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Sep 06 2013

We too yearn for freedom

2013-634944836961439419-143The outrage over the attempted assassination of 15 year old Malala Yousefzai shot by the Taliban for defending girls’ education; the mass protests against Islamists for the assassination of Socialist leader Chokri Belaid and Amina Tyler’s topless activism in Tunisia where she wrote “My body is not the source of your honour” and “fuck your morals”; the protests in Turkey against Islamisation; the Harlem Shake in front of Muslim Brotherhood headquarters in Egypt and the largest protest in Egypt in contemporary history against the Muslim Brotherhood – 33 million people (which was not to begin with a coup; the army only stepped in to take control and stop the revolution, not defend it)…

Even if you’re not looking, you can still see the immense resistance and dissent taking place. 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. Whilst it may sometimes be hard to see given the perceived “gains” by Islamists or the army in the region (in fact as counter-revolutionary forces aimed at suppressing the revolutions), the change of era is palpable.

Nonetheless, many post-modernist and culturally relativist Leftists, liberals, and feminists continue to remain firmly on the side of the Islamists.

Any opposition to Sharia law, (which is based on the Koran, Hadith, and Islamic jurisprudence), the veil, and Islamic misogyny are met with charges of racism, Islamophobia, cultural imperialism and more.

Those who say so though have bought into the culturally-relativist notion that societies in the Middle East and North Africa (and even the “Muslim community” in the west) are homogeneous, “Islamic” and “conservative”. But there is no one homogeneous culture anywhere. Since 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 the wonderful 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 Islamism with Muslim is a narrative peddled by Islamists and their apologists in an attempt to feign representation, restrict dissent, and prescribe the limits of “acceptable” expression.

Those who assert that a demand for secularism and opposition to the veil and Sharia law are “foreign” and “culturally inappropriate” are only considering Islamism’s sensibilities and values, not that of the many who resist. This shouldn’t be surprising. A large young population in many countries of the Middle East and North Africa brings with it challenges to the status quo as does the recent women-led revolutions and the backlash against Islamism.

As 34 year old Egyptian female cartoonist, Dooa Eladl who calls herself a Muslim anarchist and is facing blasphemy charges for her political cartoons that poke fun of Islamists says: “The extremists don’t scare me”. “Whatever they do, I will continue to use my skills to poke fun at them. They must understand that we Egyptians have changed with the revolution, and we will not go backwards.”

In the same way that there are opponents of nude protest and supporters of the veil, Islamism and Sharia in the “west”, there are also supporters of nude protest and opponents of the veil, Islamism and Sharia law in the “east”- even more so as you will find no greater opposition to Islamism than from those who have lived under its rule.

This has nothing to do with “cultural imperialists” patronisingly “rescuing Muslim women” any more than the fight for women’s suffrage was a rescue attempt and a form of cultural imperialism (after all the idea was “foreign” to begin with and started in one specific place).

Only those who see their rights and lives as separate and different from those deemed “other” and who have bought into (or are selling) Islamism’s narrative can see solidarity and the demand for equality and secularism in this warped way.

Ironically, like the 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 “difference” no matter how intolerable.

But as Algerian sociologist Marieme Helie Lucas says: “Difference and diversity are double-edged concepts; we should never forget that they have been used by reactionary forces to maintain in their difference – by force – peoples and categories of population. What lies behind ‘respect for difference’ is the deep desire that the ‘other’ remains different…”

Defending secularism, free expression, and equality and opposing Sharia law, far-Right Islamism, and Islamic states have nothing to do with “prejudice against Muslim communities”, racism and Islamophobia. Saying so ignores the immense dissent including amongst those considered Muslims and denies the social and political struggles and class politics.

Islamophobia is a political term used to scaremonger people into silence. Charges of Islamophobia have been coined not because anti-Muslim bigotry is the main concern of these apologists but in order to protect Islam and Islamism. If they were so concerned about Muslims or those labelled as such, they would oppose not support Sharia and Islamism and stop justifying Islamic terrorism which kills more “Muslims” than anyone else.

Don’t get me wrong, racism and bigotry exist but you can’t stop prejudice by limiting dissent and free expression, stopping much needed criticism of Islam and religion, and by 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…”

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 industry, a mafia, a killing machine. When it comes to religion in the state and law and educational system, then it is no longer a question of personal belief but a matter of political power and control.

Islam – like all religion – but particularly so because of Islamism or the Islamic inquisition – should come with a health warning. It kills.

Those who equate opposition to religion, the religious Right or religious misogyny with racism and an attack on “Muslims” see an attack on misogynist beliefs and movements as an attack on people and choose to side with culture and religion over the lives and rights of human beings.

This culturally relativist perspective implies that women’s liberation is only for those who are ”white” and ”western”; the rest of us are only allowed “freedom” within the cultural and religious confines of Islam.

Thanks but no thanks.

Islamists use the latest technology to advance their barbarity but when it comes to women’s rights and secularism they’re “western” and “foreign”?

Even if rights are western (which they are not), they were fought for by progressive social movements and the working class and belong to all humanity.

In the topsy turvy world of cultural relativists 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 or vice versa. I despise both; I oppose both. And I oppose all forms of fascism, not just my own. After all Islamism is our far-Right.

As late Iranian Marxist Mansoor Hekmat says: “The religious, cultural, ethnic and national categorisation of people is always the first step in denying their universal rights as human beings. If the genocide in Rwanda is the continuation of an African tradition, if stoning is the Iranian people’s Islamic tradition, if veiling is part of the culture of women in ‘Islamic societies’, if marrying off a nine year old girl is a tradition of the people of those countries themselves, then they can really be forgotten, humiliated, bombed and left to the mercy of their own rules beyond the fortresses of western civilisation and democracy. But if it becomes clear that these people like all others live and produce in a capitalist society and global market, if it becomes apparent that these Islamic traditions and laws have been imposed on them by sheer force of imprisonment, torture chambers, street patrols, knives, executions, and stoning, if it becomes apparent that these people like all others are yearning for freedom, equality and an end to discrimination… then all this hypocritical ideological monument will collapse and the damage will be beyond words.”

From Egypt, to Turkey, Algeria and Iran, the “damage” to cultural relativism is done and people worldwide are seeing that demands for freedom and secularism are not “Western” but universal.

Nothing rings more true today that the chants 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 add: secularism is our basic human right as the philosopher A C Grayling says.

And given the bleak realities of Islamism it is also clearly a historical task and necessity.

The above is one of my most recent speeches.

4 comments

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  1. 1
    Bicarbonate is back

    Bravo!

  2. 2
    Usama Khizar

    lol islamisim islamism , no sharia law no sharia law
    belive me when u die u will soon c what u did no one will call u back than , mend ur ways before its too late , angel of death wont show any mercy.
    Of all the ppl u showed as a proof angaisnt islamism let me just pick yor first girl , ummmm malala yousefzai
    this article is enough to lay some light on

    White House Press Secretary Jay Carney in recent briefing said, “President Barack Obama was very committed to ending the war in the Pak-Afghan region…He has made it clear that he would refocus attention on what was a neglected war in Afghanistan, refocus our mission on Al Qaeda, and on decimating Al Qaeda’s leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
    Terming the attack of Malala Yousafzai as a turning point in the war against militancy in Pakistan, he said, “So obviously, the degree to which the Pakistani people turn against them help their government to go after them.” US, western and Indian Cyber Commands are on their full throttle to malign orthodox Sunni Muslims in terrorist related incidents. Despite the fact that peace has been restored in Swat and the adjoining areas, a drama was staged in the shape of self engineered attack on Malala Yousafzai. Whatever the case may be, the incident with Malala Yousafzai is worth condemning in strongest possible words but one wonders why missile attacks by US drones on a Mosque and Madrassa in Orakzai Agency on 11 October 2012 that martyred 18 innocent people including some students failed to attract the attention of those who are commenting on an incident without having any background.
    It is interesting to note that on the day Malala Yousafzai was attacked i.e. 9 October, US Anti War Group activists held a symbolic twelve hour hunger strike outside the Islamabad Press Club, holding “pictures of around 164 Pakistani children who have been killed by US drones and missiles attacks. The other important event was landing of Pakistan International Airlines flight in Swat on 10 October which symbolizes that peace has been restored in Swat and adjoining areas. But due to incident a day earlier the flight had to land under tight security. One wonders how can western blood thirsty beasts, who have developed the habit of spilling innocent blood would not resist their kicks on their backs. Another event that is equally important to mention here that there was strong resistance of private schools in KPK province against government decision of introduction of Pushto as compulsory subject. In fact, government decision is binding on both private and public sector educational institutions in KPK but a large number of schools in private sector are openly resisting implementation of government’s decision. No doubt, father of Malala Yousafzai, who is President of Private School’s Association, would at least earn immunity for his chain of schools after the incident.
    One wonders another bombshell is coming in the shape of implementation of syllabus of Text Book Board and how private schools would save themselves. What… another attack on the students of private school or their bombing? Washington has been signalling long that they have physical presence in Pakistan. More than 90 percent of the terrorists attacks are either directly or indirectly linked with state sponsored terrorists from foreign soils including US and India. In the same regard, US State Department’s Victoria Nuland said during a daily press briefing on 11 October 2012, “We have an intense counter terrorism relationship. We would like to do even more together. We are continuing to try to work on these issues and encourage our Pakistani partners to do as much as they can against these issues, because Pakistanis are the greatest victims of terror inside their own country”. She confirmed that Washington is in contact with the Pakistani side in the wake of attack on Malala and said, “I think it speaks to the work that we’re trying to do to get all of these working groups that we had under our counter terrorism cooperation back up and running – as you know, we had the counter-IED group, etcetera – and to continue to support each other and share intelligence, etcetera,”.
    After the US and allies withdrawal from Afghanistan, the western players plus India are trying their level best to invest in girls education, health and women issue as possible during next fourteen months. Already, the European Union (EU) has been working through a multi-donor trust fund in various fields, which has set aside $114 million for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Malakand. EU is spending 300 million Euros on the reconstruction of schools and other development projects in Swat and Malakand. The USAID has provided $25 million for reconstructing about 110 insurgency-destroyed schools in Malakand. The KPK province would also be receiving another $200 million for reconstruction activities from the UAE’s Abu Dhabi Fund for Development for various projects including construction of a University in Swat, reconstructing damaged schools and colleges. One wonders why so much generosity with Malakand?
    It would be surprising for many propagandists that Malala Yousafzai, although, voiced against the closure of government girl’s schools in Swat but she did not study in any government school. Malala’s father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, who also writes poetry, is owner of a chain of private schools known as the Khushal Public Schools which are funded by US, UK. The attack also took place while she was returning home from same school. Eye witnesses and residents of area presented their unique views and said that Ziauddin and her daughter are working on communists’ agenda and CIA may have targeted her. But the fact remains that we cannot so easily link Malala Yousafzai with communists for her delivery of speech at International Marxist Tendency camp organized in Swat from 13 to 15 July. The statement of Marxist Alan Woods who condemned the assassination attempt, claiming “Malala Yousafzai was on the side of the oppressed people of Pakistan and Afghanistan and every other country”. Does that not mean that Malala was linked with Russians.? Double, triple game or otherwise; one can only guess at this stage.
    Washington wants to open war theatres in Pakistan after the shameful humiliating defeat in Afghanistan. The genocide of over 1.5 million orthodox Sunnis in Afghanistan and Pakistan cannot be justified by such self engineered insulated incidents. Islamabad has been tolerating western violations of territorial integrity and sovereignty because of powerful propaganda that terrorists are threatening the very existence of Pakistan. No doubt, there are terrorists in every country. Pakistan has unfortunately a good number of foreign terrorist and agents from many countries, especially from India and west. The propaganda themes like “The US, enemy of Islam, is building schools in Pakistan; Taliban, Islam’s friends, are blowing up schools,” are aimed to malign those Muslims in favour of Shariat. One of the media channel in Pakistan being run with the funds and directions from Washington is actually telecasting western culture and carrying out black propaganda against rule of Muslim before the intrusion of British in Indo-Pakistan subcontinent. A Pakistani top newspaper gave a unique idea, which suggested Satan to play role of Moses (Hazrat Musa Alhe Salam); dubbing Taliban as followers of Pharaoh and inviting a western country to follow in the footsteps of Moses.
    The inhuman attack on three students of a private school namely Shazia, Kainat and Malala and its linking with Taliban is nonsense as it is on record that since centuries Muslim orthodox Sunnis never carryout such cowardly acts on women or girls.
    No doubt, there are Islamic punishments but these are executed after in public after getting verdict from authorities. Police and security forces have arrested over 250 individuals for their connections in attack on Malala. People of Pakistan are not terrorists but those who are compelling them to adopt the path of terrorism need to be punished. Pakistani Armed Forces and security forces are struggling hard to bring the country back to the path of peace and prosperity. The development work carried out by Armed Forces in troubled areas is clearly indicating that these personnel do care for general public rather they are people’s Army etc. Unfortunately, under the thick cloud of western and Indian propaganda sometimes it is difficult to differentiate between friends and foes. Of course there were some wrong actions but neither Taliban nor any other religious group is against the institutions including security forces. It is high time that we need to come out of war phobia due to western spell and stop killing our own people to let the peace prevail. The bottom line is that enough is enough… No more dictations… No more do more…… no more foreign counter-IED group in Pakistan and no more baseless unconfirmed breaking news such as Taliban have accepted the responsibility of attacking Malala Yousafzai. Let’s open the door of Swat for all the people who had been living there since centuries and enforce writ of government.

  3. 3
    RainbowSlushie^.^

    Nonetheless, many post-modernist and culturally relativist Leftists, liberals, and feminists continue to remain firmly on the side of the Islamists.

    Not this leftist: I despise all Islamists; Muslim Brotherhood, Taliban, LeT, the Al-qaeda, and all the rest of them, so called moderates and so called extremists whom the moderates make excuses for. I just don’t believe that invading their countries has anything but the well being of capitalists’ pocketbooks in mind….Which is to say that invading countries that Islamists have control over or want control over will do nothing but reenforce their social position; like when we invaded Iraq and installed a fundamentalist clerico-fascist Shia Ilsamic Regime headed by al-Maliki with Muqtada-Al Sadr wielding tremendous influence in that society. Or how if we support the Syrian Free Army, we’re pretty much consenting to the Islamization of Syrian Society. Far be it from me to support Islamists for sure, but I am wary of Capitalists who claim to hate Islamists: usually they do so for open access to markets in Arab lands, as well as a way for them to make money with munitions companies dropping bombs on Arabs they hate anyway.

  4. 4
    RainbowSlushie^.^

    Nothing rings more true today that the chants 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”.

    The Shah shouldn’t have been so readily overthrown, just like Bashar al-Assad shouldn’t be so readily overthrown. The Revolution of 1979 in Iran was a disgrace and a spitting on the Human Rights of people in that Society, pre and post Shah. They should have kept the Shah and put Socialists in power, not religious zealots. It’s so sad what happened in Iran =(

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