My Blog has Moved to since 1 November 2011

Monday, September 19, 2011

Give me an Islamist any day...

The British Humanist Association’s debate on Islam in a Secular Europe reminded me of yet another BBC* sponsored programme.

Every ‘Muslim’ on the panel claimed to represent ‘Muslims’ worldwide as if there are no differences of opinion amongst Muslims or those labelled as such. They had no trouble excusing and trivialising Sharia law, the burka, child veiling, sex apartheid [Maleiha Malik even spoke of fatwa shopping as if women’s desperation to secure justice is a joke].

They deemed universal rights and secularism western concepts and asked for people to mind their own business quoting Shirin Ebadi no less.

And no matter how many times you said your opposition was with Islamism and a defence in fact of Muslims, they still branded you a racist and took on a form of victim status in order to help pave the way for reaction.

Humeira Iqtida (author of Secularising Islamists) and Maleiha Malik (professor of law) are textbook cases of this sort of strategy; Aina Khan (Sharia lawyer) is another example.

Frankly, give me an Islamist any day. At least they are honest.

Algerian sociologist and founder of Women Living Under Muslims Laws Marieme Hélie-Lucas rightly says Islamists always start with women, which is part of their broader agenda, because many (including the likes of Humeira, Malieha and Aina) are always prepared to trade women’s rights. Malieha says no one is being stoned as if denial of women's rights in the family is any less scandalous.

Sadly for them, though, there are still many of us – Muslims and non - who are unwilling to make such a trade and who continue to give precedence to real live human beings rather than religion and medievalism.

* Known as Ayatollah BBC in Iran for its support of some form or other of Islamism.


ابو علي said...

I know exactly what you mean, Maryam. I hate discussing Islam with the modernist apologetic type as they shift the goal posts here and there and make Islam into some sort of amorphous entity that means everything to everyone. Their one aim is to dodge, duck and dive all criticism and totally deny the reality of Islam in power. What they don't realise is that if there was ever an in Islamic State they would be against the wall not long after us! They are at best deluded and at worst complicit with the Islamists.

PeteP said...

I'm sorry I was not there; but not if it is just the same old-same old.

It's the same with in other religions too. No one wants to judge by the extreme - however prevalent and no one wants to believe that their childhood indoctrination is just plain wrong.

Saw an interesting atheist youtube cartoon about how the abrahamic faiths notion of a personal god is so bound up into our ego's - that our god is ourself. Tried saying not to yourself recently?

Danette said...

Brilliant comment PeteP! That's exactly it, isn't it? They all want to be little gods.

I was raised fundamentalist christian and saw the same attitudes. I become so frustrated with the cover liberal christians provide for them. I even get somewhat irritated with Harris and Hitchens for not realizing that fundamentalist Christianity has the same violent tendencies it's just that they unite with the corporately owned US government to do their dirty work. The zeal is the same even if they're not taping bombs to their chests. Hitchens in particular looks the other way on this issue. But as Maryam has said before, they are the other side to the same coin. And the injustice and what they do to women is ultimately the same. Even if Evangelicals are more subtle, they keep their women just as tied down and locked up.

The Godless Monster said...

Perhaps the issue is one of cultural vs fundamentalist Muslims. Cultural Muslims have no real affinity for the nastiness results from a literal reading of the Quran, but identifying as Muslim and defending Islam provides a general feeling of well-being to those who would otherwise be lost without their cultural security blanket. They equivocate and rationalize, but deep inside they know they are peddling bullshit. I find them annoying, petty and loathesome.
True fundamentalists, on the other hand, really believe the garbage they spew...and they act on it. It's an exageration or oversimplification to say that I respect the latter type, but at least with the fundamentalists I know where they stand on any given subject at any given moment. They're nuts in a predictable way.

The Godless Monster said...

"Cultural Muslims have no real affinity for the nastiness results from a literal reading of the Quran,"
Should read,
"Cultural Muslims have no real affinity for the nastiness that results from a literal reading of the Quran,"

Christopher Roche said...

I attended this debate and found the positions outlined and tactics adopted by Humeria Iqtida and Maleiha Malik to be frankly nauseating. They claimed not to support Sharia Law, but then repeatedly attempted to block criticism of it by denouncing such behaviour as bigoted and racist, all the while hiding behind some sort of manufactured academic right to support Islamist positions without professing personal support for Islamism itself.

In what was an almost comically pathetic attempt to escape a straight forward question regarding Qur'anically sanctioned domestic abuse, Iqtidar claimed ignorance, stating that she hadn't read the Qur'an, and so couldn't comment! Now it's possible that the Muslim author of "Secularising Islamists" and "Fundamentalisms Across Religions...", plus a dozen papers and book chapters on Islamism, hasn't read the Qur'an and hasn't heard of one of the most controversial and commonly discussed Qur'anic verses (4:34), but I find it more likely that she was deviating quite some way from the truth in order to avoid having to defend an indefensible feature of the Sharia. On the same question, Malik initially avoided providing any answer whatsoever (you would think that a self-professed feminist would jump at the chance to criticise the instruction of men to beat their wives) and then, when pushed by restless audience members, adopted the weasel-worded get out that she disapproved of "that interpretation", before swiftly changing the subject.

The most cringe worthily passive aggressive defence of Islamism, and Sharia Law specifically, was still to come. Bear in mind that the audience was told on numerous occasions by Iqtida and Maleiha that they were not trying to deflect any criticism of the Sharia by using unscrupulous tactics. That was repeatedly exposed as untrue, but towards the end of the debate Iqtida reached an astounding new low by equating calls to protect women from Sharia law courts with the physical assault of Hijabi tourist Shaikha Alsuwaidi in Paris. For those unfamiliar with the case, Alsuwaidi had her hijab pulled off and alleges that she was subsequently scratched and slapped across the face. A more cynical attempt to close down the debate, which might be paraphrased as "your call to close Sharia courts is akin to forcibly unclothing and physically assaulting a stranger", is difficult to conceive.

Frustrating and depressing as this dire display of two apologists for Islamism was, the audience seemed to by and large smell the rat and were having none of it. Nevertheless, it is deeply concerning that the dishonest tactics utilised during the debate may well achieve greater effect with less attentive observers, and heaven forbid, policy makers.

Christopher Roche said...

Also...the comments above by "ابو علي" and "The Godless Monster" are excellent.

Maryam Namazie said...

Thanks Christopher for giving such a good summary of what happened. The BHA says it plans to make available edited video footage of the discussion, which I await so that those who were not there can judge for themselves.

Maryam Namazie said...

Here is Maleiha Malik's response in full in case any one is interested:

Maryam Namazie

Could you please take me off all your email lists - both personal and professional. I agreed to share my email with the British Humanist Association, and participate in their debate - mainly because of my respect for British Humanism as a political and ethical tradition, but also because of my long standing professional relationship with, and respect for, Andrew Copson and Naomi.

Just to repeat so there is no confusion. Under no circumstances whatsoever do you have permission to either use or circulate this email address or contact me for any purpose. I trust that is sufficiently clear for you and any of your colleagues. Please do no reply to this email.

Maleiha Malik
Professor of Law
School of Law
King's College
University of London

Maryam Namazie said...

Below is Humeira's response to my blog entry on the panel discussion. She purposely misses my point; of course the debate is nuanced. In fact I started by quoting an Algerian journalist who said 'simplicity is killing us.' However my point about preferring the Islamist is with regards honesty. They are more honest that the likes of Humeira and Maleiha...

I have also written to the BHA asking them to make sure that the debate is produced in its entirety and not edited down. Then people can see who is honest in their assessment of what took place!

Anyway here's her email:

Dear Maryam,
It was quite a lot of fun to be part of the panel with you and others. I can understand that you would prefer to engage with an Islamist, because it would be easier for you to feed off their slogans with yours. However, a more nuanced position is clearly harder to engage with. For instance, it is important to understand that secularism is not the same as atheism. While secularism secures the right to be an atheist, it also secures the right to practice religion. The whole point of secularism is in finding ways to live with those one finds offensive, not to convert them to ones own views. To engage with a secularist who also supports the rights of a Muslim minority to practice a religion that you may find abhorent requires more than slogans.

Interpretation of the debate is your right but misrepresentation of what the others said is not. From minor problems like attributing terms and phrases to the wrong person to major ones like presenting a fragment of a larger argument as the argument, your blog is worrying. However, I am writing this email primarily in the hope that the video recording that BHA hopes to put up will be a more honest representation. Sarah and Alan, would it be possible for the panelists to review it before it goes online?

Humeira Iqtidar
Lecturer in Politics
Department of Political Economy
King's College London
The Strand, London WC2R 2LS

F***W*T TW****R said...

Known as Ayatollah BBC in Iran for its support of some form or other of Islamism.
Brilliant. I ddn't know that MN.