The hope is by reaching out to the Islamic Right, their participation in society will reduce the threat of extremism. It misses two key points. One, most on the Islamic right are not violent or going to be as it is their personal view, the other that this accommodating undermines the very muslims that are countering this view of Islam both in their community and by how they live their own lives. We should be standing for the liberal principles that fundamentalists oppose, instead of promoting groupthink over individual rights.
The fear that your house will be burnt down, because you have publicly left a faith. A return phone call from a company to ensure you do not break Islamic tenets, because of your name, having placed an order. Gender segregated events at a political rally, with parliamentary candidates.
Secularism supports citizens being free in their opinions regarding religion. Universal human rights promote that no authority may impose religious opinions on others by law or coercion. That should be easy enough – no one should be threatened with violence, no one should have a stranger phoning up to reprimand them on religious dietary requirements they do not follow. It is not though. As The Observer article mentions having cited those two examples:
There has been a great deal of public debate in recent years about what drives young Muslims towards radicalisation. It’s an urgent subject of study in various disciplines of academia, has spawned a library of books, and is the focus of well-funded government programmes.
What is much less known about, and far less discussed, is the plight of young Muslims going in the opposite direction – those who not only turn away from radicalisation but from Islam itself.
Although it is fraught with human drama – existential crisis, philosophical doubt, family rupture, violent threats, communal expulsion, depression, and all manner of other problems – the apostate’s journey elicits remarkably little media interest or civic concern. According to Cottee, there is not “a single sociological study… on the issue of apostasy from Islam”.
I have written about how some will argue that they oppose sharia councils, gender segregation, the veil as a face mask etc on principle but see such things as needing accommodating as a means to prevent fundamentalism having a grievance and to try and draw the muslim right into civic politics. In short, this is about preventing extremism to keep themselves safer.
The problem we have, in this rush to bend over backwards out of selfish self-interest, we have suggested that the Islamic right is islam. We have compromised to suggest that Islam requires fasting and face veiling even for children, gender segregation increases participation, that children can be denied music lessons at faith schools. When there is no theological consensus on this, but a sub-cultural and subjective view in play. Most importantly everyone is free to express their opinion in matters of religion regardless of their heritage, skin colour or name. I would like to add even if they are children, and you can read my own apostasy story for more on that here.
As Alom Shaha says: “If your concern about bigotry Muslims face means you’re unwilling to admit problems ex-Muslims face, you’re doing whole liberal thing wrong.” We must be appalled by a woman being verbally abused at wearing a hijab as we are at a woman wearing a hijab fearing what her family will do if she did not. Being liberal is being concerned about individual rights, and not allowing them to be subject to communal whims of religious figures that promote group think for their own platform.
‘Why do you not ask the women at gender segregated events?’, has been the remark to me on twitter. Well I have, when I was standing as a councillor for the Liberal Democrats. I had to have conversations through letter boxes with women, who told me that their husband would make the decision how they would both vote, though they would pass on my remarks. Where people feared putting a poster up for me would result in a brick being thrown through their window. Where a Labour activist told me not to offer my hand to women as against their culture, and when some women did shake my hand I replied, will you tell them it is against their culture to have done that?
Harriet Harman, deputy leader of the Labour Party, has said she hated the idea of a gender segregated public meeting, but she hated the idea of men only meetings even more. My reply would be not to attend either, just as I would not a racial segregated meeting or one where only white men were invited to attend. Would we promote women wearing a face mask, because the alternative is them being locked up indoors for the same reason – or would we say such ideas need to be challenged for they are designed to control the movement and appearance of women? We accommodate while ignoring muslims stating these things have nothing to do with Islam. We expect ex muslims and muslims to think like the muslim right – using the logic of the very racists and anti-muslim bigots that they all must be the same because of their skin and names. That should be enough to shame anyone, but the irony is ignored as they claim to be championing a suppressed minority by promoting the Islamic Right.
I really do not want to mention cartoons again on this blog. People still seem determined to kill others for putting ink to paper, as the Texas attempted massacre showed where security shot dead two armed wannabe killers at a cartoon of Mohammed event. It would be easy to go, but they are right wing bigots, accept it should not matter whether it is Pam Geller or anyone saying:
“This is a war. This is war on free speech. What are we going to do? Are we going to surrender to these monsters? Two men with rifles and backpacks attacked police outside our event. A cop was shot; his injuries are not life-threatening, thank Gd. Please keep him in your prayers,” she posted.
“The bomb squad has been called to the event site to investigate a backpack left at the event site. The war is here.” [Source]
Even hate group leaders organising events do not deserve to be executed at them, nor those that attend. Former President Morsi should not be executed in Egypt, and secularists should be speaking out against military juntas that decide to wear civilian clothing while subverting democracy as they should Islamists that deny human rights. Words or opinions should not mark out anyone for death – nor should we respond they were asking for it by expressing them. Unless the victim is the guilty party, not the man with the gun, or the man with his dick in his hand as he is about to rape a protester. Were the women asking for it as they demanded their human rights? Enough with blaming the victim.
Of course the gun is not always the weapon of choice. With the machete, a third secular blogger in Bangladesh is killed this year. Chased down the street as he went to work, Ananta Bijoy Das was hacked to death in what is increasingly seen as a “culture of impunity” for religiously motivated killings.
His murder comes a week after al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent claimed responsibility for Roy’s killing on 26 February in which his wife was badly injured. An Islamist has been arrested over his murder. Another atheist blogger, Washiqur Rahman, was hacked to death in Dhaka in March. Two madrassa students have been arrested over that attack. [Source]
Religion does not deserve a culture of impunity in a free society. Yet, that is exactly what we are in danger of doing, not out of principle but expediency. I have met too many people who have been threatened and shot at, read about too many who I will never get to meet because they have been killed. Like Sabeen Mahmud, shot dead in April:
In Karachi, Sabeen established a not-for-profit organization “to promote democratic discourse and conflict resolution through intellectual and cultural engagement,” called The Second Floor (T2F). T2F worked to keep its doors open for artists, performers and marginalized voices, with Sabeen’s fearless and welcoming attitude creating a home and a safe space for conversations, discourse and peace in Pakistan. [Source]
If we want intellectual and cultural engagement, we cannot accommodate the very reactionary ideology that stands against it. The religious right have to be challenged for the sake of a free and open society for everyone. The islamic right should be no exception. Just as we should condemn the words of the French Mayor that said “The Muslim religion must be banned in France”, who has been suspended by his party for this tweeted remark to former President Sarkozy.
Do not kid yourself that you can appease the fundamentalists with gestures. It never does. Death or surrender is the choice they offer. We should want neither, as we promote liberty and freedom for all, while tackling bigotry against muslims and ex muslims.
Free speech for everyone, whether they are Anjem Choudary or Pamela Geller, is the way to allow this to happen.
Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog