Sunday, October 23, 2005
Maryam Namazie 2
One woman's war Maryam Namazie personifies the gulf between liberal apologists and those who really want equality Nick CohenSunday October 16, 2005The Observer
A week ago, at a reception in one of London's dowdier hotels, Maryam Namazie received a cheque and a certificate stating that she was Secularist of the Year 2005. The audience from the National Secular Society cheered, but no one else noticed.
At first glance, the wider indifference wasn't surprising. Everyone is presenting everyone else with prizes these days - even journalists get them. If coverage was given to all award winners, there would be no space left in the papers for news. On top of that, secularism is still an eccentric cause. Despite the privileges of the established churches, this is one of the most irreligious countries on Earth. The bishops have power but no influence, and the notion that you need a tough-minded movement to combat religious influence still feels quaint.
Like republicanism, secularism is an ideal which can enthuse the few while leaving the many cold.
The rise of the Christian right in the United States and the Islamic right everywhere, of faith schools and religious censorship is breaking down complacency. The 7 July bombings should have blown it to pieces. But the Ealing comedy caricature of a kind vicar, who may be a bit silly but remains intrinsically decent, is still most people's picture of the religious in England, not least because there is truth in it. (It's a different matter in Northern Ireland and on the west coast of Scotland, for obvious reasons.)
For all that, Maryam Namazie's obscurity remains baffling. She ought to be a liberal poster girl. Her life has been that of a feminist militant who fights the oppression of women wherever she finds it. She was born in Tehran, but had to flee with her family when the Iranian revolution brought the mullahs to power. After graduating in America, she went to work with the poor in the Sudan. When the Islamists seized control, she established an underground human rights network. Her cover was blown and she had to run once again. She's been a full-time campaigner for the rights of the Iranian diaspora, helping refugees across the world and banging on to anyone who will listen about the vileness of its treatment of women.
When an Iranian judge hanged a 16-year-old girl for having sex outside marriage - I mean literally hanged her; he put the noose round her neck himself - Namazie organised global protests. Her best rhetorical weapon is her description of the obsessiveness of theocracy. The law in Iran not only allows women to be stoned, she says, but it specifies the size of the stones to be used; they mustn't be too small in case it takes too long to kill her and the mob gets bored; but mustn't be too big either, in case she is dispatched immediately and the mob is denied the sado-sexual pleasure of seeing her suffer.
She's media-friendly and literate, not least because she runs the London-based International TV English whose programmes have a large following in the Middle East. Yet one of the most important feminists from the developing world has never been on Woman's Hour. I searched our huge cuttings database and could find only one mention of her in the national press over the past 10 years. Right-thinking, left-leaning people have backed away from Maryam Namazie because she is just as willing to tackle their tolerance of oppression as the oppressors themselves.
It was the decision of broad-minded politicians in Ottawa to allow Sharia courts in Canada which did it for her. They said if they were not established, the Muslim minority would be marginalised and to say otherwise was racism pure and simple.
After years of hearing this postmodern twaddle, Namazie flipped. Why was it, she asked, that supposed liberals always give 'precedence to cultural and religious norms, however reactionary, over the human being and her rights'? Why was it that they always pretended that other cultures were sealed boxes without conflicts of their own and took 'the most reactionary segment of that community' as representative of the belief and culture of the whole.
In a ringing passage, which should be pinned to the noticeboards of every cultural studies faculty and Whitehall ministry, she declared that the problem with cultural relativism was that it endorsed the racism of low expectations.
'It promotes 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?'
Richard J Evans, professor of modern history at Cambridge, pointed out in Defence of History 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.
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.
The gulf between the two is unbridgeable. Although the argument is rarely put as baldly as I made it above, you can see it breaking out everywhere across the liberal-left. Trade union leaders stormed out of the anti-war movement when they discovered its leadership had nothing to say about the trade unionists who were demanding workers' rights in Iraq and being tortured and murdered by the 'insurgents' for their presumption.
Former supporters of Ken Livingstone reacted first with bewilderment and then steady contempt when he betrayed Arab liberals and embraced the Islamic religious right. The government's plans to ban the incitement of religious hatred have created an opposition which spans left and right and whose members have found they have more in common with each other than with people on 'their side'.
As Namazie knows, the dispute can't stay in the background for much longer. There's an almighty smash-up coming and not before time.
Bob Pitt Watch - From Workers' Liberty
Submitted on 21 October, 2005 - 17:15. Solidarity 3/82, 20 October 2005 The Left
By Andy Hilton Boycotters are back
It looks as if the “boycott Israel" crowd have recovered sufficiently from their defeat in the Association of University Teachers (AUT) to come back for another stab. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine are bringing Dr Nabeel Kassis, president of Birzeit University in the West Bank, to speak in Britain on the case for a boycott of Israeli universities. The tour comprises three meetings, at Sussex, LSE and Birmingham, between the 23 and 25 of October.
None of these meetings is sponsored by a branch of the other further and higher education union, NATFHE. But it’s NATFHE where a renewed boycott campaign will probably focus its energies. Time for principled socialists, who support Palestinian liberation and academic freedom but oppose demonising Israel, to get mobilised…
Bob Pitt watch
Former Workers Revolutionary Party member and now editor of What Next, Bob Pitt, is a very industrious bloke. He single-handedly runs a website called “Islamophobia Watch” in which he pours vituperative criticism, mainly on people of a Muslim background who dare to criticise their religion of birth or its cultural practises.
The spectacle of a white, middle-aged, middle-class male denouncing Muslims and ex-Muslims (many of them women) who speak out against homophobia and misogyny inside the Muslim community as “racists” is very bizarre.
Pitt reached a new low recently when he began linking to articles from the Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC). On the MPAC web-forums, senior moderators (and therefore presumably people who are relatively prominent within MPAC itself) did nothing to stop — and in fact joined in with — a discussion about the appropriate method for killing gay rights activist Peter Tatchell. And these are the forces Pitt backs against socialists from the Muslim world.
Bob’s recent achievements also include backing the Iranian ruling-class in its homophobic execution of two gay youths, supporting right-wing clerics in Canada in their attempts to get religious law officially incorporated into the legal system in Muslim communities and defending as “progressive” the ultra-rich and ultra-right wing cleric Yusuf Al-Qaradawi.
Bob thinks he is defending the Muslim community against racism. In reality, all he is doing is defending the bourgeoisie and its ideas within the Muslim community against working-class militants. There’s a name for people who do that…
Viva Maryam Namazie
One of Pitt’s favourite targets is Maryam Namazie of the Worker-communist Party of Iran, who was recently awarded the National Secular Society’s “Secularist of the Year” award. The NSS are not socialists but they’re definitely on the right side against the type of people who tried to have Jerry Springer The Opera axed or those who successfully shut down the play Bezhti in Birmingham.
They also understand that opposing anti-Muslim racism doesn’t mean defending religious ideas or lining up with the most reactionary elements within the Muslim community and Muslim world. Which is presumably why they’ve given Maryam their award. Naturally, Bob was outraged. But (or rather therefore‚) Looking Left is pretty pleased. Congratulations, comrade!
Charity, not solidarity!
Our pals over at Weekly Worker have helpfully brought to our attention another step on the SWP’s journey to becoming irredeemable middle-class liberals. In the wake of the Pakistani earthquake, those on the left with a clue about class called for donations to working-class activists and socialists in Pakistan.
We know that aid given through big NGOs can often find its way into the hands of bureaucrats and government functionaries, but aid given directly to grassroots campaigners will be distributed and used democratically and under workers‚ control. The SWP, sadly, doesn’t share this perspective, and has been out collecting for Islamic Relief, which is essentially the Muslim equivalent of Christian Aid (i.e. a big, bourgeois charity with lots of religious strings attached).
According to WW, SWP member and Respect councillor Michael Lavalette has called an emergency meeting with local mosques and “leaders from the Pakistani community” to discuss what Respect can do to aid the relief effort in Pakistan, Kashmir, India and Afghanistan.
The SWP’s perspective is clear: not solidarity with Pakistan’s workers‚ movement and revolutionary socialists, but philanthropy channelled through the (right-wing, bourgeois) “community leadership.”
In the latest issue of Socialist Worker, there’s an article by Loretta Napoleoni, author of a new book on the life of Musab al-Zarqawi. Napoleoni has written extensively in the past, in not very approving terms, about jihadi terror organisaitons. But this is not a a good article.
Maybe someone in the SWP subbing department got to squeeze out any subtlety in Napoleoni’s article, but this amounts to a largely uncritical account of the life of Musab Al-Zarqawi, the top dog in al Queda in Iraq. “Al-Zarqawi is the ultimate product of al Qaedism, the new anti-imperialist ideology which has risen from the ashes of al Qaeda.”
It goes on: “Al-Zarqawi’s journey to becoming an international leader of terror took place in prison. Torture and solitary confinement boosted his determination to challenge authority.”
It may be true that Al Zarqawi was tortured in prison, but what conclusion does Napoleoni draw from this? That Al Zarqawi is not responsible for his actions?
At the end the article is more honest: “Right from the beginning he was determined to drive a wedge between Sunnis and Shias to prevent them from uniting in a national front. At the same time he became fully committed to the fight against the US. Thus his struggle was conducted from the beginning on two fronts — one against the Shia and one against coalition forces.”
For Socialist Worker at least (we don’t know about Napoleoni) the tough question that flows from this is neither asked nor answered: how can someone whose explicit aim is sectarian warfare against a majority community possibly build a movement of national liberation that unites Iraqis across sectarian lines?
The real myth is the idea that “anti-imperialists” who only oppose imperialism in the name of theocracy, clerical-fascism and racist religious sectarianism can bring anything but further misery and chaos to the people of Iraq.
Thursday, June 02, 2005
The WPIran on the glbal fight against Islamic Fundamentalism
A political challenge on a global scale
Islamic courts in Canada
Mohsen EbrahimiJune 2004
The struggle to establish Islamic tribunals in Canada, like similar efforts to enforce the hijab in public institutions and schools in France, is not merely a cultural effort to pursue cultural rights. Both the aims of and the forces behind these efforts are political. These attempts are part and parcel of one of the most reactionary global phenomena in recent history, i.e. the movement of political Islam.
Islamist circles in Paris, London and Toronto are the extensions of the Islamic Republic in Iran, the Taliban and Mojahedin in Afghanistan, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, and plenty of other Islamic groups in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Chechnya and other parts of the world. This monster has plenty of heads and tails. The Islamic Republic of Iran at its head has savagely ruled for 25 years and is now being challenged by a huge secular movement of the people of Iran. Ironically, while the head is being smashed in its stronghold by a secular movement, the tails are challenging the secular values in the west. The head is being attacked in Iran by a secular movement; the tails are attacking secularism in Paris, London and Toronto.
What is going on here? How is this possible? It may look a bit complicated but some answers are rooted in the horror of September 11 and its political aftermath.
Immediately after the massacre of more than 3000 people by Islamic terrorists on September 11, the USA and the Islamic movement, formerly old friends, became new foes. A bloody duel began between two long-time friends, the state terrorism of the USA and Islamic terrorism. The state terrorism of the USA needed a fresh 'great Satan' to replace the recently collapsed Soviet Union which served as a long-lasting 'Satan' during the cold war. With the horror of September 11, Islamic terrorism became the most fitting alternative to play this role.
But, the strategists of the New World Order were wise enough not to put all their eggs in one basket. They consciously divided political Islam into Islamic fundamentalists, Islamic terrorists, and moderate Islam. They smashed Islamic terrorism while cosy-ing up to 'moderate' Islam. Islamic terrorism was used to justify US militarism and 'moderate' Islam was still kept as a potential force against the Left movement in other parts of the world. No wonder George Bush, Jack Straw, and Schroeder began to compete with the grand Ayatollahs of Islam in the interpretation of the Koran and Islamic teachings.
In the eyes of western states, and in fact with the help of them, the Islamic movement can now operate in a new, moderate and modern disguise: moderate Islam! And they did. Plenty of clerics in the west suddenly became the vigilant advocates of moderate Islam! They are not terrorists; they are 'moderate' fighters against secular values in the west. They are not terrorists; they are 'moderate' advocates for the institutionalisation of the hijab - the symbol of women's inferiority in Islamic culture and Islamic politics - in France! They are not terrorists; they are 'moderate' advocates of establishing Islamic courts in Canada! They are 'moderate' forces of religious values against secular values.
In the aftermath of September 11, racist groups intensified racism against citizens categorised as Muslims. They failed because the people in the west rightly did not want to be labelled as the supporters of this organised racist reaction. They rightly defended the rights of every citizen, regardless of religion, race, colour, gender and nationality. While this attitude attracted the respect of ordinary people, Islamic groups were ready to hypocritically take advantage of this progressive atmosphere. They used it to promote their politico-religious causes. They began to present themselves as 'oppressed' representatives of an oppressed 'minority'. People in the west were for the rights of citizens to live in a secure environment; Islamic groups used it to promote Islamic values to undermine the rights of the same citizens.
While in their stronghold in the Middle East, the Islamic movement is being challenged by secular movements, in the west, the Islamic movement is attempting to erode long established secular values. It is struggling to win in the west, what it is already losing in Islam-stricken countries.
Both the strong movement against the Islamic Republic in Iran and the strong turnout in France in favour of banning the hijab in public places and schools are indicative of the strength of the secular movement against political Islam.
The atrocities of political Islam are global. The stoning to death in Iran and Afghanistan, the struggle to enforce the hijab in public places in France, the attempt to set up Islamic courts in Canada are all various parts of one and the same phenomena: political Islam. The threat is global. The fight against it must therefore be waged on a global scale. We must stand up, defend our secular values, and defeat them.
The above is a part of a longer article written in English under the same title.
Tatchell outed for being Islamophobic
(The witchhunt against Peter Tatchell continues. First in Bermondesley now as a leading gay activist- his sin - exposing anti-gay violence in Palestine)
“Freedom for all Palestinians”, urges OutRage!
Gay Palestinians tortured and murdered by PLO and Hamas
"Stop Killing Women & Gays in Palestine" - Free Palestine rally, Trafalgar Square, London - 21 May 2005
By OutRage! News Service“Gay Palestinians are being beaten, tortured and murdered by factions of the PLO, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Palestinian Authority,” according to Peter Tatchell of the queer rights group OutRage!“The Palestinian administration tolerates the so-called ‘honour’ killing of women who refuse to submit to the strict rules of orthodox Islam,” he added.OutRage! activists took their message of “Freedom for all Palestinians – straight and gay, men and women” to the “Free Palestine” rally in Trafalgar Square, London, today, Saturday 21 May.“OutRage! supports the Palestinian struggle for freedom and justice. The Israeli occupation must end. But so must the violent sexism and homophobia of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and of the Palestinian political movements like Hamas and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO),” said Mr Tatchell.Under the slogan of “Freedom For All Palestinians” the OutRage! placards urged:”No more killing of lesbians & gays by PLO and PA””Hamas & PLO torture and murder gays. Shame!””Stop "honour" killing of gays & women in Palestine”“Israel: Stop persecuting Palestine! Palestine: Stop persecuting queers!”“Last year, we were shoved, abused, shouted down and threatened by other protesters, and by stewards and rally organisers from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC). They also blocked out our placards with their banners,” recalls OutRage! campaign coordinator, Brett Lock.“This year we received a much more sympathetic reception. Most people took our leaflets (copy below). We seem to be winning over the pro-Palestinian movement, despite the efforts of the rally organisers – the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) – to encourage their supporters to reject our concerns.“As we mingled in the crowd distributing leaflets, PSC stewards urged people not to take our hand-outs and told them, falsely, that we were lying and trying to split the Palestine solidarity movement. These dirty, underhand tactics dishonour the Palestinian cause.“PSC stewards refused to take our leaflets or to discuss the issues we were raising. A small number of protestors half-heartedly tried to block our placards with their placards. Apart from a couple of jeers of ‘faggots’, most other protestors eagerly took our leaflets and several expressed overt support for the rights of Palestinian women and gay people. In contrast to last year, the sympathies of those attending the rally seem to have shifted in our favour.“Some protesters said raising gay and women’s rights at a Free Palestine protest was ‘inappropriate’. For these people there is never an appropriate time to press for the rights of women and gays. Our rights are never a priority. We are always expendable for the sake of the bigger, wider cause.“OutRage! is disappointed by Amnesty International’s inaction on this issue.Amnesty has declined our requests to report on the torture and murder of gay Palestinians, stating that it lacks the resources. The OutRage! website, however, documents evidence that Amnesty could easily corroborate and publish. We are very disappointed by Amnesty’s reluctance to defend the human rights of lesbian and gay Palestinians.“Examples of violent homophobic persecution by the Palestinian factions and the Palestinian Authority can be found on the OutRage! website www.outrage.org.uk (go to Briefings and then to Palestinian Gays).”Since last year, when we protested at the Free Palestine rally, we tried to have a dialogue with the PSC but they refuse to meet us. They have also ignored our dossier on the abuse of gay Palestinians and our requests for them to raise the torture and murder of queers with the Palestinian authorities. In effect, the PSC colludes with the torturers and killers of queers. That is why we had to protest.”Our presence made many supporters of the Palestinian struggle aware of the violent homophobic persecution inflicted on Palestinian lesbians and gays. We hope they will now support the just struggle of gay Palestinians and pressure the Palestinian movements and government to halt their homophobic victimization,” concluded Mr Lock.OutRage! is urging everyone who wants justice and freedom for the women and gay people of Palestine to protest to the Palestinian representative in the UK, Afif Safieh. Email him: Palestinianuk@aol.com
Full text of the OutRage! leaflet handed out at the Free Palestine protest on 21 May 2005
Freedom for all PalestiniansStop killing women and gaysOutRage! is here today to support the Palestinian struggle for freedom and justice. The Israeli occupation must end.But we are also here to protest against the so-called “honour” killing of Palestinian women, and the arrest, jailing, torture and murder of lesbian and gay Palestinians by factions of the PLO, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Palestinian Authority.Freedom for Palestine doesn’t mean freedom for straight men to abuse the human rights of Palestinian women and gays. Israeli occupation is no excuse for violent sexism and homophobia.Examples of Palestinian homophobic persecution can be found on the OutRage! website www.outrage.org.uk (go to Briefings and then to Palestinian Gays).At the request of Palestinian women and gay people, for nearly 10 years OutRage! has attempted to raise these issues with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and with the PLO and the Palestinian Authority. All our letters, faxes and emails are ignored. All our requests for meetings have been rejected. All our dossiers on these human rights abuses are dismissed.That is why we are here today: the PSC and PLO/PA refuse to even discuss the oppression of women and gays. By their silence and inaction, they collude with it.The only liberation worth fighting for is liberation for all Palestinians – men and women, straight and gay.Misogyny and homophobia weaken and undermine the Palestinian struggle by setting men against women and straights and gays. Now, more than ever, the Palestinian nation needs to be united to fight Israeli oppression. There can be no unity, and no victory, while the Palestinian leadership tolerates the oppression of women and gays.Please join us in protesting to the Palestinian representative in the UK, Afif Safieh. Email him: Palestinianuk@aol.com
Friday, May 27, 2005
Workers' Power on the "RESPECT" coalition victory
Respect: rise of a new populist party?Workers Power 296 - May 2005
One big story of the election night was Respect's victory in Bethnal green and Bow and strong polling in East London and Birmingham. This was a powerful indication of both the strength of anti-war feeling and the real potential that exists to channel this into a radical alternative to Labour. The problem with Respect is that it is not channelling this anger in the direction of independent working class political representation.Respect does not identify itself as a working class party, despite the fact that George Galloway was a long-time Labour MP and the organisational core of Respect is the membership of the Socialist Workers Party. In fact Respect it is an alliance between the SWP and a series of religiously based organisations - local mosques and sections of the Muslim Association of Britain. The constituencies where it has made its breakthrough are all strongly Muslim areas.Of course revolutionaries should not turn their back on Muslim areas. The Muslim population, the majority of whom are working class, is one of the most discriminated against and racially abused in Britain. Revolutionaries always side with the most oppressed and seek to draw them into the workers movement and into its vanguard.The error that the SWP made was to seek out an alliance with Muslim people not on the basis of class politics but on a less than working class, less than socialist platform. In Lindsey German's words at its foundation conference, Respect set out to be "less socialist" than the left reformist Socialist Alliance had been. Respect's political programme was trimmed to win middle class support within the Muslim community. When it comes to the question of the alternative society Respect is fighting for, it dodges the fundamental question: private property or socialised property? The expropriation of the capitalist class as a whole is not and cannot be raised.Respect's manifesto does have a single paragraph aimed at attracting Old Labour supporters. It talks about the "organisation of society in the most open, democratic, participative, and accountable way practicable based on common ownership and democratic control" But ownership of and control over what? This is evasive. At least the famous Labour Party Clause Four called for "common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange". Mosques, just like churches and synagogues, contain a mixture of working class and middle class people. The SWP talks of how many worshipers in the mosque are workers. This is beside the point. In all religious communities, business people (small or large scale), doctors and lawyers call the shots. For many decades Jewish and Irish immigrants were overwhelmingly working class too. But no revolutionaries ever thought that they could form an electoral alliance, a proto-party with the synagogues or the catholic churches.Socialists must be for secular education and women's liberation. All religions embody undemocratic teachings on these issues. Respect was downplaying women's rights from the outset. When it used the slogan "a woman's right to choose" it meant to choose to wear the hijab but not to choose to have an abortion. The Respect election manifesto had "Respect for..." sections for every sector of the population. But no "Respect for women"!Galloway stressed whenever he could his profound religious faith and his opposition to abortion. Respect supporters in the mosques advertised these positions as reasons to vote for him. The SWP never uttered a single word of criticism of their allies' socially reactionary views. The best they could be made to do was to claim they were only his personal views. However, Lindsey German hastened to clarify that, when issues like that came up in the House of Commons, Respect was in favour of a free vote, allowing George to follow his conscience.The fall in support for Labour in key sections of the working class presents massive opportunities for socialists to rally the most progressive sections to a new working class party. Respect's high vote is clear evidence of this. But by channelling this discontent into a cross-class populist vehicle, the SWP and Galloway are frittering away the chance to build a mass working class alternative to Blair.That's why this paper was absolutely right to oppose the formation of Respect, and to refuse to advocate a vote for Respect candidates. We will continue instead to fight for the foundation of a new working class party, and for a revolutionary socialist programme.How Galloway wonGeorge Galloway had come under ferocious attack from pro-war apologists in the Independent, Observer and Times. Allegations of anti-Semitism, intimidation and misogyny flew thick and fast. Pro-war Blairite loyalist, Oona King, was depicted as a victim of hard left and Muslim bully boys. Although there was the odd egg-throwing incident and unproven accusations of physical attack, they had bearing on the outcome.In fact the most serious incident had nothing to do with the contest between Respect and Labour, but was due to a small fundamentalist group, the self-styled Saviour Sect. Several of their members tried to intimidate Galloway, enraged at his attempt to win votes from Muslims.Respect quite openly targeted Muslims - and Sikhs and Catholics - as faith groups. At their 350-strong East Ham rally, the line-up of 12 speakers included three Muslim representatives, as well as one from the Sikh community. The audience was reminded that Galloway was a "man of faith" and "devout Catholic".There was not a single trade unionist speaker on this platform, aside from Unison's Michael Gavan in the chair. The meeting broke for prayers - men only, of course. There was hardly a mention of socialism, while the SWP's Lindsey German devoted much of her speech to denouncing Islamophobia.Clearly the Muslim community at the heart of Bethnal Green & Bow were voting for the candidate who best expressed their vehement hostility towards the war. There was also a widespread desire to get rid of Oona King, who had already faced a tough reselection fight within the local Labour Party.However, Respect's success cannot be put down solely to the "Muslim vote". Its local branches have started to put down roots and are attracting a small but significant layer of working class activists beyond the ranks of the SWP. PCS activist Oliur Rahman became the coalition's first elected councillor last summer and has swiftly developed a high profile as a tenants' champion. A few weeks later SWP member Paul McGarr gained nearly 27 per cent of the poll in the still mainly white Millwall ward.Galloway has also supported the local FBU in resisting cuts and met with Unison members in the local authority incensed over attacks on their pensions.Respect is hoping for major gains in council elections in Tower Hamlets and Newham next May. The East London results have certainly whetted the SWP's appetite for populist electioneering. Given its success it will not spontaneously move on from this faith-oriented populism. Nevertheless a revival of struggles, by trade unionists, tenants, anti-racists from all "communities" will open up the social contradictions within the multi-class block that Respect is trying to build. Such struggles can bring closer a successful fight for an independent working class party and the winning of it to revolutionary socialist politics.
Afghanistan, Islam and the Revolutionary Left
Religious Symbols in France
Why the confrontation on the hejab?
On the banning of religious symbols in France
The Islamic veil (hijab) is undermining the secular Republic of France. To push back political Islam, French nationalism with the help of classic liberalism and Chirac's communiqué banning conspicuous religious symbols in state-run institutions and schools hammered yet another nail in the coffin of post-modernist jargon, which no longer has any consumption value in France. The French bourgeoisie made the church retreat during the great French revolution for freedom and equality. To protect their political and class interests, however, they stopped half way. Eighty-two years later, the Communards in the first international workers' revolution announced: France has died; long live humanity! In a brave and yet unclear move on 17 December 2003 the French bourgeoisie consolidated its position against a force that had come out of its grave. Despite this move, removing the influence of religion from the social lives of people both in France and elsewhere as well as surpassing the pseudo and human-made concepts of nationality, race and replacing them with 'long live humanity' still remain the task of today's Communards.
The Background of Today's Confrontation
The issue of banning the hijab and other religious symbols in France is an important one and is not confined to the defence of secularism. The explosive nature of this issue in Europe and Islamic-stricken countries and the consequent formation of the political forces involved are indicative of the political confrontation in today's society. The French government's move and the reaction of the political Islamic movement (be it the Islamic Republic of Iran or other states in the Middle East or Islamists in Europe) reflect the continuation of a historic and universal class battle between political forces and movements in today's society. Hijab is another channel for addressing a much older and basic issue with newer forms. Contrary to the empty claims of religious currents, post-modernist intellectuals and fringe 'Left' forces, the hijab is not just 'Islamic clothing' but also a banner representing political Islam's bloodshed, terrorism and reactionary values. The hijab is this era's logo for Islamic apartheid and religious fascism. It represents a bourgeois and right-wing movement that emerged as a result of cold war politics with the support of western governments, including France. The purpose of which was to prevent the Left from taking power in the Middle East. This movement is now acting as part of the bourgeoisie in these countries to protect its interests and political and economic power. As long as the extent of massacres, killings and rights violations imposed on the people of the Middle East were limited to that region, it could be tolerated and explained using post-modernist and cultural relativist theories. Today, however, the same movement is carrying out attacks and terrorist activities in the heart of liberalism and western democracy. What we are witnessing is the de-secularisation of western society by this movement and its replacement with Islamic norms and laws. This trend has been made possible following the domination of right-wing policies during the 80s, the fall of the Eastern bloc in the 90s, and the emergence of right-wing, religious, tribal and religious forces. One should bear in mind that this trend was not limited to the Islamic movement. Attempts to limit secularism and critiques of religion - even introducing a ban on criticising religion in some western countries - and concessions to the Church were all used by the bourgeoisie to intimidate people. The theory of cultural relativism and policies deduced from it provided the perfect breeding ground for the growth of Islamic currents in these countries. The emergence of Islamic ghettos, mosques, religious schools recruiting for the Islamic movement's terrorist forces, fatwas against opponents of Islam, imposing the veil on children, honour killings, and brain washing children with the Koran's teachings are all part of this policy and advance the political Islamic movement.
Political Islam is one side of the political force present in the crisis centres of the world, including the Middle East, the Baltics, Russia and North Africa. The other side is the victorious capitalist countries of the post-cold war era. Political Islam extended its terrorist operations in forbidden regions. After September 11, the relations between USA-west with political Islam were redefined. The events after September 11, the military invasion of Afghanistan, and the downfall of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein deepened the rivalry between Europe and the USA. Following the war against Iraq, as we predicted, political Islam grew and turned the world into a realm of terrorism and Islamic holy war. Citizens of the world are witnessing and are the defenceless victims of the Islamic groups' terrorist operations. Although banning the Islamic hijab and other religious symbols in schools in France is partly in defence of secularism in France itself, it is mainly France's response to political Islam as a model for Europe.
Banning the hijab and religious symbols in educational institutions will not be limited to France. In fact, it has long been taking place in countries like Sweden, Denmark, Germany and recently England. Considering the relative consolidation of this policy in France, it will soon turn into a burning question in Europe and the world. The political Islamic movement in Europe does not have noticeable means to oppose such a trend. The main obstacle is the power of religion in the constitution of the political structure in these countries. With the exception of France, there is no secular state in Europe. The struggle to establish a secular state is still an ongoing one. There are two sides playing roles in this battle: state forces, the conservative bourgeoisie and the religious apparatus on the one hand and political Islam, post-modernist intellectuals and the nationalist and 'anti-imperialist' Left on the other hand. The third side comprises of workers, socialists and the civilised people of the world who do not benefit from any of the aforementioned sides. The warm and positive response of people in Sweden and Denmark to efforts to ban Islamic veiling for children and stop honour killings in direct opposition to Islamic groups and the concessionary stance of these governments is proof enough. Workers in Europe do not have any interest in the division of their class according to religious beliefs. Women do not have any interest in sexual oppression and the imposition of religious laws. Advanced political and social movements do not have any interest in turning the clock back in keeping with traditional religious frameworks. Progressive people cannot accept double standards regarding women's and children's rights. Progressive people are part of the force that created the 15 February movement and stood up against the war of terrorists. It opposed the right-wing's advances from Seattle to France. If this force was safeguarded from the mass media, the bourgeoisie's intimidations and the racist, religious and nationalist propaganda of the ruling class, it would think and act on aspirations for welfare and freedom. This force can make its mark as the bearer of advanced humanity in today's battle.
Although the issue and today's social battle is taking place in Europe, it stretches beyond the political-geographic sphere of Europe. The main power point of this battle lies in the Middle East. One should bear in mind that the question of 'minorities' and 'Muslims' in Europe is a direct reflection of the power and influence of political Islam. For this reason, the revolutionary overthrow of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the just resolution of the Palestinian question will destroy political Islam in one of its birthplaces and will hence revolutionise the question of 'minorities' and 'Muslims' in Europe. By the same token, the worker-communist movement present in Iran and Iraq will be at the forefront of the movement against political Islam in Europe too. Worker-communism in Europe has a long history. Seven years before the new French legislation, this movement made headways in countries like Sweden, Denmark and Germany against political Islam, against the imposition of child veiling, against honour killings, in support of banning religious schools, and in defence of children's and women's rights in Muslim communities. Worker-communism, as part of the force engaged in this battle, welcomes efforts against political Islam, be it in Iran, Iraq or Europe. Worker-communism is a potential majority force that rejects the interference of religion in people's lives and the concessionary position of states towards religious groups. With the backing of this massive force, worker-communism must fight back governments and religion for the expansion of freedom, secularism and equal and universal civil rights in Europe.
Basis of a Progressive Policy
Our method, as a worker-communist movement, for freedom and liberation of people from religious suppression, poverty, exploitation, is the establishment of socialism. At the same time, we are at the forefront of any attempt, however small, for equality and freedom in the present society.
1- We support the French government's recent action but do not consider it sufficient. This law is very important because it saves many children and women from the claws of Islam. However, limiting the law to state-run schools alone still leaves the risk of private religious schools thriving. All religious schools must be closed. 2- We are for the complete separation of religion from the state. We are for the banning of religious education at schools and combining and explaining the school curriculum with religious values. 3- One cannot impose a retreat of political Islam in fortress Europe under the name of secularism, while being on good terms with states in Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Islam-stricken countries. This is the continuation of cultural relativism and against the universality of human rights. The secular and progressive movement to overthrow the Islamic government in Iran has risen. We call for European governments to break all political and diplomatic ties with Islamic governments and organisations as terrorist forces. The people of Europe must rise in defence of the people's struggle to overthrow Islamic governments in the Middle East. 4- If the hijab and religious symbols is in contradiction to a secular education, if the French government claims that it is at the forefront of a secular state in Europe and the world, then it would be expected to push the same legislation in the European Union, United Nations and international conventions for approval. Leaving the people in Islam-stricken countries to be trampled upon by political Islam and justifying it under the name of 'respecting their culture' is racist and Euro-centric. 5- We actively participate in the discussions around the question of secularism in Europe. This discussion can once again expose the old classic issues of fighting religion, state and a secular society, modernism, universal human rights verses post-modernist and cultural relativist views, and more importantly the issues of civil rights, freedom and equality. Our movement is at the forefront of these debates. 6- Society's political and institutional laws must be modern, secular and advanced, based on the separation of religion from the state. It should put an end to any law or value that divides citizens according to their nationality, race, gender, and ideology or violates the right of expression, thought, and scientific advances of the society.7- Society is responsible for the security and the physical and emotional welfare of children. Children should be protected from any physical or spiritual interference from religious institutions. We call for the banning of the Islamic hijab for under-aged girls; the banning of recruiting children by religious cults; and the banning of children's presence from religious institutions and ceremonies.
What does the Opposition Say?Following the approval of the French legislation, and the consequent loss of schools as one of the places to reinforce religion, Islamic groups have now barricaded themselves behind the walls of democracy and claim that the French law contradicts 'freedom of clothing and religion'! They say this law ignores the rights of 'minorities'! This is the same argument as that of cultural relativism and the nationalist 'anti-imperialist' Left but with one difference. They add that educating public opinion about secularism is more effective than legislating laws. Other religious currents in Europe, Christianity and Judaism, are also against this trend. They have the support of the conservative forces in power as well as an entwined link with the financial and tax system of these countries with the backing of the church and the synagogue. However, it is political Islam that constitutes the main side of the argument.
Political Islam's claims of 'democracy and individual rights' is a contradiction in terms. There is no freedom of clothing or religion in any Islam-stricken country, or in Islamic community ghettos in the west. They don't even tolerate converts. Their answer to any criticism or expression is Islamic execution, terror and stoning. More than 150,000 people have been executed in Iran for not being Muslims! Their claim is nothing but propaganda and pretence for western governments. They hide behind democracy, in order to buy more time for the consolidation of their Islamic apartheid in the region. Let's have a look at some of their arguments:
Freedom of Religion
Freedom of religion and atheism is part of our principles. Adults are free to choose whatever religion or none at all. It is everybody's right to practice his/her religious beliefs in private or in public religious places of worship. It is everybody's right to be atheist or materialist. Religion is a private and not a social affair. Here we are talking about schools, universities, offices, hospitals, etc. as public places that must be neutral. People, in public places are present not as representatives of a particular religion but as citizens with private (personal) beliefs who have gathered in these places for a common social, educational, or work purpose. Talk of freedom of religion here is nonsense and goes against the social reason why people gathered there in the first place. People do not enter social life as Muslims, Christians, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus, atheists, but rather they exist as citizens, colleagues, pupils, and workers in a school, factory or office. If the definition of society was based on 'freedom of religion', and social functions were organised according to religious beliefs and affiliations, then we would not be having a human society and all life and social activities would be disrupted. If religious affiliation superseded humanity, then society must be organised according to different religious categories. Or the classrooms would have to be planned based on religious beliefs or lack of it. Is this possible? Even if it were, would it reflect religious freedom? Is it favourable? This argument has no chance.
Individual and social freedoms must not contradict each other. They are interlinked and constitute the basis of a free society. In order to safeguard humanity from religion, one must demand the removal of all religious elements from the civil laws of the country. There should be no official religion. There should be no reference to people's religious affiliation in official documentations, or religious titles in official papers and the mass media. A free society can only emphasise people's human character as the common and equal characteristic of its citizens. Disregarding religious and national beliefs is the only possible way for the cohabitation of citizens. At the same time, freedom of religion or atheism in the private lives of citizens should be secured and defended.
Freedom of Clothing
We support 'unconditional freedom in choice of clothing. Abolition of any official or implied requirements on the amount or type of clothing that men or women should wear in public. Prohibition of any form of discrimination or restrictions on the basis of people's clothing and appearance (A Better World, programme of the Worker-communist Party, writer's emphasis). In public mean streets, parks, cinemas, entertainment centres, buses, trains, etc. It means places where one individual chooses what to wear according to his/her taste without interference from anybody or any authority. The hijab in educational institutions, a Mullah's gown in the operating theatre of a hospital, or religious symbols in offices are not 'freedom of clothing'. This is equivalent to imposing a religious dress code in a non-religious place. For example, a telephone operator can answer the phone wearing any clothes s/he wants, but somebody who receives visitors in an office cannot do her work with a burqa or hijab. A miner cannot enter the mine without wearing a safety helmet and the right uniform. A football player cannot play in tribal, religious and traditional clothes. In many places, the job necessitates a special dress code. These rules contradict freedom of clothing, according to the Islamic 'democrats' and the 'Left'. Nobody can participate in a parliamentary meeting wearing an evening dress! In some countries, schools require school uniforms to prevent prejudice based on economic differences. Some jobs by nature require special uniforms that are recognisable by the general public. There are millions of such examples. Do these violate freedom of clothing? Of course not.
I don't think anybody would agree to different newscasters with different religious clothing appearing on TV every night. Nobody would feel comfortable being turned over to an officer who differentiates him/herself with the religious clothing s/he is wearing. The moment freedom of clothing, like other individual freedoms such as freedom of speech, interfere with social freedoms, they become conditional. In other words, individual freedoms should not limit social freedoms. They must complement each other. As Karl Marx said in the Communist Manifesto, the individual's freedom is the condition for society's freedom and society's freedom is the condition for the individual's freedom.
We are social beings and live in society. Banning religious symbols in educational institutions and workplaces where human characteristics take precedence over religious, national, tribal and racial ones is the way to respect the social and human character of people. This concept is either upside down or non-existent in the views of the religious, nationalist, and post-modernist Left.
The Question of 'Minorities'
It is said that the French law does not consider the rights of 'minorities'. This view presupposes the existence of different categories such as 'minorities' and the 'majority'! It takes for granted that the main elements of the society are national, religious and racial differences! By the same token, democracy is the system that coordinates the relations between these categories in the society, and that undermining democracy is tantamount to a disturbance of this relationship! The worker-communist movement does not regard these as the prerequisite of human society and fights against it. I must emphasise that humans, individuals or social beings, have their peculiar character and nature, and nobody has the right to take that away from them or use that to discriminate against them. Everybody has the right to choose his/her religion or any other belief, and society must safeguard one's right to express her/himself. Our objection is the framework in which it is adopted, namely the fact that a more important and extensive right has been questioned, i.e. the human character and nature of people as free and equal citizens. We do not divide society into religions, nationalities and beliefs. It is only in the present system that you witness an Imam or a mullah suddenly becoming the 'advocate' of a section of the society and turning the lives of many women and children who happen to live in a Muslim community in the heart of European democracy into hell. It is exactly these relations that pave the way for honour killings, recruit soldiers for Islam, impose different norms in the society, and terrorize people. All this is done while barricading behind the wall of 'democracy', 'freedom of religion' and 'minority rights'! This is apartheid and racism. We do not accept it. We say citizens should be equal before the law. Religion, race, and no 'minority' or 'majority' defines individuals and the civil rights of citizens. It is simple mindedness to think one can justify the attempts of the Islamic movement in Europe by democracy or individual freedoms. On a political level, such views strive for federalism and to turn the clock back to an era when society comprised of tribes. On a legal level, it includes all into this or that religion or nationality. On a cultural level, it prefers the old fashioned and antiquated ways and manners to that of human advances. Such view cannot talk of freedom and equality for all. It is itself the source of racism and consolidates the state and bourgeoisie's racism. It washes its hands from the questions and difficulties facing society and replaces it with the power and influence of the Imams and nationalist representatives. It claims that the legal system is not the answer and that one should engage in enlightening the general public. Very well, one can do that. However, what do you do when that Imam or mullah in Sweden, Germany or England is still not convinced by your post-modernist enlightenment? Do you advise women in Islamic communities to wait and tolerate torture, intimidation and humiliation? So far nobody has claimed that little girls are not forced to wear the veil, women are not locked up in their homes, freedom of clothing is allowed, and non-Muslims are not threatened as a result of such enlightenment. In fact, it has been the opposite. This view criticises or blames fundamentalism in order to find its allies amongst the so-called less savage Islam. This has been a fruitless attempt. We are, in fact, witnessing the daily expansion of the Islamic movement, insecurity in society, victimisation of more and more women and children, violations of the most basic human rights and political, cultural and social degeneration.
Everybody is entitled to adhere to any ideology, nationality, religion or race. Everybody is entitled to express his/her opinion in any way. Most importantly, the society has the duty to provide the possibilities of realising such rights. However, nobody is justified in imposing his/her beliefs on the lives of others. Nobody - including Islamists, their post-modernist allies or governments - is justified in denying women and children an education, which by definition is secular. Human society has advanced and achieved concepts like citizen's rights and civil rights. The present universal laws are the result of the long, hard and bloody struggle of many progressive people and movements. Our task is not that of regressing these gains, but their expansion. Our duty is to protect humanity from religion and capitalism.
The recent French law weakens the political Islamic movement and gives an opportunity for the advancement of the movement for freedom and equality. The bourgeoisie in France and other countries will not be able to seriously impose religion and political Islam's retreat as a whole, since it needs religion as a tool for the growth of capitalism, and also because of its incapability to confront the issue to the end. One thing is for sure, though; the debate as it is so far will provide the grounds for the emergence of other political movements and forces. The movement for equality and freedom must take the lead and show the way towards a better world.
The slogan of the Communards: 'long live humanity' must be realised. This is a task for the worker-communist movement - the Communards of today.
Translator from Farsi to English: Maryam Kousha. This was first published in English in the Worker-communist Review 1 dated June 2004.
Stop the Sharia court in Canada
Campaigning against the sharia court in Canada
The reasons given for a Sharia Court in Canada by Islamists and their multi-culturalist supporters are not what they seem. They say Muslims do not want their family problems to be made public; these tribunals will deal with civil disputes not criminal matters; one can choose not to go before the Sharia tribunal; and that it will take less time than a Canadian court and cost less.
Let me address each one separately. Why do the initiators of the proposal not want family disputes to be publicised outside of their 'communities'. In communities where Sharia law interferes with people's lives, family problems are not simply disagreements between a man and a woman and who gets what. In fact, private matters and religion are closely linked together. To make my point clear, I would like to present one case study I have come across in my social work. I have a client in Toronto who was taken out of school by her parents at the age of 15 and forced to marry a 29 year old man; according to Sharia, she is married whilst under the Canadian legal system she is not. At the age of 16, this young pregnant girl is going through separation because of domestic abuse. In a secular court, the fact that she was forced to marry at a young age is considered a crime and her husband will be charged for assault and child abuse. As for her parents, they too will be charged. The Children's Aid Society will get involved and if they have any other children younger than 16, all will be moved out to the Aid Society's care. While in the eyes of the Sharia tribunal no crime has taken place and the matter is a civil one, which can be resolved by the Islamic tribunal, under the modern secular system of Canada, the child will be immediately protected and the abusers prosecuted.
Moreover, proponents say that the Sharia tribunal is optional for those who decide to use it. My question is optional for whom? Muslim women lose their options right at birth. But for the sake of argument, let's go back to our case study. Let us say that the 15 year old girl refused to accept the forced marriage, and made a complaint against her parents to a secular court. I don't know if that would have happened in reality due to social and financial restrictions. What do you think would have happened to her? I know it is hard to imagine. Her family would disown her for sure. For a moment, imagine being born and brought up in such a family and the so-called Muslim community, being made to study in an Islamic school and never having the chance to integrate within society; and then being disowned by not only your family but also the entire community. No wonder she chose marriage over isolation. I think it is fair to say that she had no choice, even though she could have filed a complaint. As I mentioned before, her choice was taken away right at birth. In her case, after going through tremendous abuse (verbal, mental, financial and sexual) for eight long months and being five months pregnant, she could not take it anymore. What are her choices now before the tribunal? Because she married according to the Sharia, in the eyes of her community and family, her divorce has to be in accordance with the Sharia too or else it will not be legitimate!
Proponents go on to say that the tribunal costs less and takes less time. During a recession, these two excuses may be acceptable for the government and its right-wing parties. They may think that whatever reduces costs of social services, health care, education and social justice is to their advantage but what would the consequences of these low costs be? And who will pay the price? How much damage will it do to humanity? It is not their problem. The above two 'solutions' are exactly the same as letting an unskilled layperson do heart surgery on patients in order to reduce the cost of paying a skilled heart surgeon; the percentage of survivors in this case is obvious. Or discharging a sick patient right after her critical operation in order to bring down the costs of the hospital or to be able to shorten the process of recovery!! If this is not inhuman, then what is it?
My point is why should Muslim women pay a heavy price to bring down costs? If the cost of courts are high and the process is long because of its bureaucracy, then it is everyone's duty to fight it and make sure that the justice system is fair and affordable for everyone, while remaining secular and modern.
And finally, we often hear people saying, this is not your problem; why do you care? This is what Muslim women want. Modern society is not built of different clans and tribes that can make their own laws and practice it without affecting others. A modern, secular society has its own norms and standards. We have gained them by going through harsh struggles over many years. The rights to live, education, health, to socialise and have a social life, and all other rights such as the rights of gays and lesbians and children, etc. make up the society's standards and norms. The disturbance of any will affect others. For example, it is not acceptable to physically discipline children. In fact it is considered abuse and has legal consequences. When some Amish people claimed that it was their right to physically punish their children and had nothing to do with others as they were doing it out of love for their children, society opposed it. And we had every right to do so. It is exactly the same in the instance of the 'right' to have the Islamic Institute of Civil Justice. It must be opposed nationally and internationally as it will diminish our social norms and standards. In the real world, not every 'right' is or should be respected, such as the right to commit suicide, drink and drive, institutionalise male domination, gender apartheid and segregation between man and women and so on. Whether all Muslim women want it (as they falsely claim), 1,000,000 people demand it or just one does not affect the argument.
We still have many long hard challenges ahead for the separation of the state and administration from religion, ethnicity, nationalism, racism and any ideology that contradicts the absolute equality of all in civil rights and before the law. Fighting the Sharia tribunals is one important step in defending universal rights for all those living here in Canada.
The above speeches were made on March 8, 2004, International Women's Day at a panel debate organised by the International Campaign against the Sharia Court in Canada to debate the planned establishment of a Sharia Court in Ontario, Canada. The successful panel was organised by Homa Arjomand, the Campaign's Coordinator. To join or find out more about the campaign to stop the Sharia court in Canada, contact Homa Arjomand at firstname.lastname@example.org, visit the website: http://freehost14.websamba.com/noshariacourt and sign the petition online: www.petitiononline.com/pasc1361/petition-sign.html.
Sunday, May 15, 2005
The Great Liberal Betrayal
The great liberal betrayalNick CohenMonday 1st November 2004
The left, in the form of the Stop the War Coalition, has fallen out even with Iraqi comrades who opposed the war. Why? Because those comrades don't see hostage-takers and decapitators as resistance fighters. By Nick CohenThe British anti-war movement is falling apart, but for a reason that the most cynical observer of the left in the 20th century could never have imagined. The left, or at least that section of it which always manages to get the whip hand, has swerved to the right - to the far right, in fact - and is actively supporting theocrats and fascists: the oppressors of racial minorities, secularists, women, gays and trade unionists.It is the last item on this list that has proved too poisonous for the democrats in the Stop the War Coalition to swallow. Mick Rix, former general secretary of Aslef, the train drivers' union, has resigned from the coalition and condemned its "stupid and wild accusations" against Iraqi trade unionists. The public sector union Unison is threatening to sever all links after Subji al-Mashadani of the Iraqi Federation of Workers' Trade Unions (IFTU) was screamed down at the recent European Social Forum. "The people who harassed the IFTU general secretary and prevented the meeting from taking place have no interest in genuine debate or the peaceful, democratic future of the people of Iraq," Unison said.Pro- and anti-war Labour MPs have signed a Commons motion put down by the (anti-war) Harry Barnes in mid-October, which denounced "a scurrilous statement" that "would strongly imply support for the so-called resistance and thereby acquiesce in the murders of more people such as Ken Bigley, as well as hundreds of ordinary Iraqis". The Stop the War Coalition statement in question reaffirmed its "call for an end to the occupation, the return of all British troops in Iraq to this country" and recognised "once more the legitimacy of the struggle of Iraqis, by whatever means they find necessary, to secure such ends". The organisers of the march through London on 17 October in the name of peace were now supporting the hostage-takers and decapitators, the jihadis and the Ba'athists, in whatever acts of terror they thought necessary to stop elections taking place. You could write a book on the reasons for the left's rightwards charge - now I come to think of it, I have: Pretty Straight Guys, available in all good bookshops - but the point to keep in mind is that the crossing of the line from opposing Bush/Blair to outright support for everything the decent left has stood against has been on the cards since the beginning of the Iraq crisis.The Stop the War Coalition is dominated by the Socialist Workers Party, the most unscrupulous and unprincipled of the far-left sects. When the SWP takes over a cause, agendas are rigged, meetings are packed, and debate is suffocated. Everyone with experience of the left knows that the SWP is a totalitarian organisation both in theory and in practice, but they rarely say so in public, and nor do the liberal media. Yet the anti-war movement marked a new low, even by the standards of the SWP's grim record. The supposedly Marxist party allied itself with the Muslim Association of Britain, which supports sharia law, with all its difficulties with democracy, women and homosexuals. The unlovely couple then claimed to represent the millions who opposed the war, and those who marched under the slogan "Not in my name" did not go out of their way to contradict them.Naturally, no criticisms of Saddam Hussein and no alliances with his victims could be permitted. George Galloway, who had saluted the tyrant's "courage, strength and indefatigability", became the movement's leader. Since then, we have had gay rights campaigners being surrounded by howling Trots and radical vicars when they tried to speak up for persecuted Palestinian homosexuals, and the former left-winger Ken Livingstone embracing a far-right Islamic cleric who has supported wife- beating, queer-bashing and the murder of Jewish civilians.What has been disorientating from the start has been the ease with which the opponents of Saddam's 22 years in power have been forgotten. They were victims of a state that was authentically fascist, to use that abused word correctly for once. It was fascist not only because the founders of the Ba'ath Party were inspired by Nazi Germany, but because Iraq had the classic fascist programme of the worship of the great leader, the unprovoked wars of aggression, the genocidal campaigns against impure ethnic minorities, and the suppression of every autonomous element in society, including free trade unions.While the blanking out of men and women who shared the liberal left's values was understandable before the war - the good reasons for stopping George Bush and Tony Blair had the regrettable but inevitable effect of crowding out the bad - the persistence of denial afterwards has been inexcusable and truly sinister.If you think the sell-out is just a local problem confined to a few creeps on the far left who believe that anyone who kills Americans is a freedom fighter, consider the case of the Liberal Democrats. Charles Kennedy managed to get through his entire speech to the Liberal Democrat party conference without once mentioning the liberals and democrats in Iraq who face kidnap or murder for fighting for the rights that he takes for granted. I can't remember a single occasion when the Lib Dems have taken up the cause of Iraqi democracy. Nor is denial simply a British phenomenon. Iraqis trying to cope with a criminally incompetent American occupation, and working under threat of assassination by Saddam's supporters or religious fundamentalists, have looked across the liberal west for support - and met indifference.For the past two years, we have had the eerie sight of a left without comrades. On the face of it, the left has not been so strong for decades: millions have marched under its banners, Blair has been wounded, perhaps fatally, and the BBC and the liberal papers are onside for the first time that anyone can remember. But if you ask on whose behalf the left is pouring out its heart - for whom is all this left-wing outrage? - no one can produce a single reputable ally. The Kurdish victims of Saddam's genocidal campaigns were all the rage on the left when Iraq was America's de facto partner. But they became an embarrassment long ago when Saddam invaded Kuwait and became America's enemy, and have been unmentionables ever since they committed the unforgivable crime of supporting the overthrow of a tyrant who sought to exterminate them.The Iraqi Communist Party won't do. It opposed the war, but worked with the Americans once it was over. For a while, a group called the Worker-Communist Party was fashionable. It opposed the war and the occupation. However, the WCP, too, has wised up and decided it wants nothing to do with the British anti-war movement's alliance with the far right. Recently, it dissociated itself from "left groups like the SWP [which] want to see Moqtada al-Sadr winning the current conflict. This stand has nothing to do with the socialist movement."Precisely. The story of how the Iraqi trade unions have rammed this point home offers to British trade unionists and anti-war Labour MPs a small glimmer of hope amid the murk. At any leftish meeting on Iraq, you are likely to meet the IFTU's Abdullah Muhsin, who tactfully points out that, despite all the evidence to the contrary, being on the left isn't simply a pose. You are meant to stick by your comrades, or at least give them a fair hearing.Muhsin describes the history of Iraqi unions, how their members were executed or driven underground by Saddam, while "yellow" unions were established to do the regime's bidding. The federation opposed the war and wants the occupation to end as soon as possible, but has earned the hatred of the anti-war movement because it has the cheek to regard the Ba'athists and the Islamists who want to kill them as the greater enemy, and the IFTU is winning round to its point of view those who are serious about left-wing politics. As Muhsin explained at the Labour Party conference: "There are grave security problems in Iraq, but those causing them are not, as some have wrongly said, 'the resistance'. They are . . . a mixture of [Saddam loyalists] and foreign fighters, who have, for the first time in Iraq's history, imported the terrible weapon of the suicide bomb."Three conclusions can be drawn from the long struggle to get the British left to accept the obvious:1) The people who can be relied on to make a stand in hard times won't be found in the broadsheet opinion pages or on Radio 4 chat shows, but in the boring and perennially unfashionable labour movement.2) The democratic left should never again allow itself to be led by the supporters of totalitarianism.3) No one who considers himself a democrat, liberal or socialist can continue to associate with the Stop the War Coalition.
40 reasons why Tariq Ramadan is a reactionary bigot
“40 reasons why Tariq Ramadan is a reactionary bigot” was written by the French Marxist, Yves Coleman and has been reproduced by the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty (AWL). The text presents factual information about the politics of Tariq Ramadan.There are many issues the Left must address.First is the question of honest polemic. Useful political debate requires clearly presented political positions and an attempt to honestly engage with opponents.And yet Yves Coleman believes that it almost impossible to either ‘catch’ or ‘corner’ Tariq Ramadan. He is difficult to pin down. The reason is simple: Tariq Ramadan often says one thing to one group, and something different, or contradictory, elsewhere.This slipperiness connects with the second issue for the left.No doubt, given the support Ramadan has on the “left”, there will be further “left” attempts to refute the damning contents of this document. However, it will not be good enough to answer Yves Coleman by producing further quotes from Ramadan.It just won’t do to reply to the reactionary statements Ramadan has made on the issue of women’s rights, for example, by presenting other quotes suggesting he is a liberal on the question (and so implying Ramadan can’t have made the statements cited by Yves Coleman without having to address the quotes directly). Ramadan might well have made both the reactionary and the liberal statements. As Yves Coleman shows, on many issues Ramadan has done exactly that.It will not do to protest that Ramadan is more liberal-minded, less rigidly reactionary than extreme Islamist groups like Hizb-ut Tahrir. He is. Mainstream Catholic ideologues are less rigidly reactionary than the Tridentines. They are still not allies for the left.Nor will it do to try to change the question by saying that the left has also had Christian preachers sometimes share platforms with it to denounce apartheid or war. The left will work with campaigners who may be Muslims on the same basis. But Tariq Ramadan's left-wing friends promote him not because he has campaigned on some progressive political issue (and despite his Islamic ideas), but because he is a (sometimes left-sounding) Islamic ideologue, regardless of him doing nothing for progressive politics other than making bland statements against poverty and so on.The only possible “left” responses to this document are: to attempt to prove Coleman has mis-quoted Ramadan; or to attempt to explain away Ramadan’s statements (by claiming some sort of special privilege for Muslim bigots); or to accept Ramadan is a reactionary.Third is the peculiar fact – one which Yves Coleman notes in his text – that the left finds no problem in condemning Catholic reactionaries, but often praises and promotes Islamic reactionaries such as Ramadan who have similar views. Criticisms of Tariq Ramadan are often called "Islamophobic". But we do not say that Ramadan is worse than a Catholic reactionary because he is Muslim rather than Catholic. We only say that a Muslim reactionary is no more defensible than a Catholic reactionary.The problem is that large sections of the left have degenerated and decayed to such an extent that they become unable to differentiate between critics of existing society who offer a positive alternative to capitalism (the working-class, class-struggle left), and those critics who are backward-looking reactionaries.The kitsch-left has – seemingly – forgotten what it positively stands for, and can only remember what it is against (Blair, Israel and, most of all, America). Since Islamists are against Israel and the USA, and Catholic reactionaries generally are not, the kitsch-left thinks the Islamists are progressive. Or that Ramadan, a Swiss university professor, is the best person to invite to be a "Voice of the Global South" at the European Social Forum, precisely because he is an Islamic ideologue.It is organisations such as the SWP - which found itself unable to condemn 9/11, and which supports the so-called resistance in Iraq – that promote Ramadan.Forth is to understand Ramadan’s project.Yves Coleman writes: “The basic thing is that Ramadan wants is to enlarge the power of control or religion on society. Ramadan always invokes French racism (which exists and can not be denied) and colonial history to explain the hostility he provokes in France. In this he is partly right, but what is at stake is the meaning of secularism. For him (as well as for the SWP and its French followers) secularism means that all religions are treated equally by the State and are respected. For the French Republican tradition, it means something different: it means (in theory) that people should not express religious views in the public sphere (in their job, in the schools, in Parliament, etc.) and should keep their religious views to the private sphere. That's where the difference lies. “Ramadan may not be a fundamentalist of the worst sort but he is clearly training a whole generation of religious cadres who are trying to change the content of secularism in France in a more pro-religious direction.”Fifth is to understand the role Ramadan is playing in NUS.Behind Ramadan – urbane, reasonable sounding – stand the Islamists of the MAB/Muslim Brothers.Ramadan is the reasonable face of Islamic politics, and he is the thin end of the wedge.Finally, we need to understand that attempts to shout down Marxist critics of Ramadan with demagogic accusations of “Islamophobia” and even “racism” are absurd. Discrimination and even violence against Muslims are real. We oppose such bigotry.However we also demand women’s liberation, gay liberation. The AWL is an atheist organisation, and fights for secular values. Therefore we will not ignore Ramadan’s bigotry or backwardness.***40 reasons why Tariq Ramadan is a reactionary bigotTariq Ramadan often complains that the media accuse him of being two-faced. He considers that this critique is a plain racist slander in the line of the eternal cliché about so-called Arab "deceitfulness". If we read Mr Ramadan's writings we reach a much simpler conclusion: Tariq Ramadan is a sincere Muslim who defends reactionary positions on a number of issues, but that does not prevent him from holding critical views on many injustices, while being fundamentally a moderate in politics.Just as Pope John Paul II condemned the "excesses of capitalism", unemployment, greed, poverty, the war in Iraq and the way Israel treats the Palestinians.Only somebody who has never thought about about the function of religions (of all religions) can be surprised by this coexistence of different interpretations of the world: a faith in myths (as in the Bible, Torah, Quran, Upanishads, etc.) and absurd superstitions; a use of reason in many daily (manual and intellectual) activities ; a sincere revolt against all injustices; a misogynist and homophobic moralism; a need for dreams and utopias, etc.Revolutionaries do not question Tariq Ramadan's right to defend his religious beliefs, or to proselytise. After all, as he rightly notes, nobody in France is scandalized by the constant propaganda waged by missionaries like Mother Teresa or Sister Emmanuelle in Asia. Nobody protests against the repeated presence of Sister Emmanuelle, Cardinal Lustinger (former cardinal in charge of Paris) and other priests, nuns and monks in all sorts of French TV shows and programs.Nor is this a matter of a theological dispute with somebody who is always going to know Islam better than any "Western" atheist.What we insist on is that there are other interpretations of Islam, from Muslims who are much more democratic and secular than Ramadan.And we reject the dishonest gambit used by this Swiss philosophy lecturer to deflect criticism: each time a Muslim intellectual defends an opinion which is different from his, it is because she or he is "westernized", has adopted a "West-centred vision", or worse, has sold out to imperialist, colonialist and racist Western powers.Revolutionaries do not claim that Tariq Ramadan holds reactionary positions on all issue. We simply ask his "left-wing" friends not to knowingly dissimulate his obscurantist positions and not to dismiss in advance the positions of other Muslims who are much less conservative than him as regards morals, secularism and all the issues of daily life.This dissimulation comes sometimes from a unworthy paternalism ("he will shift as he comes into contact with us"), sometimes from a manipulative approach ("we are not interested in him, but in the immigrants he influences"), and sometimes from a political vision which blurs all class divisions ("the confluence of all anti-capitalist movements", the "revolt of the multitudes", and other such rubbish), sometimes from the cynical relativism of disillusioned former adherents of dialectical materialism ("after all, no-one knows whether scientific truths exist"), and sometimes from a "Third Worldism" which has still not given up on the Stalinist illusion of "socialism in one country".In all these cases, such hypocritical attitudes to Ramadan's bigotry do a disservice to workers who still believe in Islam but who also want to fight against capitalism. And after all, as revolutionaries, it is those "Muslims" who interest us.***Tariq Ramadan does not approve of flirting, sex before (or outside) marriage, homosexuality, women’s contraception or divorce. He thinks that Muslim women should submit to their husbands if they are “good” Muslims. He believes that men must be financially responsible for the well-being of their family, and not women. In other words, Tariq Ramadan is opposed to or equivocal about feminism, women’s rights, gay rights and sexual liberation. One should also have strong doubts about his respect of the freedom of speech and thought: in Switzerland he contributed to a campaign against a Voltaire play, and he wants Muslim parents to control the content of State school programs according to “Islamic values”, to give only two examples. But that does not prevent him from constantly using the key words of today’s public relations industry: “respect”, “tolerance”, “communication” and “dialogue” in the manner of a cynical politician.What a strange friend for the Left!MUSLIM FUNDAMENTALISM1) In 1996, Ramadan spent one year in Leicester (UK) to write his book « Etre un musulman européen » (“To be a European Muslim”). During his stay, he was subsidized by The Islamic Foundation. Khurshid Ahmad, rector of this foundation, is also president of the main Islamist Party in Pakistan, Jamaat e-Islami. Mr Ramadan says he kept his independence and that this institution did not influence the content of his writings. Is that likely? The book distances itself from rigid Islamic conservatism, regretting that too often in England, “Young girls... are treated as if they are in India or Pakistan and... are frequently denied the opportunity to accomplish and perfect their studies”. But it does that in the name of constructing an Islamism, more flexible than the old people's adherence to "the Asian way of living Islam" or the shrillness of Hizb ut Tahrir, because only such a "European Islam", he believes, can combat "the process of acculturation which looks to be irreversible, within second or third generations". Only it can defeat "liberal (or rationalist) reformism" within Islam.2) In 1997 Ramadan presented a PhD. thesis about his grandfather, the founder of the Egyptian Muslim Brothers, Hassan al-Banna. His thesis was then published by the Catholic publisher, Bayard, with a preface by Alain Gresh, editor of "Le Monde diplomatique" and member of the counter-globalisation movement ATTAC. Gresh wrote, “[Tariq Ramadan] is not only the grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brothers, but he proudly claims his doctrinal and spiritual heritage.” In this book (as in "To be a European Muslim") Ramadan presents Hassan al-Banna as one of the major “Muslim reformers” of the early 20th century. This is a half-truth theologically; but al-Banna's mild theological "Salafi reformism" served a political project of Islamic fundamentalism. He wanted to subject society to a rigid Islamic code, only one updated slightly to make the project feasible. In the 1940s socialists like Tony Cliff (a founder of the Socialist Workers Party) had no hesitation about describing al-Banna's Muslim Brotherhood as "clerical -fascist".3) Ramadan pretends that the media attacks him mainly because he is the grandson of Hassan al-Banna. According to Ramadan his own ideas are very different from those of the Muslim Brothers.At the same time, in a speech about “contemporaneous Muslim thought”, he quotes as an example the “method” of his grand-father. After quoting the first three steps of the indoctrination process imagined by Hassan al-Banna (“the individual formation”, “the family formation”, and the transmission of the message “in all the regions, hamlets, towns, metropolises and capitals”), Tariq Ramadan writes, “It is interesting to note that it is only after these three steps that al-Banna evokes an 'Islamic government', which in the reform procedure of his organisation is the logical consequence of the rebirth process started at the individual level.”Ramadan “forgets” to quote the four other steps imagined by the founder of the Muslim Brothers: the prohibition of all political parties; the constitution of an “Islamic fatherland” with a positive reference to Hitler (“If the German Reich imposes itself as the protector of all those who have German blood, the Muslim faith should impose itself to every Muslim who has the capacity of considering himself as the protector of any person who has received a Koranic education”); the creation of an Islamic empire (“Andalusia, Sicily, Balkans, the Italian coasts as well as the Mediterranean islands are all Muslim Mediterranean colonies and they must come back to Islam”). Mr Ramadan loves selective quotes, when it serves his goals.When asked what he thinks about the political ideas of his grandfather, Ramadan is unable to express precise criticisms, “Hassan al-Banna has resisted colonisation and founded schools, but he has also used slogans which could be wrongly understood, and structured an organisation whose rules and mechanisms have sometimes suppressed reflection and initiative.” (*) Do you understand what he means ?4) In 1998 Ramadan wrote a foreword to a collection of fatwas by Yusuf al Qaradawi, published by the European Council of the Fatwa. According to this book, a husband, “has the right to forbid his wife to visit another woman, if he thinks this visit may cause a prejudice to his wife, his children or his marital life”, and a “woman should not take the initiative to talk to men she does not know”. A woman, “should not play with children who are dancing”. And the book goes on with themes like, “Should a Muslim woman use a credit card?” Or, “Should she cut her hair without her husband's authorization?” And this book declares abortion illegal. When Ramadan is asked about this foreword and his “deep respect” for such a reactionary theologian he has an answer which is typical of what is called in French “langue de bois” (or “wooden tongue”, a term used to qualify politicians’ language: something which is vague or impossible to understand): “I quote [his work] when I find it interesting. I also express criticisms or distance myself from some of his positions, which can be explained by the fact that he does not live in Western society. He develops social, political and geostrategic analyses which belong to him, and which I don’t always share. ”(*) It is impossible to know what Ramadan’s position is!WOMEN’S LIBERATION5) Ramadan is hostile to feminism and women's liberation: “We are not going to enter into the logic which unfolded itself in European countries, where women have struggled and become feminists against men.”6) Ramadan ridicules feminism with silly jokes and remarks, in the style of the most reactionary politicians: “We are not going to become stupid to the point of saying: Show your liberation and become a truck driver, drive a lorry.” He criticises Western society, which supposedly obliges women to, “become brick workers or lorry drivers to show that women are effectively liberated”!7) Tariq Ramadan defends “the family” and thinks, “women’s liberation should not ruin the family”. His defence of family values taps into the same sources as reactionary politicians like George Bush, Tony Blair, or the Pope John Paul II. 8) Ramadan protests against women’s submission to men but at the time writes that women, “should be subordinated to men when their man is a model of Islam”! THE HIJAB9) Ramadan claims that the veil (hijab) is supported “by all schools of thought in Islam, Sunni or Shia”, but he omits that the word “hijab” does not appear in the Quran. He “forgets” that the Prophet only talked about veiling the breasts of women. Ramadan always uses the word “contextualisation” but when it amounts to such a basic sign of woman’s oppression as the hijab he forgets the holy “context” and approves the most reactionary Muslim philosophers and “scientists” - on this matter, as on many others.10) To justify the hijab Ramadan pretends that men are “weak” and should be submitted to privations in order to better understand women: “If women are asked to wear the hijab, it is because men are the weakest of the two and because the way men look at women is much more fragile than the reverse. This veil is a protection for the weakest of the two.” So women have to hide their bodies to protect “weak” men from their own lust! But women must not only wear a hijab, they must also avoid make-up, perfume, and any “ambiguous look” or gesture: “if you try to attract men’s look by your forms, you perfume, your appearance or your gestures, you are not on the path of modesty, you are not taking a spiritual path.”11) For Ramadan, women have the right to decide whether to wear or not the hijab but at the same time he writes: “It is impossible to oblige them to wear it, but there is one thing about which we must all agree if we want to build an authentic Muslim community, there is one thing which is imposed on all, it is modesty”. That means clearly that a woman who “chooses” not to wear the hijab has an indecent attitude, even if Ramadan claims this is not his intention.He writes: “… men and women who don’t share the same idea of modesty as Muslims should not be considered unclean or impure.” (*) But it’s difficult to believe that Ramadan ignores how constant calls for “modesty” are interpreted in all societies where religious authorities have been or are in power. So where is the so-called “freedom of choice” for Muslim girls and women?MARRIAGE, POLYGAMY AND DIVORCE12) In a book called « Peut-on vivre avec l'islam ? Le choc de la religion musulmane et des sociétés laïques et chrétiennes » (“Can we live with Islam? The clash between Muslim religion and secular and Christian societies”), Ramadan wrote: “a Muslim man can marry a Christian or Jewish woman”, but, “the reverse is not possible because a Muslim woman can't marry a man from another religion”. In his book-interview « Faut-il faire taire Tariq Ramadan ? » he takes a more “moderate” position writing that this is the Muslim 'norm' (he loves this word - a strange attitude for somebody who pretends to be a “reformer”…), but that people should think it over and over before taking such a decision: “I say that one should be careful, and that a mixed marriage, on the religious or cultural level, for women as well as for men, is always difficult and obliges both partners to be conscious of all the efforts they will have to make.”(*). What is his real position about mixed marriages?13) In 2002, Ramadan wrote a preface to « Musulmane tout simplement » (“Simply Muslim”), a book written by Asma Lamrabet, in which she says that the Western world can not criticise polygamy because “many men have one, two or three mistresses in western societies”! In the same book Asma Lamrabet explains that husbands should give their wives a “light slap” because, “many women become hysterical when they quarrel with their husband”! And this does not prevent Tariq Ramadan writing in his latest book-interview that, “it is Islamically forbidden to beat his wife.” (*) Even the Quran says the opposite!14) Tariq Ramadan is not in favour of forbidding polygamy. According to this great “Islamic feminist”, it is the wife’s responsibility to add a special clause in the marriage contract if she does not accept polygamy: “The role of the marriage contract has to be restored (…) [the woman]] can ask that the contract stipulates her refusal of polygamy, her right to work and her right to a financial autonomy.”(*). In other words the law can not defend women against the mechanisms of patriarchy which have oppressed them for centuries: it is up to each individual woman to defend herself, against the pressures of her own family, her future husband and her future husband’s family. In the real world only Muslim Wonderwomen will be able to win such a battle!15) In « Peut-on vivre avec l'islam ? » Ramadan writes: “Divorce is, among the permitted things, ‘the one God hates most’, according to the teachings of the Prophet. It’s not an innocent act (…). That’s not unfortunately the case today.”PHYSICAL VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND STONING16) Ramadan condemns physical violence against women when it is committed in the name of Islam and at the same time he quotes as a theological reference the writings of Yusuf al–Quaradawi a man who, according to Tariq Ramadan, knows how to “formulate appropriate Islamic solutions”. Mr al-Quaradawi wrote: “When a husband detects in his wife signs of proudness or insubordination, he has to fix the situation by all possible means”. After having tried to discuss, and then refused to make love to his wife, the husband is advised to, “try to hit his wife with the hand while avoiding hitting her violently, and preserving her face”. What a strange reference for an “Islamic feminist” like Tariq Ramadan!17) Tariq Ramadan promotes an “absolute moratorium” on stoning “unfaithful” women or men: “… I’m asking for an absolute moratorium on all the sanctions in order to organise a large debate among the ulemas (to discuss their interpretations) ... The aim of this measure is clearly to enable us to progress towards the end of these procedures: but we will not succeed if we do not have a thorough debate inside the Muslim community”.Ramadan says it would be easy for him to condemn stoning but that he prefers that Muslim “scientists” discuss about it until they reach a final agreement. Should women wait thirteen more centuries so that the most reactionary Muslim “scientists” finally abandon stoning and all sanctions against “unfaithful” women and men?BASIC WOMEN’S RIGHTS18) On the right of women to work, Tariq Ramadan has a traditional macho attitude, in the name of the so-called “freedom of choice”: “As regards work, women have one right: the right of not being obliged to earn their living. But this right can’t be transformed into a prohibition to work.”Mr Ramadan is very generous when he “allows” women to work, but his generosity has some strict limits: women must respect, “the rules of modesty (the respect of the person)” when they, “participate in social life”. Women must “be discrete and not expose the form of their body (their clothes should be neither tight-fitting nor transparent.” (*).Mr Ramadan also wrote: “Women have the right to work and to be financially independent, but they have no financial duty as regards the home.” (*)In other words, women are not equal to their husband, because they do not have the same financial responsibilities. And if women do not have the right to use the pill and consequently have many children, obviously they can not work and be financially independent. So where does this freedom of choice lie?19) Ramadan forbids certain sports to women: “Women do not have the right to practice sport in conditions which unveil their body to men.” He has the gall to write this while pretending that Muslim sportswomen are free… to choose their own outfits! Who is he trying to fool?20) Ramadan is against mixed swimming pools: “From an Islamic point of view, I don’t see how you can even think of going to such places …. Especially when one knows the conditions of swimming pools today, and what is permitted concerning the exhibition of the body. We are defending an ethic, we are not fooling around with it.”SEXUALITY, CONTRACEPTION AND ABORTION21) Ramadan opposes flirtation and sex before marriage. A young Muslim woman asked him: “I have a boyfriend. Until what point can we go, without going too far?” Tariq Ramadan answered her, “You have already gone too far.” In the book « Peut-on vivre avec l’islam » he writes, “fornication and adultery are very serious things in the eyes of God”. On the tape “The Muslim woman and her duty of commitment”, he says, “What is forbidden in the relation between men and women, it’s to be isolated in a given place. When a man and a woman are in a room, they are taking the biggest risks, so they must not put themselves in such a situation.” (*)22) The only form of contraception Ramadan accepts is ‘coitus interruptus’, a “natural contraception”, “practised by the Prophet”! Contraception and freedom of women to control their body and sexuality are unknown to this “Islamic feminist”! He writes, “the practice of natural contraception – coitus interruptus – was known in the times of the Prophet, so contraceptive means are not forbidden in Islam.” So let’s ignore women’s right to control their body and return to medieval contraception and “weak” men’s good will!23) On the right to abortion Ramadan has a very strange position. He thinks access to abortion should depend on an individual fatwa (a religious decision): in other words it should not be guaranteed by law, but should depend on the decision of religious (male) Muslim authorities: “(…) it is preferable to avoid it. Then the approach has to be made on an individual basis (…). This is the principle underlying the fatwa, which is formulated for a precise individual in a specific circumstance.” (*)What’s the difference between Ramadan’s position on abortion and that of John Paul II?HOMOSEXUALITY24) In « Peut-on vivre avec l'islam ? » Ramadan strongly opposes homosexuality: “Homosexuality is not allowed in Islam and its public legislation, like it is practiced in Europe; it can not been admitted in Islam either on the social level, nor in marriage in any form. There is a limit on the expression of the norm which applies to the social and public space.” And he adds : “For Islam homosexuality is not natural and is alien to the path and norms of accomplishment of human beings in front of God. This attitude reveals a trouble, a disfunctioning, a disequilibrium.“Islam fixes very clear limits. God wanted an order, and this order is men for women and women for men. Homosexuality is not something admitted in Islam. (…) Homosexuality does not correspond to divine exigence as regards sexual relations” (*).Ramadan pretends in the same book that he respects homosexuals, works and participates in “struggles with men and women who are homosexuals.” (*). So when does he express his true feelings about homosexuality? Is it when he compares sodomy with bestiality and dares to write: “This act pushes men towards something that is quite similar to bestiality”?“JEWISH INTELLECTUALS” AND ZIONISM25) In 2003 Tariq Ramadan wrote an article about the “new communitarian intellectuals” which provoked a very violent debate just before the European Social Forum in Paris. Unfortunately, it was not written to denounce the fact that religion provokes all sorts of new divisions in the Left, but to criticise the fact that French “Jewish intellectuals” unconditionally support Israel’s policy. Let’s be clear: this kind of critique, in itself, is not anti-Semitic, and Ramadan should not be treated as a racist because he is in favour of a single state uniting Israelis and Palestinians. But our distinguished philosopher “forgot” to mention in his article that the so-called “Jewish intellectuals” he criticised had very different relationships to their Jewishness: some were atheists, some not, some had never publicly claimed to be Jewish, and one of them was not Jewish at all! And most important he “forgot” that most French “Zionists” are not Jewish at all (the French conservative parties and the Socialist Party have always maintained good relations with Israel and this explains why Israel has got the atomic bomb). In his last book-interview Ramadan is obliged to lie about the content of his article: he pretends that he was attacking all the intellectuals who blindly defend the “Jewish community” (which as such does not exist in France, as Mr Ramadan should know). But in the text of the article he repeats three times the word “Jewish intellectuals”, and does not mention any other type of intellectual.To systematically counterpose “the Muslims” (as if they all had the same political and religious positions) to “the Jews” in French political debates can only artificially create (or increase) a division between people who, until now, did not consider that their so-called ethnic or religious “identity” was fundamental in the public sphere. As the well-known intellectuals quoted in his article have intervened in the media, over the last 30 years, on all sorts of political subjects which have no relationship with Israel and Zionism, Ramadan’s attacks against them can only feed the idea that “the Jews” dominate the French intellectual scene — even if he sincerely claims it was not his intention.26) When Ramadan writes about anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, he opposes “the Jews” as a compact bloc on one side, and “the immigrants, Arabs and Muslims” on the other. He is so absorbed by his religion that he tends to see French society as a collection of religious (1) or ethnic groups - although he denies it. Being a Jew (i.e. feeling one belongs to the Jewish nation or people) is quite a different matter from being a Jew (a religious believer). A sophisticated intellectual like Ramadan should know such basic facts. Being an “Arab” immigrant in France does not mean automatically being a Muslim, etc. Ramadan claims that the most important divisions in French society are the divisions between “social communities” and not between religious communities. We can only agree with him on this point: class divisions are much more important than religious divisions. But why does he always want to reduce Jewishness or Arabness to a religious belief? Is not this a way of artificially creating, or nourishing, hostile religious communities?ISLAM, CENSORSHIP AND REACTIONARY LOBBYING27) In September 1993 Tariq Ramadan participated to a successful campaign to stop the town of Geneva financing and staging a Voltaire play, « Mahomet ou le fanatisme » (“Mahomet or fanaticism”, 1741), for the 300th anniversary of the French philosopher. Despite its title, this play attacks religion and fanaticism and is directed much more against Christianity than against Islam. When he was accused of favouring censorship, Ramadan defended himself by saying that he asked his students to read that play and that anyway « Mahomet ou le fanatisme » was cancelled because of a disagreement between the director and the city of Geneva. That may be partly true, but that does not explain why he publicly denounced this play, distributed leaflets against it and wrote an article advising “silence” on this question.28) In a audiotape called « Pour une culture islamique alternative » (“For an alternative Islamic culture”) Ramadan declares that to forbid music, drawings, photos, television programmes or films is “an opinion among others”! In his book "To be a European Muslim", he concludes that: “Switching off television sets and radios, throwing away newspapers and magazines, and avoiding cinemas, theatres, and exhibitions” is an “illusory”, “crazy” project to propose to young people who have grown up in Europe. It is not workable. So, with much pondering over sacred texts, he concludes that it is all right for Muslims to partake of some music, cinema etc. but draw the line by insisting that “the content... remains in agreement with Islamic ethics”. The same intellectual condemns in his writings “Western” cynicism and relativism — which he practices himself!29) Ramadan’s network « Présence musulmane » (“Muslim Presence”) forbids Muslims to watch films, listen to music or look at photographs which are “non Islamic”: “The intent and content of artistic expression — music, songs, photographs, movies or drawings — must stay in tune with Islamic ethics and should not provoke an attitude which would be contrary to it.” « Présence musulmane » condemns, “the negative artistic productions, deprived of morals or modesty, the gatherings organised for dehumanised events and concerts.” This policy is, “for yourself, your family and your entourage”. Muslims, “must dare to express their refusal, their determined resistance”.On the same subject, Ramadan wrote: “In the cultural field, as in all the other ones, our criteria of evaluation (…) are not the identity of the author but the respect or disrespect of our ethical principles”.By encouraging such sectarian attitudes, Tariq Ramadan invites Muslims to fight for censorship in the name of the respect of Muslim culture and values. This is exactly what reactionary Catholic associations do in France: they never limit themselves to give “advice” to their flocks, they fight in the media and in the streets to ban books, films, posters and advertisements which are contrary to “Christian morals”.Why does the Left laugh at Catholic intolerance but keep silent about Ramadan’s bigotries ? They are two faces of the same coin.CONTROLLING SCHOOL PROGRAMS30) According to Tariq Ramadan, Muslims should, “control school programs and impede them to transmit values which are not in agreement with our principles”, “promote structures combining the official curricula and Islamic education, whether it is declared or not”, “and invest State schools using free spaces to dispense a complementary religious programme”. No religious group or Church, in a position of power, has ever been able to manage its appetite to control people’s lives and minds. If any group of religious parents was to be allowed to control school programmes it could only be detrimental to children’s critical thinking, intellectual development and ability to reason. The discussion about creationism in the United States shows what happens when conservative parents attempt to impose religious beliefs in schools. Why does the Left criticise militant reactionary Protestants’ intrusion in the American school system, and approve Ramadan’s ideas about education and religion?FRENCH SECULARISM AND “ISLAMOPHOBIA”31) Mr Ramadan writes that, “France has a problem with religion in general and with Islam in particular.” (*). As usual he mixes two different problems: in 1905, France adopted a number of laws which limit the expression of religious opinions in the public sphere (in the school system and in all the institutions of the State), and ensured the separation between all the religious cults and the State (these laws were adopted against the negative influence of the Catholic Church at a time when Muslims were a minute community in France). This historical situation has many positive aspects, especially in the school system, because it cordons off religious conflicts into the private sphere. On the other side, today, French Muslims are victims of discrimination because of their religion (difficulties to build mosques or to have proper meals in schools, for example), and because of French racism against ‘foreign-looking’ people. By mixing the problems caused by racist and religious discriminations, Ramadan uses the positive anti-racist ideas of the Left to gain more social and political space for his own reactionary religious agenda. He uses the good cause of anti-racism to oblige the Left to abandon its commitment to secularism, atheism, reason and science. 32) Tariq Ramadan is in favour of an “open secularism” and like the Catholic Church he consider that French secularism “is an atheist ideology which does not say its name”. Let’s recognise one thing: unlike his “Left-wing” followers, Ramadan is very clear about what is at stake: the place and role of religion in contemporary society. 33) Concerning Islam, Tariq Ramadan and the Islamophilic “Left” follow exactly the same strategy as the most reactionary pro-Israeli forces. Those who criticise the politics of Israeli governments are, ipso facto, anti-Semitic (Elie Wiesel dixit). And if we systematically criticise Islam we are an anti-Arab racists or “Islamophobes” (2). In both cases the aim is the same: to silence and discredit the opponents of a reactionary ideology and practice.34) In his books and tapes Tariq Ramadan attacks what he calls the “liberal reformist” current in Islam. For him “so-called secular Muslims” are “Muslims without Islam” (conference “Islam and Western World: references and values”). Far from being an adept of a fantasy Muslim “liberation theology”, he denounces the Muslims who fight for a radical separation between religions and the state, and who consider religion as a purely private matter. His “leftist” followers in France (like the two pro-SWP tendencies in the Ligue Communiste Revolutionnaire) follow his steps: when they write about French Muslim philosophers and intellectuals who are clearly in favour of a secular society, they ignore the democratic, secular positions of these people and denounce their moderate or reactionary political views. In other words a Muslim fundamentalist is one hundred percent progressive just because he pretends to be in favour of a free Palestine and against the war in Iraq, and a Muslim secular democrat is one hundred percent reactionary because he respects French bourgeois institutions.ISLAM AND POLITICS35) In an audiotape (“Islam and secularism”) Ramadan declared that one should not say that, “Islam makes no distinction between religion and politics”, but that Islam makes no difference, “between the realm of faith and the realm of action”. Which means exactly the same! 36) Ramadan claims that he has differences with the Iranian regime and that he did not like the regime of the mullahs from the start. “The model of government of the ayatollahs and its relation to power did not satisfy me. I was against the Shah but I did not support the new regime.”(*) His critique is rather mild especially when one knows that he quotes Iran as an example of the social “promotion of women”: “Iranian society today is, among the Muslim societies, the most advanced about the promotion of women.”! When Ramadan (vaguely) criticises Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Algeria, Pakistan, Turkey or Egypt, he never does it from a secular point of view. He wants so much to respect the dominant religion (Islam), in order to slowly change things from within, that he is unable to denounce the strong and permanent interaction between religion and dictatorship. He reduces secularism to a colonialist ideology (which was true in French colonies), but he ignores the facts that the struggle for secularism in France itself was a fight against the power of the Catholic Church over the State and society, and that it took centuries to the Church to accept democracy… outside its ranks. Why should it be different with Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism or Protestantism ?REASON, SCIENCE AND RELIGION37) According to Tariq Ramadan the “Quran obliges us to think” and, “it is normal that a Muslim reads the Quran in adoration” because it is, “a source which gives life to intelligence”. If faith is the best way to intelligence how can one avoid religious fanaticism? A mystery for all rationalists. For him, “what is asked to reason it to find back the way of faith in one’s heart”. If the Holy Scriptures (and the Bible is respected by all Muslims) are a source of inspiration for reason and intelligence it is difficult to understand why one should condemn the attempts of Christian fundamentalists to influence all fields of American society and politics. If the Bible is God’s truth for Muslims it is difficult to understand why they condemn the most reactionary Zionists who take their inspiration from the Old Testament!Historical science, intellectual coherence and faith definitely do not go together!38) “The teachings of Quran and Sunna shape a complete way of life and that is what sharia commands us to follow.” Even if Ramadan presents himself as a “Muslim reformer”, his intellectual universe and - more important - the intellectual universe he wants to impose on Muslims is a book written (or dictated by God) in the 7th century and a long sequel of sectarian polemics between reactionary theologians during the following centuries. He conceives of Islam as a “global conception” (un « englobant »): how can such a total (not to say totalitarian) ideology which pretends to be inspired by divine words be able to tolerate any debate with rationalists and atheists? As he wrote “It is not our reason which deals (…) with all which is new.” “All our orientation (…) comes from the takwa, the fear of Allah, and it orients us to act in this society.”39) Tariq Ramadan wants to blur the fundamental difference between science and religion, by systematically using the word “scientists” when he refers to Muslim theologians. Even if exact sciences are not protected from making criminal mistakes (they contributed to conception of the atomic bombs used in Hiroshima and Nagasaki), and even if social sciences have justified racism and homophobia, religious faith in the myths and fairy tales developed in the Bible, the Torah and the Quran many centuries ago stand in absolute contradiction to reason and science. Why should we stay silent about religious mythologies?“UNIVERSAL COMMON VALUES”?40) In his last book-interview Tariq Ramadan keeps saying that he believes in “universal common values”. He defends, “the right of expression for everybody, the right to pluralism and free elections.”(*). But when he criticises individualism he goes as far as saying: “Freedom which is the freedom of making one’s own choices has become so important that, leading to excesses, it has denied all references. It becomes moral permissiveness.” Difficult to find anything even vaguely “progressive” in this kind of speech!And he writes, “each society must find its model of democracy … and apply a distinction between the political and religious sphere which protects the public space where rationality and debate prevail and enables it not to suppress popular expression under the weight of dogmas or religious authorities.”(*). This type of verbose reasoning is so vague that it can lead to any political position about secularism.Concerning women, Ramadan defends the “right to autonomy, to education, to divorce, to work, to social and political commitment, the rejection and condemnation of discriminations towards women … the refusal of excision, forced marriages, conjugal violence and legal obstacles to women’s divorce”. He is also against the death penalty and stoning, even though he advances the strange argument that these penalties are often “asked for by the populations of predominantly Muslim countries.”(*)! He is for, “a State based on laws, an egalitarian citizenship, universal vote and responsibility by mandate of the political leaders.”(*).These statements look quite nice and democratic but they do not match with the other quotations collected in this article - on women’s rights, gay rights, freedom of speech, freedom of thought and total separation between the Churches and the State. If one takes away their pretentious and pompous language, what’s left of Ramadan’s speeches apart from a very vague reference to the necessity of « vivre ensemble » (“living together”), a theme which is constantly used by President Chirac and the members of his reactionary government, the defence of small property (Ramadan invokes the anarchist Proudhon !) and the very confused idea of “participative democracy”? An empty shell. Or, as the English say: Much ado about nothing…Yves Coleman Notes(1). It’s interesting to note that in his interview by Socialisme international, a pro-SWP tendency in the LCR, his Trotskyist interviewer is so contaminated by Ramadan’s way of thought that he refers to the co-operation between “left-wing atheists” and “Muslims” as if these were decisive categories of the class struggle.(2) The Left militants who promote the notion of “Islamophobia” are, whether they like it or not, influenced by political correctness, an ideology invented… by American conservatives. Acts of real Islamophobia, like the systematic attacks on mosques after the assassination of Theo Van Gogh in Holland, are much less numerous than traditional racist attacks on foreign workers in “Christian” Europe. This fact does not make “Islamophobic” acts acceptable, but puts them in perspective, and sets priorities for revolutionary militantsA comment from the author:The quotations of this text have mostly been extracted from:Faut-il faire taire Tariq Ramadan ? book-interview of Tariq Ramadan, presented by Aziz Zemouri, (L’Archipel, 370 p., 2005). This long interview (250 pages) partly answers two books written by authors who are very hostile to him: Tariq Ramadan dévoilé, Lionel Favrot (book-supplement to Lyon Mag, 298 p., September 2004) and Frère Tariq of Caroline Fourest (Grasset, 426 p., 2004).Given the fact that the quotations collected by the authors come from numerous sources, it has not been possible to ensure that none of Ramadan’s positions have been distorted by Favrot (a right-wing journalist) and Fourest (a Republican feminist), as he pretends. Whenever possible I have used Ramadan’s latest book-interview to check if his positions had been falsified by his adversaries. All the quotations coming from Ramadan's own book are followed by a star: (*). This article does not mention any of the accusations against Ramadan made by various secret services and the French political police (Renseignements généraux): police and intelligence sources are humanly despicable and politically inaccurate.Ni patrie ni frontières is a quarterly discussion and translation journal printed in France. Website : mondialisme.org and then click on Ni patrie ni frontières and its various issues. Email : email@example.com