Entdinglichung

… alle Verhältnisse umzuwerfen, in denen der Mensch ein erniedrigtes, ein geknechtetes, ein verlassenes, ein verächtliches Wesen ist … (Marx)

Azar Majedi: Right vs Left in Secularist Movement: It is not sufficient to be a secularist

Posted by entdinglichung - 24. April 2009

Ein interessanter Diskussionsbeitrag von Azar Majedi von der Organisation for Women’s Liberation, welcher u.a. diejenigen SäkularistInnen, Feministinnen und Linken kritisiert, welche Querfronten mit rechten „IslamkritikerInnen“ und ähnlichen Gestalten bilden, gefunden auf Socialist Blog News:

Faust

Right vs Left in Secularist Movement:It is not sufficient to be a secularist

From Azadizan.com, by Azar Majedi

The women’s rights movement is an integrated part of the general movement for equality and freedom. Every one here is well aware of the dismal situation of women in societies under the grip of religion; of the inherent misogyny of religion. Misogyny is an important part of the dominant ideology, so is religion. To fight misogyny and women’s inequality calls for a comprehensive and consistent struggle against the dominant ideology and the dominant political and economic order.

Women’s rights and socialist movements have fought against gender discrimination for over a century; it suffices to say that the 8th of March tradition is one century old. But still women are suffering from discrimination, degradation, insecurity, violence and even bondage in the 21st century. Why? Why has more than one century of struggle not resulted in women’s equality? This is a very pertinent question that we as women’s rights activists, freedom loving and equality seeking individuals and organisations must address. Of course there have been achievements in the west, but they are far from satisfactory.

The organisation for Women’s Liberation organised an international conference for 8 March 2009 in Sweden entitled “why is secularism essential?” The conference was a real success, with contributions by around 20 activists and academics from Europe, the Middle East, Georgia and Argentina. All speakers talked about the adverse effects of religion on women’s conditions in their countries and the importance of mobilizing an international movement for secularism. I am conveying their message here to you.

In the opening of the conference this same question was introduced. Just a couple of days before the conference, I read an article about Madonna’s love affair with a 22 year old boy; I think it was in the Guardian. The columnist, a feminist, was applauding this relationship as one of feminism’s achievements; ‘[W]e always hear of middle aged male rock stars’ flings with young women, it is time we heard of a fem.’ This was the main point of this article. As far as I am concerned, any one can go to bed with any one they like, as long as they are of age of consent and it is voluntary. But elevating Madonna’s craving for young boys and publicity to the level of achievements by women’s rights movement is making a mockery of our struggle.

Our fight is to improve the lot of ordinary citizens in the world. The economic exploitation, political disenfranchisation, social isolation and ghettoisation, cultural degradation as well as violence and sexual abuse are our main concern. And I must say that religion as a determining ingredient of the dominant ideology plays an important part in reproducing and reinforcing all these problems for women. There has been a growing interest in secularism in women’s rights movements worldwide in the past few years. This has happened because of the rise of religious movements and religious meddling in the running of society and passing legislature, thus opening people’s eyes to the detrimental effect of religion in women’s lives worldwide.

I was here in 2007. An important trend that was taking form then has now become quite visible and we should take notice of it and react to it. The secularist movement has become increasingly active and vocal in the past decade, particularly after September 11th. France has always been a different case regarding secularism. This has its historical root. France is the birth place of militant secularism. Other countries in Europe have always lagged behind. Sweden now is officially a secular country. But in the UK for example secularism is very weak and rather shy.

Religious movements and establishments have gained enormous power in the 90s and onward. Political Islam has become a weighty movement, making life hell for millions, particularly women. My main concern has always been political Islam, but I had a couple of important encounters that were indeed quite eye-opening for me. I attended a secularist-feminist conference in Rome in June 2008, organised by the European Feminist Initiative. This conference brought home to me the suffocating and oppressive role of the Catholic Church, Orthodox Church and Judaism. Then the 8th of March conference organised by OWL, completed the picture of abuse, oppression and discrimination by other religions.

As religious movements became more prominent, so the secularist movement began to form and became more active. In the beginning the different trends in this movement were not so clearly distinguishable. But in the past couple of years we can discern a clear divergence. What I recognise as left and right secularism. In France we have witnessed a split in the movement. There are now two completely separate and even hostile movements. In 2007 it was one working together and organising this conference, now there are two opposing trends, one of which is not even present here. This is an important trend that we have to address.

It is not enough to be secular. Secularism alone cannot solve our problems. As it regards women’s status and rights, secularism is a necessary condition, but not sufficient. For a better world, a more humane and egalitarian world we need to qualify our kind of secularism. This issue becomes even more urgent under the current economic crisis.

1. Egalitarian ideas are an important pillar of a society in which gender discrimination and inequality are to disappear.

2. With the war of terrorists you must be extra cautious not to side with any of the poles and not even appear to be taking sides with any of them. I have been a staunch proponent of forming a third pole, the pole of the civilized humanity who is not only secular, but also egalitarian in its outlook, and sets high value on freedom and fairness. We need to mobilize an international secular movement which is for the equality of all human beings regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity or nationality.

Perhaps there are people among us who have become optimistic by the election of Barak Hossein Obama, thinking and hoping that the world would become a safer and a better place. I must say that I do not share this optimism. It is true that Obama’s election was a big NO to the Bush era and to neo-conservatism, but I must also add that we will not see significant changes. As far as the international situation and the so-called ‘war on terror’, which is in reality the war of terrorists, are concerned, there would not be much change. It is true that the US has officially dropped the term “war on terror” from its policy, but the question is, is this a move toward less militarism and bullying in real terms on the US part, or a detour imposed on it because of its defeat in its aggressive policies vis a vis the world, particularly the Middle East?

The USA was not able to succeed in this war and it is in need of rethinking its policies if it is to hold to its super power position. As ever the media savvy American ruling class has set the public opinion engineering machinery in full action to change America’s image. Obama is the product of this dictated need. Obama is the best and most suitable candidate for this era of policy reconstruction and image repair.

He has some reformist ideals, he is an eloquent agitator-campaigner, and he is ‘one of us’, so to speak, who has ‘made it’ He is black, even with a Muslim name. He epitomizes the American dream. To change the image of America internationally, to appease the angry American working class and ordinary citizens in the face of the economic crisis and the greed of the ‘fat cats’, that is Obama’s mission and vision.

The “Nowrouz” message of Obama to the Islamic Regime in Iran was one response in this direction. The war in Iraq was not only a human tragedy for people in Iraq, a total disaster for this society and its citizens, which tore it apart and intensified ethnic and religious hatred and animosity, it was also a total failure of American New World Order’s policy. It did not achieve any of the goals that the US-British collaboration had envisaged. This war is by no means sustainable for the US.

We need to see this trend and be ready to respond. Islamic regime and political Islam have become much stronger as a result of war on Iraq, Lebanon and intensification of war in Palestine. The recent tragedy in Gaza made Hamas and Islamists much stronger and more prominent. We as progressive, freedom-seeking and humanitarian individuals must adapt ourselves and our movement to this new situation and adopt appropriate strategy to deal with it.

Now, let’s go back to the notion of right and left secularists. What I call the right wing section of the secularist movement, has taken side with the US and state terrorism. Either stemming from their political orientation, or because of their hatred towards Islam, Islamists and political Islam, they have failed to see the dynamism and interrelation between the two poles of terrorism, to the very fact that these movements reinforce each other and in their fight for gaining world or regional hegemony they are lending hands to each other. They fail to see that this war has made the world a worse, a more insecure, more deprived, less humane and less free place for all of us.

They are supporting, to a greater or lesser degree, the US and Israelis’ policies. Their hatred of Hamas, as a reactionary, terrorist and misogynist movement has blinded them to the atrocities and crimes of Israeli state against people of Palestine. In the recent war on Gaza, where more than one thousand people, 400 of whom were children, were killed, they either openly defended Israel or acted as apologists of Israel, justifying its war crimes. This was both appalling and sad.

I was especially saddened by the position of my Iranian ex-comrades regarding this war. When they outsmarted themselves, trying to justify the Israeli’s murderous actions by resorting to foolish but supposedly sophisticated theories about nature of wars, claiming “the nature of a war is not decided by the number of bodies fallen to their death on each side”, they, in fact, ended up repeating the Israeli defence Ministry’s war propaganda that Hamas is responsible, Hamas is using innocent people and so forth.

No matter how sophisticated of a theoretician they pretend to be, they are following the populist, pedestrian notion of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” An oversimplified position: if you regard political Islam as your main enemy, so you side with the US and Israel. You end up mocking high humanitarian values and regards for human lives, and see a Hamas terrorist in every 2 year old child living in the prison called Gaza.

The other side of the coin is the so-called anti imperialists who in their hatred of the US imperialism, see no fault with the filth that permeates political Islam, the brutality, cruelty, misogyny of this modern terrorist movement which uses an antiquated middle age ideology, i.e. Islam.

The right wing trend has become so obsessed with its hatred of political Islam that it justifies Geert Wilder’s racism and reactionary ideas. I have written in an article that I defend Wilder’s right to express his appalling ideas, because I defend unconditional freedom of expression. But, nevertheless we must state that Wilder is a bigot, a racist and a right wing demagogue. But this trend either keeps silent vis a vis wilder’s positions or elevate him to heroic stature. These cowardice positions must be exposed and we must clearly draw our demarcation from them. We are not against Muslims or Jews or Catholics. We are against Islamic, Jewish and Catholic establishment and their offensive movements in the society. Muslims are themselves victims of political Islam. We are a movement for enlightenment as well as a political movement for pushing back these forces of reaction and for building a better and more humane world. We cannot afford to loose this foresight and vision.

This takes me to the idea of the third pole, which was so brilliantly formulated by Mansoor Hekmat in its analysis of the world after September 11th. It is time to get our act together; the world has never been in such peril of misery, hardship and perhaps the war. We need to build a strong movement, an international movement. We have seen the necessity of internationalism in our struggle. We cannot do it alone in the confine of our own country.

It is ironic that our conference coincided with two reactionary conferences: G20 and the Doha conference of Arab head of states (perhaps we should say three, taking also NATO into consideration.) The first is trying to appease the international working class, and the ordinary citizens of the world, who are in the brink of total poverty and hunger, to be patient and control their justified anger. It is trying to convince us that it is not capitalism’s fault but the fault of some reckless bankers and the stock market that have driven the world to the point of total disaster. The latter conference is the epitome of backwardness and reaction, throwing red carpets for the most ruthless criminals, such as Al Bashir.

Our conference, which is in complete opposition to these, is trying to find real solutions to change the world to be a better place for all, a world free of discrimination, which respects the equal rights of every one. We are aware that a better world is possible and we are ready to build it.

This is the English translation of the speech made at the International secular conference in Paris on 3 April 2009.

Azar Majedi is the president of Organisation for Women’s Liberation, a member of executive committee of the European Feminist Initiative and a leader of the Worker-communism Unity Party.

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