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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019) and AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021).

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Chris Hallquist on what you can say about Islam

Over here, where he refers to (and quotes from) my discussion of the issue in Freedom of Religion and the Secular State. In case the context is not clear, in the quote concerned I'm worrying about accusations of Islamophobia, and the way these are made more difficult to reject when far-right organisations co-opt arguments that actually have merit. So here's another quote from the book to think about:

At the same time, I do not doubt that some dislike of Islam, or impatience with Muslims and their spiritual leaders, has a quasi-racist character, grounded in parochialism and xenophobia, and perhaps a dislike of Arabs in particular. It is not coincidental that much of the public criticism of Islam as a religion, and of Muslims and their practices, emanates from European political parties and associated groups found on the extreme right, such as the Front National in France and the British National Party (BNP) in the UK. These organizations typically promote an intense, even bigoted nationalism — combined with what they portray as a defense of Christian traditions and values, and an endangered "Christian identity." They thrive on a fear of strange cultures and a fear of change — fears that are somewhat understandable in a new century overshadowed by the massive terrorist acts carried out in the name of Islam on September 11, 2001.

An obvious problem for critics of Islam who do not share the values of the European extreme right is that they may find themselves painted with the same brush. Conversely, extreme-right critics of Islam have gained a degree of respectability by co-opting issues and adopting stances that many politicians and members of the public find compelling. In making this point, José Pedro Zúquete refers to arguments about the situation of women within Islam:

"When the situation of women in Islam is discussed, the European extreme right puts forward arguments that, in a not-so-distant past, were considered to be positions exclusive to progressive and feminist groups in the West. The extreme right has been visibly active in its rejection of several cultural practices associated with Islam — ranging from the use of the headscarf and forced marriages, to honour-killings and female genital mutilation — by using arguments similar to those employed by mainstream groups that denounce inequalities and discrimination against women."

Indeed, as Zúquete details, extreme-right groups have also co-opted such notions as secularism and animal rights, in their campaign against what they see as an Islamic threat to European and Christian identities.

So, leading in to the quote on Chris Hallquist's blog, there's the whole question of accusations of Islamophobia being used to shut up people who have genuine criticisms of Islam and related cultures, the problem of the European extreme right opportunistically using arguments that may sometimes even have merit, and what do you actually do if you have criticisms of these kinds, but are not from the extreme right at all?


David Evans said...

We have to stick to our guns. Otherwise we could be in the ridiculous position of being afraid to oppose honor killings and female genital mutilations because the far right also opposes them.

We have been here before. In some quarters it's not possible to oppose any action by Israel, or by Jewish religious extremists, without being labelled a fascist.

The Uncredible Hallq said...

Thanks for the link, Russell!

GTChristie said...

David Evans has it right.

Also it's good to keep in mind that whatever "Islam" is, as a religion, as an ideology it's totalitarian.

Lee said...

Try arguing for the few things Muslim society gets right. Down go the brushes, up come the pitchforks.

Jon Jermey said...

If you have valid criticisms, you have valid criticisms. Why should it matter whether you are on the left, on the right or in the middle -- bearing in mind that these are all relative to the position of the commentator anyway? Much of the European 'right' would be regarded as part of the US 'left', and vice versa.