And then there’s Nick Cohen on Ken Livingstone and his loyalty to another example of religious wisdom, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi.
The useful label ‘the pseudo-left’ has been knocking around the internet political blogs since 11 September, and it is high time it was brought into the mainstream media. It’s a shorthand description of the spectacle of left moving to the right, often to the far-right, and embracing obscurantists, theocrats and, in the case of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and its Baathist ‘insurgents’, classic fascists…All that the left has opposed since the Enlightenment become acceptable, as long as the obscurantists, theocrats and fascists are anti-Americans and as long as their victims aren’t Western liberals.
Which is intensely depressing, because their victims are people like Minna and Fariba, instead.
In June 2003 Qaradawi pondered the question of how a Muslim who decided of his own free will to convert to another religion or become an atheist should be treated. Instead of saying it was none of his business what adults choose to believe, Qaradawi replied: ‘He is no more than a traitor to his religion and his people and thus deserves killing.’ Female genital mutilation was fine by him – ‘whoever finds it serving the interest of his daughters should do it, and I personally support this under the current circumstances in the modern world.’ A little light wife-beating could also be excused – ‘if the husband senses that feelings of disobedience and rebelliousness are rising against him in his wife, he should try his best to rectify her attitude by kind words, gentle persuasion, and reasoning with her… If this approach fails, it is permissible for him to admonish her lightly with his hands, avoiding her face and other sensitive areas.’
I really like that last bit. Note that the wife hasn’t even done anything, or said anything. She just has some feelings, that the husband ‘senses’ – and if he can’t persuade her out of them (and only he knows if he senses them or not, right? So even if she says she doesn’t have such feelings, if he still senses them – well…) then he needs to start hitting her. What would he be entitled to do if she had actually done something, one wonders. But never mind that. Let’s focus on the main point. The wife is not only not allowed to own her own self (women are not allowed to refuse to marry under many implementations of Islam), she’s not allowed to own her own thoughts and feelings. She’s not only enslaved (if she’s required to marry, she’s enslaved; if it’s not voluntary, it’s slavery), she has this supervisor peering into her thoughts all the time, and ‘sensing’ when she has rebellious or disobedient feelings. Well what the hell other kinds of feelings is she going to have?!? Excuse me for shouting, but really. What a setup. Forced to marry a self-appointed mind-reader who is entitled to hit you whenever you start feeling rebellious. Talk about Catch-22. You might as well chain someone onto a merry-go-round and then hit her for going round and round all the time.
But for the sake of argument, let’s assume that he’s not just a grubby machine politician but is sincere when he declares that he is defending Qaradawi to the hilt because, ‘I have a responsibility to support the rights of all of London’s diverse communities and to maintain a dialogue with their political and religious leaders.’ He doesn’t seem to realise that this bland formulation is cover for a deeply reactionary manoeuvre which is being practised across the Western pseudo-left. First they define ‘communities’ by their religion. Then they assumed that misogynist and anti-democratic practitioners of that religion are the true leaders of their communities. The inevitable consequence is that liberals, socialists and feminists in the poor world are betrayed. They look to the Western homes of liberalism, socialism and feminism and are greeted with indifference or spite.
Exactly. Define ‘communities’ by their religion, then assume that the most misogynist practitioners available are the leaders of said community. Another Catch-22. It’s some kind of multiculti masochism, I think. The idea seems to be that if the cultural practices of the Other are too, you know, acceptable, decent, fair, then we’re not really being multiculti enough, because there’s no internal resistance to overcome. Overcoming the internal resistance has become (in some minds) the end in itself. So (the logic seems to be) if the practice doesn’t make us cringe and squirm, well, we’re getting off too lightly. We have to tolerate really hateful stuff or we’re just wimping out. I’ve heard and seen people make arguments just like that. Disdainful comments about being multicultural as long as it doesn’t bite. But the trouble is, it’s other people – the Other, in fact – who get bitten by those practices, not the uncomfortable but unscathed observers.