Tag Archives: Islamophobia

Where Are The Feminists?

Suffragettes

The release of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s new book ‘Heretic’ has predictably reignited the debate on the status of women’s rights, particularly, though not exclusively, within Islamic cultures at home in Britain and around the world.  My regular readers will be aware that I’ve already laid out many of my thoughts on this subject elsewhere on my blog – for example, see: www.believethetruth.co.uk/veil-of-confusion.

However, a brief glance at my twitter timeline has made me feel more than ever before that there is a very fundamental misunderstanding in play here that is subverting the crucial conversations that ought to be taking place, so I am going to revisit this topic.

Firstly though, such is the level of toxicity associated to many of my contentions (indeed I’ve been blocked on Twitter multiple times, but not before being called ‘an EDL-type’ or similar) that it is necessary to preface my thoughts by stating my political persuasions; I call myself a true liberal, mostly of the left but I have opinions that cross the political divide.  I’m an atheist, I support socialised healthcare (the NHS in the UK), I’m pro-immigration, pro-drug legalisation (read strict regulation), pro-choice, pro-LGBT rights including marriage equality, I support the right to die campaign and I’m a passionate defender of animal rights – in fact I spend most of my time working and fundraising in this field.  I despise UKIP with every sinew and I happen to think nationalism a divisive concept – indeed it appears to be the last western government endorsed form of prejudice.

So, while I may be correctly accused of many things, I hope it’s clear that I’m not a far right-wing nutjob!

Below are a couple of tweets I recently read.  This article is not meant as a personal response but they are a useful summary of the challenges I believe we are facing:

“Women within Islam challenge things all the time. Why can’t we just support that?”

“What is our role – it isn’t for us to decide.”

Sometimes it feels as if people who say things like this are totally unaware that, for example,  women were once banned from voting, that black people were treated as second class citizens and that gay people were thrown in prison – all within living memory in western societies.  It’s truly staggering how quickly people forget, how quickly they take their freedoms for granted and how they fail to imagine the complexities of oppression or the barriers it may construct.

The truth is that the progress of western women and various minority groups with regards to human rights would have been impossible without tireless campaigning from outsiders – simply cheering politely from the side-lines but otherwise keeping out of it, as the above comments seem to recommend, would have been all but useless.  The most important step in the liberation of the oppressed from their chains always comes from State backing and legislation.  It ought to be obvious that this is somewhat difficult to achieve for minority groups and for those who are silenced, unless they receive the full and unequivocal backing of other good people.  It ought to be.

Frederick Douglass

Women’s rights in cultures that have their roots in the developing world are facing an emergency.  Currently, the situation is so uniquely terrible that we now have fascism playing both sides of the board.  On the one hand, religious fascists, largely from the Islamic community (this is not to say that all Muslims are fascists – but various surveys inform us that some significant percentage clearly are, and it is those to whom I refer), are campaigning to keep women in the dark ages via the concept of ‘honour’ enshrined within their faith.  This, they believe, entitles men to decide who women can have sex with, who they can marry, what clothes they can wear, what, if any, education they should receive, when they can go outside and with whom, and even if they should have a clitoris or not.

Yet as I write this, the only significant pushback to this dreadful set of circumstances that millions of women endure every day, is coming from the far right and white supremacists in Europe and from the Tea Party conservatives in America.  This is a shameful and un-mitigating disaster for women everywhere, for all of us in fact.  One only has to take notice of how these people tend to talk to white women (the ‘get back to the kitchen sink’ brigade) to know that they do not really care about women’s rights.  They are simply using the plight of Muslim women as a pawn in their racist, anti-immigration, bigoted agenda.  Imagine how hopeless this scenario must appear to those who dare to dream of one day deciding their own destinies.

Western liberals, particularly feminists, have a responsibility to take this fight out of the hands of people with ulterior motives and to stand up to misogyny in all its forms.  That it may occasionally be justified within holy texts should make no difference, and frustratingly, when it comes to the various outrages against women with regards to birth control that are becoming increasingly common across the Bible belt in the US, most seem to understand this.  But bizarrely, when the backdrop switches to other cultures, far too many people are seduced by cries of racism or Islamophobia.

This must stop.  Now.  We must not allow the terrible behaviour of our ancestors in the colonies to fool us into believing that only white Christians can ever oppress people.  Sadly, it isn’t even necessary to journey to Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan to witness State complicity in the oppression of women.  Here in the UK, tens of thousands of women have been genitally mutilated (to say nothing of the millions of men, without explicit consent) yet there has not been a single conviction – and only one case has ever been tried.  Forced, arranged marriages are all but ignored.  Shari’a jurisprudence is allowed to take precedence over inheritance claims, meaning that women are often left with no financial support to raise their children.  In mosques and on university campuses, gender segregation is enforced and protected, and the ‘Trojan Horse’ scandal has revealed that many of our state funded schools are also segregating children on the basis of gender, as well as teaching some truly awful things about the roles of men and women in society, including that women cannot say no to men in the bedroom.  Finally of course, many liberals wear the defence of the effacing of women via the niqab, as a badge of honour.

I believe that now is the time to rediscover the spirit of the suffragettes and finally call time on these injustices.

Will you march for Muslim women’s civil and political rights? Or will you wait half a century for the movie..?

-Ayaan Hirsi Ali


Waking Up After Charlie Hebdo

CH Cartoon

As the latest outrage to peace, liberalism and free speech draws to a close in Paris, with at least 17 innocent people lying dead, one thing must be shouted through the fog of confusion that is inevitably already infecting media and social media commentary; an issue of major concern in the aftermath of this horror is not a consideration for the possible hurt feelings of anyone with regards to the contents of satire, cartoons and so on.  No one has the right not to be offended in a liberal society.

Due to the avalanche of usage, I must once again briefly deal with the word ‘Islamophobia’.  Islam is a set of ideas written in the Quran (the Islamic holy book, dictated allegedly by Allah) and the Hadiths (the sayings and the actions of the Prophet Mohammad).  Therefore, the word ‘Islamophobia’ actually implies that the liberal world is irrational if it dares to criticise a book, which is bad enough, but in reality it is always deployed in such a way as to imply bigotry against all Muslims.  There are two crimes here; the conflation of criticising ideas with bigotry, and the downplaying of actual anti-Muslim bigotry, which is abhorrent.  The intention of course, is to stifle debate.  The word’s very purpose is to frighten everyone into silence.  We must all reject it if we wish to honour the bravery of those who were killed defending freedom of speech in the offices of Charlie Hebdo.  Human beings have rights that deserve respect, books or ideas do not.

The correct and necessary response to the nightmare in Paris, is to make a stand against this assault on liberalism by publishing the above cartoon.  We must spread the risk.  Below, Ayaan Hirsi Ali explains why:

Video Link

 

“I’d rather die standing than live on my knees.”

– Stéphane Charbonnier, editor of Charlie Hebdo, who was murdered in Paris on Wednesday.

 


2014 – Another Year In Denial

ISIS

So it’s been another big year for religion.  As such, it’s almost impossible to list all of its ‘achievements’ but below are some ‘highlights’:

In terms of wars, we’ve seen the growth of ISIS as they conquered large areas of Syria and Iraq, murdering, enslaving and raping tens of thousands of people in the process, and beheading four western journalists and an aid worker. We’ve witnessed yet another outbreak of violence between Israel and Palestine, resulting in the deaths of approximately 2,200 people, many of whom were innocent non-combatants. There has been a continuation of the bloodletting in the Central African Republic between Christians and Muslims, causing an unknown number of civilian casualties – but 5,000 is considered a very conservative estimate. Boko Haram, the Nigerian Islamic group, have moved on from hit and run attacks to holding territory in the North East of the country, displacing over half a million people while doing so, and murdering at least 2,000 just between January and June of this year (a total number for the whole year is unknown), to say nothing of their habit of kidnapping and raping pre-pubescent girls by the truckload. Finally, the fight against the Taliban in both Pakistan and Afghanistan continues to rage, with atrocities a regular occurrence, the worst of which we learned about only 2 weeks ago when 132 school children were shot and killed with automatic weapons at a school in Peshawar (9 teachers were also killed). Of course, though I will not make the case here, one could also argue that the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is in part religiously motivated. Certainly much of Putin’s disdain for the West is linked to our increasingly secular, humanist and moral outlook that flies in the face of his professed and apparently sincere Orthodoxy.

With regards to religiously inspired terrorist attacks on Western soil, in the last few weeks alone there have been deadly strikes in Ottawa, Canada, in Nantes, France and in Sydney, Australia.

One thing that should instantly leap out at you from the above information is that this is truly a global struggle, with every continent regularly falling victim to attacks by individuals or armies high on religion. Last year of course, we had to endure the assault on the oilfield in In Amenas, Algeria, the Boston Marathon bombing in the US and the vicious murder of Lee Rigby on the streets of London, England, to name but three corners of the globe forced to mourn the loss of innocents.

In a sane universe, something like the following would make sense:

In response to the threat of religiously motivated violence, the world’s 2 billion atheists, along with the moderate faithful and the many leaders across the West in particular, are decrying these outrages against humanity in no uncertain terms. They are highlighting the obvious link between some religious texts and the actions of certain groups and individuals and demanding that these scriptural passages are universally rejected as simply wrong and pronounced as incompatible with a desire for a peaceful, moral and tolerant world. They are not only insisting that all religious leaders drive through reform from within their communities but furthermore are doing all that they can to intercept the passing on of terrible ideas to the next generation by attempting to ensure that every child receives a modern, secular education, free from religious dogma. Finally and more generally, the separation of church and state is being steadfastly defended and reinforced.

Unfortunately however, we appear not to live in this sane universe, but one parallel to it, where truth and logic are strangers. Here is David Cameron’s response to the massacre of 132 children in Peshawar:

“There is not a belief system in the world that can justify this sort of appalling act. I think what this shows is the worldwide threat that is posed by this poisonous ideology of extremist Islamist terrorism. It is nothing to do with one of the world’s great religions – Islam, which is a religion of peace.”

Here is US president, Barack Obama, on ISIS:

“ISIS is not Islamic because Islam is a religion of peace.”

After the self-appointed Iranian Muslim cleric Man Haron Monis, a man previously known for his habit of writing crude letters to the families of Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan, walked into the Lindt Café in Sydney (incidentally, an establishment I have visited myself) with a shotgun and a black flag with the Shahada (the Islamic declaration of faith) written on it, and murdered two innocent people and shot a policeman in the face, Tony Abbott, the Australian Prime Minister, spoke these words:

“(Man Haron Monis) is a deeply unstable person with a long history of violence and mental illness… I guess one of the encouraging things is there are less and less of people trying to explain and justify terrorism in the name of religion.”

This mindless currying of favour with the public, rather than making nuanced arguments, is not only popular with politicians; some celebrities are also big fans, as was demonstrated recently by ‘Affleck-gate’. In the video below, mediocre American actor Ben Affleck loses both his marbles and his manners when he calls comedian Bill Maher, and author and neuroscientist Sam Harris “gross” and “racist” merely for articulating some of the undeniable intolerance and inequality that exists in parts of the Muslim world toward women, free-thinkers and homosexuals:

Video Link

At this moment in time, there appears to be no discernible plan at all by Western politicians to find a way out of the circle of violence.  I’m sorry to have to sign off the year on such a low.

 

“Islamophobia; a word created by fascists, and used by cowards, to manipulate morons.”

– Someone on Twitter