Tag Archives: Mehdi Hasan

Charlie Hebdo – A Liberal Reply To Mehdi Hasan On Free Speech

Dear Mehdi Hasan,

We once discussed over my cup of coffee and your muffin secularism and free speech. In that spirit, I hope to discuss your article directed to a liberal pundit “As a Muslim, I’m fed up with the hypocrisy of the free speech fundamentalists.

You do not have to like Charlie Hebdo – you can find it offensive, distasteful, disturbing and the wrong way to do satire in the 21 st Century. The freedom for you to express that and make the case should not for an instant suggest that you believe the cartoonists were responsible for their own demise or that their murder was deserved.

I am glad you mention the “Us and them” divide. As I explained to you, one reason I do not like religion is fundamentalists use it easily to make that very divide. That it is not just a case of believer V non-believer but within a faith you are either for or against God – with their claim that fanatical devotion is the path of the faithful. I reject that false binary approach as reflective of true religion. The truth of religion is for the conscience of the believer alone, not theirs to use as a yardstick or milestone on others.

Notice I am not calling you a fundamentalist. Am I a free speech fundamentalist when I argued on the Huffington Post that Anjem Choudary deserved free speech, that free speech made clear extremist views and where his fundamentalism differs from most muslims in Britain like yourself? I wanted Robert Spencer here in the UK so he could be challenged, and questions put to him. When you go to work in Washington I hope you get the chance to grill him for his promotion of genocide deniers over Srebrenica. Free speech shows us what people think and say – denying does not make their ideas go away.

You write about Brian Klug’s thought experiment:

Imagine, he writes, if a man had joined the “unity rally” in Paris on 11 January “wearing a badge that said ‘Je suis Chérif’” – the first name of one of the Charlie Hebdo gunmen. Suppose, Klug adds, he carried a placard with a cartoon mocking the murdered journalists. “How would the crowd have reacted? . . . Would they have seen this lone individual as a hero, standing up for liberty and freedom of speech? Or would they have been profoundly offended?” Do you disagree with Klug’s conclusion that the man “would have been lucky to get away with his life”

It reminded me of Sam Harris saying if someone went into a mosque with a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed would that person be lucky to experience the religion of peace? It is rather a cheap trick to try and play, using supposed emotions and prejudices to give the answer. The thought experiment itself tries to reinforce that “them and us” narrative you warn earlier against. This is the trick of the charlatan magician not worthy of you or Sam to employ.

The danger is not in allowing distasteful views being expressed but thinking that by suppressing them  they will disappear. To suggest that the people marching in Paris do not know this is quite breathtaking. Muslims and Jews were the victims of these terrorists, as were Liberals, leftists and atheists. Their aim was to create a “us and them” divide – their victims should do the opposite. The march was about solidarity not just free speech. Not that you comment on this aspect of what the protest meant for many people.

Anyway, you mention a particular cartoon of Christiane Taubira, a black politician, as a monkey. Which I am grateful for because this is where the misunderstanding of Charlie Hebdo comes in. The context and satire is aimed at lampooning the far right by parodying them to leave no doubt supporting Le Pen means supporting racism. Lack of knowledge of French politics makes all this lost in translation. As this site mentions:

A pro-gay cartoon

Translation

“RACIST BLUE UNION”

Symbols

The font chosen (serif) is reminiscent of traditional right-wing political posters. Left-wing and communist posters in France usually use a sans-serif font. This is the first hint that the cartoon is mocking a right-wing element.

The blue and red flame logo on the bottom-left is the logo of the Front National, a far-right political party in France.

The person depicted is Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, drawn as a monkey. This is referencing various occasions of far-right activists depicting Taubira as a monkey (online sharing of photoshops, sound imitations, calling out, etc.).

The title is a play on words of Marine Le Pen’s slogan “Rassemblement Bleu Marine” (Navy blue Union).

Satire

The cartoon was published after a National Front politician Facebook-shared a photoshop of Justice Taubira, drawn as a monkey, and then said on French television the she should be “in a tree swinging from the branches rather than in government” [Le Monde] (she was later sentenced to 9 months of prison). The cartoon is styled as a political poster, calling on all far-right “Marine” racists to unify, under this racist imagery they have chosen. Ultimately, the cartoon is criticising the the far-right’s appeal to racism to gain supporters.

Understanding the context shows the cartoon is more than a black politician depicted as a monkey. It is showing that supporting Le Pen is to endorse racism. A very different context to how the tweet portrays that you link in the NewStatesman. Insinuating that the dead cartoonists are racists is a sign of ignorance of the very principles of Charlie Hebdo and the French anti-racist, anti-colonial left they identified with.

You mention cartoonist Sine being fired for alleged anti-semitic remarks. You fail to mention the remark was on:

“L’affaire Sine” followed the engagement of Mr Sarkozy, 22, to Jessica Sebaoun-Darty, the Jewish heiress of an electronic goods chain. Commenting on an unfounded rumour that the president’s son planned to convert to Judaism, Sine quipped: “He’ll go a long way in life, that little lad.” [Daily Telegraph]

Sine won 40,000 in Euros for wrongful dismissal over the incident. Or that despite legal challenge he was never found guilty of anti-semitism. Rather useful points to mention, unless you are mud spreading as wide as you can to show why you despise the magazine. Without understanding it. Bit like an atheist telling you what Islam is I suspect.

As a liberal pundit you suggest I would turn a blind eye to anti-muslim sentiment. I never have and never will. Before Charlie Hebdo I wrote “Islamism and Anti-Muslim Hate – We Must Tackle Both.” It is not the liberal pundits but the conservative religious right that are the concern when it comes to ant-muslim bigotry. You know this is a concern of us “liberals” when you retweeted my post drawing that attention to a jihadist parody account Dawkins had endorsed.

Was I incensed at the lip service to freedom of expression by some heads of state that arrest journalists, and outspoken atheists like me, being at the Paris march? Darn straight I was:

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Or how do I feel about anyone that would burn a poppy? As I wrote I could not give a damn what such people think.

As a liberal pundit you have asked me to justify myself as such. I would never ask you to justify yourself as a Muslim. I would ask you as a human being.

That approach is the start of breaking down a divide. Maybe it takes more than one cup of coffee and a muffin to see that.

Kind regards, and best wishes for working stateside.

John Sargeant

Liberal Pundit

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Quilliam Foundation DfE Funding and Ramadan Foundation

Mehdi Hasan has thrown down a gauntlet to me. Does Maajid Nawaz’s public pronouncements regarding when taxpayer funding ended square with the revelation on Newsnight recently of funding from the Department For Education (DfE)?

According to their policy editor Chris Cook:

In March 2011, the Home Office refused to continue funding the body, which had enjoyed public support, and which then said it needed £150,000 to keep working.

Defending that decision, Damian Green, a Home Office minister, said that “Quilliam should be free to contribute to the wider debate, but not depend on government funding to do so”.

Shortly afterwards, however, the DfE stepped in. Its ledgers confirm that, in May 2011, it contributed £120,000 to the think tank.

The date of this new funding being paid, May 2011, do not seem to square with Maajid Nawaz’s public statements when tax payer money ceased to be awarded to the Quilliam Foundation:

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On twitter this was how Mehdi Hasan described the situation:

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Regarding Home Office money still being payed to the Quilliam Foundation, that appears unlikely to be in 2012 as Mehdi states given the Freedom of Information (FOI) request for when they were funded:

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I do not know the exact date paid, but that £26 thousand is in the financial year 2011-2012. Add that amount to the DfE figure and it is more or less what the Quilliam Foundation were after.

Indeed to help with a transition away from government grants it appears the Home Office initially offered £40,000 to assist in 2011 according to a report here which Maajid Nawaz commented on as being too short.

Ramadan Foundation

So did Maajid Nawaz lie about funding? And, what would I say if it was Mohammed Shafiq rather than Maajid? Well, interestingly when 5 Pillarz requested FOI on Quilliam funding they did so on Shafiq’s Ramadan Foundation. To which the Home Office replied:

The Home Office did not disclose any information in regards to Ramadhan Foundation. They stated: “Regarding any other information we neither confirm nor deny whether we hold information you requested. Sections 24 (2), 38 (2) and 43 (3) of the Freedom Information Act absolve us from the requirement to say whether or not we hold information. These exemptions relate to national security, health and safety and commercial interest tests, are set out in the attached Annex.”

However, Mohammed Shafiq of the Ramdhaan [sic] Foundation has consistently denied ever receiving government funds.

5 Pillarz reported this story in November 2013 – but I have not heard anyone accusing Mo Shafiq of getting into bed with the government possibly in interests of national security against Muslims. Is anyone asking if he might be a government stooge, part of an undercover PREVENT strategy? Involved in counter terrorism activities that any funding he or any organisation he may be linked to cannot be disclosed as coming from Her Majesty’s Government? If Quilliam deserves that kind of accusation and scrutiny surely Ramadan Foundation and Mohammed Shafiq do too.

Quilliam Funding 2011

I linked to this tweet of Maajid’s:

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Saying:

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His reply:

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In essence the decision to cut funding was taken in 2010, and some pre-cut decision funding agreed for the financial year 2010-11 continued to come in during 2011. Thing is, that does not explain the DfE money.

That money was from a new department of state (from Home Office to DfE) and rather than seed money this was transition money – still tax payer money and ear marked as helping the Quilliam Foundation to keep going in 2011 till non government funding could be found on a regular basis.

So unless that money was agreed very soon after the December 2010 decision by the Home Office to cease funding Quilliam, it was decided as new money in 2011. And paid in 2011. If Maajid meant continuous funding ended in 2010, but some money including a one off DfE special transition amount of £120,000 was paid in 2011 … well these tweets do not read like that.

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Let alone this tweet:

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The financial situation in 2011 for Quilliam was reported by The Guardian as:

If the latest accounts – for the financial year up to March 2012 – filed by the Quilliam Foundation are anything to go by, the high-profile injection of publicity also comes at a time when it may be facing challenging financial circumstances.

Two years after the Home Office began to wind down its funding for the organisation, those accounts show that Quilliam was facing mounting debts, while having little in the way of relative assets. Income from training, consultancy and publications were haemorrhaging, while its income from grants and donations fell from just over £900,000 in 2011 to £532,099 in 2012.

The company was in particular trouble in 2011, making a loss, but after taking radical action to cut back on expenses and parting company with half of its staff, it was just about able to make it into the red again in the following year, when Nawaz paid himself £77,438.

This would suggest the cash injection by the DfE of £120,000 was a vital lifeline for the Quilliam Foundation. As indeed Maajid Nawaz stated at the time when asking for £150,000 – as they made a loss according to the above report even with government funds.

Conclusion

Maybe Maajid Nawaz meant ongoing automatic, year after year, seed funding was to be stopped. Maybe he was lumping all the public funding together rather than drawing special attention to the DfE funding. But it does look like obfuscation over the issue of when government funding ended, even though it would appear in Company House records. If I wanted to be uncharitable I might call it lying if I did not know the following.

The big thing is the last funding from the tax payer came in 2011 still, which we all knew before Newsnight. The decision to end Home Office funding was made in 2010, but pre-agreed funds would still be paid into end of financial year March 2011. It was public knowledge in March 2011 that the home office offered £40,000 in transition funds.

We knew the Home Office was offering, and gave, transition funding in 2011. Maajid Nawaz acknowledged that.

Maybe a bigger song and dance should have been made publicly that the DfE came in to fund a further £120,000 for transition funding in May 2011. The question why this was not made clearer is a legitimate one given Quilliam may have had further financial difficulties without such largess.

One answer would seem to be the public tiff between the Home Secretary and the Education Secretary over tackling extremism this might have generated at the time. As we have seen happen over the Trojan Horse/OfSted reports. But I think it should have been known at the time.

It is not quite a smoking gun, let alone a steaming pork pie. But I would advise Maajid to say “last government funding came in 2011 and stopped after that”, to avoid any ambiguity over decision to cut date/last penny received date. He might feel this is no big deal, but I hope he recognises even molehills can cause trouble in your back garden if you personally do not attend to them.

On that matter, perhaps someone could ask Mohammed Shafiq why the government will not tell us what funding he or his organisation may or may not be getting from the government? I throw that gauntlet down for someone else.

Update Sunday 8 June 2014 9:25PM:

Maajid Nawaz dfe

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Trojan Horse, Non Violent Extremism And Schools

Watching the above segment on Newsnight, Maajid Nawaz again found another person who was unwilling to condemn the application of sharia such as stoning an adulterer to death. Ibrahim Hewitt is an educationalist, whose private school Al-Aqasa in Leicester offers, from age 7, gender segregated education. It promises:

“a broad and balanced holistic curriculum that integrates Islamic perspectives throughout all academic subject areas, with a focus on the Qur’an and character development.”

In the video above Hewitt refuses to condemn stoning or amputation saying when it comes to sharia it is not “black and white.” He promises that such punishments are not advocated in schools. His perspective on Islam matters given the school he has founded and runs. Thankfully he wrote a book “What does Islam Say?” to enlighten us.

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From MailOnline:

In it he advocates the killing of adulterers by stoning. The book says: ‘Any act that destabilises marriage will also destabilise society. Hence the Islamic punishments for such acts are severe… Married men and women found guilty of adultery are to be stoned to death.’

The book also advocates 100 lashes for fornication and sodomy with both men and women, and condemns homosexuality as a ‘grave sin’.
Mr Hewitt says in the book: ‘Islam, like most other major faiths of the world, categorically forbids homosexual practices (sexual relations between two men or between two women), regarding them as a great sin. In a society under Islamic law, such would be severely punished.’

He then compares homosexuals to paedophiles or those who commit incest. The book says: ‘If people have such desires [homosexuality], they should keep them to themselves, and control their desires to avoid forbidden practices.

‘The advice would be the same as, say, to someone who had sexual desires for minors or for close family: that having the desires does not legitimise realising them.’

The book also argues that men and women are not equal, and men have a right to assume leadership over women. ‘Islam recognises the leadership of men over women, but it does not recognise the domination of one over the other.’

He adds: ‘If a woman is unable to satisfy the sexual or other needs of her husband he may consider taking another wife, rather than the common Western practice of secretly taking a mistress.’

Hopefully then his book cannot be found in the school library. At least one would hope such a person did not own a school to educate children. But he does, charging parents fees of up to nearly £2,000 a year and receiving about a million pounds in government grants. Rest assured for the money your children’s spiritual needs are being met. Dancing and music are not allowed to protect them.

As Maajid mentions that sort of mood music of extremism is what the suicide bombers are dancing to – and it is murder on the dance floor in far off theatres of war and terrorism across the world.

The reason we are even having this discussion thrust into public discourse is because of the Trojan Horse letter suggesting there were ways for Islamists to control schools. Whilst most see the letter as a forgery, or at least not part of an organised conspiracy to infiltrate schools, the government is investigating. A leaked copy of some of the individual school reports today suggests the following:

In the Golden Hillock report, Ofsted said: “Too little is done to keep students safe from the risks associated with extremist views.”

Inspectors concluded leaders and governors were “not doing enough to mitigate against cultural isolation” and this “could leave students vulnerable to the risk of marginalisation from wider British society and the associated risks which could include radicalisation.”

These concerns about schools in Birmingham being targeted will soon be reported officially by the government’s education watchdog OFSTED, though it is thought that six of the schools will be put under special measures by the above leak. Before all this there have been attempts to rubbish the forthcoming reports. For example Assed Baig:

There is extremism is schools, I agree and accept this. Extremism exists in schools were [sic] parents pay tens of thousands a year to have their boys segregated from girls. Where an ideology of superiority is taught, where young rich boys are taught that it is their God given right to rule over the commoners. Where a skewed version of history is taught, colonialism was a good thing and the empire brought good to the world and civilized the savages. In these schools boys are forced to learn Latin, not Arabic. But we won’t see or hear politicians talking of that kind of extremism or segregation, we won’t see journalists peering through windows there, because it is not Muslims involved. Extremism of the rich is applauded, not questioned.

It is like the media reports of the Bullingdon Club, the criticisms of Nadine Dorries Conservative MP of the Conservative Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer as “arrogant posh boys” with “no passion to want to understand the lives of others” never happened. The deflection just does not work because the media has noticed and criticised the inner Cabinet’s narrow privileged background, and labour have built a campaign strategy around this for the 2015 General Election. We know Nigel Farage of UKIP went to Eton [exclusive public schooling too] – the media screamed the negativity of this as a man claiming to challenge the establishment. What has this to do with the concerns of the standard of education children were receiving in these schools?

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Photo above: Quote from Michael Gove’s book Celsius 7/7

Mehdi Hasan has also before OFSTED reports tried to undermine what conclusions may be reached by suggesting the education secretary Michael Gove’s “black and white” approach will encourage extremism:

Thus, the activities, habits and practises of British Muslims – from dress codes to dietary requirements, from Sunday schools to seating arrangements at university – continue to be viewed almost exclusively through the lens of security and counter-extremism. This Gove-backed approach, Blunt reminded listeners of the Today programme, is both “impractical and counter-productive” because it encourages a dangerous, black-and-white view of the world and further alienates those young British Muslims who feel disillusioned or demonised.

“You would find that people who are in the shades of grey are then driven into being black because they are invited to choose between black and white.”

Yes, by this logic, ensuring that children are taught music and dance might well push them to become suicide bombers in the future to rebel against the decadence of a former colonial power that made them jig as kids. In class, an exploration of capital punishment as going against human rights might force them to protect the importance of marriage by insisting on the stoning of adulterers. Because what Hasan is saying is you are provoking disillusioned demonised young Muslims to the edge of reason to defend their faith. Never mind that the schools currently are doing this if the leak is correct.

We are not going to tackle extremism or people being attracted to Islamism by burying our heads in the sand or believe that we should let sleeping non violent extremists lie undisturbed in case they become violently militant. Neither is this going to be helped by treating every Muslim as a security threat or less equal as a citizen. I was delighted that TellMAMA (a charity that looks at anti-Muslim hatred) recently advocated ending religious segregation in the British education system as a means to reduce fear and hatred and also to promote a cohesive society.

It is the ultimate way by which a school like Al-Aqasa when stating (my emphasis) “The national curriculum is, with minor adjustments, taught at Al-Aqsa within an Islamic framework and perspective” no longer need cause concern about a kids education as all children from different religious, social and economic backgrounds can learn, play, and dance together.

Without any religious agenda being foisted on them by anyone at school.

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Maajid Nawaz, Mehdi Hasan and Mo Ansar on Newsnight

Background to the cartoon can be read here with fuller analysis of what happened when Maajid Nawaz tweeted a cartoon which featured the Prophet Mohammed saying “How ya doin’?”

Regrettably after the video “Who Speaks for Muslim Britain?” the panel discussion gradually descends into a slagging match. Maajid Nawaz restrains himself but later returns to the tweet so we do not get a full discussion based on the video. Mo Ansar does himself no favours repeating the lie that Maajid linked to the Jesus and Mo website – then stating that Nawaz still had an “extremist mentality.” The aim for Hasan and Ansar is to mention that Nawaz has no credibility with UK Muslims. It is a great tag team effort as Nawaz is shouted down. Paxman should have kept all on point as chair, and seems not to realize how heated this would become. He should have been briefed there would be tempers if he did not already know he might need to jump in.

Initially at the beginning of the panel discussion Maajid brings Mo back to discussing the video, which talks about giving a wider voice to minorities within UK Muslims. I differ from Mehdi Hasan that including ex Muslims is irrelevant. With issues regarding apostasy and orthodox views of Islam versus a more secularised version they are a valid part of the discussion. This is all part of extending a pluralistic view of Islam where no one person or group speaks for Muslims.

Mehdi was at least clear where he stood. The cartoon of Mohammed saying “How ya Doin’?” offended him but he would defend the right to tweet it. He did not sign the petition to deselect Maajid as a parliamentary candidate. Crucially Mehdi acknowledged it was making tweeting of the Mohammed cartoon the centre piece of the petition which was a mistake. This made it a free speech issue rather than that of being a foul mouthed parliamentary candidate on social media. That might have worked had we forgotten at the same time Maajid was also receiving on twitter death threats and foul language directed at himself. Mehdi has done so when provoked – but should parliamentary candidates have a higher standard? Context matters in this case.

Mo Ansar did his best to say the cartoon did not really offend him but a parliamentary candidate should not do something that might recklessly or knowingly offend others. Which presumably was why he encouraged people to support a petition which said it was offensive, when he did not think it was, while claiming he did not want him deselected, which the petition he backed called for (see why for this Aaronovitch called Ansar “slippery” here).

“I will not make you a free speech martyr!” shouts Mo Ansar – but the petition called for a cost (deselection) on the basis that it is knowingly offensive to reproduce an image of the prophet. A denial of free speech because it is offensive. Mo having his cake and eating it. When Mo mentioned the election and claimed that Nawaz was defining Islam as a gatekeeper, I nearly fell off my chair. Because a back door blasphemy code of conduct on Muslim parliamentary candidates is exactly that. Even with that as part of a global call to sign a petition 20,000 signatures out of 1.5 billion suggests the world was going on as normal. Hasan was correct to avoid this line, and I hope he uses his resources on The Huffington Post to discuss minority voices within UK Muslims.

Where Are The Muslim Women?

Mehdi Hasan came up with the best point in the discussion when mentioning how the Newsnight editor had dropped Francois-Cerrah from the panel. Result was four men discussing who might speak for minorities within Muslim Britain. No women. Two women are briefly in the video noted Paxman does not count here. Hasan mentioned some great grass roots groups to support. In this regard he mentions Sara Khan, director of Inspire – you see her talking about women in the video Nawaz presented.

On twitter I have on occasion seen trolls impersonating female Muslim friends of mine. I remember Sara and I challenging one of them and Assed Baig for talking to them – but he was too busy trying to point score against Sara and her charity. That regrettably is the problem you see on twitter. Muslim men putting down Muslim women for their civil rights activity. Together with non Muslims saying Islam is against such rights for women.

Afterthought

As I make clear about this blog secularism, pluralism and religious freedom are important. I am not trying to get people to become irreligious, caricaturing all religious people as the same nor suggesting that Islam is the greatest evil. This end of civilizations clash narrative belongs to far right extremists and the few Islamist extremists who have taken up arms in Asia and the Middle East – killing mainly other Muslims to make their point which includes targeting children and schools.

Disagreements need to be aired – and as the panel showed on Newsnight they can become quite heated, especially when they get personal. What Newsnight failed to answer is how a platform might be given to those who currently are being let down by the media, and social pundits becoming the story. Islam is pluralistic in how Muslims follow and practice in the UK much to the dislike of the Wahhbist movement.

Calling people Islamophobes and portraying Islam as monolithic does not help. As Mo Ansar tried calling Peter Tatchell an islamophobe for his position on halal meat just before Peter was made a patron of Tell Mama the “measuring anti-muslim attacks; standing against bigotry and prejudice” group. A man of contradictions is our Mo Ansar.

As I mention in my article on halal meat there are different islamic opinions on stunning animals. But those views are not aired and when non muslims raise them they are smeared as trolls and haters. Muslims are increasingly told when they air these views they are islamophobes themselves, and if they are a woman or gay sexually degrading remarks follow on twitter.

Let us have more discussion of pluralism in Islam – because trying to suggest only one version of Islam but many views by Muslims plays into the hands of extremists. Islam is not one thing, and the only person that should judge if they are a Muslim is the believer.

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Video: Mona Eltahawy Head to Head with Mehdi Hasan

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Mona Eltahawy Head to Head with Mehdi Hasan on Al Jazeera English:

Mona Eltahawy showed herself to be the provocateur she wants to be as a feminist Muslim. As she says, is it empowering for women to sit in an Arabic parliament when they consider female genital mutilation “the beautification of women”? They are supporting the misogynistic patriarchy which has allowed them to be so “empowered.”

Her call for the Arab Spring to lead to a sexual and psychological revolution was well articulated.

Over 90% of women in Egypt are assaulted by female genital mutilation (graph below):

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Indeed Egypt is considered one of the worst countries in the Arab world for women:

A UN report in April said 99.3% of women and girls in Egypt had been subjected to sexual harassment.

“The social acceptability of everyday sexual harassment affects every woman in Egypt regardless of age, professional or socio-economic background, marriage status, dress or behaviour,” said Noora Flinkman of Egyptian campaign group HarassMap.

Meanwhile, the survey said Iraq was now more dangerous for women than under Saddam Hussein, with women disproportionately affected by the violence of the past decade.

Saudi Arabia ranked poorly on women’s involvement in politics, workplace discrimination, freedom of movement and property rights.

But the conservative country scored better than many other Arab states when it came to access to education and healthcare, reproductive rights and gender violence. [BBC]

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Mona Eltahawy’s article “Why Do They Hate Us” raised these issues and harrowingly she had her own experience of sexual assault and violence to draw on. From a position of privilege she mentions her ability to raise these issues to a global audience as a writer.

In her article, she mentions on FGM:

I could find you a host of crackpots sounding off on Woman the Insatiable Temptress, but I’m staying mainstream with Qaradawi, who commands a huge audience on and off the satellite channels. Although he says female genital mutilation (which he calls “circumcision,” a common euphemism that tries to put the practice on a par with male circumcision) is not “obligatory,” you will also find this priceless observation in one of his books: “I personally support this under the current circumstances in the modern world. Anyone who thinks that circumcision is the best way to protect his daughters should do it,” he wrote, adding, “The moderate opinion is in favor of practicing circumcision to reduce temptation.” So even among “moderates,” girls’ genitals are cut to ensure their desire is nipped in the bud — pun fully intended. Qaradawi has since issued a fatwa against female genital mutilation, but it comes as no surprise that when Egypt banned the practice in 2008, some Muslim Brotherhood legislators opposed the law. And some still do — including a prominent female parliamentarian, Azza al-Garf.

In the head to head with Mehdi Hasan she challenges cultural relativism and the false feminism which promotes a woman being less human compared to a man. My own position on the niqab does give me pause listening to how she frames the argument regarding an outright ban. I cannot disagree with how she defines the niqab, as changing the dynamic in communication and representing a misogynistic view of women.

Her interview is worth an hour of your time. It also gives me an answer to this tweet which I took umbrage at:

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Well “GodlessVagina”, there are Muslim feminists I have met who are protecting human rights that I have befriended. I would be honoured to include Mona Eltahawy among that number.

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