The heroic, important, yet little-known organization of The Council of Ex-Muslims in Britain celebrates its fifth birthday this weekend. Those who have been lucky enough to get their hands on tickets for the anniversary party have a vast array of events to look forward to. In the space of one afternoon, they will be able to hear philospher A.C Grayling, author of the seminal 'The Meaning of Things', lecturing, attend a talk by physicist Lawrence Krauss, and witness a whole whost of other people from singer/songwriter Shelley Segal to magician Neil Edwards to comedian Kate Smurthwaite make their own contributions to this important occasion. The driving force behind it all: a woman named Maryam Namazie. Born in Tehran, Maryam was forced to flee with her family when the 1979 Iranian revolution occured. After a time working in Sudan, where she established an undeground human rights network before her cover was blown, she came to Britain, where she has since been tirelessly campaigning against the clerical form of facism that is Sharia Law, the treatment of women in Islamic societies, political Islam, and for the rights of so-called 'apostates' who change their religion or choose to renounce it, as well as for one, secular law for all, that does not patronizingly endorse lower expectations for different groups in society, and promote tolerance and respect for so-called minority opinions and beliefs, rather than respect for human beings. 'Human beings are worthy of the highest respect, but not all opinions and beliefs are worthy of respect and tolerance. There are some who believe in fascism, white supremacy, the inferiority of women. Must they be respected?' Maryam argues. When politicians in Ottawa decided to allow Sharia to run parallel to the Canadian state justice system, claiming that if they were not established, the Muslim minority would be marginalised, Namazie responded. with fury. Why was it, she asked, that people on supposedly on the left were so keen to give 'precedence to cultural and religious norms, however reactionary, over the human being and her rights?' Why was it that they always pretended as if immigrants belonged to homogeneous blocks, and gave voice to 'the most reactionary segements' of immigrant communities, ignoring the fact that, simply because it was the culture of a few radical religous fanatics to say that it is acceptable for a woman to be beaten by her husband, and that gay people should be killed, it was certainly not the culture of the majority of people within those communities, of which women and homosexuals made up 53%. As the Observer's Nick Cohen argues:
Namazie is on the right side of the great intellectual struggle of our time between incompatible versions of liberalism. One follows the fine and necessary principle of tolerance, but ends up having to tolerate the oppression of women, say, or gays in foreign cultures while opposing misogyny and homophobia in its own. (Or 'liberalism for the liberals and cannibalism for the cannibals!' as philosopher Martin Hollis elegantly described the hypocrisy of the manoeuvre.) The alternative is to support universal human rights and believe that if the oppression of women is wrong, it is wrong everywhere.
It was pointed out by Richard J Evans, professor of modern history at Cambridge, that if you take the relativist position to its conclusion and believe there's no such thing as truth and all cultures are equally valid, you have no weapons to fight the Holocaust denier or Ku Klux Klansmen. He's right. Many slave traders would have been offended by the idea that a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work, was wrong. Many men would have been offended by the idea that women should have a right so basic as the right to be treated as an equal human being, or the right to vote. Should the abolitionists and the suffragettes therefore have kept silent, for fear of being 'disrespectful' or 'offending' other people's 'equally valid points of view'? Of course they should not have. If they had, we would still be living in a moral and political dark age. In Britain in the 21st century, there is a culture of fear. We are afraid of voicing critiques of religion, for fear of offending the views of minorities. After witnessing what happened to Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Salman Rushdie when they refused to keep quiet, our comedians shy away from satirizing Islam, and people are afraid to even draw cartoons or write novels, for fear of the consequences. This has got to stop, because if it does not, we will not be able to bring the help that liberal Muslims, gays, feminists, progressives and trade unionists so desparately need. This is why we need organizations like 'Council for Ex-Muslims in Britain'. Britons across the land, all of them former Muslims, many of whom live in fear and recieve death threats from Islamists simply for renouncing their faith, have organized into a group, and are constantly campaiging and acting, and they will not be silenced. As Nick Cohen argues, they represent 'the gulf between liberal apologists and those who really want equality...the gulf between the two is unbridgeable'. The Council for Ex-Muslims, and organizations like it, need our help, because the only society worth living in is one where we can give or take offence. Religion is just an idea, like any other idea, espoused by someone who claims to have recieved a message from God. 'It is not surrounded by an electric wire fence called "respect", that none of us can cross' argues journalist Johann Hari. Do you support the rights of people to not be offended? Or do you support a free society devoid of censorship, with equality for women, for gays, for athiests and for free thinkers? You cannot, quite simply, support both.
Upon reflection, I think that all you have against Religion is a hereditary hatred of Islam. If you were to argue against a reasonable Christian, would I expect to have the same prejudice hauled at me? For, make no mistake, your stereotypical view of religion is aimed at extremists, a race dying out because of their stupidity.ReplyDelete
You mean me, or MS? Me, I realise that. MS, I'm not so sure.Delete
How about a post saying what's so great about Liberalism? It would certainly be more useful than giving us a flaw in the Liberalist way of thinking.ReplyDelete