Islamophobia and Australian ‘Honour Killings’ Talk Cancellation.
After the above talk is cancelled the Guardian publishes an article by Yassir Morsi (Hat-tip JB)
Uthman Badar: both Islamophobia’s victim and unwilling accomplice
In the last two days we have seen an eruption of Australia’s public and moral outrage, regarding Hizb ut-Tahrir’s media spokesman, Uthman Badar, and his planned talk on morally justifying “honour” killings at Sydney’s Festival of Dangerous Ideas. In response to the planned event, which was cancelled after a massive backlash, we have yet again heard the typical Islamophobes scream the usual condemnation all over our televisions, our radios, our Twitter feeds and in The Daily Telegraph: “Kick Hizbut Outta Here.”
Mossi asserts that the subject of Honour killings was not the speaker’s own. In fact, “Badar wanted to give a talk at the Opera House on how Muslims are always represented as the “Other”.
“Without uttering a single word in defence of “honour” killings – not that he was ever planning to – Badar had his face plastered all over the nation’s imagination as a bigot, misogynist, and an extremist Muslim.”
Islamophobia is better understood as a sort of unchecked energy that drives a frenzy of media scrutiny. It is marked by rituals, a sense of a story, an element of sensationalism, loaded language, to explain what is wrong with those Muslims who aren’t integrated. It is a set of questions, and a conversation with shallow answers about what it means to be us by talking about them; a ritual to purify the social space that is premised on a suspicion about the danger of those on society’s edges, on fringes defiling us; a danger that manifests itself into the face of a red-tinted Badar who is told to get out. Islamophobia is the exploiting of the Muslim for one’s own fantasies. In that sense Badar was both its victim and its unwitting accomplice.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports,
On Wednesday, Mr Badar would not tell reporters whether he believed ”honour killings” – the murder of women deemed to have brought shame or dishonour on their family – were justified.
He also declined to outline the contents of his cancelled talk, but said he was disappointed the festival had bowed to public pressure.
”I would hope they had more courage, more backbone,” he said. ”This issue has nothing to do with honour killings. Islam does not condone any form of abuse or violence towards women.”
In a speech to reporters that sometimes sounded like a sermon, Mr Badar said the ”hysterical” response to the talk’s title was a clear example of Islamophobia. If honour killings were defended by a ”white man”, the response would have been much more muted, he said. Mr Badar hinted at the issues he would have covered in the talk by saying the Western world wanted a ”monopoly on violence” through wars, invasions and puppet governments it justified with its own ideology.
The Australian newspaper also notes,
Hizb ut-Tahrir released a statement on Monday defending the actions of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) – also known as ISIS – in Iraq, where extremist militants have seized large areas of the country. ”ISIS is being portrayed, in fantastical Hollywood style, as evil incarnate on Earth, having seemingly taken over from al-Qaeda who previously fulfilled this bogeyman role,” the statement said.
”An uprising against the systematically oppressive US-installed and backed Maliki regime is being painted as a takeover by ‘terrorists’ to justify political, and if needed military intervention whereby the interests of Western powers will be protected and furthered.”
It is not at all clear if this means support for ISIL or ISIS. Hizb have a history of essentially supporting their own affiliates – not these groups.
But some degree of sympathy would fit with the general line of Hizb ut-Tahrir (as on their official site)
Besides, fighting to expel the enemy from the Muslims’ lands is part of the established thoughts in the Party culture. It is even one of the important rules of Islam. The party has made the obligation to fight the Kuffar, even with the collaborating rulers as long as it is a fighting against the Kuffar, thus deeming it as part of the Jihad for the sake of Allah, as part of the thoughts related to the Shari’ah rules which entail the regulating of the Ummah’s behaviour in relation to the progress of the state; it has even deemed it as one of the greatest concepts of discipline in existence. It is mentioned in the 6th concept of the “concepts of discipline” in the Party Dossier
What is the best way to react to organisations and individuals with such opinions?
Certainly not by denying their right to free speech (an important principle for many, from socialists to liberals), even if this particular event has all the hall-marks of a stunt.
The St James Ethics Centre (behind the Festival of Dangerous Ideas) is a group promoting debate , “broader than simply business & professional ethics..” This ,”involves the hands on examination of virtually every kind of ethical issue arising in society. Operating both in Australia and abroad, the Ethics Centre remains unique in the world for its support to the general community on ethical issues, creation and management of public debates and application of ethical principles to specific issues in public institutions, not-for-profits and companies.”
It would seem to be appropriate forum to subject the Hizbt to public exposure.
That this has not happened is obviously due the topic: honour killings are not ideas but acts of violence.
A detailed consideration of the issue of honour killings and the problematic arguments by Badar (relativising honour killings, though not condoning them) is given by Sarah AB.
There is room for analysis of the reasons why the talk has been cancelled.
But Morsi however seems have already entered this subject with the ready-made view that any criticism of Islamists of the stripe of the Hizb is “Islamophobia’.
He works himself up into paroxysms of rage describing the Australian reaction.
The Problem with Islamophobia.
There is an extremely sensitive and thoughtful piece by Shaif Rahmen on Islamophobia on Harry’s Place this morning,.
It begins by noting how the term is full of dangers, and
- It is also unhelpful, because if left unchecked it;
- blurs acceptable boundaries and culls debate
- treats all criticism of Islam with equal disdain
- equates Islamophobia with racism
- gives a free ride to exponents of Islamism, magnifying their voices whilst countering narratives are hushed inhibits free speech which often acts as a catalyst for positive change.
So when does criticism of Islam become Islamophobia?
When the criticism prejudices and stigmatises Muslims rather than their beliefs.
Hizb ut-Tahrir is rightly attacked for its beliefs.
It is accused, with ample justification, of being an extreme-right wing party which aims to establish a religious dictatorship.
Its social policies are utterly reactionary.
Cod philosophy about the Muslim Other (1), melodrama and histrionics cannot deflect these criticisms.
Or silence them.
But perhaps this is Morsi’s aim?
(1) This is a brilliant unravelling of the pretentious gibberish used by Badar (like Morsi an adept of the Woody Allen school of Sartre and Derrida studies): The accused is the oriental other. Ophelia Benson.