Rallying behind atheist bloggers in Bangladesh »« “In my city nearly all the hospitals are run by religious organizations”

It’s not “Western”

Sometimes it’s hard not to diagnose self-hating [whatever] when reading the more vicious reactions to Femen’s protest about Amina Tyler. There’s one by Susan Carland on the ABC’s Religion and Ethics site, for example.

It is admittedly difficult for people who have bought into Western liberalism, with its elevation of individual freedom to the pinnacle of human moral evolution, to regard the Muslim world with anything other than baffled contempt.

Oh yes those crazy deluded people who have “bought into” liberalism. (Calling it “Western” liberalism is itself an insult to all non-Westerners. It’s not “Western.” See Amartya Sen for more on this, or Kwame Anthony Appiah, or any human rights activists in non-Western countries ffs.) It’s a pity more people haven’t “bought into” liberalism, because if they had then abuses of human rights wouldn’t be such a commonplace.

And what an ignorant description. She seems to have liberalism confused with Randian libertarianism.

Fighting sexism can only be powerful while operating coherently in its cultural context. Tunisian women often take to the streets in large numbers to protest against what they see as curtailing of their freedom by the government. In Egypt, the group Tahrir Bodyguards, comprised of men and women, was formed to offer women free self-defence classes against sexual harassment and to patrol the streets in order to help protect women against assault in the face of an indifferent government.

Yes, and? Governments do curtain freedoms; groups other than Tahrir Bodyguards assaulted women. In other words, no “cultural context” is monolithic; any “cultural context” includes disagreement and conflict, so what is her point? She dislikes and disagrees with Femen, fine, but it doesn’t follow that she’s any more clued in about the “cultural context” in question than they are.

This would matter to Femen if they were genuinely interested in helping to improve the situation for women in countries like Tunisia, where female employment is low, laws and norms restrict women’s access to employment and mobility, and domestic violence is common. But despite all of Femen’s attention-seeking claims, it is abundantly clear that their outrage is not about feminism. It is certainly not about women’s advancement in the Middle East. This is prejudice, racism and imperialism, dressed up in the apparently scant clothing of women’s rights.

And that’s where she gets just plain vicious. How the hell does she know that? Imperialism? On the basis of what? She sounds unpleasantly similar to the anti-abortion fanatics who have been flooding the discussion of the Savita Halippanavar inquest on Twitter with endless dark accusations of not giving a shit about Savita but simply wanting abortion, for its own sake.

Moreover, it is apparent that Femen’s outrage isn’t even about Amina. For all the scrawling of “Free Amina” on their adamantly bared breasts and the fulminating against threats of stoning and incarceration in a psychiatric asylum, little of this is based in reality. Amina’s lawyer, herself a Tunisian women’s rights activist, has confirmed that Amina was never in a mental institution (she was being kept at home with her family), she was not charged with any offence, and even if Amina were to be charged, the maximum sentence would be six months in jail for public indecency, not stoning.

So that’s all right then? Six months in jail? For nothing?

So, if not for Amina, or women in the Middle East, who is this protest for? In truth, it is just a convenient vehicle for organisations like Femen to reveal their true, Islamophobic colours. This was about the arrogant belief that a certain breed of feminism is the ultimate goal and that anyone who disagrees is to be aggressively condemned, dismissed and scorned – including the very Muslim women who work day after day against sexism in countries like Tunisia.

Says Susan Carland, revealing her true, liberalismophobic colors. It’s not “arrogant” to think that a particular way of doing things is better than others; Carland herself is arguing just that. She’s chosen the wrong one, that’s all.

 

Comments

  1. S Mukherjee says

    I was seriously irritated by her words ‘adamantly bared breasts’ — as if there was anything wrong with baring breasts!

  2. says

    If Carland believes Tunisian women can speak for themselves… why doesn’t she let them?

    So, if not for Amina, or women in the Middle East, who is this protest for?

    I think this is the rub, the bit Carland hasn’t twigged. On some level the fight is not “for” Amina, or women in the Middle East, but for things we value, and we want: human rights for all, equality, etc.
    .
    Having spent a considerable portion of my childhood in a Muslim country, I’m fairly tired of Western-born-and-raised people telling me how liberal Islam is, or that it’s Western-imperialist to speak out against the oppression of women in Muslim countries. I am glad to find someone interested in social justice speaking out against this position.

  3. footface says

    Freedom isn’t for everyone. It’s for us and our kind. But them, over there? Why, they wouldn’t know what to do with it if they had it. They’re children, basically.

    Isn’t that what these arguments boil down to? In the guise of cultural sensitivity and respect for differences (two good things), it always sounds like the same kind of paternalistic junk.

    “Don’t go getting them all mixed up. They’re fine with the way things are.”

  4. Smokey Dusty says

    @ Delft. I’m often frustrated by liberal, non-Muslims who declare certain strands of Islam (or particularly objectionable Muslims) heterodox. I point out to them that Islamic theology is controversial amongst Muslims. Then I ask them how they are qualified to issue fatwas.

    If you ask me that is imperialism or racism. The liberal non-Muslim gets to decide what Islam actually is.

  5. AsqJames says

    It is admittedly difficult for people who have bought into Western liberalism, with its elevation of individual freedom to the pinnacle of human moral evolution, to regard the communist world with anything other than baffled contempt. So it is almost impossible for Westerners to grasp that other Soviet and East European people, including many authors who care passionately about free speech rights in these countries, might vehemently disagree with the behaviour of writers like Solzhenitsyn – but not because they are kowtowing or wilfully passive victims of the oppressive men in their families or governments, nor because they suffer from some kind of bizarre Stockholm syndrome for their political system. Rather, they believe that gestures like Solzhenitsyn’s are foolish, even counterproductive, and lack the cultural currency for any meaningful change.

  6. says

    This piece would have held value if the writer had written about some of the actual problems with the protests, like say protesting outside random mosques as though Muslims everywhere necessarily support the actions of radical-Islamist governments like that of Tunisia. Or maybe some of the real problems with FEMEN, such as their apparent blanket anti-sex work stance.

    Instead, they just…asserted stuff =/

  7. says

    @Smokey Dusty

    The liberal non-Muslim gets to decide what Islam actually is.

    Good point.
    .
    I think the issue is that the Western-born-and-raised Muslim (especially the converts) look at Islam through the lens of Western thought. If you can see Christianity with its bloodthirsty God as a religion of love, you can do the same with Islam – there’s not much difference. But even religious people cherry-pick Christianity today, and nobody thinks we should stone children who disobey their parents.
    That’s because we’ve been through the Enlightenment, which made the ideas of rational thinking, human rights etc popular. The countries in which Islam is dominant don’t have that in their history, and that makes things like the Sharia possible. Western defenders of the Islam don’t seem aware of the enormous difference that makes to culture.
    Given the choices of waiting for the enlightenment to happen there – when it didn’t in the last thousand years of so – or being a cultural imperialist, I’m happy to be an imperialist.

  8. Bruce Gorton says

    Right now there is a bit of an increased emphasis on the ‘Islamophobia’ of certain high profile atheists.

    Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are suddenly all relevant again, despite the fact that Harris was always a bit the one that was picked just so they’d have four horsemen, Dawkins is retired and Hitchens is dead.

    Right now we also have a situation in Bangladesh where Muslims, demonstrating precisely how contemptable their religion is, are murdering atheists for criticising the life and teachings of Mohammed.

    Bangladesh has reacted to this not by arresting the murderers, but by arresting atheist bloggers for ‘offending religious feelings.’

    Atheists are protesting that this is wrong, meanwhile the Western religious left seems to think that freedom is only for ‘us’ and those Bangladeshi atheist bloggers are clearly ‘them’.

    This is why I have no respect whatsoever for the religious left. When actual wrongdoing is afoot, the religious left can always be relied upon to side with the wrongdoer.

    At this same point in history we have Amina Tyler writing ‘Fuck your honour, my body belongs to me” across her bared breasts in Tunisia.

    For this she has gotten death threats, because face it to a lot of Muslim men her body does not belong to her but to them. Islam taught them that she is not a person deserving of human rights, but at best an owned animal that they get to put down if it doesn’t behave according to their dictates.

    Atheists have rallied behind Amina, meanwhile the religious left have argued that defending the idea that Amina’s body is her own is Western Imperialism.

    “…despite all of Femen’s attention-seeking claims, it is abundantly clear that their outrage is not about feminism. It is certainly not about women’s advancement in the Middle East. This is prejudice, racism and imperialism, dressed up in the apparently scant clothing of women’s rights.”

    Amina Tyler is a Tunisian. She lives in the cultural context of Tunisia. Susan Carland is an Australian, yet see how easy it is for Carland to argue that Tyler and the movement she belongs to are being prejudiced racist imperialists for their method of arguing against the abuse of women’s rights in Tunisia.

    That is the nature of liberal religion. It is the same nature no matter which religion you look at, where there are horrifying abuses you can bet that the liberal religious will find some way of saying “while what is happening is not good, these people who are complaining about it are way worse.”

    While you will get liberal atheists joining in, pretty often this is a matter of “my issues come first” and trying to build alliances with the religious left that inevitably collapse the second a goal is achieved. We have seen it with every civil rights battle that has progressed to the point of being ‘won’ – the alliance only ever seems to go one way.

    Most of the time however, these alliances don’t much work because the religious left ultimately agree with the religious right. They agree that Amina Tyler does not belong to her, and that those atheist bloggers in Bangladesh should be arrested for offending religious sensibilities.

    They will bemoan the brutality of the religious right, but when it comes time to actually do anything the religious left will always be first in line to criticise the people who actually do it.

    And note, I feel exactly the same way about any atheist who goes on at me about the tone feminists take when criticising sexism in the atheist community. If we make a mess, we don’t get to complain about the tone people take when trying to clean it up.

  9. bad Jim says

    This is nearly hilarious:

    “This was about the arrogant belief that a certain breed of feminism is the ultimate goal and that anyone who disagrees is to be aggressively condemned, dismissed and scorned”

    as though that was worse than being, not stoned to death, but merely imprisoned for six months. Being scorned is not to be endured, but being jailed is no big deal.

  10. says

    Just wait until Susan Carland discovers that Middle Eastern culture is subject to the cultural imperialisms of Wi-Fi, Automobiles and Airports. Maybe she’ll be complaining about vaccines next. It never ends!

  11. jose says

    We had our share of paternalistic liberals defending muslim ultraconservatism and accusing people of being racist and islamophobic. People got used to say “es su cultura y hay que respetarla” (“it’s their culture and it should be respected”) sarcastically whenever a suicide bomber, a stoning or some other atrocity hit the news. Didn’t know they were still around.

  12. Brett Oliver says

    Susan Carland (unless there are 2) is an Islamic convert (married to Australia’s ‘leading Muslim intellectual’, Waleed Aly). Strange she, and the ABC’s Religion and Ethics site, didn’t feel the need to mention it?

  13. Simon says

    “Amina was never in a mental institution (she was being KEPT at home with her family)”

    ‘Kept’ sounds rather innocent, even caring, but I’m struggling to imagine a situation where I’d be ok with my family ‘keeping’ me at home.

    A very sinister euphemism indeed.

  14. says

    Most of the comments are hostile. But this orientalism … imperialism . .culture – you can write this stuff in your sleep. Parodying it is shooting fish in a barrel. Bring back foot binding! Restore the great Scottish tradition of burning witches. Etc.

  15. jonathangray says

    OB:

    Oh yes those crazy deluded people who have “bought into” liberalism. (Calling it “Western” liberalism is itself an insult to all non-Westerners. It’s not “Western.” See Amartya Sen for more on this, or Kwame Anthony Appiah, or any human rights activists in non-Western countries ffs.)

    How is it not Western? Surely the idea that the human person possesses certain inalienable human rights and freedoms which overrule a community’s traditional social norms is a relatively modern one and thoroughly Western in its origins. Along with democracy, science and industrialisation, it is a distinctive, indeed defining, feature of Western modernity, a cultural growth rooted in a specific phase of European history.

    And it’s quite plausible to see a certain similarity (if not continuity) with prior forms of Western expansionism. Like religious missions and colonial adventures, the liberal gospel of freedom and human rights insists on its proper universal application and portrays itself as the benign bestower of previously unknown benefits.

    It’s hardly surprising, then, that the religion of rights showed itself to be thoroughly paternalistic and supremely intolerant in its rise to power in the West, from the genocidal suppression of grassroots counterrevolutionary movements in France to modern feminism’s ‘consciousness-raising’ crusade.

    Why should non-Western peoples be exempt from this evangelising zeal? To employ Rousseau’s incomparable expression, they too must be “forced to be free”. Liberals might get a bit squeamish at the notion of exporting human rights US-style at the barrel of a gun (although that’s firmly in the revolutionary tradition of Liberté), but they’re quite happy with lesser sanctions such as making foreign aid conditional on the acceptance of the ‘correct’ position on certain human rights issues. Big Western Daddy knows best!

    And what an ignorant description. She seems to have liberalism confused with Randian libertarianism.

    The “elevation of individual freedom to the pinnacle of human moral evolution” may not be all there is to liberalism, but it’s a pretty thick slice of it. Both liberalism and libertarianism prize individual liberty; they differ in the role they assign to the state in attaining it, one seeing it as a facilitator, the other as an impediment.

    footface:

    Freedom isn’t for everyone. It’s for us and our kind. But them, over there? Why, they wouldn’t know what to do with it if they had it. They’re children, basically.

    Isn’t that what these arguments boil down to? In the guise of cultural sensitivity and respect for differences (two good things), it always sounds like the same kind of paternalistic junk.

    OB:

    Pretty much, yes. As Maryam says – it’s the racism of low expectations.

    Translation: It’s appallingly racist to suppose the benighted heathen is incapable of benefiting from the one true faith that we enlightened missionaries bring them!

  16. says

    Translation: It’s appallingly racist to suppose the benighted heathen is incapable of benefiting from the one true faith that we enlightened missionaries bring them!

    Atheism and human rights are just more religions. Right. Boy you really showed us.

  17. jonathangray says

    SallyStrange:

    Atheism and human rights are just more religions. Right. Boy you really showed us.

    Recently, over on Jadehawk’s Blog, a commentator wondered how certain central tenets of liberalism could be rationally justified. La Jadehawk replied:

    there is no scientific or “logical” or whathaveyou answer to this. Either you value people’s agency, or you don’t. This is axiomatic, it’s the why Human Rights usually get hung from “skyhooks”. You can bullshit around this and invent “rational” philosophical underpinnings, but ultimately, the value of human life is axiomatic.

    In which case, I would say the cult of ‘human rights’ doesn’t resemble a religion so much as an atheist’s parody of religion.

    2+2=4 is not a piece of Western ideology and it’s not an act of Western imperialism to insist on its axiomatic truth.

    Assertions like —

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

    or

    “Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good.”

    or

    “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

    — strike me as being of a different order to 2+2=4. Perhaps you disagree.

  18. Stacy says

    How is

    the idea that the human person possesses certain inalienable human rights and freedoms which overrule a community’s traditional social norms

    A form of “Western expansionism”?

    the liberal gospel of freedom and human rights insists on its proper universal application and portrays itself as the benign bestower of previously unknown benefits

    YOU’RE the one here arguing that the idea of individual rights and freedoms is “being bestowed” upon people to whom it was “previously unknown.”

    And how is

    modern feminism’s ‘consciousness-raising’ crusade

    “paternalistic and supremely intolerant”? And did you really place feminist consciousness-raising on a continuum with genocide? HA ha.

  19. says

    jonathangray, what exactly are you advocating? Do you have some kind of constructive prescription to espouse, or are you just here to put words in peoples’ mouths and spray solipsistic shit all over everything?

  20. Stacy says

    Sounds to me like jonathangray is conflating the liberal idea* of “certain inalienable human rights and freedoms” (including, presumably, gender equality,) with Western military expansionism.

    * I lack the education in world history to know if this can be fairly called a “Western” idea. The West may well be the place where it first began to take hold in a big way. That would be an accident of history, though, wouldn’t it. It doesn’t follow one can use the West’s sins to disparage or taint the idea.

  21. says

    Exactly, and it also doesn’t mean that it is therefore a monopoly of “the West” now and forever. Assume it’s true that it’s Locke’s Excellent Idea; so what? That doesn’t mean all us lucky people who now live in “the West” get to claim credit for it or keep other people from sharing it, or conversely to treat it as some kind of colonialist original sin.

  22. says

    Ophelia:

    She seems to have liberalism confused with Randian libertarianism.

    that’s because, North American usage notwithstanding, libertarianism is what liberalism usually means: it’s the focus on individualism over systemic issues.

    Calling it “Western” liberalism is itself an insult to all non-Westerners. It’s not “Western.” See Amartya Sen for more on this, or Kwame Anthony Appiah, or any human rights activists in non-Western countries ffs.)

    one would think calling it Western would be a way of distinguishing it from non-Western forms of liberalism…?

    It’s a pity more people haven’t “bought into” liberalism, because if they had then abuses of human rights wouldn’t be such a commonplace.

    in the North American sense of “vaguely progressive” maybe; again, that’s not what liberal usually means, and liberalism as practiced and promoted by the IMF and the World Bank and even many NGOs is actually responsible for taking away defenses against abuses of human rights (one example is abuses of worker rights, because liberalism as promoted by the above-mentioned institutions tends to favor individual solutions, rather than class-based solutions such as unionization)

    In other words, no “cultural context” is monolithic; any “cultural context” includes disagreement and conflict, so what is her point?

    that actually is her point: that cultures aren’t monolithic and that protest already exists within the context of muslim-dominant cultures.

    – – – – –
    Susan:

    So it is almost impossible for Westerners to grasp that other Muslim and Arab women, including many women who care passionately about women’s rights in these countries, might vehemently disagree with the behaviour of women like Amina – but not because they are kowtowing or wilfully passive victims of the oppressive men in their families or governments, nor because they suffer from some kind of bizarre Stockholm syndrome for their faith or culture. Rather, they believe that gestures like Amina’s are foolish, even counterproductive, and lack the cultural currency for any meaningful change.

    bullshit; the very same conversation about whether “sex positive” feminism is buying into patriarchal notions and is “foolish, even counterproductive” is happening in the West. Consequently, I doubt anyone will find existence of this criticism impossible to grasp.

    Fighting sexism can only be powerful while operating coherently in its cultural context.

    this is incoherent as stated. What is true is that any anti-oppression activism requires those who are most familiar with a particlular form of oppression to be the leaders, with everyone else serving a supportive and voice-amplifying role. In this context that would mean Tunisian women being leaders against oppression of Tunisian women; which Amina was, so any criticism of her cannot be based on context alone.

    Femen supporters were called to protest all over the world outside venues that had nothing whatsoever to do with Amina’s alleged confinement in a mental institution – like Paris and San Francisco mosques

    True enough; this would be like me protesting Uganda’s kill-the-gay laws in front of some random American lutheran church. Still, the point is less about the “alleged confinement in a mental institution”, but about the social and even governmental sanctioning of abuse for nothing other than showing your boobs on the internet. Erasing this from the conversation is fucked up.

    took bare-breasted photos of themselves wearing towels on their heads and pretend beards in a mock prayer stance.

    really? if true, that really is fucked up and unwarranted.

    Later, Amina appeared on French television saying she while she didn’t regret baring her breasts, she was against the flag burning by Femen and found it unacceptable.

    again, if true, this would indeed support the idea that FEMEN’s protest cannot be merely interpreted as solidarity for Amina.

  23. says

    On some level the fight is not “for” Amina, or women in the Middle East,

    then it shouldn’t use their fight as a theme. Supporting their fight is one thing; appropriating it for your own purposes is something else entirely.

    Given the choices of waiting for the enlightenment to happen there – when it didn’t in the last thousand years of so – or being a cultural imperialist, I’m happy to be an imperialist.

    because “bringing democracy to the middle east” has already worked so well, so why not try the same with feminism. I mean, clearly those folks are not capable of fixing their problems on their own, we need to do it for them. [/sarc]

    Atheists have rallied behind Amina, meanwhile the religious left have argued that defending the idea that Amina’s body is her own is Western Imperialism.

    this is a stupid strawman, since it’s not support for Amina that’s often at issue, but the way it has played out: with protests in front of mosques that have fuck-all to do with Tunisia or Islamism; with protests that ended up looking a lot more generically anti-Islam than specifically pro-Amina; etc.

    jonathangray, what exactly are you advocating?

    a return of the Middle Ages, with it’s glorious RCC-made monarchies. You’re talking to Pilty.

  24. says

    really? if true, that really is fucked up and unwarranted.

    This particular photo has gotten a lot of play (obviously, NSFW): http://is.gd/CYIZsS

    Obviously without having been there it’s hard to tell just how many women did similar things. There have been considerably more photos taken in front of mosques rather than say, Tunisian embassies. Some of the “topless jihad” promo images, which are usually a disembodied nude female torso with Islamic crescents on the breasts (talk about the language of patriarchy) certainly make FEMEN’s actions look pretty damned appropriative.

    One might claim that it’s okay to target Islam generally because it’s the source of the problem. But even if we conceded that point without discussion: so what? 98% of Tunisians identify as Muslim. You’d have to be out of your mind to think that you’d garner any local allies by targeting Islam itself. And not caring about working with people within the culture is pretty much the definition of cultural imperialism.

  25. jonathangray says

    Stacy:

    Sounds to me like jonathangray is conflating the liberal idea* of “certain inalienable human rights and freedoms” (including, presumably, gender equality,) with Western military expansionism.

    No, I’m saying freedom, human rights, equality, liberal democracy &c constitute a distinct, coherent belief system which took root in the West, flourished there at the expense of rival belief systems and is in the process of being exported from there across the globe, again at the expense of rival belief systems. Currently it is locked in a battle with one particular rival that is pushing back hard — militant Islam. Whether it will triumph as it did over the Church remains to be seen.

    Although I think liberal democracy is misguided and destructive, I don’t think that because it’s intolerant and expansionist. Nor do I think it’s intolerant and expansionist because it’s misguided and destructive. It’s intolerant and expansionist because its adherents believe it’s good and true; because it’s good and true, it must be universally applicable, transcending its Western origins. As Ophelia puts it:

    Assume it’s true that it’s Locke’s Excellent Idea; so what? That doesn’t mean all us lucky people who now live in “the West” get to claim credit for it or keep other people from sharing it, or conversely to treat it as some kind of colonialist original sin.

    If you believe you’re in possession of the Good & True, naturally you’re going to want to share it with those who lack it; and naturally you’re going to regard rival ideologies as dangerous errors — False & Bad — that need to be marginalised and eventually extirpated. Stupid conservatives who whine about ‘the hypocrisy of liberal intolerance’ are stupid. Intolerant liberals aren’t hypocrites, just true believers who recognise truth cannot tolerate error. Good for them.

    The only question is whether the fundamental principles of liberal democracy are, in fact, good and true. Jadehawk, along with the authors of the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America, believes they are “self-evident” or “axiomatic”. An increasing number of political and cultural commentators — the ‘neo-reactionaries’ — are coming to believe that liberal democracy is self-evidently failing to safeguard order, security and human dignity. Liberal claims that any modern social disorder is the fault of recalcitrant conservative elements and can be cured by increasing the dosage of liberalism are coming to sound like the old soviet mantra that we’d have full communism right now if it wasn’t for those pesky bourgeois retarding the glorious advent of the revolution. (This process is known as the Left Singularity.)

    C. Mason Taylor:

    jonathangray, what exactly are you advocating? Do you have some kind of constructive prescription to espouse, or are you just here to put words in peoples’ mouths and spray solipsistic shit all over everything?

    Take the red pill. A progressive blogger recently caused a stir by passing the ideological Turing test.

  26. opposablethumbs says

    order, security and human dignity

    … for whom? Order, security and dignity for the god-approved men (sic) at the top, of course. Anyone who happens to be a woman or a non-conforming man is shit out of luck (oh, women will be fine – just as long as they wholeheartedly embrace their destiny as Stepford Wives, doncher know). We’ll have none of this pesky aspiring to genuine equality of opportunity, now will we.

    Tyler and people like her have as much right to define/speak for their culture as anyone else, and infinitely more right to speak for themselves. Foreigners like most of us are absolutely right to support her and her ilk; the only question is how best to do so. Carland et al have no business trying to insist that Tyler be left unsupported in her protest and subsequent confinement by her family.

    So this is jonathanpiltdowngrayman, is it? Uh huh.

  27. Bruce Gorton says

    jonathangray

    How is it not Western? Surely the idea that the human person possesses certain inalienable human rights and freedoms which overrule a community’s traditional social norms is a relatively modern one and thoroughly Western in its origins.

    Actually, that bit you said there? Total and complete bullshit.

    Think of Mahatma Ghandi – was he an American? Or how about PC Chang?

    And was GW Bush, he of Gitmo and torture anything other than an American?

    The universal declaration of human rights was the result of consultation with multiple nations and was originally adopted by 48 of them. If anything most of the rights enshrined as being rights were a reaction to Western aggression.

  28. Bruce Gorton says

    then it shouldn’t use their fight as a theme. Supporting their fight is one thing; appropriating it for your own purposes is something else entirely.

    Only if one assumes the issues being raised in Tunisia are unique to Tunisia.

    this is a stupid strawman, since it’s not support for Amina that’s often at issue, but the way it has played out: with protests in front of mosques that have fuck-all to do with Tunisia or Islamism; with protests that ended up looking a lot more generically anti-Islam than specifically pro-Amina; etc.

    Tunisia’s decision has led to protests against mosques all over the world because doing so means Tunisia gets to lose face for it. It places pressure on Islamic Imams to argue against future repeats of Amina’s treatment in other countries, it puts across the idea that this isn’t something we will cede on religious grounds.

    And the criticism of it by the religious left is nothing more than saying “Don’t do this effective thing.” It is all it has ever been.

  29. jonathangray says

    Wow, my Kipling link has been deleted.

    Clearly ‘The Mother Hive’ is … intolerable.

    Oh well. How about this?

    + + +

    Bruce Gorton:

    How is it not Western? Surely the idea that the human person possesses certain inalienable human rights and freedoms which overrule a community’s traditional social norms is a relatively modern one and thoroughly Western in its origins.

    Actually, that bit you said there? Total and complete bullshit.

    Think of Mahatma Ghandi – was he an American? Or how about PC Chang?

    And was GW Bush, he of Gitmo and torture anything other than an American?

    The universal declaration of human rights was the result of consultation with multiple nations and was originally adopted by 48 of them. If anything most of the rights enshrined as being rights were a reaction to Western aggression.

    Locke? Voltaire? Rousseau? You know, that whole Enlightenment business.

  30. Bruce Gorton says

    jonathangray

    Who were all highly influenced by Islamic golden age thinkers like Averroes, who were in turn influenced by the Greeks, who were in turn influenced by the Indians.

    And that is without even getting into how the renaissance was essentially born out of the age of discovery, which introduced one hell of a lot of different concepts that helped shape those western philosophers in ways they probably didn’t even realise themselves.

    You look at any era of relative prosperity – Ancient Rome, the Islamic Golden Age, the British Empire, the American Dream, each lives by its willingness to appropriate the ideas of others, and each dies when that willingness wanes.

    The most successful nations are the ones with the least culture, the ones that think they have the most to learn from others. As a consequence one cannot say of them “This is Western” – when really the ideas that seem to so define them arose out of the thoughts of global exchanges throughout history.

    And anyway it is not Western thought that is opposed by the likes of the Islamist movement, but thought itself.

    When they accuse someone of being “Westernised” what they actually mean is someone who is thinking. It is the same of all traditionalists, including the Western ones whose chief weapon against detractors is to question their loyalty to the flag, or some vague sense of national identity.

    It is always the same wherever, whoever and whenever are – ‘don’t think, that’s what our enemies do.’

    Rights aren’t Western, Eastern or anything else, they are human with a history that roils throughout every conversation the world has ever had. They are anti-culture, that which instead of saying “this is by us for us, this is by them for them” is “this is by all for all.”

  31. Bruce Gorton says

    Never write while feeling passionate:

    Anyway

    It is always the same wherever, whoever and whenever are

    should read

    It is always the same wherever, whoever and whenever the traditionalists are

  32. Stacy says

    No, I’m saying freedom, human rights, equality, liberal democracy &c constitute a distinct, coherent belief system which took root in the West, flourished there at the expense of rival belief systems…

    I know you’re saying that. What I’m saying is that your contention that such ideas (coherently systematized or not) have been imposed on non-Westerners is incorrect.

    It’s intolerant and expansionist because its adherents believe it’s good and true; because it’s good and true, it must be universally applicable, transcending its Western origins.

    If it’s true it will be universally applicable. That aside, you’re question-begging. Again you claim that liberal democratic ideals are being imposed on others. But again you neglect to address how these ideas are being “imposed.” (“Such ideas are spread because Western liberals believe in them” does not address the question of imposition.)

    (I realize the rationale for the Iraq war promoted by the neocons was that it was all about spreading liberal democracy. If you believe that, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.)

    There are plenty of people in the Muslim world who care a great deal about freedom, human rights, and equality, regardless of which hemisphere can lay claim to first having thought up such ideas or first working them into a coherent belief system.

  33. jonathangray says

    OB:

    I deleted that particular comment because it was a link and nothing else. It’s not legitimate to comment by simply posting a link.

    Fair enough.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>