Yasmin Says

This is an important article because it sounds a warning, a liberal Western woman & Muslim writing in a mainstream newspaper feeling this way tells us some very rotten things are afoot

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: British Muslims are running out of friends
The establishment has surpassed its previous disgraceful record in its attitudes to Islam

I am but Muslim lite, a non-conformist believer who will not be told what and how by sanctimonious religious sentinels for whom religion is a long list of rules to be obeyed by bovine followers. Readers know I am often critical of Muslim people and nations. Bad things that happen to us cannot all be attributed to “Islamophobia”, a nebulous and imprecise concept that, like anti-Semitism, can be used to besmirch and sully and silence criticism.

But this week even I, even I, can see that for the British establishment Muslims are contemptible creatures, devalued humans. As I prayed before starting this column I felt tears stinging my eyes and my face was burning as if I had been slapped many times over. Do they expect me to turn the other cheek? Millions of other Muslims must have felt what I did. And some may well go on to do things they shouldn’t. Their acts will intensify anti-Muslim prejudices and will be used to justify injustice. The cycle is vicious and unrelenting.

Once again at weddings and birthday parties, in quiet, tranquil mosques, at dinner tables across the land, including those of millionaire Muslims, I am hearing murmurs of trepidation and disquiet – voices kept low, sometimes vanishing into whispers, just in case; you never know if they will break down the door. These people are, like myself, well incorporated into the nation’s busy life. Some own restaurants and businesses, others work in the City or law firms and chambers. At one gathering a frightfully posh, Muslim public school boy (aged 14), an excellent cricketer, said in his jagged, breaking voice: “I will never live in this country after finishing my education. They hate us. They’ll put us all in prison. Nothing we do is OK. Do you think I am wrong Mrs Yasmin?” No I don’t, though his hot young blood makes him intemperate.

Where do I start? Well, with the PM who takes himself to the moral high ground at every opportunity, to orate and berate as he did when called in by the placid Chilcot panel. The son of a preacher man, John Ebenezer Brown, Gordon has the manse gene. Unlike the shape-shifter Blair, he is authentically himself, driven by embedded values, and I admire that. But, like his predecessor, he is shockingly indifferent to the agony of the people most affected by the Iraq war, a war Brown still says was “the right” thing to do for the “right reasons”. His only regret? They should have thought a bit more about what to do next after they had defeated Saddam and pulled down his statues.

Not a word about the countless Iraqis killed when we bombed indiscriminately in civilian areas, no word of sorrow, however hollow or feigned, about the dead children or those now born in that blighted land with two heads and other grotesque abnormalities. John Simpson’s recent BBC report described the rising number of such births in Fallujah, picked for the cruelest collective punishment by America.

Are they not children, Mr Brown? You still cry for your own baby, who died so young. For Muslims, that only confirms native Iraqis are grains of sand to those who executed the imperial war. Martinique intellectual and liberationist Aimee Cesaire wrote: “Colonisation works to de-civilise the coloniser, to brutalise him … to degrade him.” We saw how with Brown, whose empathy is withheld from Iraqis, Muslim victims tortured with the connivance of our secret services and perhaps from all citizens who pray to Allah.

Meanwhile at Isleworth Crown Court, Judge John Denniss is industriously sentencing demonstrators who gathered near the Israeli embassy to rail against that state’s attack on Gaza, one of the worst acts of state terrorism in recent history. Our government said nothing then, and were therefore complicit. Protesters came from all backgrounds but the vast majority of those arrested were young Muslim men. Dozens are being sent down for insignificant acts of bravado. Some were about to go to university, to train as dentists and the like. Their homes were raided, families cowed and terrified. Joanna Gilmore, an academic expert on public demonstrations, says never before have such disproportionate sentences been handed out, not even with the volatile anti-globalisation protests. Denniss intends his punishments to be a deterrent. To deter us from what? Having the temerity to believe we live in a democracy and are free to march?

And then the crypto-fascist, Aryan Geert Wilders, is invited into the Lords by UKIP and crossbench peers to show his vile anti-Islam film in the name of freedom of expression. Freedom my arse. It is just another entertaining episode of Muslim-baiting. I dare the same peers to now invite David Irving, the Holocaust denier, to share his thoughts freely in the Lords, and get Omar Bakri over from the Lebanon with films of himself making fiery speeches on what to do with infidels. Again Muslims are made to understand that different standards apply to others. We are on trial, always, and always must expect to lose.

I am here accusing the most powerful in government, parliament and the judiciary, not those individual MPs, peers and judges who try to do the right thing. To them we are immensely grateful, and to the extraordinary lawyers, activists, journalists, artists, writers and ordinary Britons fighting ceaselessly for our liberties. We just witnessed Helena Kennedy in court passionately defending Cossor Ali, accused of providing active support to her convicted terrorist husband. The jury, scrupulously fair, bless them, acquitted the young woman. Muslims involved in crime and violent Islamicism must be tried and punished. But their acts do not give lawmakers and law keepers of this land licence to strip the rest of us of our humanity and inviolable democratic entitlements.

During the dark days of the conflict in Northern Ireland, the Irish in Britain were often treated unjustly by parliament, police, judges like Lord Denning, and vast sections of the media. Under Thatcher, miners and trades unionists were mercilessly “tamed”, too. But this time, with Muslims, the establishment has surpassed its previous disgraceful record. They steal our human and civil rights and don’t even try to behave with a modicum of honour during and after war. The same people call upon us to be more “British” but treat us as lesser citizens. Deal or No Deal? You tell me.

19 Responses to “Yasmin Says”

  1. pozzo53 Says:

    I have to agree with practically all of this. The problem, though, is knowing what to do about it, and I do want to stress a couple of points.

    Firstly you can’t separate criticism of what is going on from a history of research in the field. “Islamophobia” is a useless paradigm for this. There’s actually a body of work that can make us more conscious and able to understand connections. I’d name writers like Edward Said and Rana Kabbani, who have exposed the wide ramifications of Orientalist discourse and helped to draw attention to some of the images and thought patterns that allow westerners to stigmatise Muslims and to desensitise themselves. To mount any sort of positive fight back, we need to start finding ways to undermine this discourse to its full depth and substitute a healthier perspective.

    Secondly, I’d appeal to Muslims not to retreat into a bunker. It’s easy to say, I know, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. They need to forge alliances and to show that their struggle is everyone’s. So it’s actually very important that Muslims acknowledge the reality and significance of anti-Semitism – not at all the same thing as accepting every distortion and lie that Israeli governments and right-wing Zionists employ. It’s also worth pointing out that Muslims are seldom the only group targeted by repressive policies or propaganda, even if they form a majority. Palestinian Christians, Iraqi Christians and Yezidis, Hindus and Sikhs living in Afghanistan: none of these has done very well out of recent Western actions. Young Hindu and Sikh men in Britain are regularly stopped and searched because they look a bit Muslim and the first victim of Revenge attacks after the 11th September attacks in the US was actually a Sikh! Racists are not scholars of world religions and it’s important to keep that in mind. As ever, people who attack Muslims have a much wider reactionary agenda and that’s actually their weakness, because it makes possible wider coalitions of criticism and resistance.

  2. Jotman Says:

    People simply can’t defeat a “reactionary agenda” by ignoring the pain of those to whom such agendas have come to appeal.

    I noticed that in the above list of groups fighting for equality, there was no mention of feminists or gays. Perhaps you were just trying to be realistic. But the omission is significant.

    Consider the possibility that the solidarity among members of various religious groups is not necessarily desirable, especially when most such groups share like-minded attitudes about the role of women, for example.

    Also, such an alliance among religious sects would not better integrate British society, especially if the agnostics and atheists end up feeling excluded. They will come to resent this “special interest group” no matter how large it becomes if they don’t feel included. The resulting resentments always seem to serve the interests of those marketing corporatist-friendly reactionary agendas.

    Surely the time has come to make common cause in the fight for a more inclusive economic system, the lack of which gets to the heart of so many problems.

  3. RickB Says:

    I think there is loads more to say on this and thanks for both excellent comments, will be thinking and writing more…

  4. libhomo Says:

    One thing I’ve noticed is that the only people willing to acknowledge that Islam is a problem are people on the far right. However, much of what they say on the subject goes into the realm of hysteria based on historical memories of times when much of Europe was colonized by Islamic Empires.

    One thing that I see as a positive trend is that atheist ex Muslims are starting to come out. I’ve seen this a lot on Facebook. Their views would probably offend most of the European left. For instance, the people gleefully sharing and linking to Fitna on atheist groups tend to be ex Muslims.

    This fits a pattern common among many atheists. The religion that you were brainwashed into and was shoved down your throat the most is the one you are most likely to be angry at. The only person I’ve ever heard refer to “papism” and “popery” was an ex Catholic who was pissed off about having to endure Catholic schools against his will.

    I think Europeans are going to need to develop new ways of talking about Islam just as us Americans need to find new ways of talking about Christianity.

  5. RickB Says:

    Some rough ponderings-

    Islam is no greater problem than any other religion, the far right are bigots, the extremists of all religions are a clear problem but only the christianists have wiped out several millions in recent wars. Wilders is a rubbish atheist, he supports the ethnic cleansing of Palestine by Jewish extremists, likes the Xtian Dutch church and goes on about family values. His Clear Wine 10 point plan was nationalist demagoguery.
    A good demographic survey of the Netherlands in regard to Muslim immigration-
    http://www.forum.nl/pdf/factbook-islam-en.pdf

    I think we have to be clear what is extremism from all religions and what is anti-immigrant nonsense by opportunists with rightist agendas whatever their ethnic, ideological or national roots.

    The fracture that seems to be occur is when defence of Muslims is seen as defence of some of the extremist’s beliefs which are right wing religious drivel. But what the right are doing is making that monolithic projection that implies until you agree to our agenda you are rightfully oppressed, it is a fight between competing authoritarians. I think that by ensuring equal rights and in the process of defending migrants and Muslims from predatory governments, bigoted policies etc. people see that what extremist leaders have told them fails to stand up, that in fact the wicked liberal world is more concerned with respect for rights and freedom than their own zealots, then in the intersectional process a communication on oppressions will allow for progress. Where the line between what is helping an oppressed minority and what is enabling fundies is the core of the debate, I think misunderstandings and fear of the other obscures it as does immediate political pragmatism in the -war-on-terror- schema but what is essential is the absolutism of making laws and closing dialogue will be fatal for all progressive values wherever they may be. So yes there will be as in any religion hardline extremists that even in a perfect world will be appalling bullies and bigots but at present the discourse on Islam is still tending towards a tarring all with the same brush while our own extremists make hay. Islam as a unique threat is a tribal trope that doesn’t bear up under examination, thus its singling out is unwarranted and likely an indication of other agendas at work.

  6. pozzo53 Says:

    I didn’t exclude anybody from a coalition of groups that should oppose racism. for anything more than reasons of space. The point about recognising anti-Semitism specifically was made because I noticed that Yasmin also referred to it. Clearly there isn’t much common ground between Islamist extremists and feminists or gays, but the point here is that most Muslims don’t fall into that category. Attacks on Muslims invariably try to elide the extreme diversity of the Muslim communities. Accepting such diversity is just a part of recognising common humanity. I’ll defend Muslims against racism, knowing perfectly well that some of them too are reactionary bigots. So what? People’s right to be is not conditional on them being perfect.

    • earwicga Says:

      “Clearly there isn’t much common ground between Islamist extremists and feminists or gays” Yes, and you can also exchange any extremist group for Islamist such as the Vatican, MRA’s, Christianist etc. and that sentence would still be true.

      • pozzo53 Says:

        Exactly so. The problem is that it’s not only the extreme right that believe in the unique backwardness of Muslims. It’s common currency across much of the press. It’s important, though, not to expect people to sign up to some sort of progressive agenda before defending them against existential attack. However, it is tactically very sensible for Muslims with progressive, feminist views to make perfectly clear where they stand on wider political issues because it’s vital to undermine the plausibility of race and religion as valid political identities. I have too often heard people on the left demand that Jews condemn Zionism as a price for support against anti-Semitism. I’m pleased when I see lots of Jewish people criticise Israeli actions, and I’m certain it’s very effective, but opposition to anti-Semitism is unconditional. Similarly, Labour supported the suffragettes unconditionally, knowing that some women were going to vote Tory. The left starts from common humanity: that’s what makes us the left.

  7. libhomo Says:

    RickB: I agree that Islam is not a unique threat. However, I would say that where you are determines which religion is the greater threat. For instance, militant Christianity is far more dangerous than militant Islam here in the US. In Saudi Arabia, where Christianity in all forms is criminal, militant Islam is far more dangerous. In the Netherlands, militant Islam is much more dangerous because militant Christianity has been beaten back over the centuries in ways that don’t apply to the US. In India, Hindu and Muslim militancy compete in terms of the dangers they present, while Christian and Muslim extremism are running neck and neck in Nigeria.

    In Iraq, both are terribly dangerous. Muslim religious extremists are a terrible danger. Yet, the alliance of Christian religious extremists and corporate interests that maintains the slaughter/war by US troops is incredibly deadly.

    I could be mistaken, but my impression is that militant Christianity is more dangerous in the UK. The disease of nondenominational fundamentalist Christianity seems to have spread significantly to your country, and they seem to be using the same stealth techniques that they used early on here in the US.

    However, that doesn’t mean that the left, in the long term, shouldn’t be concerned about the dangers involved in all religion, fundamentalist or not. Religion in general, and especially monotheistic religion, by its very nature breeds fundamentalist and fascist ideologies and behaviors.

    • pozzo53 Says:

      That seems an amazing perspective to me – simultaneously mechanical and idealist. Religions are not “forces” or entities but constructs covering a wide range of sociological and ideological phenomena. I don’t see, for example, Anglican feminists struggling for the ordination of women bishops as a threat: in fact, I don’t think you can usefully see them as part of the same phenomenon as right-wing fundamentalism at all. Marx saw religion as an imaginary protest against real conditions of distress: it might be better if we on the left came to terms with the protest side of that formulation first. I’d refer you to Ernst Bloch for a very different view of religion from the one you seem to have acquired.

      Actually, I don;t think any one view will do. It’s best to think of religion as one of the forms, languages if you like, in which people work out questions and answers. To say anything useful about a particular instance, you have to analyse and think about it. There’s no blanket approach that tells you whether a “religious” response is constructive or not. Its worth looking at some of Maxime Rodinson’s work on Islam if you want to see how Muslim thinkers and institutions work through issues and modify attitudes to new conditions.

      Region doesn’t automatically breed fundamentalism and fascism, as you claim. The notion is absurd: both are specific 20th century historical phenomena. Fascism has absolutely nothing to do with religion historically: Mussolini was an entirely secular politician with something like your cynicism about religion, for example. It’s one of the myths we need to combat that fundamentalism somehow represents the essence of religion. Fundamentalist movements appear at particular moments in response to specific conditions. Arguably, they represent a response to economic and social modernisation. They tend to use rationalistic approaches to interpreting sacred texts, which are almost always innovatory and unrelated to traditional methods, and result in non-traditional attitudes. They do not represent the irresistible internal logic or any religion, because there isn’t such a thing.

      Radical religious movements are also not always predictable. Where do the Quakers come in your fanaticism scale? Just how reactionary is liberation theology, or the theology of hope, compared with BNP secularism? I think a blanket, negative attitude to religion plays straight into the hands of people like Wilders who try to gain traction from stereotyping the whole Muslim community through an absurd attack on its ideology as “fascist”. Actual, historical fascism started on the secularist left.

      • RickB Says:

        I think the fascist allusion is down to all religions even progressive movements within them do claim a relationship with a supreme being/authority which can be used to override earthly constraints, laws etc if religious leaders reckon they can get away with it, that ultimately is the ontological problem with all religion -a claim to higher authority.

        Also- fascism started on the secularist left- is not at all the case, and surely is as bereft of nuance as those charging Islamofascism, fascist movements used workers frustrations to obtain state and corporate power and did attack unions and socialists together with religious groups (who did not facilitate authoritarian hierarchies) and ethnic groups they felt animosity for, so superficially they presented themselves initially as concerned with the ‘nation’s people’ but they were and are right wing authoritarians, extreme nationalists, racists, sexists and militarists.

        I don’t think it is absolutely inevitable religion moves to fundies and fascists but it is what happens when power blocs compete (not to mention funding of fundies for geopolitical ends which many states engage in). While at the same time progressive religious groups find themselves at odds with govts over wealth inequality, warfare etc. So ruling elites interests do concur with fundies at strategic points and they reinforce each others extremism, the special aspect of religion is yes as it claims a supreme authority derived from god it can easily become a tyranny that will not respond to rational discourse. Notably few religious groups have democratic structures or checks and balances on power.

        I think non religious people should make an informed distinction between what are right wing conservative religious groupings and what are progressive ones and find common causes with them (eg, SOAW or Quaker peace groups) and recognising the massive resources that continue to be put into classifying all Muslims as extremists in order to facilitate financial and geopolitical agendas. Thus this makes the informed navigation of Islam far more difficult for outsiders but all the more necessary as it appears at present a Muslim anywhere on earth can be killed or kidnapped & tortured at will by people who think that is legal, just and necessary while making themselves enormously rich. A hardline on all religion is perhaps a bit self defeating even if it is logically consistent, but there are some hard limits on rights that need to be made clear which remain in dispute. All religions must acknowledge they are free to believe what they want but they cannot use that to remove rights from others, particularly, LGBTQ people & women, and there is certainly no monopoly on that kind of bigotry in any one religion (being as they were made up by men, a long time ago). And faith is not proof so until god turns up and she juggles black holes, farts out super novas and pulls DNA to order from a hat we run human affairs based on evidence. That evidence also means- war is wrong, racism is wrong, sexism is wrong. People have the right to self defence, shelter, food & water security, sovereignty over their own body and their home, equality etc oh basically the whole human rights charter which clearly all humans are falling down on religious or secular, so we’ve all got work to do.

      • libhomo Says:

        You could try to make a case that polytheistic religions don’t automatically lead to fundamentalism, but those arguments fail with monotheistic faiths in two very different ways.

        1) The historical record: Religious extremism has, by far, been the rule rather than the exception.

        2) The nature of the monotheistic claim: The belief that there is only one deity and that group A knows who and what he/she/it is by its very nature leads to a totalitarian mindset. The mere existence of people who don’t share a monotheist’s religious views forms an existential threat in the minds of a true believer on an emotional, ideological, and practical level. Remember, one of the main causes of religious extremism in the 20th century was improvements in transportation and communications which made monotheists more aware of the existence of people with different views on the subject of religion.

        There are some other factual errors that should be addressed.

        1) Religion is far from a form of protest. Religion is a scam used to maintain the status quo. Religious beliefs are so highly irrational and senseless that none of them can stand up to the scrutiny of logical inquiry and critical thinking. Churches that survive in the long term always adapt the position of “shut up and do what your told.”

        2) Mussolini’s rise to power was largely based on an alliance with the Roman Catholic Church. The existence of the Vatican as an independent, nation state is a direct product of that alliance. Also, the Roman Catholic Church strongly supported Hitler’s rise to power and maintained its own genocidal, totalitarian state in Croatia during the Second World War.

        3) Hitler was a fanatical Roman Catholic who got the idea for Kristallnacht from Martin Luther, the founder of Protestantism.

        4) The claim that fascism started on the secularist left is deliberate disinformation by militant, Christian fundamentalists who also have repeatedly lied and said that Hitler was an atheist or a pagan.

        5) The BNP is a rightist Christian political party. Your claims that they are “secular” make about as much sense as saying the Taliban are “secular.” Where do you come up with this stuff?

        6) “Liberation theology” has both radical and reactionary tendencies. It’s economics are secular, but it also is viciously misogynistic and heterosexist. Note how the RCC clergy has squashed the economics of “liberation theology” while embracing the bigotry which they both share.

        ======================

        The irony is that you, by defending religious extremism and intolerance that are, as a matter of fact, the inevitable products of the very religions you are defending makes you an unwitting ally of Wilders. Until the left can be honest enough to acknowledge the hateful, corrupt, power mad, violent, and oppressive nature of religion, especially monotheistic faiths like Christianity and Islam, the left will have no real basis for a challenge to Wilders.

        If the left doesn’t get its act together, one of two things will happen. People like Wilders will win. Or, people like Rick Warren, Osama bin Laden, Sarah Palin, Ahmadinejad, and Pat Robertson will win. You need to join the Reality Based Community before it’s too late.

  8. pozzo53 Says:

    I could debate this stuff point by point, but it’s really just a mad rant. I come up with this stuff by actually looking at historical facts. To take one obvious point: monotheism. Just how “totalitarian” has historical Judaism been? Take the BNP: it’s true, they are explicitly committed to secularism, as are many fascist groups, and are the object of powerful criticism from all the major churches. Mussolini helped by the Church? No, he had to negotiate hard for a Concordat well after coming to power. Nothing to do with the secular left? He was a violently anti-clerical leader of the Socialist party before World War I. Hitler helped by the Church? Partly so, and also strongly resisted by many Christians, to the point of martyrdom, while much of the left was divided and passive because of Stalin’s disastrous tactics. Incidentally, following your logic, we could blame that on Christianity too, since Stalin did at least take Christianity seriously (entering a seminary), at least for a bit, which I doubt that Hitler ever did.

    I am an atheist and totally committed to a secular society. That includes freedom of religion, of course, as well as freedom to practise and propagate atheism, agnosticism and sheer apathy. But pretending that the vast majority, who are religious in various degrees, are all dupes or victims of false consciousness simply won’t wash. If it appears to be so, it’s because you have constructed a set of straw men at which to tilt. Reality is complexly textured, inconsistent – infinitely dialectical, in fact. Building resistance to racism involves a genuine imaginative engagement with the way others see the world, as does building a society where racism becomes a long-forgotten absurdity.

  9. Jotman Says:

    In terms of what might be positive strategy which an oppressed Muslim might adopt — one that would be advantageous to other Muslims and to the wider society — the more I think about it the more I agree with Rick’s point about the importance of emphasizing the “whole human right’s charter.”

    In a strategic sense, I think it means that if one particular item on the charter is my grievance, and another one is your grievance, you and I can and should support one another. We shouldn’t look for support mainly among people who happen to line-up with ourselves item for item. In other words, we should look ahead to the day when we can all view any affront to any charter value as an attack against the charter as a whole.

    So back to the Muslims in the UK, in terms of this group’s predicament, Pozzo said “I’d appeal to Muslims not to retreat into a bunker.” That makes sense to me.

    However, in reaching out, the more Muslims seek allies beyond other persecuted religious groups, and reach out to other groups defending other aspects of the charter — including the economic rights — it seems to me the more success they are likely to meet and the more their group’s effort is likely to make a better society, rather than provide more fuel for the fires of those harboring reactionary agendas.

    In terms of Pozzo’s point about “a blanket, negative attitude to religion” serving the interests of reactionaries, I also think the reverse is also true in this sense: if, viewing your rights as a religionist as paramount, you seek support mainly from the religious minded, at the end of the day you will mainly only have networks of support from other religionists.

    • pozzo53 Says:

      I agree with you up to a point. But in movements of liberation, disparate groups are often drawn together and learn from each other, Refusing to engage doesn’t help. It’s not as if we start from total isolation anyway. Most Muslims in the UK don’t live in a self-imposed ghetto and they don’t form a monolithic bloc in any sense. There are lots of Muslim women, and men, who define themselves as feminists. Following the logic of some of the soi-disant leftists above, what do we do. Do we say it’s all right to be feminist but they’ll have to give up the Muslim bit before we regard them as reliable allies. Or do we accept that they are the best judges of their own situation, that they may even draw strength from a religious tradition that we don’t really understand. What many on the left seem imaginatively incapable of grasping is that religious faith is not just a matter of assenting to a series of doctrinal and moral propositions. It is a lived commitment that gives unity and meaning to life experiences.

      It’s also diverse and varied in all respects. Who could have predicted that a Brotherhood background would produce a writer and commentator like Tariq Ramadan, who is equally happy to lash out at jihadists and racists? Perhaps we would be better off without people who talk sense from a religious perspective, because then we could nurse our preconceptions undisturbed.

      It’s not as if people of faith have actually proved less reliable in political struggles, or that they haven’t learnt. Much of what I’ve been reading seems to put Nelson Mandela, Beyers Naude and Desmond Tutu on a level with Verwoerd and Botha, on the grounds that are just as “Christian”. In reality, not just Christians in general but the actual church organizations, were the mainstay of resistance to apartheid – not just in South Africa but in the international solidarity movement. In a way, I hate having to say this, because I too wish it had been some Marxist or anarchist outfit – but it wasn’t because that isn’t actually how the world is.

      Have these people lured South Africa into becoming a theocratic state? No. There’s lots wrong with it, but that’s not its problem. In fact, far from imposing a socially-conservative agenda on everyone, it has built protection of gay people’s civil rights into its constitution – in a way unequalled by any western democracy, not to speak of the “people’s democracies”. Have Christians resisted such changes? No, they have been instrumental in instigating them. And, yes, I do know that homophobia is still rampant, and that serious institutional investment doesn’t bring about immediate change, but I’d rather see it than not.

      Leftist contempt for religion, which is generally a wilful misunderstanding of Marx, can actually lead to some monstrous conclusions. Which way, Turkey, for example? Should we hope for a Kemalist military takeover? That’s the obvious, abstract, anti-religious solution. It’s essential to understand that from the point of view of people in the Muslim world, secularism means Baathism, Nasserism, the Pahlavi dynasty. Not a great record to appeal to. And all of them with a reasonable claim to be compared with fascism.

  10. pozzo53 Says:

    Interesting fare while thinking about this subject would be Salma Yaqoob on hijab, this week on Radio 4’s Women’s Hour. Hear it at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00r3ypm. A voice of sanity and dignity from a Muslim perspective.

  11. RickB Says:

    Salma is excellent, in fact you can help her if in the area, check her site-
    http://www.salmayaqoob.com/


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