Friday, 11 February 2011

Feminists for Cameron?



- By Nick Cohen, from The Spectator

The fallout from Labour’s morally and tactically disastrous decision to attack David Cameron’s defence of liberal values continues. Now it is Joan Smith’s turn to take a kick. She is one of the few true feminists left in Britain, and proves it by her willingness to say without equivocation that if white-skinned women in Britain should have equal rights then so should brown-skinned women inTehran. (Or to bring that comparison closer to home, if the emancipation of women is good enough for Hampstead and Highgate, then it is good enough for Bethnal Green and Bow.):

'Labour’s response to Cameron’s speech was lamentable, appearing to have more to do with electoral calculation than principle. As a secularist, I’m well aware that self-appointed representatives of ‘faith’ groups frequently complain about discrimination while displaying varying levels of misogyny, homophobia and intolerance. But the Party under Ed Miliband seems as unprepared as ever to acknowledge that people who are disadvantaged are not always shining examples of tolerance themselves, and that a willingness to condemn terrorism is not on its own proof of a commitment to universal human rights.

The ‘war on terror’ has a great deal to answer for. Successive British governments have been so preoccupied with the threat of religiously-motivated terror attacks that they’ve failed to acknowledge other forms of extremism in supposedly ‘moderate’ faith groups. They’ve listened to and funded religious groups which do little to further women’s equality in their communities, while at the same time condemning gay people, holding anti-Semitic views and trying to limit free expression.

We’ve ended up with the lunacy of British ministers condemning stoning in Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan while Government departments hand over taxpayers’ money to ‘faith’ organisations in this country whose leaders refuse to condemn it. Labour’s record doesn’t bear much scrutiny in this respect and shadow ministers would be better occupied acknowledging past incoherence, such as support for publicly-funded ‘faith’ schools, than launching petulant attacks on Cameron. If the Party isn’t careful, the Tories could easily steal Labour’s clothes as the champion of liberal/secular values.'

They could couldn’t they? I am researching a book on freedom of speech and am interviewing liberal Muslims from across Europe. These are men and women, who receive death threats when the make a stand for women’s rights. In the past, they would have been left-wing heroes. I am struck by how many of them are now giving up on a left that indulges their enemies and fails to defend its friends. Miliband does not realize it, but he is losing the best and the bravest. Go read the whole thing.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
When will Labour stand up for secular values?

Wednesday 9 February 2011, from the blog, Political Blonde

In 2007 I shared a platform in London with Inayat Bunglawala of the Muslim Council of Britain. Towards the end of the event I asked him to condemn the practice of stoning women and men to death for ‘offences’ such as adultery. He refused.

Bunglawala’s then boss at the MCB, Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, had been interviewed in the Daily Telegraph the previous weekend. Asked if he condemned stoning, he offered this extraordinary piece of equivocation: ‘It depends what sort of stoning and what circumstances’.

These are extreme views. They aren’t compatible with the idea of universal human rights, which allows adults to organise their own sexual lives and outlaws barbaric punishments. In the same newspaper interview, Bari stated his unequivocal opposition to homosexuality and sex outside marriage, both of which are regarded as unexceptional behaviour in secular democracies.

Despite promoting such extreme and intolerant views, the MCB was for years the first port of call for Government ministers when they wanted to discuss issues relating to Muslims in this country. Last weekend, when David Cameron signalled a shift in the Government’s relationship with organisations which don’t have a commitment to universal human rights, there was an outcry. Cameron’s choice of language was unfortunate, as Tom Sutcliffe argues in his excellent Independent column (http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/columnists/thomas-sutcliffe/tom-sutcliffe-secularism-is-the-word-cameron-is-looking-for-2207507.html).

But the prime minister was right to insist that organisations which display hostility to liberal values such as equality should be confronted rather than cosseted. I hope Cameron realises that also means no public funds for, say, Christian groups who discriminate against gay couples.

Labour’s response to Cameron’s speech was lamentable, appearing to have more to do with electoral calculation than principle. As a secularist, I’m well aware that self-appointed representatives of ‘faith’ groups frequently complain about discrimination while displaying varying levels of misogyny, homophobia and intolerance. But the Party under Ed Miliband seems as unprepared as ever to acknowledge that people who are disadvantaged are not always shining examples of tolerance themselves, and that a willingness to condemn terrorism is not on its own proof of a commitment to universal human rights.

The ‘war on terror’ has a great deal to answer for. Successive British governments have been so preoccupied with the threat of religiously-motivated terror attacks that they’ve failed to acknowledge other forms of extremism in supposedly ‘moderate’ faith groups. They’ve listened to and funded religious groups which do little to further women’s equality in their communities, while at the same time condemning gay people, holding anti-Semitic views and trying to limit free expression.

We’ve ended up with the lunacy of British ministers condemning stoning in Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan while Government departments hand over taxpayers’ money to ‘faith’ organisations in this country whose leaders refuse to condemn it. Labour’s record doesn’t bear much scrutiny in this respect and shadow ministers would be better occupied acknowledging past incoherence, such as support for publicly-funded ‘faith’ schools, than launching petulant attacks on Cameron. If the Party isn’t careful, the Tories could easily steal Labour’s clothes as the champion of liberal/secular values.

No comments:

Post a Comment