanted to criticise.”
“I have also been critical of Judaism and Christianity but I was born in Iran as a Muslim. I have family members in Iran who don’t have the same democratic rights and freedom to express their anger as I do. I do my best to get the point out in my artwork and installations because I want to criticise the Iranian regime my way. If I want to be angry, I should have the right to be angry and call the Islamic regime anything I want. The state shouldn’t go in and take my rights. My point is that I want to give men and women the rights to write whatever they want, I don’t care if it’s stupid or well formulated, people should just have the right to say what they want so long as they don’t threaten other people.”
Free speech. Why should the authorities chose what the rest of us can say? What is the purpose of the Leveson Inquiry other than to seek a way to curtail free speech? Having targeted those nasty tabloids, David Cameron then threatened the Guardian:
“We have a free press, it’s very important the press feels it is not pre-censored from what it writes and all the rest of it. The approach we have taken is to try to talk to the press and explain how damaging some of these things can be and that is why the Guardian did actually destroy some of the information and disks that they have. But they’ve now gone on and printed further material which is damaging. I don’t want to have to use injunctions or D notices or the other tougher measures. I think it’s much better to appeal to newspapers’ sense of social responsibility. But if they don’t demonstrate some social responsibility it would be very difficult for government to stand back and not to act.”
Outraged? You should be. Freedom is not one-sided. You can’t pick who gets to talk freely. You’re either for it or you are not. No buts.
When Islamist Dr Zakir Naik was banned from visiting the UK by the Home Secretary, it was also a bad day for free speech. This is how the Times billed Naik:
Zakir Naik, an Indian televangelist described as a “hate-monger” by moderate Muslims and one Tory MP, says western women make themselves “more susceptible to rape” by wearing revealing clothing. Naik, who proselytises on Peace TV, a satellite television channel, is reported to have called for the execution of Muslims who change their faith, described Americans as “pigs” and said that “every Muslim should be a terrorist”. In a recent lecture, he said he was “with” Osama Bin Laden over the attacks on “terrorist America”, adding that the 9/11 hijackings were an inside job by President George W Bush.
“The pig is the most shameless animal on the face of the Earth. It is the only animal that invites its friends to have sex with its mate. In America, most people consume pork. Many times after dance parties, they have swapping of wives. Many say, ‘You sleep with my wife and I will sleep with your wife’. If you eat pigs then you behave like pigs.”
He went on to deliver a speech to Oxford Union via video link from India. Good. Let him talk. Allow him to debate in the open.
So. To Firoozeh Bazrafkan. And how her show in London has been cancelled:
The exhibition was to open at London’s Unit 24 gallery, near Tate Modern, last Saturday. Unit 24, which boasts on its website that it is ‘fiercely independent’, pulled out with only days to go. In emails to the organisers, Unit 24 offered various justifications for wrecking a show that had taken months to arrange. ‘Enemies of the exhibition’ had made threats, and it was worried about a ‘potential terrorist attack’. Unit 24 told The Spectator it pulled the show because Passion for Freedom could not provide insurance and security.
Passion For Freedom billed its show on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Denmark, operated by the The Embassy of Denmark in the United Kingdom:
What brings radical artists together from around the world? Where are the activists in the fight for women’s rights? Passion for Freedom links together an amazing array of individuals fighting for freedom:
• Firoozeh Bazrafkan – Iranian-Danish artist – recently fined for insulting Muslim men in Denmark.
• Ai Wei Wei – Chinese artist, spent 81 days in detention in China, famed for the sunflower seed-exhibition at the Tate Modern and movie “Never Sorry”.
• Sarah Maple – Iranian-British artist, named by Saatchi Gallery and Channel 4 “UK’s most exciting and imaginative talent” in 2007.
• Deeyah – Norwegian film director and music producer, made a documentary “Banaz A Love Story” which recently won an Emmy Award.
• Mehdi-Georges Lahlou – French-Moroccan artist, started his career causing outrage in Morocco by projecting Koran and Bible verses onto his naked body, his works can be seen in the galleries around the world.
• Johann Van der Dong’s PO Box to Allah – an artist who is banned from their country Holland and no gallery is brave enough to exhibit their artworks.
The answer comes in the form of a small idealistic group of friends – all in London. Touched by the plight of their kind around the world they dream of giving basic human rights to every woman and man on the planet. They frame three questions as a call to action through art – and have been overwhelmed by the response:
What is freedom?
How easy is it to lose it?
How hard is it to get it back?
Passion For Freedom will launch its fifth exhibition and competition on 2nd November 2013 – along with the winners.
This year Passion for Freedom will present the work of 34 artists’ from 13 countries: Denmark, Brazil, Canada, USA, UK, Poland, Ireland, Belgium, France, Germany, China, Holland, and Afghanistan. The youngest artist is 16 years old, the oldest is 76.
For security purposes the first day of the festival will be open to those who hold an invitation only. If you would like to be part of the private view then please get in touch with the organisers of the festival.
What is the aim of Passion For Freedom?
Create space for artists and writers who discuss subjects omitted in politically correct circles.
Unit24 Gallery supports independent artists from all around the world and considers the right to freedom of speech and expression absolutely vital.
But the show was cancelled. She was censored by force. Then what? Was there outrage?
There was no secret about its decision. But not one of the arts correspondents for the broadsheets or BBC covered the threat to an international exhibition featuring the work of dozens of artists. I have argued many times that censorship is at its most effective when no one admits it exists. The first step to freeing yourself from oppressive power is to find the courage to admit that you are afraid. The more people confess to being afraid, the less reason there is to fear and the easier it is to isolate repressive forces.
If you’re not appalled, you should be.