The virtues of being partisan

Maryam interviews Marieme Helie Lucas. Right at the start MHL makes an important point:

As long as all these attempts by Muslim fundamentalists – whether in the form of different rights for different categories of citizens, veiling, sex segregation and so on – is not analysed in political terms – as the expression of an anti-democratic programme, but rather in terms of religion or culture, the British government will not limit the rise of this extreme-Right movement, which will be increasingly difficult to control.

That’s a very good point, all the more so in a time when both religion and culture are treated like fragile much-loved babies, while political concerns are supposed to be robust enough to take care of themselves.

Those of us who clearly see the rise of a new form of fascism – mostly because we come from situations in which we have had to live under the boot of fundamentalists – are left to our own devices to struggle against it. It is not very different from the situation of anti-Nazi Germans who were not listened to, for far too long, until a bloody war was inevitable.

MHL is Algerian. That boot, those fundamentalists.

Universities have no business pandering to such requests, and if they do, what’s next? Fundamentalist speakers will only address audiences where females are fully covered?

It seems we are already witnessing some of the next steps. According to media reports, in one instance at a UK university, women were not only segregated but had to give their questions in writing to the speaker, whilst men could raise theirs. As one knows, their voices are sexually attractive and fundamentalists plug their ears against temptation – hence the ban on singing in the areas the Taliban control…

What is sure is that fundamentalists will not stop here and will produce more and more demands, since the aim is not to get satisfaction for a specific demand, but to gain political ground.

Wouldn’t you think people who run things would be shrewd enough to realize that? I would, but maybe that’s naïve of me.

Are racial and gender segregation incomparable? Why is it that everyone can see the distinction between a black university and racial apartheid but when it comes to gender, it’s not as obvious?

Marieme Helie Lucas: This is a very crucial question that I have debated a lot, including more than twenty years ago with feminist friends in the USA. While sex segregation was rapidly expanding in Algeria under the heavy weight of the first fundamentalist preachers and religious groups, I was trying to warn them about the potential backlash of their gender segregation policy in the name of feminism.

Many of our feminist weapons have been turned against us along the years… and I have come to this very sad conclusion that we were not smart enough to think, as thinkers and philosophers should, about all the facets of the concepts we were grappling with. Just think of our feminist praise for diversity, whilst all along we knew that difference was used to legitimise the racist South African apartheid regime, or the segregationist states of the USA. This concept is now used to legitimise the imposition of differences on women that make them unequal in the name of religion, ethnicity or culture.

Susan Moller Okin, Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women? (The answer is yes.) Diversity is only as good as it is. Not ever difference is something to celebrate. The murderer is different; not in a good way.

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.

Ah, that’s a great line. Progressive people have forgotten the virtues of being partisan. Ima stop there but there’s lots more; go read the whole thing.


  1. Al Dente says

    What is sure is that fundamentalists will not stop here and will produce more and more demands, since the aim is not to get satisfaction for a specific demand, but to gain political ground.

    It’s obvious the fundamentalists are not interested in religion but in power. They use religion and religious privilege to seize and hold power.

  2. RJW says

    Agreed, however the author is describing the obvious, religions are political ideologies and Islam is a retrograde totalitarian ideology that’s inimical to liberal democracy.

  3. Bruce says

    One of the reasons that Ophelia is correct is a bit of logic that sounds like a paradox at first.

    Tolerance of intolerance is not tolerant. Tolerance of intolerance is intolerant.

    It is the Islamic “leadership” that is pushing against tolerance of the right of free association by gender. To tolerate enforced segregation is to tolerate repression of the right of free association by gender.

    It is the duty of thinking people (including Muslims, ex-Muslims, and non-Muslims) to refuse to accept this intolerance.

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