Worker Communists as liberals!

Nick Cohen has written an appreciation of Maryam Namazie of the Worker-Communist Party of Iran for today’s Observer newspaper (also at his site here). This wouldn’t be so bad if Cohen actually made it clear, but if you read the article you’ll notice he doesn’t mention the organisation at all! This is the same Nick Cohen who has criticised the Stop the War group for being a front for the Socialist Workers’ Party, but at least they don’t make a secret of their connections.

Cohen, however, presents her as a liberal, which is true only if you exclude only those who believe that religion and politics should be connected in some way from being called liberal:

She ought to be a liberal poster girl. Her life has been that of a feminist militant who fights the oppression of women wherever she finds it. She was born in Tehran, but had to flee with her family when the Iranian revolution brought the mullahs to power. After graduating in America, she went to work with the poor in the Sudan. When the Islamists seized control, she established an underground human rights network. Her cover was blown and she had to run once again. She’s been a full-time campaigner for the rights of the Iranian diaspora, helping refugees across the world and banging on to anyone who will listen about the vileness of its treatment of women.

Of course, women’s rights abruptly cease whenever the rights involved are religious rights. In the WPI Briefing no. 143, Namazie insisted that Shabina Begum’s rights had been breached “but not because she has been banned from wearing the jilbab to school … [but] because the British government has failed to intervene to compel her to attend school for the past several years”. Funny definition of freedom, that, although it’s one with which Cohen and his ilk might sympathise.

Cohen also praises Namazie for using “her description of the obsessiveness of theocracy” as her “best rhetorical weapon”. “The law in Iran not only allows women to be stoned, she says,” as if it doesn’t allow men to be stoned as well in given circumstances, “but it specifies the size of the stones to be used; they mustn’t be too small in case it takes too long to kill her and the mob gets bored; but mustn’t be too big either, in case she is dispatched immediately and the mob is denied the sado-sexual pleasure of seeing her suffer”. Never mind the fact that Islamic adultery laws make it all but impossible to get to the stage of stoning someone (the Iranian version may reduce this somewhat, however); the law specifies that the stones be of moderate size so that the stoning has the desired effect. There are similar rules concerning the nooses used to hang people and the appropriate length, so that the victim, for want of a better word, is neither strangled nor beheaded.

Along with fellow Worker-Commie Homa Arjomand, Namazie was involved in the Canadian anti-arbitration campaign:

It was the decision of broad-minded politicians in Ottawa to allow Sharia courts in Canada which did it for her. They said if they were not established, the Muslim minority would be marginalised and to say otherwise was racism pure and simple.

After years of hearing this postmodern twaddle, Namazie flipped. Why was it, she asked, that supposed liberals always give ‘precedence to cultural and religious norms, however reactionary, over the human being and her rights’? Why was it that they always pretended that other cultures were sealed boxes without conflicts of their own and took ‘the most reactionary segment of that community’ as representative of the belief and culture of the whole.

Never mind the fact that the law under which arbitration was to be implemented had already been in force for years, was already in use by other communities (some of whose religious laws give women less rights than the Shari’ah does) and had nothing to do with criminal law. There were to be no stonings in Ontario! To refuse to grant Muslims equality under the law may not be racism, but it’s unjustified discrimination particularly when the reasons are invalid, either because they are insincere (such as the dhimmi-taunting from Spencer and the gang) or because they apply more to the people already using the system.

Cohen then goes off on a tangent about “cultural relativism”, first quoting Namazie:

‘It promotes tolerance and respect for so-called minority opinions and beliefs, rather than respect for human beings. Human beings are worthy of the highest respect, but not all opinions and beliefs are worthy of respect and tolerance. There are some who believe in fascism, white supremacy, the inferiority of women. Must they be respected?’

There are some people who believe that people should be deprived of the businesses and farms they have worked for generations and that the kulaks must be eliminated. Should these views be respected?

Cohen also cites one Richard J Evans, professor of modern history at Cambridge, who “pointed out in Defence of History that if you take the relativist position to its conclusion and believe there’s no such thing as truth and all cultures are equally valid, you have no weapons to fight the Holocaust denier or Ku Klux Klansmen”. In fact, Holocaust deniers are simply liars, and they need only be refuted with facts, whille the Klan (at least those of the past) were a paramilitary death squad who were fought by force and by law (and by infiltration, notably by someone who passed on their silly rituals to publishers who then used them as the basis for children’s literature, as described in Freakonomics). They cannot in any way be compared to an established religion which is not a male supremacy cult, but which women as well as men embrace and defend.

Cohen’s article is appallingly dishonest and hypocritical. Cohen regularly attacks people of a secular persuasion who co-operate with those of religion; in this case, he praises the National Secular Society for cosying up to someone with a barely-hidden agenda: a communist take-over of Iran. Communists don’t take over a country without shedding an awful lot of blood both in the process and afterwards. Maryam Namazie is not a liberal, and people who admire her “championing of women’s rights” should be aware of this, and not make her out to be any less an “enemy of freedom” than the Socialist Workers or other far-left activists.

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