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Egypt’s fight is against Islamism

660x390photo_1372510675398-1-0Millions 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”.

Comments

  1. Comtessa de Metoncula says

    The Whole World should be cleaned out of religious Crap.
    Organized religion is the Problem and based on the same book written by a bunch of retarded, murderous and misogynist Neanderthals! We have a more pressant fight to fight and that is our environment!http://www.midwayfilm.com/

    We desperately need to go to zero population growth or this planet is doomed! For those who still need some convincing, I would strongly advise you to read, The Population Bomb by Paul Ehrlich in 1968 and more books written by same author on the subject!
    If just all insects were to disappear from this poor Planet, all life as we know it would cease! If on the other hand all humans were to disappear, nothing bad would happen and the planet might just survive!

  2. ... says

    Hmmm – does the fact that some of these protestors want Morsi to be more Islamic change your opinion? Or the fact that some of them want him to wipe out Israel? Though I suspect you are in favour of that.

    Word of advice: someone who is an advocate of Communism really doesn’t get to bellyache about rightists. You really don’t.

    • says

      Fuck off. Being opposed to Israeli occupation of Palestine doesn’t mean one wants Israel wiped off the face of the earth. I defend the people of Israel and Palestine vis a vis regressive Israeli and Palestinian states that continue to prevent a peaceful settlement. I want both states to exist. You right-wingers do the same thing Islamists do. If you oppose Islamism you are racist according to them. If you oppose Israeli occupation of Palestine, you want to wipe out state of Israel according to you. No, my politics is centred on human being and defends the human being irrespective of their beliefs or where they come from. You could learn a thing or two but I know it is impossible. Now go away.

  3. dickspringer says

    I am not now, never have been, and at age 83 don’t expect ever to be a communist. But the word ‘communism’ refers to more than the system set up by Lenin and Stalin with all its brutality. The word existed before Marx and refers to a system of common ownership of most property. It is clear to me that excessive concentration of power necessarily follows and that a humane communist system is a practical impossibility. But someone with humanist values may disagree. And anyone, and especially a woman, can legitimately complain about the subordinate position assigned to all women by Islam

    Referring to such complaining as “bellyaching” is insulting and is not part of rational discourse.

  4. slc1 says

    Is Ms. Namazi planning to comment on the ouster today of Egyptian President Morsi by the Egyptian Armed Forces?

    Re No. 2

    Or the fact that some of them want him to wipe out Israel? Though I suspect you are in favour of that.

    I’m not a particular follower of Ms. Namazi’s blog but I don’t recall her calling for the State of Israel to be wiped out.

  5. says

    //Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller and the EDL who consider all “Muslims” to be Islamists in sheep’s clothing on the other//
    Robert and Pamela don’t single out ‘all’ muslims. They critique Islam, its Jihad, etc. Your remark above is little harsh on them. (I don’t know about EDL.)

  6. says

    Dear Maryam,

    I think they have said this in the context of “if Muslim means what it means, one is either Muslim or not, and moderate muslim is a misnomer.” and I think it is just another politically-incorrect way of expressing it. It is not productive to engage in friendly fights.

    By the by, i forgot to tell you. i love what you do. Cheers.

    • says

      No it’s a “respectable” way of blaming all Muslims and holding them accountable for Islamism’s crimes. Religion is a personal matter lived in many different ways. Not every Christian is on the Christian Right. And no country is a Christian country. No society is homogeneous and secularists and freethinkers found everywhere. Their bigotry, however, doesn’t allow them to see Muslims as human, that there are many different ways Muslims practice religion (including as cultural Muslims), that there are freethinkers amongst them and that Islamist is not the same as Muslim any more than Christian and Christian Right synonymous. Islamists push collective blame. No one is Israel is innocent, or the west, which is why bombings in public places acceptable. If you are an Israeli citizen you are one with the occupying Israeli government. This far-Right – the Spencers and Gellers – do exactly the same. No Muslim is innocent. This is not a friendly fight – it is a fight about fundamentals. I can’t see how the pro-Islamist left sides with Islamists; I also can’t see how those opposed to Islamism could side with the far-Right. It is about principles and also defending a humanity rather than issuing collective blame.

      • says

        Dear Maryam,
        Thanks for your reply. Let’s discuss this issue one more round.
        //blaming all Muslims//
        You are again repeating ‘all’. They don’t mean ‘all’. If someone critiques a specific aspect of Islam, a person who does not follow/believe in that aspect need not be offended. Do they have to use a long disclaimer every time they use the word Muslim? just like Muslims using a long sallaallaalaa after every Muhamad. Is it humanly possible?

        //Islamism’s crimes//
        If you want to add ‘ism’, the right word to use is Muhamadanism. Islamism means nothing. On the other hand you can use Islamist/ Muhamadanist to denote the followers of Islam/ Muhamadanism or you can use the native words ‘Muslims’ & ‘Muslimahs’. You are free to use PC words. But if everyone has to use PC words, the issue cannot be addressed.

        //And no country is a Christian country//
        You could have added ‘no country is a Muslim country’ to be even.

        // No society is homogeneous and secularists and freethinkers found everywhere//
        But, as we know very well, the control is in the hands of fanatics, particularly so in the case of Islamic countries and it is their writ which gets enforced. It is Islam of Muhamad and the interpretation of Fanatics (Islamists in your word) which is enforced, not the personal ways of persons involved. For example, can a person write a will bequeathing his/her property in equal share to his/her son and daughter in an Islamic country? A billion Muslims can have a billion way of Islam. But when it comes to its application in public sphere, those in control refer to the original texts and the problem lies in there. Any amount of Politically correct words will not address the issues. Robert & Pamela have guts to spell it in public. It would be better if you can suggest them a better discourse. Instead you seem to shun them.

        //Their bigotry, however, doesn’t allow them to see Muslims as human//
        I am debating here just for Robert & Pamela. (As I said already, I don’t know about the political parties). I have been watching them regularly for the past 2 years and I am sure they are not bigots. If you have specific proof, could you share it here? The link you gave before does not have any specifics.

        //I also can’t see how those opposed to Islamism could side with the far-Right.//
        Robert and Pamela are not opposed to Islamism but Islam. If you think they are guilty by association, say that by all means. But you seem to blame their work itself, which is not good way of advancing the cause.
        In the fight against Islam in West, I wish we can ignore Far-right. But in reality they are the only group standing up to it.
        P.S: If you want to know whether I am left/right, I am very much left.

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