Wednesday, April 11, 2007

more on why the left must reject oppressive religious movements

No, not religion in general.

The recent news that anti-globalization movements have directly reached out to, and worked with various Islamic groups, including sexist, homophobic, and anti-democratic groups, should disturb us deeply.

There are plenty of progressive, democratic religious groups, including Islamic groups, to work with. They may not attract attention because they don't kill babies or assassinate people with whom they disagree, but they're there, and they're far better candidates for progressive causes.

Last year, Fred Halliday put it very well:

...while it is true that Islamism in its diverse political and violent guises is indeed opposed to the US, to remain there omits a deeper, crucial point: that, long before the Muslim Brotherhood, the jihadis and other Islamic militants were attacking "imperialism", they were attacking and killing the left - and acting across Asia and Africa as the accomplices of the west. [...] The reactionary (the word is used advisedly) nature of much of their programme on women, free speech, the rights of gays and other minorities is evident.There is also a mindset of anti-Jewish prejudice that is riven with racism and religious obscurantism. Only a few in the west noted what many in the Islamic world will have at once understood, that one of the most destructive missiles fired by Hizbollah into Israel bore the name "Khaibar" - not a benign reference to the pass between Afghanistan and Pakistan, but the name of a victorious battle fought against the Jews by the Prophet Mohammad in the 7th century. Here it is worth recalling the saying of the German socialist leader Bebel, that anti-semitism is "the socialism of fools". How many on the left are tolerant if not actively complicit in this foolery today is a painful question to ask.

(More about the status of women in conservative Islam here...straight from the proverbial horse's mouth, in a clumsy attempt to disco around the issue...)

I think it's time to start a drive to get a broad coalition of progressives, socialists, and left democrats to publicly denounce, and renounce affiliation with, all religious extremism, and all religious movements that advocate the persecution of (or any degree of violence against) labor movements, religious minorities or members of other religions, sexual minorities, women, etc. This is not about being unduly "purist" or fragmentory. This is about foolishly --fatally foolishly-- assuming that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Halliday concludes that the left
does not need slogans to understand that the Islamist programme, ideology and record are diametrically opposed to the left – that is, the left that has existed on the principles founded on and descended from classical socialism, the Enlightenment, the values of the revolutions of 1798 and 1848, and generations of experience. The modern embodiments of this left have no need of the “false consciousness” that drives so many so-called leftists into the arms of jihadis.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I strongly agree with your analysis here Matt. Despite my athiesm, I see no particular reason to attack people of faith who act and organize to promote and protect justice, equality, and freedom; the liberation theologians have a different path the same end. Perhaps once we are together relishing our arrival at that place we can debate the relative merits of our paths.

There is no possible common cause with theocrats of any stripe.

The only potentially interesting distinctions that arise do not relate to affirmative alliances - which no one should support - but rather to accountability for the consequences of our criticisms.

For instance, when Mackinnon or other secular feminists join with Christian fundies in attacking the misogynistic Taliban, is she making a wise choice to criticize an oppressive religion, or is she contributing her prestige to a narrative used to justify an invasion?

As leftists of whatever - or no - religious persuasion, we face some moral dilemmas. In our criticisms of the oppressions carried out by the religious fundamentalists who are "official enemies" of the US, we may be contributing, if inadvertantly to propaganda campaigns to justify US intervention.

In general, I think it is most effective and valuable to direct our criticisms to those fundies at home (of whatever stripe).

There our criticisms may have some effect. In Afghanistan, etc., it may serve to justify our attack and increase domestic support for the fundies in the target country.

There is also the fact that in some indirect way all Americans are more responsible for the dangerous idiocy of our homegrown fundies.

You are very eloquent in your explanation of L'Affaire Churchill and I could not agree with you more. I cannot understand why others have such trouble understanding your fundamental point. They will have to burn me before they can get to you.

T. Jacobsen