This is a cross-post from Howie’s Corner
As an atheist I think the Bible should be re-written to contain just one sentence:
In the beginning Man created God in his image.
That’s it. The rest is simply a combination of superstitions from the minds of early humans seeking a way to explain a world that they couldn’t scientifically understand which led to a formalisation of belief systems utilised to control people’s minds and introduce a social cohesion. Of course that’s oversimplifying the matter, but for the purposes of this post it serves to give notice that I have no belief in any religion or theology.
Growing up in the 1970s religion was taking a “back seat” but some still sought to impose their beliefs on the rest of us. The Festival of Light led by Mary Whitehouse comes to mind. Two particular incidents have stuck in my mind over the years. The protests over the now classic Monty Python film the Life of Brian and the prosecution of Gay News over some dreadful poem (I’m no fan of poetry either it has to be said) for blasphemy.
It wasn’t until the burning of Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses that I recall either religion or in particular Islam of being of any matter in the general way of politics. Until then, like many other people, I probably saw Islam as “just” the religion of Arabs and hadn’t given it much thought.
However one thing I am firmly in favour of is free speech and oppose censorship vociferously. A group of leftists had planned to publish an advert condemning the death threats against Rushdie and I sent off my cheque to sign the statement in good faith. It was returned shortly afterwards with a covering letter sating that they had decided not to go ahead with the advert as it might be construed as racist.
How exactly supporting a writer from an ethnic minority against threats from within the Muslim community is racist escapes me. The left showed a cowardice from which they have never recovered.
Last night Andy Newman the editor of Socialist Unity published a bizarre article attacking secular activist Anne Marie Waters who he (quite erroneously) describes as an anti-Islam extremist. Mr Newman writes:
I was recently horrified to discover that the anti-Islam extremist, Anne Marie Waters is considered one of the front-runners to be Labour’s candidate for Brighton Pavilion, for the next general election. Indeed, because alongside her bigoted anti-religious views she is also a pro-NHS campaigner, there is a danger that the left and some unions may support her for the Labour candidacy…..
He then attacks the organisation to which she belongs:
...the views of the “One Law for All” campaign are dangerous in a society experiencing a rising tide of Islamophobia and intolerance – giving a cod-leftist gloss to the rantings of the ‘counter-Jihad’ movement and the street thugs of the EDL – but that someone who defines their main political priority as being an “anti-Sharia” campaigner and promotes extremist intolerance against not only Islam but all religions, and who also uses dog whistle comments opposing immigration, is a very unsuitable person to be a Labour candidate for parliament.
Really comrade? Lets see what she actually has to say for herself:
Sharia Councils and Muslim Arbitration Tribunals are discriminatory, particularly against women and children, and in violation of universal human rights.
Proponents argue that the implementation of Sharia is justified when limited to civil matters, such as child custody, divorce and inheritance. In fact, it is civil matters that are one of the main cornerstones of the subjugation of and discrimination against women and children. Under Sharia law a woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man’s; a woman’s marriage contract is between her male guardian and her husband. A man can have four wives and divorce his wife by simple repudiation, whereas a woman must give reasons, some of which are extremely difficult to prove. Child custody reverts to the father at a preset age, even if the father is abusive; women who remarry lose custody of their children; and sons are entitled to inherit twice the share of daughters.
Proponents argue that the right to be governed by Sharia law is necessary to defend minority rights. Having the right to religion or atheism, however, is not the same as having the ‘right’ to be governed by religious laws. This is merely a prescription for discrimination, inequality and culturally relative rights. Rather than defending rights, it discriminates and sets up different and separate systems, standards and norms for ‘different’ people. It reinforces the fragmentation of society, and leaves large numbers of people, particularly women and children, at the mercy of elders and imams. It increases marginalisation and the further segregation of immigrant communities. It ensures that immigrants and new arrivals remain forever minorities and never equal citizens.
Rights, justice, inclusion, equality and respect are for people, not beliefs. In a civil society, people must have full citizenship rights and equality under the law. Clearly, Sharia law contravenes fundamental human rights. In order to safeguard the rights and freedoms of all those living in Britain, there must be one secular law for all and no Sharia.
Sounds perfectly reasonable to me.
Ms Waters is also active in the National Secular Society, hardly “extreme” in any shape or form.
Socialist Unity ‘s politics get weirder as the “discussion” develops. I put discussion in inverted commas as they censor so many contributions, twisting the debate in their favour. For some reason their supporters want to turn the debate about Sharia into one about Jewish laws:
Anne Marie Waters talking up a mythical foreign ‘Other’ and endowing it with everything she dislikes, and Howard Fuller’s hoary old ‘universal in theory, selective in practice’ interpretation of ‘secularism’ (where are the discussions of the dupatta and the sheitel? Where is the condemnation of gittin?).
Anyone who does spend their time campaigning against “sharia” is part of the problem. Proponents of Sharia law aren’t the problem….
Actually Socialist Unity is “part of the problem”, providing a “progressive” front for conservative reactionaries who don’t believe in rights for women, gays, Jews or anyone else.
But what else would you expect from cheerleaders for George Galloway?
Sarah adds I am banned from Socialist Unity, but did try to comment in response to an attack on Harry’s Place in the comments. I pointed out, for example, that I did in fact touch on parallels with Jewish courts in my post on Panorama. I agree with Howie that is absurd to describe Anne Marie Waters as an anti-Muslim extremist and, as Shiraz Socialist reports, Andy Newman misrepresents her views on immigration. He also fails to mention that she criticises Christian fundamentalists as well as Muslim ones. On the other hand, some of the points she raises later in the short video could be said to treat Islam as monolithic, when in fact some Muslims also have concerns about these courts, or about aspects of their practice. Concerns Andy Newman completely fails to engage with.