When will LibDems side with us?

2014-01-22It’s not surprising that the Liberal Democrats have again sided with Islamist values at the expense of Muslims, ex-Muslims and others.

Not surprising but frustrating nonetheless.

In the latest saga, they have decided to admonish their candidate Maajid Nawaz who has received death threats for merely stating the obvious: he – like many Muslims – is not offended by Jesus and Mo cartoons. Muslims are not a homogeneous bunch after all but are treated as such by the LibDem Party.  To them, Muslim values are considered one and the same with Islamist values: medieval, intolerant, and forever offended… Which is of course why they are more concerned with a cartoon causing “unnecessary offence” then death threats made against Nawaz by one of their own members, Mo Shafiq, who has effectively incited violence against Nawaz through his deliberate use of the term ‘Gustakh-e-Rasool’, which means ‘enemy of the prophet’. It’s the same lack of concern they have shown when another of their members Salah Al Bandar threatened Nahla Mahmoud with death by calling her a “Kafira” and “Murtada” who has offended Islam and brought “fitnah”.

After all, in the world according to the LibDems, death threats is what “Muslims” do. But saying a cartoon isn’t offensive to Muslims – as Nawaz did – well that just shows a lack of sensitivity…

In a statement, they write: “The Liberal Democrats are a party of respect, tolerance and individual liberty. We fundamentally believe in freedom of expression and as such defend Maajid’s right to express his views. But as a party we urge all candidates to be sensitive to cultural and religious feelings and to conduct debate without causing gratuitous or unnecessary offence.”

What the LibDems and many others keep forgetting is that respect, tolerance and even liberty is for people not beliefs, not cultures and not religions. We do not need to respect or tolerate beliefs but we must do so when it comes to people.

Plus why does the person who threatens and feels offence represent cultural and religious feelings but not the likes of Nawaz?

Algerian sociologist said it best in her recent interview with Fitnah’s Unveiled:

There are two underlying questions here: the first one is about the limits to respect for ‘The Other’s’ culture/religion…; the second is about who speaks for culture; who speaks for religion?

On respect, the real question is: should everything be respected? Is Female Genital Mutilation to be respected because old men think that is their culture – and even if some women also think it is their culture? Should forced marriage or child marriage be respected? Should public flogging for adultery be respected? Should stoning to death be respected? Or for that matter should the death penalty be respected at all?

There is a relativist culture of non commitment and neutrality that has been expanding – certainly in the West, under the influence of liberalism, of human rights organisations and of political correctness and the fear of appearing racist. Accordingly, everything is equal; everything has to be respected on par – the right of the capitalist and the right of the worker, the right of the one who holds the gun and the right of the one who runs for his life away from the gun… It is high time to admit that there are conflicting rights, antagonistic rights.

It seems to me that progressive people have forgotten the virtues of being partisan. I want to stand for the right of the worker, not that of the capitalist, for the right of the man who runs for his life, not for the right of the man who holds the gun, and for the right of women to live their lives without interference from extreme-Right religious people.

There can be a principled response regarding respect for ‘The Other’ and its limits, but this first question can also lead to another: who decides that THIS is The Culture of a group?

We could immediately produce, of course, hundreds and thousands and even millions of people, in each specific country, who would vouch that ‘this’ (be it stoning, FGM, child marriage, etc…) is by no means their culture/their religion, not the culture they feel they belong to, or the religion they believe in. 

Do we believe that those presently standing in their own countries or in the diaspora against FGM, public flogging, death penalty for atheists, etc… have less legitimacy in representing their people, their culture, their religion than those who stand for it?

Are we really saying that women fighting against sex segregation today in their own countries are alien to their culture? That they are illegitimate representatives of their cultures?

This stems from a definition of culture as fixed in the past, a-historical, not as a moving, living, permanently changing, social organisation. But then WHEN is a culture arrested in history, in which year? In the years of slavery, in the years when women did not vote, in the years when women did not have access to contraception, or could not open their own bank accounts? In which of these historical steps is a culture ‘arrested’ to be seen as authentic?

To me, the women who fight against FGM or stoning for sex outside marriage or for gender equality, etc are the representatives of today’s culture in their country.

It seems to me that cultural relativists are furiously and deeply racist since they exclusively promote as true and legitimate the worst possible opinions of extreme-Right Muslims. If anyone, white, European, would utter similar opinions about their white European co-citizens, these same cultural relativists would shrink in horror and refuse to shake their hand. One can only conclude that cultural relativists think that a Muslim must be a horrible reactionary, otherwise s/he is not a true Muslim. Isn’t that racist?

For me and many like me, Nawaz represents a majority of Muslims and ex-Muslims and just plain 21st century humans. When will the LibDems side with them, with us, and stop aiding and abetting the Islamists and their apologists?

Sign a petition to support Nawaz, Tweet #TeamNawaz and contact Liberal Democratic party members, counsellors and MPs though I can only say good luck with getting through to them. We are still waiting for justice for Nahla and an acknowledgement that death threats against people are more serious than offended sensibilities over a cartoon…

(Via Chris Moos)