Impossible not to see

01-8marsFrankfurt (2)Below is my speech at the wonderful International Women’s Day event in Frankfurt.

• 15 year old Malala Yousefzai shot by the Taliban for defending girls’ education.
• Egyptian atheist Aliaa Magda ElMahdy’s nude scream against misogyny and hypocrisy.
• The outrage over the assassination of socialist leader Chokri Belaid in Tunisia.
• The “Harlem Shake” in Egypt in front of the Muslim brotherhood headquarters.

Even if you’re not looking, it is becoming impossible not to see the immense and modern resistance and dissent taking place day in and day out – even in the darkest corners of the globe.

It’s a new period of human development after decades of Islamic terrorism, US-led militarism, unbridled free market reign, cultural relativism and the retreat of all things universal.

Much of it is based on the actual occupation of public spaces – citizens taking back control. Content-wise, its demands are deeply rooted in a criticism of the current economic crisis, capitalism, inequality, mass unemployment, and poverty as well as dictatorship and Islamism.

The high visibility and presence of women in the resistance is a hallmark of this era. A “female” revolution which contradicts and finally brings to an end the racist cultural relativism and multi-culturalism where people are boxed into imagined homogenous ‘communities’ and where dictatorship and Islamism are forever deemed to be part of people’s ‘culture’.

Labelling the Arab spring a winter does a disservice to this resistance, denies its very existence by only focusing on Islamism and oppressive forces, and hinders the expression of solidarity and support that is crucial in any fight of this nature.

The foot soldiers of the revolutions have been workers, the unemployed, youth, women, the poor… Islamists didn’t spearhead the revolutions nor have they been instrumental in them. They were nowhere to be seen. And the revolutions’ demands were not Islamist ones.

After all, Islamism has certain characteristics – such as the demand for Sharia law or veiling, which were not people’s demands when they took to the streets.

Any gain for Islamism in this period is a gain for the establishment and for the counter-revolutionary forces and must be seen as such.

I worry whether secularists and women’s rights campaigners outside the region are ready for this new era to show real solidarity and support… [Read more...]