Tuesday, January 05, 2016
Western feminists airbrush the horrors of their Muslim sisters
The acclaimed new film Suffragette is a timely reminder of courageous reformers who placed reform before personal safety and revolutionised the world for women.
But today, the feminist movement seems bizarrely out of touch with the original, universal standards of their forbears. In sidelining Muslim women’s basic rights, today’s feminists ignore the suffragette legacy and the necessity for urgent reform of international human rights violations.
How would Emmeline Pankhurst and her colleagues respond if they found modern feminists indifferent to reports of young girls from ethnic and religious minorities kidnapped, raped, sold into sexual slavery or forced to marry Islamic State fighters? They might be astonished to learn that Muslim dissidents Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Taslima Nasreen, who promote secular humanism, gender equality, and freedom to criticise religion, live in constant danger due to death threats.
They might be troubled by the perils for women activists in Afghanistan, where public servant Safia Amajan, politician Sitara Achakzai, police officer Malalai Kakar and Indian author Sushmita Banerjee were gunned down by the Taliban.
On further inquiry, the suffragettes would be surprised to discover that Western feminists rarely challenge sexist laws in the Muslim world. These include polygyny and unilateral divorce. In a courtroom, women’s testimony is worth half that of a man’s, and women are entitled to less inheritance and reduced awards in cases of compensation for injury. Domestic violence is rarely punished, and forced or early marriage is acceptable. Victims of rape can be accused and punished for illicit sex. In some conservative Muslim majority countries, stoning is a punishment for adultery and women are unable to leave the house without their husband’s permission.
Suffragettes would question why millions of Muslim women were still second-class citizens when the free world and the UN pride themselves on countless NGOs dedicated to advancing women’s rights.
Saudi Arabian feminist Wajeha al-Huwaider has campaigned for women to drive a car, and launched YouTube videos against child marriage and male domination. In a push against guardian laws, her slogan read, “Treat us like adults or we’ll leave the country.” When Huwaider and her colleague Fawzia Al-Oyouni tried to assist a woman whose husband had locked her and the children in the house without food, they were charged with the crime of takhbib (inciting a wife to disobey her husband), sentenced to 10 months in prison.
Reformers such as Huwaider and Oyouni, are fearless campaigners, but there seems to be a deep disjunction between their objectives and those of contemporary feminists.
A sequel to Suffragettes might feature a conversation between activists of the first wave, who campaigned for the right to vote, those in the second liberation wave of the 60s, and the third wave of contemporary feminists, focused on sexual identity, culture and ethnicity.
The latter would surely face condemnation for discounting injustices deemed intolerable in their own societies. Modern feminists have neglected to empower the new Muslim suffragettes — their natural partners.
Collaboration of the feminist movement with the far left has entrenched notions of hostility to Western values, fostered a romantic lure of revolutionary movements, and found common cause with the anti-Western ideology of radical Islam. The alliance between feminists and the far Left has been reinforced by the philosophy of cultural relativism that has curbed criticism of different cultures.
Instead of joining the new suffragettes, third-wave feminists have pursued a fashionable counterculture and diet of Marxist leftovers. Worse, they have turned against the original principles of freedom and equality and joined with the enemies of their Muslim sisters.
Some avenues for freedom have opened up for women in Afghanistan with constitutional guarantees of political representation, and in Saudi Arabia, where women have been put on the advisory Shura Council and allowed to stand in municipal elections.
Despite much unfinished work to combat sexism in the West, reform of Muslim women’s rights is a pressing imperative and meaningful investment in global female solidarity.
Perhaps the feminist movement could regain its momentum and high moral ground if activists write their own sequel to Suffragettes by uniting in a “democratic international of women” against institutionalised discrimination and “the horror of God’s State”, as entreated by Algerian Khalida Messaoudi. Otherwise, feminists risk being unworthy heirs of the suffragette movement.
Prominent British atheist condemns Muslim credulity
Professor Richard Dawkins has launched a fresh attack on Islamic belief. The furious academic walked out of an interview when a Muslim journalist confirmed he personally believed the prophet Muhammad flew to heaven on a winged horse.
Dawkins, 74, author of best-seller The God Delusion, told the New Statesmen's Emad Ahmed that his belief was "pathetic" before angrily storming off.
A shocked Ahmed said: "Dawkins is outspoken about religion, particularly Islam, so I was genuinely stunned when he decided to angrily walk away from our interview after I confirmed my beliefs in the revelations of the Islamic faith, calling my views "pathetic".
But the evolutionary biologist took to Twitter to defend his latest outburst.
He said: "I left when he said Muhammad rode a winged horse. A non-timewasting journalist needs at least SOME grasp of reality."
He added: "Ridiculing belief in a winged horse is not "bigotry", not "Islamophobia", not "racism". It's sober, decent, gentle, scientific realism."
The 74-year-old went on: "If you believe you're Napoleon or a poached egg, you're in an asylum.
"If you believe in winged horses you're a New Statesman journalist."
He later explained in more detail: " I'm accused of refusing to be interviewed by Muslim journalists! Here's what actually happened.
"I was at a Royal Society meeting to launch the new Stephen Hawking Prize for Science Communication.
"The very nice PR woman arranged press interviews for the speakers. Science communication is dear to my heart, and I agreed to be pulled out of the conference for a series of interviews, on condition that the journalists would ask me about the Hawking Prize & STARMUS, not religion.
"One journalist, from New Statesman, soon made it clear that he wanted to talk of nothing but religion. My impatience grew, fed by my desire to rejoin the conference.
"I kept trying to drag him back to the agreed topic. Eventually, the PR woman arrived & signalled to the journalist that his time was up, but he asked to be allowed to carry on.
"He had just admitted that he believed in flying horses. In exasperation that I had left the conference to talk to a time-wasting journalist whose world view was ludicrously unconnected with reality, I terminated the interview and went off with the PR woman.
"I now find myself accused of refusing to be interviewed by Muslim journalists!"
Last month Dawkins said Islamic culture could "go to hell" on a live TV chat show in the United States when referring to some practices in Islam, such as women being made to wear burkhas.
Nor is it is not the first time Dawkins has attacked the belief in the ascension of Muhammad.
In an interview with Al Jazeera journalist Mehdi Hasan, filmed at the Oxford Union in 2012 - which you can watch below - Dawkins mocked the host telling him his belief was "anti-scientific and wrong".
The Qur'an briefly refers to the Isra and Miraj, two parts of a night journey Muhammad took during a single night in the year 621.
The "physical and spiritual journey" sees the Islamic prophet travel on the steed Buraq to the "furthest mosque" where he leads other prophets in prayer. He then ascends to heaven in the Miraj journey where he speaks to God, who gives instructions to take back to the faithful.
Dawkins - who was once named the world's leading thinker by Prospect Magazine - has been equally critical of other religions.
He has described Judaism as a "tribal cult of a single fiercely unpleasant God, morbidly obsessed with sexual restrictions".
And he once claimed that being raised a Catholic and taught to fear hellfire is "worse than child abuse."
Just today he Tweeted: "Culturally the UK is a Christian country. But schools should teach comparative religion and atheism. They should NEVER indoctrinate."
Dawkins was born in Kenya but moved to Britain aged eight He studied at Oundle School, in Northamptonshire, before reading Zoology at university at Oxford University, where he is now an emeritus fellow of New College.
He became an atheist in his early teens after learning about Darwin’s theory of evolution and has written 13 books on evolution, biology and religion, including several international best-sellers.
Matisyahu rocks Ithaca – Huge Win for Artistic Freedom
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement has been targeting American Reggae musician Matisyahu because he is Jewish and refuses to denounce Israel.
In the summer of 2015 an international firestorm of controversy erupted after BDS succeeded in getting Matisyahu banned at the Spanish Rototom Reggae festival. The ban was reversed only after an international outcry, including denunciations by the Spanish government and a leading Spanish newspaper that the action amounted to religious discrimination.
So when Matisyahu booked an appearance in Ithaca, NY, as part of his world tour, it was not long before the local BDS crowd, including our own BDS “star,” sought a boycott of the event and planned a protest.
But it didn’t work.
There was a substantial backlash in favor of artistic freedom. Ithaca resident Linda Glaser wrote a powerful op-ed in The Ithaca Journal, Let Jewish artist perform in Ithaca:
"Artistic freedom is the right of every American, as it is based on the First Amendment right of freedom of speech. The Ithaca Coalition for Unity and Cooperation in the Middle East (ICU-CME) supports the right of American musician Matisyahu to perform and to be heard free from intimidation at the State Theatre of Ithaca.
Untrue statements are being spread by the Ithaca Committee for Justice in Palestine about Matisyahu to justify their discrimination against him. Because he is a prominent Jewish artist who refuses to take an anti-Zionist position, BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) supporters around the world are attempting to block his cultural and artistic expression.
As Matisyahu has said, “I have always believed in the power of music to unite all people, regardless of religion, politics or geography.”
We urge the Ithaca community to stand for artistic freedom and reject the boycott of American musician Matisyahu."
The much ballyhooed “boycott” and protest fizzled out. Mostly the handful of BDS protesters just handed out leaflets. Every person who received one of the BDS leaflets was given an alternative, pro-Artistic Freedom leaflet.
I heard several of the younger people comment with friends how ridiculous it was that BDS was trying to politicize the event.
One Ithaca resident commented:
"Crazy evening but a good one for for the pro-peace, pro-love crowd. Handed out hundreds of flyers, lots of conversations; the good, the bad and the ugly. Matisyahu came out and thanked us, and we also met his Mom and got a Jewish power Mom group photo. We outnumbered the BDS supporters and we had cool signs and better flyers.
The concert itself was fantastic. While there were some empty seats towards the back, the main sections were full. Not that seating mattered, because as soon as the music started, the crowd of mostly 20-somethings rushed forward toward the stage, where they danced and shouted for songs.
I was very impressed with Matisyahu’s performance, though disappointed he didn’t sing some of his best known songs. There is no doubt the crowd loved it too, based on what I heard as we left.
All in all, it was a wonderful time, and a huge belly-blow to the local BDS crowd. After their stunning defeat at the Greenstar Food Coop, the defeat at the Battle of Matisyahu may signal that Ithaca no longer is a BDS playground where they can bully people into submission.
Update on the "BDS" anti-Israel campaign
2015 ended with BDS supporters co-opting more campus governments and causes to discriminate against Jewish students. At the same time, more BDS resolutions were defeated and steps taken to prevent student governments from adopting Israel boycotts. These signs suggest that BDS movement’s overreach is producing backlash, at least in terms of energizing campus opposition. A similar dynamic is apparent in the political sphere where efforts to isolate Israel economically have been met with local legislation prohibiting Israel boycotts. The lesson of 2015 is that grassroots opposition to BDS can work, both on campus and in the political system.
The fall semester ended in December with several incidents where BDS supporters used student government to harass Jewish students and organizations for supporting Israel. At the University of Michigan a Jewish member of student government was exonerated after an investigation found he “did not engage in unethical behavior or engage in conduct unbecoming of a representative” by verbally challenging BDS supporters. The BDS group – “Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE)” – had accused the student of abusive conduct. The use of campus disciplinary mechanisms against individuals who challenge BDS has been seen several times, most notably at UCLA in the spring of 2015.
At Vassar the local branch of J Street University was initially denied the right to apply for event funding by the student government on the grounds that “Zionism is an inherently racist ideology.” The funding was eventually approved. A pro-Israel group at San Diego State University was also excluded from a student statement against Islamophobia after the local Students for Justice in Palestine objected. Efforts to exclude Jewish and pro-Israel groups and individuals from campus life are likely to expand in 2016.
Straightforward harassment was also evident in December. At Connecticut College posters placed around campus by BDS supporters accusing the Taglit-Birthright program of being “settler-colonialism.” This followed BDS supporters’ harassment and calls for the dismissal of a faculty member who had criticized Hamas on his Facebook page. To these were added disruptions of Jewish and pro-Israel campus events by BDS supporters, incidents of vandalism, and physical assaults on Jewish students.
Other notable developments are deepening connections between BDS supporters and unrelated causes. One example of this was seen at Columbia University where a sexual assault awareness group called “No Red Tape” collaborated with Students for Justice in Palestine, condemning Zionism on social media and condoning anti-Israel speech on the theory “that its anti-Israel position stems from commonalities between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” This theoretical approach, “intersectionality,” essentially claims that all forms of ‘oppression’ are intrinsically related. Anti-Israel activists have used the concept in order to attach BDS to mainstream causes like feminism and to vilify Israel.
Another example of how BDS has been folded into campus protests was the “Stop the Sellout” letter sent to the president of Ohio State University by the “United Students Against Sweatshops.” The letter demands a “fair, humane, ecologically sound, community based, and transparent food system that prioritizes student voice,” an end to “all current future endeavors to privatize our public university and cater to corporate interests,” and “withdraw its investments in entities (ie. Boeing, Caterpillar, etc) complicit in the illegal occupation of Palestinian territories until they are no longer engaged in the violation of human rights and other practices that fail to adhere to the Ohio State’s endorsed Principles of Responsible Investment.” Connections between the BDS and other far left movements like “Black Lives Matter” have also grown substantially over 2015.
But in December backlash against BDS cooption of campus life was also seen, for example at UCLA. There the Undergraduate Student Association Council adopted a resolution restricting the council to “matters directly and substantially pertaining to student welfare issues.” These were defined as “issues pertaining to student (health), resources, education, safety.” Political issues such as Israel boycotts were thus put off limits, an outcome predictably condemned by pro-BDS students. One pro-BDS student complained that the restriction negatively affected “student wellness.” The resolution came in the wake of several incidents at UCLA, including adoption of a BDS resolution and harassment of Jewish student members of the undergraduate council.
At Indiana University the student government passed a resolution condemning antisemitism. The statement also specified that the “Indiana University Student Association recognizes that the Jewish people, like all peoples, have a collective right to self-determination, and considers attempts to undermine these rights, including the global BDS Movement against Israel, to be a form of bigotry.” A boycott resolution at Lancaster University was defeated, but only because a large number of students abstained from the vote.
In other campus news, a BDS resolution adopted by the union representing University of California graduate students, Local 2865, was stuck down by the parent United Auto Workers International Union. The reversal, brought about by an appeal from a group of concerned students, is a major defeat for BDS at California universities.
Faculty support for BDS will be tested in January when BDS resolutions will be debated at the annual meetings of the American Historical Association and the Modern Language Association. Legal scholars have recently pointed out that boycotts likely violate the corporate charters of academic associations, exposing them to lawsuits from members.
Finally, in a shocking example of the pettiness and venom of BDS supporters, a retired faculty member and BDS supporter at Cambridge University refused to answer a 13 year-old Israeli girl’s query regarding the domestication of horses. Her response was to state “I’ll answer your questions when there is peace and justice for Palestinians in Palestine. I am a member of Jews for Justice for Palestinians. I support Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions. You might be a child, but if you are old enough to write to me, you are old enough to learn about Israeli history and how it has impacted on the lives of Palestinian people.” In response to a press inquiry she added “The Jews have become the Nazis. Jews are behaving just like the people who treated them. It’s not all Israelis or all Jews.” The incident received widespread attention and public condemnation.
There were a number of important developments in the political sphere. Despite dissent from member states the European Union pressed forward with labeling guidelines for products originating in Israeli communities across the Green Line. Greece and the Czech Republic have joined other states including Hungary in rejecting the guidelines. In Germany, however, the government announced its support for the guidelines while the president of the Bundestag rejected them. Similarly, in response to a question, French Foreign Minister Manual Valls stated to the Parliament that he condemned “all boycotts” of Israel, but declined to characterize EU labeling guidelines as discriminatory.
Fears continue that the labeling guidelines lay the groundwork for more widespread boycotts of Israel. These fears are given support by reports of German stores removing Israeli products, ostensibly to be relabeled. Other reports show that the EU’s guidelines have given license to BDS activists to place their own labels on Israeli products.
Legal scholars have shown that the EU is applying labeling guidelines only to Israel, as opposed to other “occupied territories” such as the Western Sahara. These and other discriminatory actions are likely to be challenged legally and in setting such as the World Trade Organization. Interestingly, one observer has also noted that a 1995 ruling by the US Treasury stipulates “Goods which are produced in the West Bank and Gaza … shall not contain the words ‘Israel,’ ‘Made in Israel,’ ‘Occupied Territories-Israel,’ or words of similar meaning.”
In the United States a bipartisan resolution was introduced in the US House of Representatives condemning European Union labeling guidelines as discriminatory and accusing the EU of promoting Israel boycotts. Presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio also condemned the guidelines as “antisemitic.” In a speech at a Washington gathering Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton also repeated her condemnation of the BDS movement but did not address the EU labeling guidelines.
Locally, however, the backlash against BDS continued. In Britain the Department for Communities and Local Government confirmed it was writing guidelines that would forbid local councils from engaging in boycotts or sanctions against individual states and industries, such as arms or fossil fuels. The rules are cast in terms of reaffirming national control over foreign policy. They come after several local councils passed resolutions condemning and boycotting Israel. These now face legal challenges.
Anti-BDS legislation also gained steam in the US. Proposed legislation in New York would prohibit the state from doing business with companies that engage in boycotts specifically of Israel. The town of Bal Harbour, Florida also passed similar legislation, making it the first municipality to do so.
Similar legislation has been proposed in California, which would forbid the state’s enormous pension funds, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), from investing in companies that boycott Israel. The two pension funds have assets of approximately $500 billion. The New York State Comptroller, the chief investment officer for the state’s pension fund, also visited Israel, partially as a deliberate rebuke to the BDS movement, and to demonstrate continued confidence.
Internationally, BDS did not fare well in December. Spain’s National Court overruled a lower court and quashed arrest warrants for a number of Israeli officials including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. An Israeli reserve military officer was, however, briefly detained at a London airport on the basis of a war crimes complaint lodged by Palestinian organizations. He was released with an apology. The officer’s name had been included in lists of Israeli personnel who had participated in the 2014 Gaza conflict which have been circulated to European governments. Efforts to use European human rights laws against lower ranking Israeli officers represents a new area of harassment and intimidation.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.