THE HAGUE, 05/06/07 – Labour (PvdA) has been trying to muzzle a young PvdA member who is fighting for the rights and safety of Muslim apostates. An internal memo shows that the party fears the campaign of Ehsan Jami will cause it electoral damage and enrage Muslims.
Jami announced in May he was setting up a Committee for Ex-Muslims. The committee wants to break the taboo on lapsing from the Islamic faith. The 22 year old Jami, himself an apostate of Islam, says many Muslims do not dare to renounce Islam for fear of reprisals, including death.
Jami, who is a PvdA council member in the town of Leidschendam-Voorburg, will launch the committee officially in September with an international press conference. He says he has already had hundreds of e-mails from Muslims from throughout the world who support him. But his own PvdA is trying to muzzle him, it emerges from internal correspondence obtained by newspaper NRC Handelsblad.
‘Progressive’ filmmaker Eddy Terstall, who is active on behalf of the PvdA behind the scenes, spoke with Jami on behalf of the party. An e-mail in which he reported to PvdA MPs and ministers last week on this meeting leaked to NRC Handelsblad.
Terstall writes that attempts to “ideologically encapsulate” Jami within “the line that was discussed beforehand” with PvdA MPs Aleid Wolfsen and Mei Li Vos proceeded “with difficulty.”
The e-mail reveals an attempt to manipulate Jami on 11 points. Terstal advised him to “choose his words more carefully” and take into account the fact that his message could go down badly with the PvdA’s big immigrant following. Terstall concluded with the message that he is prepared to “guide” Jami further.
Jami is supported by philosopher and political commentator Afshin Ellian. NRC Handelsblad quoted MP Wolfsen as saying that Ellian has “a very anti-Islam agenda.” But apart from Ellian, who is an Irani refugee, Jami is “almost exclusively surrounding himself with whites”, which is unwise, Terstal’s email states.
Terstall also revealed that Jami received hate mails from PvdA executives. He suggested that NRC Handelsblad had obtained these emails too. Because the content “exceeds legal boundaries” liable for criminal prosecution, he is “hoping” that the newspaper would not publicise the internal PvdA threats. NRC Handelsblad has not to date done so. The paper did yesterday publish Terstal’s email in full (www.nrc.nl/redactie/binnenland/eddyterstall.pdf).
Terstall acknowledged in a reaction that his intervention was to some extend dubious, but necessary in the party’s interests. “I do not want to rein in Jami’s enthusiasm, but he must be effective. There are words that he uses that act like a red rag to a bull in the Muslim community, which already has little self-confidence.” For other parties, “it is much easier for such a committee to be set up without compromise” because they have fewer Muslim voters.
Terstall also sent the e-mail to Jami himself. Jami said yesterday in NRC Handelsblad and in newspaper De Volkskrant that he is not surprised that his party is trying to ‘guide’ him. “It is typical of the PvdA. They do not seem to be able to deal well with this sort of question.”
Jami compares his situation with that of the meanwhile world-famous Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who switched from PvdA to the conservatives (VVD) at the beginning of her career because she was not allowed by PvdA to speak freely about the emancipation of Islamic women. Jami is however for now refusing to leave the PvdA and will carry on with his committee. “I want to change the party from inside.”