A clash of Freedoms?
The recent declaration of a caliphate from the Islamist monsters known as ISIS, Boko Haram kidnapping and selling girls in Nigeria, the revival of the Taliban, al-Shabaab terrorising shoppers in Kenya, repressive Islamist states throughout the Middle East – given these harsh realities, one must surely accept that a global Islamist movement is on the march. It is a not a united movement by any means, and in-fighting between sects (as we see in Iraq) will no doubt continue; but it is a movement nonetheless and one with at least one ideological unifier – the desire to expand Islamic governance and the imposition of sharia law.
Sharia law can vary on application, but common ground is found in the use of severe criminal punishments and the abhorrent treatment of the female half of humanity. These things are mutual to such otherwise diverse nations as Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Sudan.
Those who seek an Islamic state (i.e. a state governed by sharia law) are known as Islamists, and the power of the Islamist is intensifying, including here in Britain. In our country, the Islamist gains his political power via his authority in personal and family matters. Islamists in Britain run a vast network of sharia family law tribunals which hand down rulings on all kinds of issues from domestic violence to child custody. Many of the men who run these bodies are known Islamists and jihadis. They believe, as do fellow Islamists across the world, in the destruction of democracy and the installation of sharia, and we are inadvertently assisting them.
As Tony Blair said recently, there is a strange reluctance to confront the Islamist movement, no matter what form it takes. Here in Britain, and across the west, not only do we fail to confront it, but we have cloaked it in a veil of legitimacy, sanctioned it, and given it oxygen, partly through our mistaken policy of multiculturalism.
On the global stage, appeasement appears to be the word of the day. The election of Saudi Arabia for example to the UN Human Rights Council last year, not only makes a mockery of the very rights that the UN is meant to uphold, but it white-washes Saudi Arabia’s crimes against humanity and gives a dangerous veneer of respectability to its sharia-based social and legal norms.
Back in Europe, our appeasement of Islamism plays out rather oddly. Rather than acknowledge this as a battle between freedom and religious tyranny, the fight against Islamism is deemed by many to represent a clash of competing freedoms; in doing so, we have redefined what freedom actually means.
The ECHR’s recent decision to uphold the French ban on the burqa has been roundly criticised as a restriction of freedom, rather than an advancement of freedom. This criticism ignores entirely the purpose of the burqa from the Islamist perspective, which is to deny and restrict the autonomy of women.
The burqa is not a symbol of freedom but of the brutal oppression of women, and compulsory veiling in Islamic states is a major method of imposing restrictions on female liberty.
Sharia tribunals and councils in the UK, which are identical in operation and philosophy to the sharia family courts of Iran, are defended by the establishment and its complaint media as a matter of free choice. To restrict sharia tribunals, they argue, would be to restrict the freedoms of Muslims. This again ignores the reality that sharia law is intended and designed to remove the freedoms of Muslims, not to develop or defend them. Sharia law does not allow unilateral divorce rights for women (even if they are suffering abuse), it does not allow a person to leave or criticise their religion (both apostasy and blasphemy carry the death penalty), and it imposes grotesque punishments for ‘crimes’ such as adultery or homosexuality; hardly therefore an advertisement for individual liberties.
The reason we have fallen in to the trap of pretending that oppressive laws are defensible in the name of freedom, is simply because we have altered and relativized the notion of freedom. We believe that the word freedom has no objective meaning or clear definition, so that one woman’s oppression is another woman’s liberty. The impact of this is to abandon Muslim women to a fate we would not accept for ourselves, and thus to abandon our common core humanity and desire for justice.
There is only one freedom – it is the ability to live one’s life as one sees fit, subject only to the freedoms of others. Words have meaning and it is vital that we are true to them. To argue that things which are purposefully designed and intended to restrict and remove freedoms should be defended in the name of freedom is the destruction of language writ large. George Orwell wrote that the insincere use of language in much political commentary can be used to “corrupt thoughts” and “is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable”. That is precisely what is happening here.
Sharia courts, burqas, and Islamism generally can never be defended in the name of liberty since their sole purpose is to limit and remove that liberty; this is the one freedom we must never have.
Written for The Freedom Association http://www.tfa.net/ July 2014