Islamic veil and political Islam - an attack on civil society
Fariborz Pooya
January 25, 2004

Islamists in the Middle East and beyond: Today, barbarity in the Middle East is synonymous with the political Islamic movement - be it in government or in opposition. From Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Palestine and every country in the Middle East and beyond, political Islam and the presence of Islamic groups equate the oppression of women, denial of human rights, the violation of children's rights, compulsory veiling, stoning to death for having sex outside of marriage, flogging, forced observance of religious rules, the imposition of inhumane Sharia law, brutal suppression of millions of people, total corruption and so on. The compatibility and suitability of the political Islamic movement as a means of suppression against any progressive movement during times of revolution or upheaval are well documented and shown elsewhere. Additionally the main characteristics of political Islam in denying the basic and fundamental rights of people serves the capitalist system very well in maintaining a system of cheap labour in particular. I will come back to this later on. The fact remains that political Islam is one of the main contenders of political power and is constantly fighting with its rivals for a bigger share of power and influence. This is a political movement and acts according to its power, strength and resources. Where it is in power, it imposes all of its rules and creates, like Iran, a brutal regime. In other places where it is in opposition, it imposes its will according to its power - be it in the confines of family, 'community', or a country at large. One can show in detail the atrocities committed by political Islam in opposition in countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Algeria and so on.

The main features of this movement are its misogyny and violence. Terror is the means by which political Islam comes to power and maintains itself. Any opponent of political Islam is immediately silenced by violence. Terror is used at various levels, be it within the family structure, including via honour killings, or within the community under the pretext of insulting god and its messenger or its representative on earth by issuing fatwas and death sentences against its political opponents. With this in mind, let's turn to what is happening in Europe.

Islamists' assault on the civilised standards in Europe: It is sometime now that in Europe, the Islamic movement has been gathering momentum. They have managed to establish their basic structure as a political movement and are now ready to exert influence as a movement on the politics and structure of civil society in Europe. Political Islam rejects universal standards of women's, children's and human rights. Cultural relativism, which rejects any universal norms, allows political Islam to impose its norms under the pretext of 'its my culture and beliefs', 'I believe in a different culture and norms, which you do not understand' or 'how dare you insult and question my culture'. The cultural relativist approach to rights as opposed to universalism provides the basis for the fragmentation of society and allows political Islam to assault the main features and standards achieved by civilised society over many decades. The funding of religious schools, mosques, and the training of Imams, establishing no go areas in terms of challenging backward standards and beliefs, the New World Order, the ascendancy of right wing politics in government and liberalism as well as the European governments' compromise with political Islam and appeasement of this movement to safeguard its own capitalist interests in the Middle East have all contributed to providing the space for political Islam to raise its ugly head.

Islamists' tactics, Hejab and human rights: The first major assault by the political Islamic movement in its full-blown form is against the French proposal to ban religious symbols in schools and public workplaces. Some facts must be made clear:

1) The Islamic movement which does not recognise any right to choose, bans any violation of its rules and imposes its will violently now pretends feebly that the ban is in contradiction with human rights. Islam does not recognise the right to dress and in any case regards Islamic veil as compulsory. So it is very ingenious of the Islamic movement to argue based on the right to choose!

2) The Islamic veil is not just a dress; it's a political statement. It indicates belief in a system of sexual apartheid. It declares the domination of a misogynist system of Islamic law.

3) The Islamists do not recognise the right of the state to protect children. In the same way that society and state have the responsibility to protect children from any sort of abuse, children must be protected against religious indoctrination and veiling. Islamists force the veil on children from an early age and prevent them from social interaction, sports and teach them to respect their place in family and society as second-class citizens. They teach and instil the seed of sexual apartheid from an early age. The state must protect these little human beings from the savagery of Islamic thoughts.

4) Banning religious symbols from public institutions does not infringe on human rights since it does not prevent adults from choosing to dress the way they wish as long as they are not acting as representatives of the public; adults have the right to wear anything they want. Also society has the right to protect school children, its education system and values.

The Socialist Workers Party and others are some of the most enthusiastic supporters of the political Islamic movement. They have turned into surrogates of this reactionary movement. They feel at home with the Islamic groups. Their guilty anti-colonial ideology has now fully flourished into total support for the Islamic movement. Their starting point is not humans and humanity. Their starting point is the nationalist-religious movement in the Middle East and the 'third world'. For them human rights is Islamic human rights and they are quite happy to quote Massoud Shojaei of the Islamic Republic of Iran's backed Islamic human rights commission without bother* (SW 1884 17 January 2004). It's like quoting Eugene Terre Blanch, leader of the neo-Nazi paramilitary group Afrikaner-Weerstandsbeweging (Afrikaner Resistance Movement) when debating human rights in South Africa during the apartheid era. Their human rights are Islamic human rights.

Others who foolishly support the political Islamic movement and only see the battle lines from the viewpoint of the mathematics of freedom and rights do not see the significance of this political action, and ignore the reality of political Islam and the rights violations of millions of people under the yoke of political Islam. They are really defending the right of a savage political movement to impose its will on children, women and Islam-ridden communities at large. The result will be a fragmentation of universal rights and a downward slide to more disastrous scenario. This must be stopped.

First published in English in WPI Briefing 129.