Archive for the ‘North Africa’ Category
Students in the UK are demonstrating against university guidelines allegedly backing gender segregation. Channel 4 News looks at what sparked the debate in the UK’s biggest universities. Channel Four.
The report explains,
Campaigners are targeting Universities UK (UUK) offices in Tavistock Square, London, after the organisation published a report last month saying universities could segregate by gender during talks from external speakers.
In the report, UUK claimed that universities faced a complex balance of promoting freedom of speech without breaking equality and discrimination laws.
The report presented some hypothetical case studies which come up on campuses, including whether a speaker from an ultra-orthodox religious group requests an audience is segregated by gender.
Maryam Namazie, spokesperson of One Law for All and Fitnah, Movement for Women’s Liberation, said: “Today, International Human Rights Day, we rally outside of the office of Universities UK to condemn their endorsement of segregation of the sexes.
“Their new guidance to universities on external speakers states that the segregation of the sexes at universities is not discriminatory as long as both men and women are segregated side by side rather than women being made to sit in the back.
“Would racial apartheid have been non-discriminatory if white and black people had been segregated in the same manner? In fact that is the very argument the apartheid regime of South Africa used when faced with criticism: separate but equal.”
In an extraordinary defence of segregation, Camillia Kahn, Head of Communications, Federation of Student Islamic Societies, argues that religious, that is Islamist practice, is fair because women are “separate but equal”.
It begins with this gobbledegook,
Firstly, the term segregation itself is highly problematic and acts to conflate the reality further. As Saussure theorised on syntagmatic relations, ‘within speech, words are subject to a kind of relation that is independent of the first and based on their linkage,’ and segregation connotes various forms of separation and oppression – it is a word loaded with modern history, drawing back to the belligerent injustices of the slave trade, apartheid, and the Holocaust. It blows the discussion out of proportion and acts to politicise it further. Segregation implies a hierarchy a form of discrimination which asserts the dominance of one group over another- which is a very different reality to a voluntary seating arrangement which impacts both males and females equally. Thus, the current discourse is creating new imagined problems rather than solving existing ones.
In other words, speech, critical ‘discourse’ about this practice, tries to create a reality.
The discourse surrounding this issue must change if our campuses are to continue placing student interests at the forefront, broadening their view to a more diverse perspective.
Kahn continues, by reference to the Qur’an’s recipe for gaining, “the pleasure of God” “ultimately in salvation through good deeds.”
It would be interesting to know how a “discourse” can indicate the truth of this claim about something called ‘God’.
Islam acknowledges that we form different groups who occupy various intellectual and social spaces. Diversity is celebrated with spirituality at the forefront, forming a broad frame of reference which is not always easily comprehensible to those outside of it. The men and women’s rows in the Prophet’s mosque were separate, yet it formed the basis for a social model which empowered women to become scholars, businesswomen, military personnel and doctors.
So equal in fact that women can take as many husbands as men can take wives….
The term ‘segregation’ denotes discrimination and isolation – and this couldn’t be further from the general reality. There needs to be a linguistic shift in the discourse – but more importantly, the shift must be an ideological one which accepts that there exist differences based on sound spirituality, and these need to be embraced, led by brave and nuanced organisations such as Universities UK.
Guy Deutscher in Through the Looking Glass. Why The World Looks Different in Other Languages (2005) accepted that things may indeed take on distinct aspects in different languages. This appears to happen through the way time and space are organised in verbal morphology but in fact any language can still make the same distinctions by adding information not indicated by the conjugations of verbs.
He founds however that colour terms, spatial co-ordinates (our internal cognitive compass),and even (more debatably) grammatical gender may be part of a stratum that indeed shapes our fundamental thought by dint of the language we use.
But these are minor aspects. If some languages code information in distinct ways, and their grammar obliges people (they must) express things in such a way, all languages may refer to the same reality.
Deutscher has fun taking apart strong linguistic relativism.
One case he cites is George Orwell’s Newspeak. This aimed to make certain thoughts impossible. Deutscher comments that eliminating words might then be seen to eliminate the things.
If be banish the word poverty, hey presto, poverty is abolished!
Now what is the reality of gender segregation as practised by Islamists?
In Tunisia the attention of the Salisfists is focused precisely on this area.
KB: Could you describe the current situation and the biggest challenges for women activists and secularists now?
AG: The main subject is civil liberties and how to survive the current wave of violence against women. There is tension vis-à-vis women in terms of their clothes, their life-style, etc. For example, swimming in Ramadan causes problems now for some women. It is a new phenomenon in Tunisia – this new relationship with the body and the feeling that in the public sphere you are not free. There are others who are using violence in order to “correct” the behavior of women. It is not possible any more for women activists to travel around the country on their own at night or to go to rural areas, especially to some areas where fundamentalists impose their rule, such as rural areas near Bizerte where there is reported to be Salafist controlled territory or “Imara Salafya”. Tunisia is not the same as it was two years ago. We do not have the same freedom of movement
Perhaps Camillia Khan would care to comment on these “syntagmatic relations”.
Yasmin Alibhai Brown, fighting for democracy, and equality, restores the reputation of the liberal Islam that Khan besmirches.
Glory to those fighting Religious Segregation!
More background from Shiraz Socialist.
Protest Against Tunisia’s Islamists (September 2013).
“We know no spectacle so ridiculous as the British Left in one of its periodical fits of morality.” (Tendance Coatesy. Collected Works Vol.3).
At present the Alliance for Workers Liberty is caught up in such a spasm of outrage.
Beside himself with rage Marcus Halaby writes of the “AWL’s anti-anti-imperialist Islamophobia” in Workers Power Yassamine Mather in the Weekly Worker (October the 31st) spends a page pinning down ”angry accusations of Islamophobia, racism and pro-imperialism” against the AWL leader Sean Matgamma. Halby states, “Matgamna’s shameless Islamophobia, the latest, virulent strain of racism in the West, and the AWL’s failure to distance itself from it certainly deserves to be harshly criticised and condemned.”
One AWL member states that it is this was the final straw that pushed him to resign from the group,
Pat Smith says, “Not just the Islamophobic language, but the chauvinist – worse than chauvinist – world view that it presents; a world view that permeates and informs the entire article, a world view upon which Sean’s explanation for the appeal of Islamic fundamentalism is predicated.”
The response of the AWL is here.
What is this all about?
One article, originally published in 2007, and now re-presented, Political Islam, Christian Fundamentalism, Marxism and the Left Today
Yassamine Mather summarises its arguments,
- First, that “The ‘war on terror’ was not a ‘put-up job’, an artificially concocted replacement for the old cold war with Stalinist Russia … to create an external enemy which can be used to bind atomised capitalist society together.”
- Second, that “[the west] did not for that purpose invent the upsurge of militant political Islam, or, rather, the emergence of political Islam as a force in international politics …” So “Neither covert western encouragement nor neo-con manipulation” explains the “fundamental root of the luxuriantly thriving Islamic fundamentalism.” Instead, “it has other, indigenous, roots.”
- Third, that “In the Arab countries, especially, political Islam has expanded to fill the space created by the collapse of Arab nationalism”, which imploded “in part … because it had achieved all it could achieve – the independence of Arab states such as Egypt and Iraq, which were semi-dependencies of Britain until the 1950s.”
- Finally, that today’s political Islamist movements are the contemporary equivalents of the “desert tribes of primitive Muslim simplicity and purity enviously eyeing a rich and decadent walled city and sharpening their knives, or country folk in former Yugoslavia eyeing a city like Dubrovnik – so now much of the Islamic world looks with envy, covetousness, religious self-righteousness and active hostility on the rich, decadent, infidel-ridden, sexually sinful advanced capitalist societies.”
For her the fault line is clear, for the “philistine Matgamna…. this phenomenon is simply as some sort of ideological ‘living fossil’, separate from the main developments that characterise the other, ‘modern’ world.”
Sean Matgamn’s “monstrosity” largely centres on this paragraph – the pivot of all the other arguments (nobody is, to be honest, interested in the comments on Christianity).
Like desert tribes of primitive Muslim simplicity and purity enviously eyeing a rich and decadent walled city and sharpening their knives, or country folk in former Yugoslavia eyeing a city like Dubrovnik, so, now, much of the Islamic world looks with envy, covetousness, religious self-righteousness and active hostility on the rich, decadent, infidel-ridden, sexually sinful advanced capitalist societies.
Marcus Halby says, “Thus he is accusing, let us put it plainly, Muslims of making hypocritical denunciations of the Western world when in reality they want to plunder it of its riches and enjoy its corruption.”
Yasminna comments, “It is oddly reminiscent of passages one might have read in a mid-19th century history text book, possibly taught in a (second-rate) public school.”
Halby outdoes her, “It should, of course, be shocking that the leading figure of a far left organisation should be using the sort of racist and Orientalist language more traditionally associated with professional Islamophobes like Melanie Phillips, Daniel Pipes, David Horowitz, Brigitte Gabriel and Mark Steyn: a fleshly paradise, harems of virgins, a starved beggar squatting, desert tribes, primitive simplicity and purity, decadence, envy and covetousness, the sharpening of knives, a walled city, the walls of Vienna, sexual sinfulness, infidels, luxuriantly thriving.”
Well, so much for the colourful language. And so much for Marcus Halaby whose detailed sectarian attacks on the AWL – even for Coatesy – pass beyond the will to read further than the lines we cited.
Protest at assassination of Tunisian leftist leader Mohammed Brahmi .
Latest news: Tunisia deal to bring end to Islamist rule.
“Tunisia’s political rivals have agreed on a timetable for the Islamist-led ruling coalition to quit and be replaced by a government of independents.
The Islamist Ennahda party and opposition groups in the country signed a roadmap aimed at creating a new government within three weeks.”
More in Al Jazeera.
The Islamist Ennahda party, which heads the Tunisian government vowed on Saturday afternoon to step down before the end of October to resolve a deep political crisis. This comes two years after their victory in elections following the January 2011 revolution. Libération.
Tunisia Live continues,
The roadmap plan drafted by a group of civil society organizations calls for government and political leaders to meet for direct negotiations, and mandates that the current government resign three weeks from the first session of talks in favor of group of technocratic leaders to be chosen during the dialogue.
Leaders of Ennahdha, the largest party in the ruling coalition, and Ettakatol, one of its governing partners, both signed the agreement at a ceremony today in Tunis. Most opposition parties, including Nidaa Tounes and members of the Popular Front coalition, also signed on. *
The same web site noted on Friday,
The Popular Front opposition coalition confirmed that it will take part in the direct talks between government and opposition parties, scheduled to begin Saturday morning.
“We are going to participate,” Popular Front leader Mohamed Jmour told Tunisia Live Friday. “But all parties have to respect the roadmap. Otherwise, we will leave the dialogue.
Tunisia has been in a political deadlock since the July 25 assassination of Popular Front member Mohamed Brahmi.
The roadmap plan guiding the dialogue was proposed by the UGTT labor union, the UTICA employers’ union, and two other civil society organizations.
This plan calls for direct meetings between political leaders and calls for a new government to replace the current government within three weeks of the first session of talks.
According to the UGTT, the opening session will kick off on Saturday at 9:30 am at the Palais de Congrés in Tunis.
Al Jazeera says,
“I want to thank you for joining this dialogue because you are opening the door of hope for Tunisians,” said Houcine Abassi, whose UGTT trade union confederation was the lead mediator behind the roadmap, at Saturday’s ceremony.
Delegates at the Palais des Congres said the launch of the hard-won dialogue with a symbolic ceremony had earlier been jeopardised by a last-minute dispute.
The UGTT said Ennahda had initially refused to formally sign the text that underlines the timetable of the national dialogue.
The two sides are still divided over issues including the date of elections, the role of a special assembly finishing a draft of a new constitution and composition of an electoral body to oversee the vote.
Libération also notes,
As a sign of prevailing animosity in Tunisia opposition figures this week again accused Ennahda of being involved in the assassination of MP Mohamed Brahmi in July and the killing in February of another opponent, Chokri Belaïd. These crimes, for which nobody has yet to claim responsibility, have been laid at the door of the Salafist movement.
The country remains locked in institutional paralysis, linked to the emergence of armed Salafist groups. This has increased economic difficulties. Investors have become more and more cautious, while inflation and the depreciation of the Tunisian dinar have eroded ordinary people’s purchasing power.
Gilbert Achcar: “Social-imperialist” says Weekly Worker.
This very recent interview with Gilbert Achcar (which I cannot find in English) is extremely important.
From Gauche Anticapitaliste (Extracts).
The revolutionary process in the Arab region continues to surprise the media. How do you analyse the recent events in Egypt and Tunisia?
While there are qualitative changes that have taken place, but the fact that there are twists and turns in the process is not surprising. We must understand that what began in late 2010-early 2011 is a revolutionary long-term development. The idea that the electoral victories of the forces of Islamism (intégrisme islamique) in Tunisia and Egypt would close down the changes under way proved completely wrong.
These forces were doomed to failure since, they, like the regimes they replaced, had no response to the serious social and economic problems that caused the uprisings. They are a continuation of neo-liberal policies and therefore can not solve these problems which have only got worse.
The revolutionary process can take surprising forms, but we will continue to pass from upheaval to upheaval in the region as a whole, before the situation stabilises. This, would require, according to a positive hypothesis, a profound change in the social nature of the region’s governments and their move towards policies based on the interests of working people .
How do you see the battle going on today in Egypt?
In Egypt today, we must distinguish two levels: the manoeuvres and conflicts between those concerned with political power, and the underlying wave of popular discontent. The second has been unleashed, but like the the unrest of 2011, has ended in a military intervention.
Mubarak, had already been dismissed in February 2011 by the military, which then placed the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces at the top of the executive. This time, they kept their distance from a repetition of the past operations, having burnt their fingers trying to govern the country in a state of upheaval. This is because any government carrying out neo-liberal policies is bound to wear itself out rapidly. But while civilians have been appointed to head the executive one can not hide the fact that it is the army that has the power.
However, it is a very right-wing view of democracy to adopt the the argument that the army intervened against a democratically elected government. That is to say that elected officials have carte blanche to do whatever they want for the term of office, even if they blatantly betray the expectations of their constituents. A radical conception of democracy involves the right to recall elected representatives.
It is this form that the movement took in Egypt with the petition calling for Morsi to go and for new elections to be held. The youth movement “Tamarrod” (Rebellion), gathered in a few months an impressive number of signatures for their petition calling for this, a much higher total than the number of votes Morsi obtained in his election to the presidency. From this point of view, his dismissal was entirely legitimate.
By contrast the big problem is that rather than organising the broad movement to overthrow Morsi by means of mass struggle – a general strike, civil disobedience – we saw the opposition leaders, both liberal and left agree with the military and applaud the coup. This action’s ultimate logic is to capture the potential for popular mobilization and impose a return to hard-line ‘order’, which has been confirmed by the actions of the military. This is extremely serious. In this respect there is a strategic gap on the majority of Egyptian left. The army’s image has been restored, and the commander in chief of the army (Al-Sissi) has been covered with praise.
Al-Sissi is the strong man of the new ‘ancien regime’. Although only Defence Minister, he allowed himself to call on the people to demonstrate in support of the army – completely ignoring the new government.
Today, even the youth of Tamarrod have begin to worry – rather late. They have fallen into a trap of their own making. The coup has allowed the Muslim Brotherhood to rejuvenate , posing as martyrs, and the victims of a military coup. They reconsolidated their social base, albeit minority – it is now clear – but important. The military action has polished their image anew.
The position of the Islamist movements who occupied the place of the old regimes in Tunisia and Egypt has quickly deteriorated , but the weakness of the left is now equally a big problem …
Apart from the revolutionary left that remains marginal in Egypt, most of the left have put their forces behind the National Salvation Front . Most of those who originate in the traditional Communist movement and those from the Nasserist current, which remains the left with the most influence on the people at large, have participated in the process of mystifying the role of the army. This is all the more unfortunate in that these forces were in the streets against the army in the months leading up to the election of Morsi!
Hamdeen Sabahi, the Nasserist leader, explained a few days before June 30, that it had been a mistake to have shouted a year earlier “Down with the military government,”. In this respect he drew the wrong lessons from history. This is a real error, to repent and to say now that we should be applauding the army.
What do you think of Tunisian plans to end the power of Ennahdha?
Unfortunately, there is a risk that Tunisia will develop into a similar scenario to Egypt: a left that does not have the political insight to fight on a left-wing agenda, and is preparing to build alliances even with the parts of the former regime. These links are present in Nidaa Tounès ["Call of Tunisia" - an initiative launched by Beji Caid Essebi, former Minister of Defence and Foreign Affairs under Habib Bourguiba, a lawyer specializing in arbitration cases - become party recognized and authorised in July 2012]. Such an approach ultimately benefits the Islamist forces who have a golden opportunity to denounce the agreements of the left with remnants of the former regime. This allows the Muslim Brotherhood or Ennahdha to pose as bearers of the legitimacy and continuity of the revolution.
There is a problem of political representation of the working classes in the revolution?
Yes,. The problem is that instead of trying to win hegemony in the mass movement – fighting primarily on social issues- which would unite against it supporters of neo-liberalism ranging from fundamentalists to men of the old regime and even the Liberals, the Tunisian left has made a short-sighted alliance with sections of the old regime.
In a country like Tunisia, in my opinion, the trade union Federation, the UGTT (General Union of Tunisian Workers) is a socially hegemonic force and can easily become the politically dominant one. But a wall is erected between union struggles and the political.Tunisia’s left now heads the UGTT. But rather than launch the union federation into the political battle, with a strategy of forming a workers’ government, this left seems to be moving towards alliances – against its own interests – between its different political groups organised in the Front Populaire, on the one hand, and the Liberals and the remnants of the former regime, on the other.
Interview with Gilbert Achcar, led by Jacques Babel. Interviewed Monday, July 29 by Jacques Babel. Published on Alencontre.org
Achcar’s political conclusion can be summarised simply,
The left must assert a third, independent, way, against the old regimes and against the Islamists (Intégristes), to satisfy the social demands of those who who created these uprisings.
How far the Arab left is in a position to do this, is, one may say, quite a question.
The neoliberal policy of Egypt’s new president Mohamed Morsi looks very much like a continuation of that of Mubarak. It is increasing social tensions.
by Gilbert Achcar