Archive for the ‘Secularism’ 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.
BBC Four’s Storyville documentary about Pussy Riot, the Russian feminist punk group, and founders of a new feminist movement, was extraordinary.
AS Wikipedia describes them, “they stage unauthorized provocative guerrilla performances in unusual public locations, which are edited into music videos and posted on the Internet. Their lyrical themes include feminism, LGBT rights, opposition to the policies of Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom they regard as a dictator, and links between the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church and Putin.”
“Art is not a mirror to reflect the world, but a hammer with which to shape it” ran the Bertolt Brecht quote at the programme start.” notes the Telegraph reviewer.
They also cited Guy Debord.
The great merit of the documentary was that it showed the strength of their movement, their personal courage, and their ideas without forgetting some of the doubts people may have about their actions.
The film makers pointed out that the very Cathedral where they staged their most famous protest (Cathedral of Christ the Saviour (Russian: Храм Христа Спасителя, Khram Khrista Spasitelya) was demonilished on 5 December 1931, by order of Stalin’s minister Kaganovich, the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour was dynamited and reduced to rubble.
It was rebuilt long after the Soviet era, in the 1990s.
That the believers come in different kinds, and that they have rights too.
At a time when Christians are under physical attack in many lands, we should not forget this.
Human rights have no exceptions, none.
Free Pussy Riot!
Parti de Gauche (Jean-Luc Mélenchon) Condemns Repression in Egypt.
The Parti de Gauche condemns the Egyptian Army’s massive repression against civilian supporters of the deposed President, Mohammed Morsi on the 14th of August. The result of this blood bath has been – according to the latest totals – hundreds of deaths, including women and children. This repression has been condemned internationally, notably by Equator, which has withdrawn its Cairo ambassador. The decision to eliminate Morsi supporters, whether they are peaceful or not, will set Egypt on the path of a duel to the death between the army and Muslim brotherhood, supported, alternatively, by the Untied States, whose concern is to prevent the emergence of a force which will denounce the compromise – in place for the last thirty years – which secured their interests and those of Israel.
One would have to be naive not to recognise the Muslim Brotherhood’s will to pose as martyrs is in order to further their fundamentalist Islamist ideas. The PG denounces their use of confessional divisions which have inspired attacks on Coptic churches. The Egyptian army’s actions however, do not show a a visible force capable of guaranteeing public institutions and security. In declaring a state of emergency, and in accusing all forms of opposition of terrorism, its leaders intend to keep a large part of the means of production in their hands, and to preserve their own interests. Already, on the pretext of fighting “terrorism”, the public authorities broke a strike of workers at the Suez Steel Plant, and have arrested their leadership.
The present face-to-face confrontation between the military and the Islamists has nothing to do with the aspirations of the Egyptian revolutionaries, who rose up for freedom and social justice. This chaos is the result of decades of neo-liberal and authoritarian policies which have weakened the workers’ organisations and trade unions. But, far from the media’s attention, these bodies have continued to engage in everyday struggles, for social rights, and against all forms of dictatorship. The Parti de Gauche gives its supporter to these forces, as well as those able to bring to the fore these aspirations politically, notably through the organisation of free elections.
«A BAS LA DOMINATION MILITAIRE! A BAS AL-SISSI, DIRIGEANT DE LA CONTRE-RÉVOLUTION!» DÉCLARATION DES RÉVOLUTIONNAIRES SOCIALISTES D’EGYPTE (14 AOÛT 2013)
The army, more openly than ever, now has its hand on the levers of power of the country. This is what the Western powers fear.
The military is faced with at least three difficulties.
Firstly, to be able properly to control the security situation across the country – even if they will declare tomorrow that the police , in conditions of political polarisation (largely of their own creation), went “over the top”. This is paving the way for ‘confessional’ clashes. This direction has been already indicated by the attacks against the Copts at Sohag.
Next, after the failure of negotiations they will seek a “compromise” as their Western mentors demand. An attempt has already been made by Sheikh Al-Azhar who had tried to bring together – before August the 14th – the interim government, the military and Muslim Brotherhood The latter declined the invitation of a the Sheikh, somebody who had criticised their policies in government.
Finally, to meet the social and democratic demands of the people, even if a segment of the population seems to have presently given Sissi the mandate to exclude the Muslim Brotherhood.
To add to this is there is the trial of Morsi, which has been postponed for 15 days. Egyptian ”justice” has bright prospects, one might say. It has to settle a whole series of legal processes, (Mubarak and his family, as well as Morsi) … and, something everyone has forgotten, the charges against those who killed the martyrs of the revolution of 2011.
All the ‘western’ representatives will therefore insist that the government regains its ‘civil’ appearance. Prime Minister Hazem Beblawi, has committed himself, at around 20 o’clock this Aug. 14, to re-open the electoral process in early 2014.
John Kerry – U.S. Secretary of State, engaged in the interminable negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government (busy expanding its settlement programme, as is its tradition during such talks) has asked the army to organise elections. He has declared that the way the Muslim Brotherhood was “dispersed”was “regrettable”. He has no doubt reassured the Egyptian military and the police.. For now we will not dwell on other parts of the regional puzzle, as they appear difficult to put together. This is not the case, no doubt, for the experts in ”anti-imperialism”, who live in a world where everything is controlled by “conspiracies” hatched in the White House. In this case nobody seems able to control the mechanics of the “plot”.
(Udry CA, August 14, 2013, 21 hours)
The NPA publish this article with this (which I take from the Links site):
Egypt: Revolutionary Socialists on the latest massacre in Cairo
Down with military rule! Down with Al-Sisi, the leader of the counter-revolution!
Statement by the Revolutionary Socialists, Egypt
August 14, 2013 — The bloody dissolution of the sit-ins in Al-Nahda Square and Raba’a al-Adawiyya is nothing but a massacre—prepared in advance. It aims to liquidate the Muslim Brotherhood. But, it is also part of a plan to liquidate the Egyptian Revolution and restore the military-police state of the Mubarak regime.
The Revolutionary Socialists did not defend the regime of Mohamed Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood for a single day. We were always in the front ranks of the opposition to that criminal, failed regime which betrayed the goals of the Egyptian Revolution. It even protected the pillars of the Mubarak regime and its security apparatus, armed forces and corrupt businessmen. We strongly participated in the revolutionary wave of 30 June.
Neither did we defend for a single day the sit-ins by the Brotherhood and their attempts to return Mursi to power.
But we have to put the events of today in their context, which is the use of the military to smash up workers’ strikes. We also see the appointment of new provincial governors—largely drawn from the ranks of the remnants of the old regime, the police and military generals. Then there are the policies of General Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi’s government. It has adopted a road-map clearly hostile to the goals and demands of the Egyptian revolution, which are freedom, dignity and social justice.
This is the context for the brutal massacre which the army and police are committing. It is a bloody dress rehearsal for the liquidation of the Egyptian Revolution. It aims to break the revolutionary will of all Egyptians who are claiming their rights, whether workers, poor, or revolutionary youth, by creating a state of terror.
However, the reaction by the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists in attacking Christians and their churches, is a sectarian crime which only serves the forces of counter-revolution. The filthy attempt to create a civil war, in which Egyptian Christians will fall victims to the reactionary Muslim Brotherhood, is one in which Mubarak’s state and Al-Sisi are complicit, who have never for a single day defended the Copts and their churches.
We stand firmly against Al-Sisi’s massacres, and against his ugly attempt to abort the Egyptian Revolution. For today’s massacre is the first step in the road towards counter-revolution. We stand with the same firmness against all assaults on Egypt’s Christians and against the sectarian campaign which only serves the interests of Al-Sisi and his bloody project.
Many who described themselves as liberals and leftists have betrayed the Egyptian Revolution, led by those who took part in Al-Sisi’s government. They have sold the blood of the martyrs to whitewash the military and the counter-revolution. These people have blood on their hands.
We, the Revolutionary Socialists, will never deviate for an instant from the path of the Egyptian Revolution. We will never compromise on the rights of the revolutionary martyrs and their pure blood: those who fell confronting Mubarak, those who fell confronting the Military Council, those who fell confronting Mursi’s regime, and those who fall now confronting Al-Sisi and his dogs.
Down with military rule!
No the return of the old regime!
No to the return of the Brotherhood!
All power and wealth to the people
Left is pushing Tunisia into “abyss” says Morning Star Article.
Baroud has been published by Counterpunch.
Writing after the Boston Bombings he noted on the 2nd of May, “ hating Islam’ is also a convenient pretence to achieve foreign policy objectives that are centred around imperial domination, thus natural resources.”
“It is an essential component of ensuring that a largely uninformed public is always on board whenever the US is ready for yet another military adventure involving Muslim countries.”
Why is this happening now?
Baroud enlightened us.
In the Middle East,
…a new war is brewing, one that is largely aimed at ensuring that the current chaos underway in the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ countries will yield favourable results from the view points of Israel, America and the west. The new push for military intervention started with Israeli allegations that the Syrian regime is using chemical weapons against opposition forces, followed by British-French allegations, and finally, despite brief hesitation, concurred by U.S. Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel.”
This development has, shall we say, yet to come to pass.
In his latest piece Baround tries another tack.
He underlines that
The Islamic dimension of Arab rebellions – some of which turned into bloody civil and regional wars – should have been palpable from the very start to anyone interested in understanding political reality beyond its usefulness as a propaganda tool.
Islam has and will always be a component in shaping Arab nations.
Political Islam is a manifestation of a century-long struggle where Islam was a platform of political expression, governance and jurisprudence which resisted many imported and Western-styled trends. It has now moved to the heart of the ongoing strife.
Throughout the years there has not been one successful union between Islam and Arab ruling classes – successful in the sense that it contributed to progress, rights and prosperity for all.
Islamists were either co-opted or conflict reigned. The atrociousness of the results of these conflicts varied depending on how clever Arab rulers were in their management.
Political Islam is a “political expression” of a form of Islam that concentrated on law and the state that “resisted” Western trend. It can be co-opted, or conflicts will result.
Apparently this is eternal, and “always” be there.
It might have been useful to ask, and what is this kind of Islam an “expression” of?
Many on the left consider it an ideology that articulates the interests of the pious bourgeoisie, structured in some of the most organised political forms in the world (the ideal-type being the Muslim Brotherhood and Khomeni’s Iran).
They have a history, in this “century”, in which the spectrum of political Islam has played its anti-Western culturalism, and bound it to a pro-market, capitalist, political agenda. They were, and are, the ferocious opponents of the left wing of anti-colonial Arab nationalism.
Political Islam is a vehicle for the views of sections of the national capitalist classes, disaffected functionaries, and the urban poor. Out of of power. Political Islam has constructed ‘micro-states’ or rather “micropowesr’ (as Foucault called them) where their moral rules are enforced by pressure up to the point of violence.
The “governance and jurisprudence” these political ‘expressions’ advocate are of a ‘total’ character, that treat the population like believing cattle under the rule of Islamic ‘legal’ specialists.
The dire consequences for religious – and often ethnic (Kablye, Kurdish) minorities, women, gays and non-believers are well known.
Today they are threatened by a new political wave in the Middle East, one that is made up of liberals, trade unionists, and a variety of left groupings, including the remnants of Arab ‘Nassarism’.
Clearly this worries Baduad, particularly the secularist forces who most resolutely oppose the forces of Islamism.
Baroud cites Algeria as an example of how not to treat Political Islam,
In Algeria, an attempt at harmonisation went terribly wrong. The 1991 Algerian civil war lasted for over a decade and resulted in the death of up to 200,000 people.
He locates the problem in the military cancellation of elections, which the Islamist FUS was tipped to win.
But the problem lay deeper.
The FIS had already begun constructing its ‘micro state’ attacking and killing it secularist opponents.
On Egypt Baroud states,
Egypt is now taking its first steps towards becoming another Algeria during the civil war. Do the coup leaders truly understand the repercussions of what they have done?
Without going into details on Egypt we note that the Muslim Brotherhood government had already begun building its religious state.
Since the end of last year Morsi was ruling by unfettered decree and there were plans to submit all legislation to the (unelected) decision-making power of the religious authorities.
On Tunisia Baroud opines,
A recent assassination, this time of nationalist politician Mohamed Brahmi, followed an earlier assassination of another high-profile politician Chokri Belaid.
Tunisia stands divided between those who want to topple the government and those who insist on its democratic right to govern.
Either way, there is no doubt that some suspect hands are trying to push Tunisia into an abyss that is being marketed as Islamists v secularists.
No mention is made of Brahmi and Belaid’s association with the left-wing Front Populaire.
The causal reader may be tempted to think that the protests held this week in Tunisia, by the Front de salut national, backed by the Front Populaire, were led by those opposed to the Islamist led coalition’s “right to govern”. *
But Ennahda only rules as part of a coalition.
Perhaps more significantly the Tunisian Constituent Assembly, in which it has the largest number of MPs, is charged with drawing up a constitution on a broad, and if possible, consensual basis.
This is not taking place.
One of its coalition partners Ettakatol (with whom the Morning Star and the Communist Party of Britain have had debates) wants new elections.
They are concerned about allegations of cross-overs between Ennahda and the violent Salafists, whom they accuse of carrying out these assassinations.
There are signs of attempts to impose the kind of Islamist moral order sketched above.**
Baroud’s answer to the question, Where do we Stand?” appears to be – at least some way on the same ground as the Islamists.
Beyond that he solemnly concludes, after noting that in Syria, “the war rapidly took on a dangerous sectarian conflict whose implications are felt near and far,” that,
“There will be more blood, but a return to the past is surely a thing of the past.”
Which is not much of a response to the weighty question posed.
** The provisional aims of the widely based Front de salut national are (Europe Solidaire),
Les organisations de la société civile et les partis politiques composant le Front de Salut National et qui participent à la manifestation du 6 août « Six mois après l’assassinat du martyr Chokri Belaïd sans que la vérité soit établie » :
• maintiennent leur position et renouvellent leur détermination à poursuivre la lutte sous toutes les formes citoyennes et pacifiques jusqu’à la dissolution de l’Assemblée Nationale Constituante et les les institutions qui en découlent.
• réaffirment au peuple tunisien et ses expressions politiques, sociales, civiles, culturelles et de jeunesse, que le Front de Salut est uni autour de ces exigences minimales qui constituent une ligne rouge. Ces exigences sont indispensables pour sortir le pays de la crise qu’il traverse. Le front de Salut est en train de préparer la mise en place des instances de Salut national et l’établissement d’une feuille de route pour la période à venir.
• déclarent que la pays ne peut plus rester plongé dans l’impasse et la crise actuelle, nous prendrons juste après l’Aïd l’ensemble des mesures et procédures qui s’imposent pour le salut.
Front de Salut National
Tunis, le 5 août 2013
**Al Jazeera: “Mouna Ben Halima, an activist and hotel owner, told Al Jazeera that the protests prompted an outcry among Ennahda’s opponents over a host of other social and economic issues, including the arrests under the Ennahda-led administration of a 19-year-old activist of women’s rights advocacy group Femen, Amina Sboui, and dissident rapper Weld el 15.
List of Front du salut national supporters (initial):
Abdelbasset Sammari : Courant réformiste d’Ettakatol;
Mahmoud Besrour: Prospective & Développement;
Kheireddine Souabni: Parti d’Avant-garde arabe démocratique/Front Populaire;
Jawher Ben Mbarek: Dostourouna;
Hazem Ksouri: l’Association de la Tunisie Libre;
Mohamed Bennour: Tamarrod;
Taoufik Laâbidi: secrétaire général du parti Tounes Baytouna;
Bechir Rajhi: Citoyenneté et Solidarité;
Emna Mnif: Kolna Tounes;
Nizar Amami: la Ligue de la gauche ouvrière/Front Populaire;
Houssem Hammi: Alternative Sociale et démocratique;
Hatem Fekih: Mouvement du militantisme national;
Souha Ben Othmane: Mon droit;
Fathia Saïdi: Centre de recherche pour la formation sur la citoyenneté;
Sana Ben Achour: Association Baïti;
Ali Faleh: Parti du Front national tunisien;
Taoufik Saïri: Association Adam pour l’égalité et le développement;
Jilani Hammami : Parti des ouvriers/Front Populaire;
Zied Lakhdhar : Parti des Patriotes démocrates Unifié/ Front Populaire;
Zied Rajhi: Union des diplômés chômeurs;
Lotfi Ben Issa : Pôle démocratique moderniste/Front Populaire;
Fayçal Tebbini: La Voix des agriculteurs;
Mahmoud Doggui: Organisation du martyr de la liberté Nabil Barakati;
Khedija Ben Hassine : Afturd;
Radhia Nasraoui: Organisation tunisienne de lutte contre la torture;
Mohamed Kilani: Parti Socialiste ;
Nabil Ben Azzouz : Initiative nationale pour un front de salut national;
Noureddine Ben Ticha: Nida Tounes;
Nasreddine Sehili : Khnagtouna.