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Mar 07 2008

Nothing is inevitable

Maryam Namazie
No Hejab No. 1

Rowan Williams’ lecture on Civil and Religious Law in England would do any Islamist – or for that matter archbishop – proud. And it has. Hizb ut Tahrir, Muslim Council of Britain, and UK Islamic Sharia Council have all rushed to his defence whilst the rest of us are still grappling with its adverse implications for real live human beings and our society at large.

Let’s be frank. The Archbishop’s lecture lays out quite concisely the Islamist strategy for gaining access to political power and a how to guide on diminishing the role of secularism (with lessons for religious groups aiming to access or – as in his case – maintain power).

Like the Islamists, Rowan Williams uses rights language to help justify regression and violations of rights. By using terminology like‘Muslim communities in this country seek the freedom to live under sharia law,’ he deliberately fails to differentiate between the political Islamic movement and Islamists on the one hand and Muslims and those deemed to be Muslims on the other.

Of course Islamists want sharia here and everywhere. But to imply that ‘Muslims’ would ‘freely’ choose sharia implies that the masses of 21st century humanity would choose to live in the Middle Ages. On the contrary, a large number of those of us he wishes to hand over to the Islamists have resisted and fled Islam in power and have not accepted nor ever will accept sharia law.

Moreover, like the Islamists, he uses anti-racist language to assert that his defence of sharia is a defence of the ‘rights of religious groups within a secular state.’ Clearly, however, having the right to a religion is not the same as having the ‘right’ to religious law. His is merely a prescription for discrimination, inequality and culturally relative rights.

Also, like the Islamists he justifies and excuses sharia law and even attempts to dispel the ‘myths’ surrounding it. He quotes Tariq Ramadan saying ‘the idea of Sharia calls up all the darkest images of Islam…It has reached the extent that many Muslim intellectuals do not dare even to refer to the concept for fear of frightening people or arousing suspicion of all their work by the mere mention of the word’.

Clearly, though, it frightens people because it is frightening.

From the death sentence imposed on Parwiz Kambakhsh in Afghanistan for blasphemy and the recent sentence of death by stoning of two sisters Zohreh and Azar Kabiri-niat for ‘adultery’ in Iran, the image of Islamic law is dark because its reality is even darker.

Of course the archbishop is not referring to nor do the Islamists want the stoning of adulterers or the hanging of apostates like myself from cranes in Trafalgar Square. That is – according to Suhaib Hasan, one of the ‘judges’ at these sharia courts or councils and a spokesperson for the MCB, the job of Islamic states. This, however, doesn’t mean that he can’t dream: ‘Once just only once if an adulterer is stoned nobody is going to commit this crime at all.

‘We want to offer it to the British society. If they accept it, it is for their good and if they don’t accept it they’ll need more and more prisons.’

Despite mountains of evidence to the contrary, we are told that we need not worry. Ibrahim Mogra of the MCB says the sharia councils will only cover ‘small aspects of Sharia for Muslim families when they choose to be governed with regards to their marriage, divorce, inheritance, custody of children and so forth’.

Mogra implies that those who avail themselves of sharia law will ‘choose’ to do so. It is interesting how pro-women’s ‘choices’ the political Islamic movement becomes when it is vying for power and influence in the west. According to Mogra, sharia will even give rights to women they don’t have under English law. His pathetic example? ‘A Muslim man can take a second wife under sharia law and treat her as he wants knowing that she has no legal rights in Britain. It means that she is regarded as no more than a mistress and he can walk out on her when he wants.’

Despite their deceptive claims, in the real world, even ‘small aspects of sharia’ will increase intimidation and threats against the most vulnerable women and girls, deny them rights they have and deserve and leave them hostage in virtual Bantustans at the mercy of the likes of Suhaib Hasan and Ibrahim Mogra.
And for those rejoicing that sharia law in England will be a ‘moderate interpretation,’ I need to remind them that a ‘small aspect’ is not the same as a different interpretation. As Hasan says to the woman who questions his ruling in one of these kangaroo courts: ‘there is no exception to this rule, in the sharia there is no exception, you have to accept it.’

Marriage, divorce, child custody may be ‘small aspects’ to Mogra and the MCB but they are important pillars in the oppression of women living under Islamic law. Much of the struggle for women’s rights has taken shape in countries like Iran against these very aspects.

And by the way, laws are generally meant to safeguard rights not violate them. Many of the laws that sharia courts aim to avoid have been fought for by progressive movements over centuries in order to improve people’s, women’s and children’s position in society and often vis-à-vis religion in power.

This whole scandal is in my view a feeble attempt by the archbishop to muster up support for religion in power, safeguard its dwindling position in society and reduce secularism’s role by going to the Islamists. This time, though, the archbishop may have been a little too clever for his own good.

Nonetheless, we need to remind him and his friends that backwardness is never inevitable and we have many rights and freedoms here in Britain to prove it.

3 comments

  1. 1
    Nobody

    Wonderful article Maryam, i’ll be sure to spread it around. I agree with you on this issue one hundred percent.I have to wonder about one thing though – i noticed that you are a “Central Committee member of the Worker-communist Party of Iran”. How can it be that a person who has seen the disastrous effects of coercive state power could turn to an ideology like communism, an ideology of collectivism and statism that destroys the individualism of any society it rules over? An ideology that concentrates power in the hands of “central committees” that speak for the mythical “masses” is hardly preferable to an ideology that concentrates it in the hand of a few clerics allegedly representing “the muslims”.You may be truly disgusted by the treatment of women in islamic countries, under the domination of a select elite, as we all are, but why in gods name would you want to change their masters for the tyranny of a big-brother government capable of using their dominating position over the economic activity of a nation to silence criticism. We can see this in all examples of “communist” states.Anyways, i anxiously await your response. I can be reached through e-mail at [email protected], or you can of course reply here.

  2. 2
    Anonymous

    Maryam, you are wonderful. I am begging you to take care of your life and in particular do not take chances or allow the police to ignore threats people may make against you.(as I have just read in the Times)that you do. No martyrdom..please. If the do not respond or investigate fully, please engage a lawyer to pressure them. Threatening emails should also be forwarded to the police and followed up. This is how the police works in the UK; they are busy and need reminding. The people who wish you ill are both mad and bad. And you might consider–as I am sure you are the target of much hate mail–going public with it all–to let everyone see the dark monsters that lurk beneath the surface of things. Maybe put them altogether in a book or a blog and call it “the voice of islam”.I only know you from the internet but I..and my friends wish you well.This blog item strikes are your involvement with the Worker Party. And I would say to you that certainly in hope to mobilise American action–the word “communist” over there (after 60 years of red scares)is equal to “devil on earth”..so this in not something that works..though Europeans understand it well enough

  3. 3
    Nobody

    I’m sorry, but the opposition to communist ideology has nothing to do with any sort of “red scare”-era paranoia.I don’t see how someone can continue to support a big government ideology after the disasters of north korea, cuba, etheopia, the soviet union, Zimbabwe, etc, etc.Communism is the belief that the state should be the owner and operater of the capital of the nation, in order to produce a classless society that would then be free of the social ills that (allegedly) follow the wealth inequality of capitalism around.Well, does it strike you as a good idea to make the government the main employer? Would you march against the corruption of your employer(the government), if there was hardly any other employer to go to in town?? This is cuba! This is zimbabwe! No livelihood free from corrupt governments that usually wind up in the hands of megalomaniacs.Or take a look at zimbabwe. They decided to put the state in charge food distribution, and now areas of the coutnry that voted against the incumbent party are being starved in an engineered famine while all foreign aid is redirected to maintain Mugabe’s iron grip over his country!And don’t give me this tired excuse that that isn’t “real” communism. It’s what we see everytime it’s practiced. It’s the same lame excuse used by the islamists, that the shariah we see in the developing world isn’t “true” islam, just like zimbabwe style Marxism isn’t “real” communism”, obviously because it gives the movement you support a bad name.It isn’t red scare paranoia, it’s historical and intellectual honesty!http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mengistu_Haile_Mariam#The_Red_TerrorRemember, Mugabe was once a revolutionary left wing hero too.

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