There are those who tell us that Sharia law is misunderstood and that women actually fare better under it than men; that the veil is liberating; that segregating children in Islamic schools is good for social cohesion; that defending political Islam is anti-racist even.
Catch words, in my opinion, for western consumption so that the political Islamic movement can go about its business as usual. In Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia (often with western government complicity) this movement has no time for such niceties. It hangs the likes of sweet sixteen Atefeh Rajabi for acts incompatible with chastity, burns down girls’ schools, and kills apostates and opponents indiscriminately.
Let’s be frank. While Islamic organisations here talk in PR speak, they, their courts, their schools, their leaders are nothing but extensions of Islamic states.
Now the European rightwing will have us believe that this is particular to Islam; but fundamentally it is not. Any religion with political power has done and will do the same. If Christianity today seems more tolerable, it is only because it has been reigned in by an enlightenment.
They will have us believe that it is secularism and atheism that is the cause of the rise of political Islam because they say we are undermining Europe’s Judeo-Christian traditions. In reality, progressive social values today is the result of hard fought battles –often against the very religious traditions they hold near and dear. They will have us believe that we must withstand the teeming hordes of Muslims Islamicising Europe. They want us to believe that Muslims or those deemed as such are one and the same with Islamists and the political Islamic movement. In fact, many of the millions fleeing are the first victims and the first line of resistance against this movement. They will have us believe that we are battling for western values when all along it is universal ones. Go anywhere in Iran and you will find values of a home-grown enlightenment that is beyond your wildest imagination. They will have us believe that the solution to Islamism is a military one even though their ‘interventions’ in Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan have only helped strengthen this movement.
But the nationalist-European Left is no better. They are always ready to act as prefect when rights under Islamic laws are concerned. They are an anti-colonial movement whose perspective coincides with that of the ruling classes in the so-called Third World. They are on the side of the ‘colonies’ no matter what goes on there. And their understanding of the ‘colonies’ is Eurocentric, patronising and racist. They will have us believe that the people in these countries are one and the same with the regimes they are struggling against. Even their anti-imperialism is half-baked; they will not scratch beneath the surface to see how political Islam is an integral part of the new world order.
It is no wonder that so many people across the globe are turning to see what we secularists and humanists have to say.
It is no wonder that this conference and the movement it represents have captured people’s imagination in a way that is quite unique.
In the end, political Islam matters to people because it affects their lives, their rights, their freedoms.
And that’s why only a movement that puts people first can mobilise the force needed to stop apostasy laws, Sharia laws, the death penalty, and political Islam.
And it must – it will – be stopped.
The above was Maryam Namazie’s opening speech at the October 10, 2008 Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain’s conference on Political Islam, Sharia Law and Civil Society. To see the speech and other panellists and discussions including by Richard Dawkins, Johann Hari, AC Grayling and Joan Smith, click here.