Beware of those who hide behind ‘choice’

I find that people often hide behind ‘choice’ in order to defend their position.

But that to me is a cop-out.

I think it’s always better to start with principle. You’re less likely to go wrong.

Do I support the US bombing of Iran? Do I support the veil? Do I support religion? The death penalty? Torture? Sharia law? Before I even know how many people ‘choose’ any of the above, my answer is a resounding no.

Clearly, just because people choose something, it doesn’t necessarily make it right. And we know this because we are always fighting for changes and for social justice – however small – in our homes, workplaces, schools, and neighbourhoods.

In fact many changes – from ending slavery, giving women the right to vote, to ending racial apartheid – came about by changing a majority’s view on how the world should be.

But for some reason, this common sense approach goes out the window when it comes to anything Islamic.

We hear for example that adult women have a ‘right to choose’ the veil or Sharia courts in Britain. But the use of the terms choice and rights are highly deceptive. Firstly, many are pressured into wearing the veil or going to these courts.

Also there is very little choice when living under what I call an Islamic inquisition. Islamists don’t let you pick and choose but will threaten or intimidate anyone who transgresses their medieval norms. They threaten you if you are not veiled. A good example is the Muslim woman councillor of Tower Hamlets, Shiria Khatun, who was given death threats for not veiling. And the same applies to Sharia courts. Women are told that not accepting the court’s rulings are equivalent to apostasy and disbelief.

Using terms such as rights and choice are merely public relations ploys by Islamists and their supporters. And it’s often used by others to shrug responsibility towards important matters facing us today.

After all one can justify or ignore anything by saying it’s a ‘choice.’

The Islamic hadith (sayings and actions of Mohammad) on stoning comes to mind. It is said that a woman begged Mohammad thrice before he reluctantly agreed to stone her to death.

‘Scholars’ of the Institute for Oriental Studies in India have reported that out of 40 eyewitness accounts, only two women ‘involuntarily’ threw themselves on the burning pyres of their dead husbands in order to legitimise suttee. The rest, they say, made a ‘voluntary choice.’

Clearly, there can be no choice under the unbearable pressures people and women in particular face. But even if it was a real choice (if you somehow manage to remove all the pressures involved), it’s a bad one for people, society and the world at large.

Iranian Marxist Mansoor Hekmat says it best in his interview on Islam and De-Islamisation:

I will not respect any superstition or the suppression of rights, even if all the people of the world do so. Of course I know it is the right of all to believe in whatever they want. But there is a fundamental difference between respecting the freedom of opinion of individuals and respecting the opinions they hold. We are not sitting in judgement of the world; we are players and participants in it. Each of us are party to this historical, worldwide struggle, which in my opinion, from the beginning of time until now has been over the freedom and equality of human beings. I will not respect the superstitions that I am fighting against and under the grip of which human beings are suffering.