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Dec 16 2013

Until the West comes along to teach us progress

I said I would continue my disagreement with what Priyamvada Gopal wrote, so here I am continuing.

The fact is that challenging traditions and questioning authority are practices common to all societies; changing in response to circumstances is a human capacity and not one limited to a particular culture.

Again – no kidding, and no one who is criticizing gender segregation said otherwise. It’s the other way around: Universities UK are treating authority (in the person of the external speaker who demands segregated seating) as if it is not to be challenged. It is the protesters who are challenging that authority, and the authority of UUK, from the standpoint of universal rights, which is to say, rights common to all societies, limited to a particular culture.

It is at our peril that we, particularly women who come from non-European communities, cede or suppress that capacity in the cause of anti-racism, vital though the latter is.

We know. That was our point. You’re the one who is talking about “an intolerant Western ‘liberalism’ passing itself off as ‘secular’, ‘enlightened’ and more knowing-than-thou.” You’re the one talking about “deeply conservative white males with a commitment to the idea that West is Best.”

It’s a capacity that allows us to ask whether, say, women’s colleges are a useful defence against a wider institutional sexism contexts while simultaneously debating whether there’s anything to be maintained or gained by men and women sitting apart when addressed by religious speakers who demand it, even if voluntarily and non-hierarchically. Are such arrangements always just ‘harmless symbols’ of community identity? Selective attacks on our communities make the job of self-analysis more difficult but we should not let our thoughts and actions be entirely determined by those we oppose.

It’s not an attack on “your communities” – unless you consider iERA your community, in which case I have nothing to say to you, but then why are you talking about challenging traditions and questioning authority? Liberal universalists are not your enemy. We’re not the ones who think you should be at home instead of teaching at Cambridge.

There is no doubt that both racism and xenophobia is on the rise, with Muslims and Islam singled out for attack. It is essential to fight back. But we must also ask ourselves whether, because the evocation of issues of misogyny or gendered oppression within minority communities often plays into the wrong hands, we should let go of our own traditions and histories of self-criticism, internal dissent and change. If we do so, ironically, we play into the falsest imperialist stereotype of them all – the notion that non-European communities are static and unchanging until the West comes along to teach us progress.

But then why are you bashing the critics of gender segregation who reject that stereotype? Why, for instance, are you ignoring Maryam Namazie and Yasmin Alibhai-Brown and Abhishek Phadnis and focusing on Student Rights who had nothing to do with the protest against gender segregation? Why are you ignoring the very possibility of international solidarity, and the reality of it that is so conspicuous in everything Maryam does? What the hell do you think that accomplishes? Why not drop the fake accusations of imperialism and just join Maryam and the rest?

12 comments

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  1. 1
    rosiebell

    She’s really pissed off in a strangely incoherent way.

  2. 2
    Pen

    Short form of my comment on the previous post: she’s forgotten where she lives.

    the notion that non-European communities are static and unchanging until the West comes along to teach us progress

    The West does not ‘come along’ when the West is where you are living. You are part of the group who ‘came along’ and is now asking for a change which, perhaps, you’re inclined to call progress. This time it didn’t work. the local population failed to persuaded by the non-Europeans who came along that the proposed change is actually progressive.

  3. 3
    Ophelia Benson

    She said some incredibly rude shit to Nick Cohen on Twitter. She also apparently admitted that she’s completely unaware of the December 10 protest organized by LSESU ASH and Maryam/One Law for All – which is what drew all the coverage and the government interest. So that’s pretty damn clueless.

  4. 4
    Merlin

    So. Is this liberal/secular “War on Muslims” anything like the liberal/secular “War on Christmas”? Because if it is (and it really looks like it is), I want in on it.

  5. 5
    Shatterface

    We’re not the ones who think you should be at home instead of teaching at Cambridge

    At least not on grounds of gender.

  6. 6
    Shatterface

    There is no doubt that both racism and xenophobia is on the rise, with Muslims and Islam singled out for attack. It is essential to fight back

    It doesn’t take long for the Islamists to start issuing threats.

  7. 7
    RJW

    Pen,

    ‘..she’s forgotten where she lives.’

    I doubt that’s the reality, those who want to re-create their own little religious and cultural universes in the West know what they’re doing, and the Islamists of course, aim to subvert the secular state. All under the banner of ‘fighting racism’ and “multiculturalism”.

  8. 8
    rq

    … “demand voluntarily” … ?

  9. 9
    brucegorton

    It is at our peril that we, particularly women who come from non-European communities, cede or suppress that capacity in the cause of anti-racism, vital though the latter is.

    Aren’t the UUK and the communities effected by this situated in Europe? Is the fact of somebody being Muslim a dis-qualifier for being European?

    In other words, doesn’t her entire argument amount to othering Muslims, maintaining xenophobia in order to avoid having to deal with criticism?

  10. 10
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    whether there’s anything to be maintained or gained by men and women sitting apart when addressed by religious speakers who demand it, even if voluntarily and non-hierarchically.

    Again, you can’t voluntarily segregate because somebody demands it. That’s mutually exclusive. It’s like saying my daughter voluntarily cleaned up her room after I demanded she did so and that she wouldn’t leave the house until it was clean.
    But, how about her actually making an argument in favour of segregation. What is to be gained by it? I disagree with people who think that seperate eduaction is a good way to address gender inequality in education, but at least they are making arguments I can disagree with and have data we can discuss. So, what are the positive outcomes of segregating the audience during a speech or debate? I’m listening…

    There is no doubt that both racism and xenophobia is on the rise, with Muslims and Islam singled out for attack. It is essential to fight back.

    I actually agree. “Muslim” and “Islamification” have become dogwhistles of the right. You can see that racism and anti-muslim racism when mosques burn. When muslims (and people mistaken for muslims) are violently attacked and nobody gives a shit. When Sam Harris demands racial profiling of muslims. When the German NDP demands “Maria instead of Sharia” (with Maria being blue-eyed blonde). When the EDL marches. When German neonazi terrorists roam the country murdering muslims and the police don’t give much of a shit and other authorities actually cover the terrorists.
    But this, this is crying wolf. This is diminishing actual anti-muslim racism and hiding your far-right agenda behind the legitimate concerns of a very heterogenous muslim community.

    But we must also ask ourselves whether, because the evocation of issues of misogyny or gendered oppression within minority communities often plays into the wrong hands, we should let go of our own traditions and histories of self-criticism, internal dissent and change

    This doesn’t even make sense. You cannot stay faithful to your traditions and to change. Yes, please, do self-criticism. I’ll be over there together with the muslim feminists who have already done the thinking and who came to the conclusion that gender segregation is bullshit. How about you support their internal dissent and demand to change? And please, for Hesinde’s sake*, finally explain how bowing to the demands of a speaker who stands against dissent and change actually is within a tradition of open debate, internal dissent and change.

    *Totally fictional goddess of knowledge from an RPG

  11. 11
    rosiebell

    The link from “national attention” to the Channel 4 page has been removed.

  12. 12
    RJW

    @ 9

    “In other words, doesn’t her entire argument amount to othering Muslims, maintaining xenophobia in order to avoid having to deal with criticism?” Yes, indeed, “the Muslim as victim’.

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