Monday, May 01, 2006

Writing Can Get You Murdered

I was thinking about my plagiarism rant the other day, when I came across a Yahoo! News story regarding Dutch Muslim Hirsi Ali.

If you haven't heard of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, then more than likely you've heard of Theo van Gogh, the Dutch filmmaker who was shot to death on the streets of Amsterdam by Mohammed Bouyeri, a Dutch Muslim who was part of a group upset at van Gogh's directing of Ali's short film, "Submission." Bouyeri shot van Gogh eight times, then for added good measure, slit his throat, stabbed him in the chest, and left two knives lodged there, one of which pinned a five-page manifesto from Bouyeri's group, the Hofstad Network. The note text can be found here.


Partly because "Submission" was a short piece written in regards to the violence that can follow Muslim women. The piece showed passages unfavorable to women from the Koran. In the film, the words were projected on a woman's semi-naked body, a woman who had just been beaten and raped by a relative. The film's purpose was to expose the treatment of Muslim women, and hopefully begin a dialogue to change certain tenets of the Muslim faith, a Muslim Reformation, if you will.

After van Gogh's death (he was the great-grandson of Theodore van Gogh, artist Vincent van Gogh's brother), Ali went into hiding for fear of her own life. Her story is one of a Somali woman who was pawned off in marriage by her politician father to a Canadian cousin. Instead of going to Canada, Ali made her way to the Netherlands, eventually becoming an atheist, an outspoken critic of Islam and urger of reform, and a member of the Dutch Parliament. She has written several books, and a new one, The Caged Virgin : An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam, comes out tomorrow while Ali is coming to the States to promote her work. A work that can literally get her killed, maybe with a few knives stuck in her chest or maybe something else even more heinous just to make a point.

Whatever one may feel about Ali and her work, whether it's too over the top, unbalanced or one-sided, at least she speaks out regardless of the danger to her own self and safety. Which sorta brings me back to my original rant about plagiarism.

Writing can get you murdered.
Writing can get you hunted.
Writing can topple goverments and cause powerful men to fall.

Wrecking the sanctity of writing and getting published and telling a story by fabricating or stealing other people's stuff is like betraying all the writers who died risking their necks to make people free or convince people of another way. So when I personally hear of people plagiarising (and truthfully getting hundreds of thousands of dollars to do so), it gets my hackles up.

Not all writing is sacred or even good (hey, I'm a case in point), nor here nor there. But I figure if it gets to the point that you are published in a book or a journal or even on the web, then it better be original and it better be yours or it better be attributed, cause writing can get you murdered and ultimately, that's no laughing matter.

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