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  • Technorati: graph / links

    Standing up for liberal values


    by Sunny on 14th August, 2010 at 4:12 pm    

    A few weeks ago I was invited to a discussion by the global warming denialists Institute of Ideas. The subject of the Burqa came up. On the panel was Jo Phillips who said she was ‘somewhat libertarian’ on the issue and then proceeded to completely contradict herself.

    She said she found it annoying that many liberals were unwilling to ‘assert their values’ and tell these women who wear the Burqa that they should follow western values. This is a standard decent-left / neo-con talking point: in the name of forcing people to do what they like, they claim that lefties or liberals are afraid to stand up for western values.

    This kind of tripe is repeated all the time by Martin Amis, Chris Hitchens, Nick Cohen etc. I pointed out that if she actually believed in liberal values or was even vaguely libertarian she would stand up for the right for people to wear what they want. Unsurprisingly - the audience overwhelmingly sided with me (the irony is that the same Jo Phillips later said, when talking about global warming, that people should be allowed to live how they want to and carry on polluting if they wished).

    I’m reminded of this when reading about Obama’s strident defence of the Ground Zero Mosque. Obama doesn’t just call it a constitutional issue - he makes it (rightly) an issue about American character and way of life:

    This is America. And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country and that they will not be treated differently by their government is essential to who we are. The writ of the Founders must endure.

    America has a shaky history, but freedom of religion is written into its political DNA more powerfully than most countries on the planet. Obama isn’t just standing up for enlightenment values, he’s saying we should stand up for these values regardless of those exercising it. That is principle - not the pathetic gibbering that many on the decent-left/neo-con fringe come up with.


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    Filed in: Civil liberties,Religion






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    1. sunny hundal

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      RT @sunny_hundal: Blog Post: Standing up for liberal values http://bit.ly/ca8ffu


    6. Naadir Jeewa

      Reading: Standing up for liberal values: A few weeks ago I was invited to a discussion by the global warming denia… http://bit.ly/cycyNv


    7. blogs of the world

      She said she found it annoying that many liberals were unwilling to 'assert their values' … http://reduce.li/rlmboa #value




    1. Obnoxio The Clown — on 14th August, 2010 at 4:19 pm  

      I don’t have a freedom of religion issue about the mosque at Ground Zero, I just think it’s a bit tasteless (yeah, coming from me) to build an Islamic building at the very spot where thousands died because of something that was done ostensibly in the name of Islam.

    2. Sunny — on 14th August, 2010 at 4:25 pm  

      I’m not surprised you think that, but that’s because you see Osama Bin Laden’s crusade wrongly from a typically western-centric view.

      Bin Laden may be against the west but it’s a side-show. His main battle is against moderate Muslims who stand in the way of a complete take-over by Al-Qaeda and the fundamentalists of the Middle East. Attacking the US helps polarise opinion that plays into the hands of the extremists on either side.

      If the US want to win ‘the war on terror’ - getting moderate Muslims to identify with US values is central to that battle.

    3. Obnoxio The Clown — on 14th August, 2010 at 4:40 pm  

      I don’t disagree that getting moderate Muslims on board is a good thing. I just think that if I were a Muslim, I’d still feel a bit awkward about it.

      And I think the “war on terror” is just as fucking stupid, pointless and unwinnable as the “war on drugs”.

    4. MatGB — on 14th August, 2010 at 4:48 pm  

      Obnoxio 1) it’s not on the very spot, it’s several streets away.

      2) there was a mosque (or prayer area, I don’t know if there’s a size requirement) inside the twin towers.

      Sunny. Agree completely. Banning the burqa is telling me what I can or can’t wear. That I wouldn’t want to wear the damn thing is irrelevant, it’s still a restriction I don’t want. Fundamentally wrong, was nice to see a Tory minister come out and say that when asked about it as well.

    5. Gege — on 14th August, 2010 at 5:13 pm  

      Sunny,i think you need to separate two issues. The first is whether people should be free wear what they want. The second is whether you agree with their choice of clothing.

      I am of the view that it is consistent with libertarianism to believe in the first and second issue.

    6. KB Player — on 14th August, 2010 at 5:31 pm  

      I don’t see a total contradiction here. Telling someone they “should” do something, ie it would be a good idea, or a moral imperative is different from passing laws preventing them from doing such things. Laws against burqas are illiberal and idiotic, but telling someone that if they wear a burqa they are kow-towing to a particularly disgusting view of women as unclean beings that inspire male lust and therefore should make themselves invisible is quite reasonable. It’s fine to tell them that the kind of people who would like them to wear burqas are fascist misogynist shits like the Taliban, say, or theocratic regimes and their bullying thuggish morality enforcers in eg Saudia Arabia or Iran.

      So, yeah, don’t pass a law against burqas, but realise most of the horrors in the world involving burqas aren’t foolish laws preventing women from wearing them, but vile laws and customs forcing them to.

      Not to mention the horrible impracticality of a garment that obscures your vision. Health & Safety should get on the case.

    7. Carl — on 14th August, 2010 at 5:34 pm  

      That Jo Phillips sounds like a character; a brave move of you Sunny for debating climate change on the turf of denialists - stick it to ‘em.

      A little while ago Richard Seymour talked about the good muslim/bad muslim dichotomy, where even institutes like the BBC (which one would hope holds dear “liberal values”) side up to muslims, but only if they are the correct type of muslim (in Seymour’s example, supporters of the war in Afghanistan).

      I think sometimes we all, accidentally I’m sure, believe all cultures should be able to express themselves providing they fit a certain mould which we find acceptable in society.

      It is certainly not limited to this so-called “decent left”.

      Even multiculturalism has some boundaries. Ken Livingstone, in debate with Daniel Pipes, Douglas Murray and Salma Yaqoob conceded that of course multiculturalism doesn’t extend to such things as honour killings, cannibalism or gential mutilation, but arguably these are elements of culture.

      It’s something that sociologist and philosopher Slavoj Zizek talks about a lot, that even liberals have a system of tolerating cultures so long as it fits a level of acceptability, and that no one really practices liberal values to their logical extreme; that is tolerating everything everyone does, even if that thing doesn’t harm others.

    8. Roger — on 14th August, 2010 at 5:36 pm  

      in the name of forcing people to do what they like

      Have any of the people named in the post said that women should be forced not to wear burkas?

    9. Sunny — on 14th August, 2010 at 5:48 pm  

      So, yeah, don’t pass a law against burqas, but realise most of the horrors in the world involving burqas aren’t foolish laws preventing women from wearing them, but vile laws and customs forcing them to.

      I think that’s pretty obvious. But everytime we talk about the Burkha I’m not obliged to stick it to the Saudis - much as I’d like to. The debate is about what we do in the UK, not whether we should follow the Saudi example.

      conceded that of course multiculturalism doesn’t extend to such things as honour killings, cannibalism or gential mutilation, but arguably these are elements of culture.

      Yes, and we have laws against that. This is primarly a debate about where the law should interfere, no? What people think is entirely up to them.

      Gege:
      I am of the view that it is consistent with libertarianism to believe in the first and second issue.

      Sure - but the second has little to do with ‘standing up for enlightenment values’ - because those values were about giving people the freedom to make their choices, not be forced into doing what society demanded of them.

    10. KB Player — on 14th August, 2010 at 6:50 pm  

      It’s something that sociologist and philosopher Slavoj Zizek talks about a lot, that even liberals have a system of tolerating cultures so long as it fits a level of acceptability, and that no one really practices liberal values to their logical extreme; that is tolerating everything everyone does, even if that thing doesn’t harm others.

      I suppose you would concede that “honour killings, cannibalism or gential mutilation” do harm others even if they “elements of a culture”.

      Witch-burning, hanging drawing and quartering and public executions of pickpockets used to be part of British culture, but I don’t suppose anyone is arguing we should revive them or that the culture took a turn for the worse when we got rid of them.

      As for the burqa debate - I wonder if it’s produced anything but harm and further hostility towards Muslims in this country.

      On the one hand, 67% [of the polled] agreed that garments that conceal a woman’s face are “an affront to British values”. On the other hand, 58% said the government should not be allowed to tell individuals what they can and cannot wear. However, last week the January findings were confirmed in a YouGov poll, which reported that 67% would favour of a ban on wearing the burqa in public.

      Link here:- http://www.cpgb.org.uk/article.php?article_id=1004033

      (Never let it be said that the public is logical)

      My guess is that people in this country would have once shrugged their shoulders indifferently at other people’s weirdness or said “poor woman” when seeing a shrouded victim, but there is now definite hostility. Niqabs, burqas etc aren’t common where I live but I saw a couple of women in the main street the other week with faces covered, and the crowd looked at them askance and one guy was saying, “They should be illegal.”

    11. boyo — on 14th August, 2010 at 7:00 pm  

      Sunny, do you actually know what Liberal values are? Id love to hear your definition.

      For me, Liberal values were more or less defined by Tom Paine - they were secular, republican, founded upon the Enlightenment and hostile to religion. Within this context came their definition of liberty.

      i dont believe TP would call for the banning of the burka or oppose the 9/11 mosque, but he would be appalled by the former and contemptuous of the latter. What about you?

    12. Roger — on 14th August, 2010 at 7:12 pm  

      not be forced into doing what society demanded of them

      Let’s try again. Have any of the people named in the post said that women should be forced not to wear burkas?

    13. Shuggy — on 14th August, 2010 at 7:37 pm  

      She said she found it annoying that many liberals were unwilling to ‘assert their values’ and tell these women who wear the Burqa that they should follow western values

      I have no idea who this person is but expressing frustration at liberals failing to stand up for the values she thinks they should represent isn’t the same thing as arguing the state should intervene. Did she argue for the latter or not? Your post doesn’t make this clear at all.

    14. June — on 14th August, 2010 at 7:39 pm  

      I’m reminded of this when reading about Obama’s strident defence of the Ground Zero Mosque. Obama doesn’t just call it a constitutional issue – he makes it (rightly) an issue about American character and way of life:

      Part of that American character concerns respect for the dead and sensitivity towards the friends and families of people who are killed.

      Erecting a tasteless and tawdry monument to the ideology that killed nearly 3,000 Americans so close to the site of their deaths is a fucking obscenity, and one of such proportions that Obama’s endoresement of it guarantees he’ll be a one term wonder.

      The One gives his two-bit “truth-to-power” speech in front of a bunch of islamists. Would he have the audacity of hope to do the same in front of NEW YORKERS?

      70% of Americans are opposed to this mosque, and among New Yorkers the figure is even higher.

      Obama isn’t a President, he’s a fetid CIVILISATIONAL PATHOLOGY.

      If the mosque goes ahead, Americans will respond according to their character. They’ll build a gay bar right beside this obscenity, and rumours are now circulating it’ll be called “Jizya”.

      Oh, and why wouild banning burqas be illiberal? We actually do have laws about dressing, which is why it’s illegal ot swan around naked in public. Do you consider the prohibition against public nudity illiberal, or just common sense?

      Burgas merely represent the flipside of public nudity, and so I see nothing wrong in banning them.

    15. June — on 14th August, 2010 at 7:46 pm  

      An Associated Press blurb about Obama’s speech. Note the date cited for the 911 attacks. EWonder what else they got wrong

    16. boyo — on 14th August, 2010 at 7:48 pm  

      by the way sunny, reading your comments above i was left wondering if

      - you do know the enlightenment was all about Reason dont you, versus superstition
      - it was a western phenomenon (as you seem keen to dismiss western-centric responses)
      - liberalism is intrinsically, and definitively, western

      just wondering

    17. Shuggy — on 14th August, 2010 at 8:02 pm  

      I see the way you’ve lumped together a whole lot of people you don’t like and implicitly impute to them a homogeneity of views where there is none. Nice touch that. For example, here’s Christopher Hitchens with a ‘strident defence’ of the ‘ground zero mosque’.

    18. Sunny — on 14th August, 2010 at 8:05 pm  

      boyo - you do know the enlightenment was all about Reason dont you, versus superstition

      Yes I get that… but under your implication, we should ban Catholicism too because they’re not listening to reason etc.

      shuggy: but expressing frustration at liberals failing to stand up for the values she thinks they should represent isn’t the same thing as arguing the state should intervene

      So is standing up for the right for someone else to wear the Burkha, or whatever they want to, is not standing up for liberal values?

      but he would be appalled by the former and contemptuous of the latter. What about you?

      I don’t like the Burkha period.

      But the idea that building a Muslim community centre several blocks away is somehow an insult is frankly bollocks - for the reasons I pointed out in comment #2. I’m sure western civilisation can survive it.

      June: They’ll build a gay bar right beside this obscenity, and rumours are now circulating it’ll be called “Jizya”.

      Go right ahead. I’m with you. I’m sure it’ll do a cracking job competing with the three other gay bars in the vicinity.

    19. June — on 14th August, 2010 at 8:10 pm  

      Go right ahead. I’m with you. I’m sure it’ll do a cracking job competing with the three other gay bars in the vicinity.

      But just three days ago, you were irritated at the idea.

    20. Roger — on 14th August, 2010 at 8:14 pm  

      standing up for the right for someone else to wear the Burkha

      One more time. Have any of the people named in the post said that right should be taken away by the state, i.e. “forcing people to do what they like”?

    21. FlyingRodent — on 14th August, 2010 at 8:17 pm  

      They’ll build a gay bar right beside this obscenity, and rumours are now circulating it’ll be called “Jizya”.

      Why not go the whole hog and build a buttplug shop next door? They could call it “Poo Bum Willy Mecca” or something.

      It’s the naked cynicism that’s funniest here. Given that the wingnuts behind this hilarious episode detest gays almost as much as foreigners and people with different religions, you do have to chuckle.

    22. Shuggy — on 14th August, 2010 at 8:26 pm  

      So is standing up for the right for someone else to wear the Burkha, or whatever they want to, is not standing up for liberal values?

      My own view would be probably yes. This Jo Phillips, according to you, doesn’t agree. But the question I asked wasn’t about people’s differing interpretations of what constitutes liberty - it was whether she actually suggest the state should intervene to support her interpretation? As you were there, you should be able to tell us.

    23. Carl — on 14th August, 2010 at 8:40 pm  

      9 @Sunny

      We do have laws against those examples but mostly because we don’t tolerate that in this country right.

      As for my examples, they’re not affected by what we think about them, it’s about where there are laws on acts considered cultural traits.

      @10 KG Player

      I know what you mean, but I’m talking about the liberal value of freedom in so far as you do not hurt others. Of course these are actions that can harm others and are illiberal, but consented cannibalism for example is not tolerated, but alcohol is tolerated and that harms people.

      My point is that were we to live precisely by my above stated liberal value (a very basic and mostly uncontested liberal value) to it’s logical extreme all harm would be out and so ways in which we quantify harm would be increased right?

    24. boyo — on 14th August, 2010 at 10:44 pm  

      sunny, you keep saying people who oppose this or that wish to ban it, but that’s not the case, as my comment at 11 sought to illustrate.

    25. An Old Friend — on 15th August, 2010 at 12:29 am  

      @June,

      “Erecting a tasteless and tawdry monument to the ideology that killed nearly 3,000 Americans…”

      I think they Imam who is behind this mosque is similarly against the ideology that killed nearly 3,000 Americans. For some reason I dont think you are against said ideology though.

    26. Sunny — on 15th August, 2010 at 12:47 am  

      Shuggy: it was whether she actually suggest the state should intervene to support her interpretation?

      I can’t recalls if she actually backed a law to ban the Burqa. But her point was that people were ‘afraid to stand up for liberal values.

      boyo - not sure I get your point. You don’t think Tom Paine would have stood up for the right to wear whatever a person wanted?

      June: But just three days ago, you were irritated at the idea.

      Three days ago I ridiculed the idea for the same reason. Go ahead - build it! If Republicans embrace gays, excellent! Perhaps those idiots can then also drop their opposition to gay marriage and DADT. Surely that would be consistent right?

    27. boyo — on 15th August, 2010 at 7:53 am  

      sunny, i suppose my point @11 is that he may well have stood by the right, but he would have been profoundly opposed and hostile to the act.

      This is not what i hear from you - indeed, broadly speaking from your posts and the liie, i think you tend to view it somewhat approvingly both as an act of cultural expression and a litmus test for liberal values

      as such i think you tend to stand on the opposite side of the line from TP.

    28. boyo — on 15th August, 2010 at 8:25 am  

      on reflection id add that in this context your attachment to liberalism is a bit ironic as ive always regarded TP as the embodiment of progressive english ideas - ironic as they came to fulfillment in the foundation of the US. This is why Nick Clegg is largely at home with the Cons - their shared idea of liberalism is a kind of America. One could argue therefore if you wanted a progressive society that embodied english values, we are headed in the right direction.

      This is why i do not regard myself as a liberal, but a democratic socialist, which largely draws its theoretic roots from the German/Jewish tradition.

      In which case i suppose i could say im more multicultural than you!

    29. KB Player — on 15th August, 2010 at 9:17 am  

      I know what you mean, but I’m talking about the liberal value of freedom in so far as you do not hurt others. Of course these are actions that can harm others and are illiberal, but consented cannibalism for example is not tolerated, but alcohol is tolerated and that harms people.

      It mostly harms the person pouring alcohol into their system. Of course it causes immense social damage but I don’t think it’s the same thing as genital mutilation, which is very direct harm to others - particularly helpless others (female children) at that.

      My point is that were we to live precisely by my above stated liberal value (a very basic and mostly uncontested liberal value) to it’s logical extreme all harm would be out and so ways in which we quantify harm would be increased right?

      I don’t understand that point.

      Re this mosque questions - I heard some of those opposing it this morning on Radio 4′s Sunday programme. They were full of obvious bigotry and ignorance, whereas the two Muslims interviewed - an academic, an ordinary mosque-goer - came across as reasonable and with a much better idea of what freedom of religion means.

    30. Roger — on 15th August, 2010 at 5:42 pm  

      I can’t recalls if she actually backed a law to ban the Burqa

      Right. So how did she “completely contradict herself”? And how did you get from there to “forcing people to do what they like”?

      What about the positions of the other people you name in your post? You still haven’t backed up your accusation with any evidence at all.

    31. MaidMarian — on 15th August, 2010 at 7:49 pm  

      boyo - Sure, if the ideals of Whigism live anywhere today it is America.

      But it is odd that so far the coalition seems to have had remarkably little to say about religious identity, I suppose that the day will come.

    32. boyo — on 15th August, 2010 at 8:54 pm  

      well its only been 100 days, give them a chance. They’ve got a public sector to destroy before shoring up their support through bigotry and sectarianism.

    33. Mark — on 15th August, 2010 at 9:01 pm  

      Women covering themselves up to meet the requirements of some weird interpretation of a fairly weird religion (Mohammeds wife was 13 when he married her, if he did marry her, if he existed) is just another symbol of female repression - just as it was in Christianity before women had enough and threw off the shackles, and just as it is in some other mainly monotheist Abrahamaic religions. I am staggered that the feminist movement has not taken up this issue - presumably because it offends their liberal sensitivities. These poor women are brainwashed or forced to dress this way by a weird interpretation of a medieval text. For God’s sake people - protest!During the recent warm weather in London I lost count of the poor women I saw around Spitalfields dressed head to foot in black whilst their husband sauntered along in shorts and T-shirt. Its oppression people - simple.

    34. johng — on 16th August, 2010 at 3:23 pm  

      “requirements of some weird interpretation of a fairly weird religion (Mohammeds wife was 13 when he married her”

      Does anybody know when the age of consent laws came into being in western countries? I’m so tired of this stupid canard. Go and read the bible. You’ll find a lot worse.

    35. Kismet Hardy — on 16th August, 2010 at 3:35 pm  

      As a Muslim man I have decided I will, after all, have four wives but I will not cover them up. On the contrary, I shall place them lovingly in front of webcams to pay for all the lingerie. But I wonder if it is islamic and thoughtful to our cherished womenkind to encourage them in a holy manner not to do the nagging? Can a Muslim brother urgently find me a holy verse that allows me to give my wives the choice to stay silent before I order the gaffer tape?

    36. Desi Italiana — on 16th August, 2010 at 3:42 pm  

      @Kismet

      You should speak with the Islamic Voice:

      http://www.islamicvoice.com/september.99/women.htm

      Some very helpful tips on taking care of your wife:

      —”Avoid attacking her for the bad cooking of the food as the Prophet (e) never blamed any of his wives for this. If he likes the food, he eats and if he doesn’t then he does not eat and does not comment.”

      —3- The last solution is lightly hitting (when allowable) her. In this case, the husband should consider the following: - He should know that Sunnah is to avoid beating as the Prophet (e) never beat a woman or a servant.

      - He should do it only in extreme cases of disobedience, e.g. refusing intercourse without cause frequently, constantly not praying on time, leaving the house for long periods of time without permission nor refusing to tell him where she had been, etc..

      - It should not be done except after having turned from her bed and discussing the matter with her as mentioned in Qur’an . - He should not hit her hard injuring her, or hit her on her face or on sensitive parts of her body.

      - He should avoid shaming her such as by hitting her with a shoe, etc.

      -Ensure she is wearing proper hijab before leaving house.

      -Restrict free mixing with non-mahram men.

      -Avoid excess jealousy. Examples of this are:

      1- Analysing every word and sentence she says and overloading her speech with meanings that she did not intend.

      2- Preventing her from going out of the house when the reasons are just.

      3- Preventing her from answering the phone.”

      See?

    37. Desi Italiana — on 16th August, 2010 at 3:46 pm  

      LOL, the dudes who write this magazine ^^ should co-opt the American right’s slogan “compassionate conservatism”

    38. joe90 — on 16th August, 2010 at 6:55 pm  

      post 33#

      so says you, the women who apparently you feel so sorry for, who have spoken on this issue through various media outlets contradict your view.

    39. Carl — on 16th August, 2010 at 9:47 pm  

      @KB Player

      “I don’t understand that point.”

      Well then try again



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