The bickering, backstabbing and pseudo-intellectual debate of student socialism.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

MCB and Gay Rights

A debate has opened up on ednet around the comments of Sir Iqbal Sacranie head of the MCB about gay marriage (sorry civil partnership) in the UK. I’ll try and reproduce one thread of the argument bellow.

If Islam condemns homosexuality -like other 'Abrahamic' religions- then surely what you would actually mean is 'Should we nominate Islam for a Homophobia award?'

CNS: Or, alternatively, you can do what I do for Christianity, Judaism, and pretty much every religion in the world, and try to take it into context. All major religious works were written over a thousand years ago, when all sort of prejudices went unchallenged. So if you follow one of these religions, you can either accept that what was relevant to a society then isn't necessarily applicable to society today, or rigidly stick to all the prejudices under the excuse that your religions says so. Seeing as most Christians in the UK seem to have had little trouble shaking off the bigotry that used to be stuck with the religions (unlike the Bible Belt lot in the US), I don't see what trouble Muslims should have.
Sorry, but I do not accept what Mr. Galloway wants us to believe that anyone who does not turn a blind eye to homophobia in the name of Islam is an Islamophobe.”

Rob: “That’s skating over a key difference between British Christianity and mainstream religion. British Christianity is more and more disconnected from the formal institutions of the church, fewer people go and in a dominantly liberal Christian country most Christians interpret their religion as a belief in "god" tied to whatever views they generally hold. The picture is different if you look at either the Church as an institution or church going Christians as a group. I do accept however that the CofE has stretched its image and utterings more and more to reach out to the majority of non-church going Christians.
You also seem to forget that there is an incredible amount of non-religious homophobia in British society generally. Main stream Islam like mainstream Christianity, Hinduism etc in the main reproduces the homophobia of society generally.
The final point (not at CNS) is that despite Tatchell's suggestion there is no automatic "unity of the oppressed." In fact the general reaction to oppression is one of powerlessness lending itself to kicking out at those worse off and trying to relate to those above in society. It is a much more typical for someone to think "I have a rough time because I'm black but at least I'm not Muslim/ I have a rough time as a Muslim but at least I'm not gay/ I have a rough time because I'm gay but at least I'm not Muslim" then for people to think "we're all oppressed lets smash up news international
It is therefore not surprising that there is homophobia within the Muslim community and that it is voiced by "community leaders" any more then it is surprising that the same is true of LGBT community in relation to Islam. It would be disappointing to see activists fall into the trap of highlighting homophobia/Islamophobia within minority communities and be distracted from the root cause of mainstream homophobia/Islamophobia.”

A:So it seems that you're suggesting that we can't protest homophobia if it’s done in the name of Islam, as it’s not homophobia because of Islam, but because of general homophobia expressed by Islamic "leaders".
It’s a nice idea theoretically but I'm sorry, it doesn't wash, you can't have it both ways - when Islamic clerics say they oppose terrorism you're the first to use this as evidence that Muslims in general denounce terrorism. And also I don't think your analysis of the psychology of oppressed groups is quite correct,
"I have a rough time because I'm black but at least I'm not Muslim/ I have a rough time as a Muslim but at least I'm not gay/ I have a rough time because I'm gay but at least I'm not Muslim"
Oppressed groups lash out at those they see oppressing them surely? I accept your point about conflict between different ethnic minority groups, but not between ethnic minority groups and the gay community, not when the homophobia is being preached from above as accepted wisdom and teaching by the people a lot of Muslims see as the only ones who are capable of giving them a voice in society, when was the last time a Muslim cleric said that being black was a disease?!?”

Rob:I wasn't saying there is no Homophobia within the Muslim community - quite the opposite. I was explaining why Muslims as an oppressed group living in a homophobic society were likely to accept homophobic ideas. The fact that this is replicated at the top of the "Muslim community" is also unsurprising.
"Oppressed groups lash out at those they see oppressing them surely? I accept your point about conflict between different ethnic minority groups, but not between ethnic minority groups and the gay community..."
You miss the point that oppression doesn't effect people as a group it effects them individually as part of society. Which is one of the key reasons that oppression tends to produce (note tends not results in) a feeling of powerlessness in the face of it. So members of the oppressed group are likely to buy into other oppressive ideas within society as a way of asserting the fact that there are people worse off.
People (even religious people) aren't empty vessels that clerics or newspapers can simply pour prejudice into. Social experience can make people susceptible to certain ideas, oppression makes elements of the Muslim community susceptible to homophobia with a religious tint just as poverty and social neglect make some w/c communities susceptible to racism etc. It doesn't make homophobia acceptable when put forwards by a cleric but it does identify the root problem as the homophobia endemic in society not as a product of one particular religion over another. “

SP: “"It doesn't make homophobia acceptable when put forwards by a cleric but it does identify the root problem as the homophobia endemic in society not as a product of one particular religion over another."
So it’s ok to protest over this kind of homophobia (as outrage! and others do) or not?
Also, is it ok to protest against Islamophobia from LGBT people or do we just recognise the root problem being the Islamophobia in society?”

Rob: “Surely the problem is the disproportionate focus on homophobia within the Muslim community something I'm not alone in thinking Outrage! has been guilty of. The fact that it is not particularly surprising (automatic unity of the oppressed etc) doesn't make it defensible. Just as the head of MCB's comments aren't defensible but do gain disproportionate amount of attention because of the depth of Islamophobia in society post 9/11.”

B: “How is it a disproportionate amount of attention when the head of the major Muslim body in this country makes comments like that. If the MCB does, as it suggests, represent most comments then I’d argue that these comments haven't received enough attention (probably due to fear of fanning the flames of Islamaphobia in society). How is the head of the MCB decided? Is it elected, nominated, appointed?
Outrage! focus on homophobia within religious communities because there it seems to be more acceptable to society then from the far right, whereas Judaism, Islam, Christianity and the rest should not be free from criticism when they promote views modern society finds unacceptable. I don't think that Outrage! focus on all Muslims but those who do hold similar views expressed by the head of the MCB (a major rep) or worse nor do they focus on all Jews but those who hold views they find unacceptable on LGBT issues or all Christians but again those groups within Christianity who oppose gay rights. That's not racism.”

Rob :
“Needless to say I haven't called Tatchell racist and have qualified every statement I have made about Outrage! public statements. I think there is a difference between personally being Islamophobic and unconsciously accepting the framework of British societies Islamophobia. Much the same as the difference between racism and racial prejudice. Look at how much of Peter Tatchell's website is directed against Islam in the middle east. Isn't it disproportionate? And to qualify again I don't think the Iranian regime is defensible (and the same with many others.) But is this not a left echo of Bush/Blair’s "clash of civilisations" gibberish? After all there are just as many other worthy targets without so much as a mention. Tatchell has bought into some of the "humanitarian war" justifications of intervention in the middle east even while rejecting the legitimacy of the Iraq war itself. The focus on Muslim communities at home follows on from this. Again not denying the reality of homophobia within the Muslim community or justifying it through religious exceptionalism as you seem to imply. However the fact remains that the majority of homophobic attacks/incidents are by white men etc etc.”

A Marxist analysis of oppression can be found here by a Mr T. Cliff


At 8:12 PM, Blogger El Tom said...

that said, Tatchell is the same man who stormed a pulpit in a (catholic, I believe?) church to protest against homophobia? surely from that we can extrapolate that he is against homophobia generally?

also remember that one could posit that the real reason homophobia is disproportionately criticised in mainstream media is not that it is based on islamaphobia, but because it is based on the political concerns held, in the mostly, by 'the west' and the progressive forces therein; the whole 'decents' vs 'stoppers' debate. This is of genuine interest to many in the media who are left-wing, 'liberal' or 'ex-left' (and indeed some straight out racists who claim to be-e.g. Melanie Phillips).

This concern is: can we ally with those who are disproportionately socially oppressed ( the muslim community) if they hold fundamentally regressive views?

Because of the media, and a subsequent attempted hijacking by the extreme right, this has become a real issue, something that has changed that groups like your own are fighting against desparately and will invevitably fail.

It is impossible in such a climate to focus on homophobia in christianity, because 'christians' are not any more allies of the left, the real matter of concern, than they are of the right.

However, in muslims, the left sees potential supporters. these people come from a world where faith is more important, and all faith carries regressive overtones; hence, it is a curious alliance for the left to become involved in.

I think the real cause of this debate is curiousity as to the attitudes of the left. this has been, to some degree, hijacked by the right.

There is also a side argument about integration. many feel, wrongly or rightly, that muslim immigrants have failed to liberalise in a western setting in the way that jews, christians and immigrant groups who came in large numbers a longer time ago, such as a large part of the afro-carribean community have done. Obviously this view could be cast as racist... but if the evidence was around to back up such claims, which I do not really know enough, it wuold simply be true.

similarly, it may be true for example that lgbt people are more islamophobic, by statistics. but in the same we, we a) don't know, and b)can't really use this to apply to individual cases.

my own view is that what it really stems down to is not realy about the reason for regressive beliefs (the patent), but more about the latent aspects of what is going on.

in short, we must forget where it is coming from, and think about where it is going to; only in this way can we truely evaluate the intent of those involved in progressive struggle.

If I was brought up a Nazi, I would likely be caused to act as one. However, this does not make Nazism in my case acceptable. Homophobic attitudes, arer, in the same way as Nazism, completely, and , incorrect. same goes for anti-semitism (or indeed, islamophobia).

I couldn't give a monkeys if people are homophobic because they mimic wider society in their reaction to injustice. this does not provide an excuse, full stop. nor does it mean that these attitudes should escape the gaze of the media, although I shall agree that the media is disproportionately focused on Islam. this is because EITHER a)the press is racist (most of it is!), for the mail to call muslims homophobic is a kettle blackness issue, or b)The press is interested in the unprecedented move by part of the left, of being intersted in muslims.

I'm afraid all this extrapolates to Iraq, and is the reason why, for some time, I have not been able to involve myself with StWC.

The punishment that unions, democrats and socialists take in Iraq, from islamists in 'the resistance', is unnaceptable, and leads me to one conclusion: these people are not the resistance, because they themselves are oppressors, and their oppression is just as bad as a US bomb through the roof. in fact, it is often a grenade through the window.

oppression is not a legitimate, or resistant, reaction to oppression. the only resistance to oppression is human liberation. very much like homophobia or antisemitism not being an acceptable response to islamaphobia.

yes, the Americans are a bigger threat. But I am talking here about a threat to people in Iraq, the country under occupation. of course this also extends to Iran and the wider middle east.

The americans are only a bigger threat because they have more resources. Their intent is, in principle, no worse (in fact, liberal capitalism, if allowed to be developed, is probably better!) than islamism of the types seen in Iraq. in moral terms, they are equivalent. in material terms, they are not. It must also be accepted that this concentrates on why what is happening is happening (your position), not how it should change (the AWL position)(probably also the outrage one). Essentially, this fails to be teleological. It is incomplete Marxism. Surely socialism should be about countering threats, providing solutions, not taking obvious reactions to them (like voting against ethical investment, a la Revo!) ;o)

furthermore, because this is a materialist rather than ethical/deontological conception, most people simply won't agree with the thinking. It is not the best way to win broad support against the war. surely it is worth dishonesty and political sacrifice to build such support? I wonder what Lenin would say.

I don't think, therefore, that the SWP apparatchiki/L.A.W./MAB/MCB/WTF even wanted the broad support that they claim, knowing that the appeal of StWC would wane... so it must be one of... 1)a recruiting attempt 2)a lame attempt at 'revolutionary defeatism' 3)a philosophical/political miscalculation: mismatch of theory with praxis. 4)any or all of the above.

Hence, I'm off to start an anti-war, anti-islamist, anti-bigotry presure group. actually, no, lets do something positive.

I'll call it democratic socialism...

sorry this has become war related, but i believe there to be uniform moral equivalence.

by the way, why do you make your name available, but refer to yourself in the third person? one day when I actually get a night off, you should come for a pint, possibly unsurrounded by hacks. ;o)

but first you should check out the quotes at the bottom of my blog. there's some crackers, you'll love 'em.

sorry for wating your time comrade, but it's either this or revision...


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