- Posted by Maryam Namazie
- On July 2, 2013
- 10 Comments
- Egypt, Morsi, Muslim Brotherhood
Millions of protesters are demanding Morsi’s resignation; 22 million signatures have been collected calling for him to step down.
If anyone mis-labelled the “Arab Spring” a “Black Spring“, they should think again.
The uprisings and revolutions of the Middle East and North Africa were never in support of Islamism though it was labelled as such – both by the pro-Islamist Left and Guardian types so they could carry on justifying their love affair with Islamism on the one hand and the far-Right like Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller and the EDL who consider all “Muslims” to be Islamists in sheep’s clothing on the other.
The anti-Morsi demonstrations are of all cross-sections of society with large numbers of women, many unveiled.
If anyone had any doubts which side they must stand on, there must be none now.
From Turkey to Algeria to Egypt, the fight is for bread, social justice and freedom but also against the Islamists…
It’s our fight too.
Below is one of my talks at the Dublin Empowering Women through secularism conference, which speaks of secularism as a right and historical task and duty.
The philosopher A C Grayling says secularism is a basic right. This is an important truth.
I would add given the vile realities of Islamism (which is a religious-Right movement) across the world, it is also a historical task and necessity.
And it’s not just the necessity of a secular Europe that we often hear about but of a secular Middle East, North Africa and world.
Nonetheless it’s a right and necessity that is vehemently opposed by Islamists with murder and mayhem but also by cuddly culturally relativist and post-modernist Liberals, feminists and a pathetic excuse of a pro-Islamist Left – and I say this as someone on the Left myself.
This lot imply that secularism, equality, free expression, the right to criticise religion, and women’s liberation are only for those who are “white” and “western”. [And have you noticed how even so-called “minorities” like the “Muslim minority” who’ve lived in the west for generations are still not considered deserving of the rights and freedoms reserved for those who are “western” – they are never equal citizens.] The rest of us must live under Sharia law even in Europe, and be grateful for the veil as a right and “choice”. We are only allowed “freedom” and “rights” within the cultural and religious confines of Islam.
Thanks but no thanks.
Try and defend secular values, and this lot are lined up as prefects with their accusations of racism, Islamophobia and cultural imperialism if you say Sharia law (which is based on Koran, Hadith: sayings and actions of Mohammad, Islam’s prophet, and Islamic jurisprudence) are misogynist and discriminatory.
Under Sharia’s civil law, which is also practised in Britain, women don’t have the right to child custody after a pre-set age, they have limited rights to divorce, a women’s testimony is worth half that of a man’s, and the court asserts there is no such thing as marital rape. Sharia’s criminal code is downright barbaric with 130 offences punishable by death in places like Iran including heresy, apostasy and blasphemy.
Try and say that the veil is not a piece of clothing but a tool to restrict and suppress women, like Female Genital Mutilation, or foot-binding; it’s a mobile prison, imposing sex-apartheid that is as inhuman as race apartheid but women and girls are even required to carry the wall of segregation on their very backs and the accusations abound.
In the topsy turvy world of this pro-Islamist Left opposing women’s sub-human status and defending secularism and the right to criticise religion is on par with joining forces with the far-Right. It’s not. I oppose US-led militarism but that doesn’t mean I support the Islamic regime of Iran. I despise both; I oppose both. And I oppose all forms of fascism not just my own.
The main problem is that this lot consider all cultures as equal and equally valid and worthy of respect and buy into the culturally-relativist notion that societies in the Middle East and North Africa (and the “Muslim community” in the west) are homogeneous, “Islamic” and “conservative”.
But there is no one homogeneous culture anywhere. You just have to look at the magnificent anti-Muslim Brotherhood protests in Egypt right now to see that. Because it is those in power that determine the dominant culture, this point of view sees Islamist values and sensibilities as that of “authentic Muslims’.
But as Musa Budeiri, a professor at Birzeit University, the oldest Palestinian University, who was threatened for posting a cartoon on his office door says: Islamists “resort to abuse, and threats of physical violence, attempting to appropriate to themselves the sole authority of what Muslims can and cannot think, can and cannot do. There are and will remain as many different Muslims as there are unfettered minds.”
In fact, “Muslims” or those labelled as such include secularists, ex-Muslims, atheists, free thinkers, women’s rights activists, LGBT campaigners and socialists.
Even someone like Salman Rushdie speaks for Muslims. As writer Hanif Kureishi says: “He speaks for their doubts. He speaks the bits of them that they actually think and feel sometimes – do I really believe in all this stuff – but can’t say…”
Conflating Islamist with Muslim ignores the immense dissent including amongst those considered Muslims and denies the social and political struggles and class politics.
It is a narrative peddled by Islamists and their apologists in an attempt to feign representation, restrict dissent, and prescribe the limits of “acceptable” expression.
Ironically, like the nativist far-Right which “despises” multiculturalism yet benefits from its idea of difference to scapegoat the “other” and promote its own form of white identity politics, the post-modernists also use multiculturalism to side with the oppressor by demanding respect and tolerance for oppression characterized as “difference” no matter how intolerable.
Don’t get me wrong, racism exists but you can’t stop racism by limiting dissent and free expression and siding with Islamic fascism.
As Women Living Under Muslim Laws says: “Fundamentalist terror is by no means a tool of the poor against the rich, of the Third World against the West, of people against capitalism. It is not a legitimate response that can be supported by the progressive forces of the world. Its main target is the internal democratic opposition to their theocratic project and to their project of controlling all aspects of society in the name of religion, including education, the legal system, youth services, etc. When fundamentalists come to power, they silence the people, they physically eliminate dissidents, writers, journalists, poets, musicians, painters – like fascists do. Like fascists, they physically eliminate the ‘untermensch’ – the subhumans -, among them ‘inferior races’, gays, mentally or physically disabled people. And they lock women ‘in their place’, which as we know from experience ends up being a straight jacket…”
Clearly, women are freer the less of a role religion plays in the public space, in the state, in the judicial system – not the other way around.
Of course when speaking of Islam or any religion, I am not referring to religion as a personal belief. Everyone has a right to religion and atheism but Islam today is not a personal matter but the banner of a political movement, an inquisition, an industry, a mafia, a killing machine.
Religion is a private matter. When it comes to religion in the state and law and educational system, then it becomes a matter of political power and control. No religion frees women, particularly not one that has access to political power and is spearheading an inquisition.
Rights within the context of Islam just won’t do. However it is interpreted, however moderate it becomes, it will never give women and men the rights they deserve and demand in the 21st century.
Iranian Marxist Mansoor Hekmat once said: “A hundred years ago, avant-garde humanity would have laughed at the proposition that human liberation could be achieved through priests, moderation of religion and the emergence of new interpretations from within the church. Today, sadly, ‘professional scholars’ and academics can prescribe that the Iranian woman can for now take secularism to mean the addition of a lighter shade of black to the officially approved colours for the veil.”
Things are changing though secularists living in the west are still far behind.
It’s a new period of human development after decades of Islamism, US-led militarism, unbridled free market reign, cultural relativism and the retreat of all things universal.
Today is an era of the 99% movement and revolutions and uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa – many of them female-led. And there are many who are insisting on secularism in the streets and via social media. Which shouldn’t be surprising given a large young population in many countries of the Middle East and North Africa, which brings with it challenges to the status quo as does the recent revolutions and the backlash against Islamism.
Even if you’re not looking, you can still see the immense resistance and dissent – in Turkey, in Iran, in Pakistan, in Bangladesh, Algeria, Egypt…
Whilst it may sometimes be hard to see given the perceived “gains” by Islamists in the region (in fact as counter-revolutionary forces aimed at suppressing the revolutions), the change of era is palpable.
No one knows better than those living under Islamism that secularism is a precondition for the improvement of women’s status – all women – not just those who are ‘western’.
Of course there are those who prefer Sharia law to secular law as there are people who prefer to bring back slavery or racial apartheid or the death penalty to Britain but that is irrelevant here. Sharia law and Islamic states are oppressive. There is no “right” to oppress.
And rights are universal. They were fought for by the working class, by the Left, by progressive social movements not handed by the establishment, and belong to all.
In the words of women’s rights campaigners who chanted on the streets of Tehran in 1979 in opposition to compulsory veiling: “Neither eastern nor western, women’s rights are universal” and “Freedom is our culture”. Today we must also add secularism is our right”.