Is it becoming an oxymoron? A Muslim journalist vents here:

The writer in a Muslim society is in shackles. Every time I put pen to paper it is a struggle against the tyranny of community-imposed self-censorship. Nowhere is Rousseau's statement that "Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains," truer than in the House of Islam.

Everything is a taboo. Whenever a Muslim writer takes up a pen he starts tiptoeing in a minefield. You have to follow the flag signs of religious, cultural and social taboos. You should tread carefully avoid shame, social estrangement or even death.

The beheading of the Sudanese journalist Mohamed Taha Mohamed Ahmed in early September was the latest example of community punishment of a journalist/writer...

In the House of Islam, you cannot have a principle other than that of the community. Every thing you do is referred to Islam. The mantra is "that's stupid BUT ... But we cannot do this because we are Muslims." One hears this expression ad nauseam. In the Islamic world you cease to be a human being. You become only a Muslim, whatever that entails.

You are not allowed to be a person with vices and virtues, you cannot follow your own reasoning, and you cannot be unpopular or defend an unpopular idea. You cannot go out of the circle. To express yourself freely means to risk death. And death indeed if you change your faith. Invention itself is considered as an act of blasphemy.

And so the backwardness deepens; and the ressentiment intensifies; and the censorship grows. Somehow we have to reverse this cycle of conformity and fear - there, and, to a mercifully much lesser extent, here.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.