Whilst I realise that a certain Mr Pat Condell hardly requires defending from me, I am the nosey and interfering type (apparently) so I insist on adding my tuppence worth nonetheless.
Now I know that the “so-and-so follows so-and-so on Twitter who once retweeted so-and-so who once agreed with so-and-so and therefore they’re all bigots” brigade will label me a fellow racist of Condell’s, but they shouldn’t bother. I cottoned on to that dirty little game a long ago and I refuse to play it. I don’t agree with every word Condell says, but amazingly that doesn’t stop me recognising that he has raised a solid point here, and that calling him a racist for doing so is grossly dishonest, and yet another attempt to silence criticism of anything related to Islam or Islamism.
Anyway, on with the story.
Earlier this week, PZ Myers offered a rather disingenuous analysis of Pat Condell’s latest video “The Curse of Progressive Feminism”. He began by calling Pat a “racist cretin”, thereby devaluing the once-powerful word racist even further than it already has been by people like him.
Much of the post is a misrepresentation and an evasion of the points Condell actually raised.
Here is the first point of many:
Condell: ”progressive” feminists who confidently challenge everyday sexism but who are struck deaf and dumb by Islamic misogyny…they turn a blind eye to religiously endorsed wife-beating, forced marriage, honour killing, genital mutilation, organised rape gangs, sharia courts that treat women as less than fully human, and little girls forced to dress like nuns”.
Myers: “I really don’t know of any feminists who think anything on that list is at all acceptable. Who are these mysterious feminists who have no problem with honor killing or rape gangs?”
Pat didn’t quite say that though, did he? At no point did Condell state that “progressive western feminists” have “no problem” with the horrors listed above, but that the majority of them remain silent and do absolutely nothing about it. Simultaneously, all over Twitter you will find campaigns to stop Tesco/Asda/Whoever from stocking magazines that might contain a picture of a woman’s breasts.
Condell’s question is a good one, and I wouldn’t mind an answer either – where are all those feminists on matters concerning Islam?
Let me tell you from vast experience, if you ask your average politically active feminist whether she condemns domestic violence, forced marriage, genital mutilation or any of the rest of it, she will insist that she does – and then she will do precisely zero.
Even worse than that is the demonization of those of us who do. I have personally sat through many meetings of “feminists” who spend endless hours agonizing about Page 3, and I have myself been reprimanded by those very same “feminists” for raising the issue of FGM. “We don’t want to alienate the Somali community” I’ve been told. The maiming of Somali girls doesn’t seem to feature on their radar. By “Somali community” who they actually mean are Somali patriarchs who (it seems) should be able to rule over their women-folk and mutilate them at will. Anything else would be culturally insensitive and stir up division (that’s a big favourite – it never seems to occur to them that FGM itself may be stirring up division).
On another occasion, I sat with a “women’s forum”, a body specifically set up to promote an “inclusive” feminism. Having suggested that the burqa, and what it respresents (“the covering of women prevents rape”), might not be an entirely positive step forward; I was told that the burqa “must be looked at in a cultural context” and to shut up about it. The obligatory racist implication wasn’t far behind when I was asked, quite sternly, whether I condemned thongs as well. I’m still not sure quite what the two things have in common but I had grown too weary to argue.
In April, the BBC screened a Panorama episode featuring an undercover reporter who attended the Islamic Sharia Council in east London and told a senior cleric there, Suhaib Hasan, that her husband had been violent towards her. Hasan was quick to ask the reporter just what she had done to deserve such treatment. He suggested that she ask her husband “is it because of my cooking? Because I see my friends?”. He then advised that she “correct” herself in accordance with his response.
You might expect feminist organisations the length and breadth of Britain to immediately launch a plethora of campaigns and demand that the Government take firm action against such vile and dangerous misogyny. But no, no they didn’t.
I wrote to the Campaign Against Domestic Violence to ask them when I could expect the launch of their crusade to end sharia-approved domestic violence. They didn’t answer. “They’re probably too busy with the campaign” I thought, so I went to their website to check. Nothing there either.
Around the same time, pictures of TV chef Nigella Lawson with her husband’s hand on her throat were splashed all over the press. The high-profile domestic violence campaign group Refuge issued a statement on this, part of which read: “But the fact is, if a woman lives in a state of fear, changing her behaviour to avoid making her partner angry, she is being abused. ”It also stated “Domestic violence is a serious crime. It has no place in our so-called civilised society.”
Of course I agree with every word, but there was no statement from Refuge following the Panorama broadcast, nor has there been one on sharia law generally. This is despite the fact that sharia law allows men to beat their wives (provided they leave no marks of course).
When Maryam Namazie and I debated Ahmaddiyya Muslims at UCL in 2011, part of the debate centred around domestic violence. There was no dispute from the other side about whether a man may hit his wife, but how hard. This is sharia law; but do a search for sharia on the website of Refuge and you’ll find zero results.
Similarly, Women’s Aid, another otherwise admirable organisation that fights domestic violence, has issued no statement, launched no campaign, and the only mentions of sharia on their website are on their forum (3 examples) which are written by users, not the campaign group itself.
The Fawcett Society, “working for women’s rights since 1866”, has zero to say about sharia either – search their site for yourself.
This is not limited to feminist organisations either. Other groups, and mainstream parties, are completely silent on the misogyny (and the homophobia) of Islamists. When was the last time Labour, or the Lib Dems, condemned sharia-based sexism and brutality? They haven’t. They let it carry on with absolute impunity while condemning domestic violence elsewhere. None of the main parties had anything to say about Mr Hasan’s comments on Panorama either.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, was forced to issue a statement on Nigella Lawson saying he condemned “all forms of domestic violence”. He did so after he was criticised for his reply on a radio show when asked what he would have done if he had seen the incident involving Lawson and her husband; he answered “When you see a couple having an argument…most people, you know, just assume that the couple will resolve it themselves. If of course something descends into outright violence then that’s something different”.
Who jumped to criticise Clegg? Yvette Cooper of the Labour Party. She said “Nick Clegg revealed how little he understands violence against women this morning. Far too often violence against women is dismissed as fleeting or unimportant. Too often public institutions don’t take it seriously enough. Domestic violence is still a hidden crime, and victims suffer or are ignored as a result”. Get that?“Victims suffer or are ignored”. Now, see if you can find Yvette Cooper speaking out against the Islamic Sharia Council. I’ve tried. I couldn’t.
In his post, Myers later says: “I do see plenty of conservative racist dorks turning a blind eye to the fact that the majority of the victims of Islamic misogyny are Muslim women”.
False again. Condell did not turn a blind eye to this at all. He clearly addresses the fact that women in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia “who get beaten every day, will continue to be beaten and treated as a piece of property, as will their daughters and granddaughters”. I think Condell does acknowledge that Muslim women are the ones who suffer, it is Myers who doesn’t. He added “You know that backward, ugly attitude? Islam didn’t invent it. We’ve got plenty of it to go around in the western world as well”.
This is a gross insult to every single suffering woman in every single Islamic state on the planet.
Yes, there is misogyny and violence against women in the west but to compare it to what women face in Islamic states demonstrates total ignorance, and is a crass belittlement of the true horror of life for females under sharia law. I wonder if Mr Myers has ever tried to help a woman escape from Saudi Arabia, or find a safe place in Pakistan. I’m guessing he hasn’t, but I have, and I can tell you it is nothing short of a nightmare. I wonder if he has ever had a phone-call from a frightened girl escaping a forced marriage but who can’t turn to a woman’s shelter because they might turn her over to her father. I’m guessing he hasn’t, but I have.
When women in west face violence, the law – though imperfect – tends to be on their side. Try finding a safe house in Pakistan or Saudi, or a police station women can turn to without the risk of being handed over to their families, or punished for running away. They often have absolutely nowhere to turn and to compare their plight to western sexism is nothing short of disgusting; not to mention a kick in the teeth for the brave women across the Islamic world who risk their lives every day fighting for the basic rights and freedoms that most western women take for granted.
Condell is absolutely right about this. Most “western progressive feminists” do ignore misogyny carried out in the name of Islam (in the case of sharia), or any misogynist practice rightly or wrongly associated with Islam.
I see it over and over again.
I don’t know what world PZ Myers lives in, but he needs to spend more time with some “progressive western feminists” and see exactly what the majority of them are thinking. They’re not thinking about Islam, that much I can promise him.
Pat Condell, The Curse of Progressive Feminism: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GbmeQtGMkUU
PZ Myers on Pat Condell: http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/09/23/feminism-is-not-an-excuse-for-your-racism-pat-condell/
Nick Clegg on domestic violence: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/jun/20/nick-clegg-domestic-violence-saatchi
Panorama – Secrets of Britain’s Sharia Councils: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XOaJ_y8piNE
Anne Marie Waters and Maryam Namazie at UCL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTYrjFE6Rcg