Socialist Workers Party Denounces Feminism in London Debate on Fundamentalism for “Islamophobic Stereotypes.”
Not for Feminists says SWP.
Last weekend this was a panel held during the Feminism in London Conference.
This session will overturn many long held perceptions about the British state. In its fight against extremism too many institutions have got into bed with fundamentalists and actively promote their narratives. A growing coalition of secular, left and minority women’s organisations has successfully challenged them Two cases to be discussed are successful campaigns against Universities UK policies permitting gender segregation and the Law Society’s attempt to promote ‘sharia -compliant wills’. These campaigns are part of a global solidarity movement to defend free speech against fundamentalists of all stripes and are seldom reported in the left and liberal press. This session is your chance to hear the left, feminist case for a solidarity movement against fundamentalism and for secularism. Organised by One Law for All, Southall Black Sisters and the Centre for Secular Space.
With Maryam Namazie, Pragna Patel, Gita Sahgal and Houzan Mahmoud, chaired by Yasmin Rehman.
This is what Socialist Worker had to say on the event – Judith Orr.
Unfortunately the panel and discussion in a session on “fundamentalism” was dominated by Islamophobic stereotypes of Muslims with only a minority of dissenting voices.
There is no mystery why the SWP would dislike a panel featuring comrade Maryam Namazie, whose right to speak at Warwick University as an Iranian humanist and Marxist on a left-wing and secularist critique of Islam and Islamism, was not conspicuously defended by the group.
Nor that comrades Pragna Patel, Gita Saghal, some of the most widely admired grass-roots feminists in the land, who have spent several decades (since 1979) defending women’s rights in Southall Black Sisters, and, (founded 1989), have been part of the inspiring Women Against Fundamentalism (WAF), would raise their hackles.
Here is WAF’s statement,
Women Against Fundamentalism (WAF) was formed in 1989 to challenge the rise of fundamentalism in all religions. Our members include women from many backgrounds and from across the world.
In Britain in recent years fundamentalism has increased its influence in all religions. This has been encouraged by government moves to define complex and diverse communities solely according to ‘faith’, with public funds increasingly being handed out to religious bodies to provide services to ‘their’ communities on behalf of local and central government. WAF believes that this increases the power of religious leaders to discriminate against women and other groups and to exclude or silence dissidents within their own communities.
We believe that public funds should be administered by accountable, democratically elected representatives and not by religious leaders. Only secular institutions with no religious agenda can begin to bring about equality for people of all religions or none.
Houzan Mahmoud would have not found favour either. She is a Kurdish women rights and anti-war activist born in Iraq. She was the Co-founder of Iraqi Women’s Rights Coalition. She has led an international campaign against Sharia Law and oppression of women in Iraq
Yasmin Rehman is a secularist Muslim, associated with the Muslim Institute.
For me the Muslim Institute is a beacon of light in what can only be described as a rather depressing landscape for many of us. It is that increasingly rare space for its members to debate, be critical, explore and learn in an open, respectful and most importantly safe space to discuss issues relating to Islam, Muslims and the world at large. It is also a testament to the Institute that it shares its work openly with Muslims and non-Muslims alike. I am deeply grateful to all at the Institute for allowing me to be a part of this work and to share in their work.
It must have been deeply galling for the SWP to have to listen to Iranian women, Kurdish women, women with a heritage from the Sub-continent, and critical – free-thinking – Muslim women.
True secularism is an alliance of these disparate voices – including believers – for a free public domain.
The contributions of these admirable women to introducing to British public life – often parochial and inclined to deference to religious figures of all kinds, particularly the part of the left the SWP, and groups originating in their tradition, such as Counterfire, represents – are to be welcomed.
Do we need to be reminded that all societies in which the Sharia ‘law’ and Islamism have an influence, let alone are principles of the state, and political power, are riddled with oppression? That women are amongst the chief victims?
Heretic, whore, CIA operative – Masih Alinejad has been called all these things, and worse, by the Iranian authorities. What is her crime? Campaigning for equal rights for women in her home country.
Now Ms Alinejad, 39, who was born in the small village of Ghomikola in the north of Iran but was forced into exile and lives in New York, has launched a campaign to get Iranian men to take up the fight in solidarity with their wives.
Growing up, Ms Alinejad would quietly question why she didn’t enjoy the same rights as her brother; but when she began to speak out and criticise her country’s MPs, she was thrown into prison, aged 19 and pregnant.
Upon her release she continued to aggravate the authorities through her work as an investigative journalist before moving to the UK in 2009, and then to the US where she lives with her son, 18, and husband. There, she presents a weekly programme, Tablet, on Voice of America’s Persian language channel which examines issues affecting young Iranians.
Affectionately referred to by her supporters as “Ghomikola Eagle” – a nickname supplied by her husband – the activist has inspired thousands of women to remove their hijabs, thanks to her “My Stealthy Freedom” campaign which she launched last year. The project encourages women to take “stealthy” photographs of themselves without their head covering and send them to Ms Alinejad to post on her Facebook page, which has almost a million followers.
No doubt Masih Alinejad is also full of “Islamophobic stereotypes.”