panel discussion entitled:Islam is incompatible with Western Liberalism Hosted by Oxford Union
Feb 5th, 09.
Adapted from the Speech of Homa Arjomand delivered at panel discussion entitled: “Islam is incompatible with Western Liberalism”, hosted by Oxford Union, England,
I will start with practical aspect of Islam to prove Islam is incompatible with the norm and values of the liberal democracy and leave out the theory part. Since there are countless scholars sitting on benches of universities, in on-going meetings, and conferences globally working on that part. For this purpose, I will focus on reactionary rules of Islam on individuals, in particular children and women. I will then discuss the limitation and restrains that this religion put on freethinkers and seekers of freedom of expression to prove that liberation or moderation in Islam is nothing but a utopia. In Islam individuals have no rights or dignity, Islam identifies people and individuals by their religion: Non-Muslim and Muslim. This is a concept that cannot fit to any of modern definitions of citizenship. No civil society can function based on such defining identity. Dividing the society based on such clear-cut identity ultimately creates a society based on discrimination or ghettos. The legal aspect of such a division is beyond comprehension. Identifying groups of people or a country by their religion by default would mean denial of individual’s right and dignity, to place collective “minority rights” above individual rights”. Women in Islam are degraded totally as individuals and are treated as slaves. Their position in society is worse than their position in family settings. They are considered either as the daughter of a male, or a wife of a male. She would need that male’s permission to travel, to work, to rent a place and study; without that permission she is denied all her rights as a human being. She is fully responsible to honour her family by keeping her virginity or else she deserves death by honour killing. She must be submissive and allow the male of the family, father, brother, uncle, or grandfather, to find her a husband. In some cases when they cannot find a husband for the oldest daughter, she will be forced to accept a temporary marriage contract (Sigheh), as short as one hour. Formation of a Haramsara: keeping as many wives as possible in one place, or what is now known as Polygamy which is marriage of one man with more than one woman. Child bride as young as 9 years to men as old as her grandfather, are all proofs that Islam is incompatible with the Western liberation. Some might argue this is not Islam. These are done by way of culture. This can be a moderate argument. But my question is who is going to separate these? Where is the line? The ones who are strong believers of Islam practice this culture. Even in heart of England under the name of freedom of religion, in so-called Muslim communities’ women and girls are being physically abused, forced to marry, deprived of their individual rights. I wonder if the ones who believe Islam is compatible with modern civilization can distinguish the difference between civil and criminal matters when a so-called Islamic husband beats his wife or daughter. Do you consider this act as a crime or a civil matter? How about child-marriage? Do you consider it as a crime or religious obligation of a religious father? How about forcing a child to have Hijab and depriving girls of interacting freely with others and enjoying sports, music and dance? Do you consider it as negligence and child abuse or is it a family matter and freedom of practicing their minority rights, their religion? In Islam, freethinking is a sin deserving of punishment. All religions are such, but most religions have been restrained by freethinking and freedom-loving humanity over hundreds of years. Islam was never restrained. Islam as a political movement can work as a killing machine without any remorse and this is what humanity has experienced throughout history and still suffers. Islam as a religion cannot be compatible with modernism. Islam cannot tolerate any criticism; and its critics will face death by Fatwa like Salman Rushdie, or will be assassinated in public so that others will learn their lesson like Van Gogh. Announcing Holly War against people who oppose Islamic views is another reason for Islam to stay incompatible to western values and liberation. Physical punishment is promoted throughout all its verses of Koran. It applies to everyone: to the people who convert to other religions, to the ones who criticize Allah or Mohammed, to disobedient women, to women who are involved in adultery. The list goes on and on. I question the ones who believe Islam is compatible to the Western civilization. Please for a moment picture women, children, gays, and lesbians being hung on cranes for just practicing their private individual civil rights. Would you still say Islam is compatible with Western values? On the question of liberation or moderation of Islam, I must say no theology has ever been liberated. Theology is the antithesis of liberation, regardless of whether it is Christianity, Buddhism or Islamic. It is like saying liberating slavery or liberating fascism. Slavery needed to be demolished so that universal rights of all individuals could be gained. The influential leaders of the Abolition Movement of slavery never demanded reform in slavery, never attempted to moderate slavery! Instead, they fought to demolish slavery totally and indeed that was the only way to get liberated from slavery. Centuries ago Christianity was defeated in a great confrontation as you all know; Europe was the centre of the struggle against it. Intellectual giants stood up to the powerful church, they criticized superstition scientifically and philosophically and managed to educate all members of society. As the result Christianity was pushed back to its right place but never liberated, in fact Religion became private matter of individuals. Once religion was separated from state, humanity slowly but surely became immune of religious aggression and its dogmatism.
But Islam has never been challenged. There has not been a powerful political and philosophical anti-Islamic movement that could be turned into a historical achievement. Instead, the Western governments lifted it during the cold war in confrontation with the Soviet Union. Taliban were armed to their teeth and unleashed to do all they can against this so-call enemy of humanity, so Islam rose as a political movement and had ambition for political power. It recruited its Manpower (army of God) through Islamization and of course Koran has enough material to serve this purpose. All religious dogma, and ceremonies, all forms of religious activities that were incompatible with people’s civil rights and liberties once more under the flag of Sharia law were raised. It gave every right to its true practitioners to impose the oppressive rules of Islam on people in a brutal manner be it throwing acid on unveiling women, or beheading sex workers after raping them, to call for Fatwa against people who challenge Islamic views. Execution, dismembering (chopping hands and taking eyes out), death by stoning, bloodshed and even assault on children were ruled as a punishment of a crime in relation to blasphemy and rubbery. With the rise of political Islam, the general outlook of society has shifted drastically not only in the regions run by Islamic state but also on the global scale. Just because the leaders of this political move want their share, they want recognition. They want more power not only in Iran, Palestine, and Afghanistan. They want their share in the heart of the West too. Islamists would not hesitate to do anything in order to push back its oppositions and gain recognition by the governments in the West. To them recognition from the Western governments can be achieved through terrorizing people by implanting bombs in the busiest streets, cinemas, subway stations, hospitals, and schools and also by creating a parallel power structure “Sharia Court” within the surrounding societies. No doubt humanity suffered a great deal and will feel the pain for many years to come but one cannot say what is happening today is a ‘Clash of Civilization’.
The courses of political events in various countries during and after the Cold War from Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Rwanda, Somalia, and the Soviet states can only be evaluated as a power struggle between two forces. One being the force for secularism, and the other the force of political Islam, not the clash of civilization as Huntington suggests.
In regard to the question about the battle against Islam and religion, that is being raised, in Iran and its comparison with the European struggle against religion…
I must emphasize, what has happened in Iran under the Sharia law, from enforcing sexual apartheid to mass execution, has built a constant confrontation between Islam and people. What we are witnessing in Iran today is a growing movement against Islam, in particular political Islam. People witness the direct implementation of Islam on their lives. People are well aware that what really happened in Iran, Afghanistan, Algeria, and Nigeria was the rule of true Islam. People in Iran do not believe in moderating Islam. They are uprising against the roles of Allah. In various cities and provinces of Iran, veils which are the symbol and flag of Islam and its holly books, were put to fire. People have been resisting Hijab and some faced harsh punishments as the result, 100 slashes in public and long-term imprisonment, some lost their lives. All these daily struggles of enlightenment against Islam show the significant struggle for De-Islamisation. I strongly believe people in Iran soon will liberate themselves from Islam. And of course, some are rushing to save Islam from falling, the notion of moderating or Liberating Islam rose when people put the veils on fire, when people were resisting God’s rules and regulation.
Khatemi and Refsanjani are both well known as leaders of political Islam, both became presidents of the Islamic state in Iran. During their presidency they became the cause of all inhuman attacks against humanity. When they saw veils on fire at demonstrations and riots, they too rushed to save Islam, and over one night they became reformists and defenders of the moderation of Islam.
The advocator of these notions claim: what takes place under the name of Islam has nothing to do with Islam but is the result of misinterpretations of the Koran. I believe the Advocators of Moderating Islam are trying to pave the way for oppressive and historically backward slavery culture, to continue its existence. People are well aware that Islam so as other religions have no place in modern society. The ones who insist that Islam can be modernized are the ones who want to maintain their religion and its survival. Slavery could never become modernized. One can argue that if Islam allows a woman to go to school with a knee-length skirt or to become a judge or a member of parliament as long as she does not speak of her sexuality then Islam is modern. This, of course is their view of liberation, which is a century away of what I call liberation. To make my point clear Islam or any other religion cannot be forced upon people. The society, just like any other form of life is ever evolving and changing in order to survive. Any ideology that is put forth to restrict that evolution cannot work as it goes against the very nature of existence. In response of the question of ‘would Islamic teaching and Sharia law be tolerated in a liberal society?’ I would like to draw your attention to the recent victory in Canada against Sharia Court and faith based arbitration. The movement of secularism under the banner of “One Law for All”, rose in confrontation against Sharia Court and managed to gain separation of religion from the justice system, no more faith-based arbitration. I am certain that no Sharia law or any religious laws and regulations will not be tolerated any more, not in our modern society. The movement of secularism has over 100 years of history. This is a movement for separation of religion from state. This movement is for the universal rights of women and children. It is for “One Law for all” and that is progressive and modern law. It is for one system of education, one system of court. This movement aims to bring about the civil rights and equality of all. The fact that people demonstrated before the Canadian embassies in England, France, Germany, Netherlands, Holland and Sweden, and chanted “no to Sharia Court, no to faith based arbitration”, proves that Sharia law and regulation will not be tolerated. This Victory in Canada can only be described as a conscious voice of people who do not want the interference of religion in state, simply because they are well aware of religious aggression, people would not allow history to repeat itself. No, they are not going back to the medieval age.