Joanne Payton has a terrific post on the FODI provocation. (Hey they have a festival to run! They got your attention, right? Well there you are then.)
In Australia, there is an event called the Festival of Dangerous Ideas, with some high-calibre contributors, like Salman Rushdie and Steven Pinker. One of the speakers they invited was one Uthman Badar, of Hizb ut-Tahrir. The title of the speech was Honour Killings are Morally Justified.
Badar says he did not choose the topic himself, but accepted it upon the urgings of the board. The festival’s co-curator Simon Longstaff said he had nominated the topic for six years in a row, because the point of the festival is to push boundaries ”to the point where you become extremely uncomfortable”. Yet again, misogyny, racism and violence against minoritised women is considered edgy, rather than banal and conservative.
Thwack. Isn’t it though.
The thing that makes me want to smash things is the spectacle of one Simon Longstaff being so very languid and aesthetic about “pushing boundaries to the point where you become extremely uncomfortable” with other people’s lives. Simon Longstaff, and people like Simon Longstaff – men – aren’t subject to “honor” murder. Other people are; it happens a lot, more than anyone knows because it happens in secret so the stats are low. This isn’t a joke, it isn’t abstract, it isn’t in the past, it isn’t something we can be happily sure never happens in the real world. Quite the opposite. Simon Longstaff can go stick a corn cob in his ear if he wants to make himself extremely uncomfortable; inviting people to give talks saying murder of sisters and daughters is morally justified is not the way to give jaded Australians a treat.
What’s more edgy and dangerous and uncomfortable than suggesting the world is a better place because a Tunisian father burned his 13 year old daughter alive? What’s more edgy and dangerous than saying certain women and girls don’t deserve to live?
For Aya, it was ‘dangerous’ to walk home from school with one of her classmates, and no doubt somewhat more than ‘extremely uncomfortable’ to die of burns a few hours later.
It is a wonder that Longstaff didn’t realise that other speakers had balked the topic for six years in a row not because it was “uncomfortable”, but because it was morally repugnant: hate-speech as clickbait, where the names and faces of the victims are erased for the safe of a headline.
Joanne then coldly points out that he’s wrong to say that it’s mostly people in “the west” who condemn “honor” murder. (What an orientalist racist Islamophobic thing to say! A billion people in India, more than a billion in China, half a billion in Indonesia – get real.) We wouldn’t even know about it if it weren’t for non-western activists.
Overwhelmingly, the scholars and activists who work against ‘honour’-based violence are people working in their own countries and communities, both within and outside the ‘West’. To ignore this fact demonstrates a strangely Eurocentric world view.