Saturday, September 09, 2006

Dealing with islamists

Jeff Weintraub, inspired by André Glucksmann , a few weeks ago:
the deaths of Lebanese civilians count far more than the deaths of civilians in Chechnya, Iraq, Darfur, and a range of other places.
Another place is Sri Lanka.

I agree with much of what Glucksmann says and he's certainly an important voice in France, speaking against the prevailing discourse, etc. But I have a couple of points.
Do they really believe that sans Israeli-Palestinian conflict nothing bad would have happened, neither the deadly Khomeini Revolution, nor the bloody Baathist dictatorships in Syria and Iraq, nor the decade of Islamic terrorism in Algeria...
As far as Iran goes, there was the little matter of British and American interference in their affairs, notably in 1953, and continuing support for the Shah's dictatorship. My main point, though, concerns Algeria, since Glucksmann takes a similar view to that expressed by Paul Berman in his talk for the EM group and one that I believe Christopher Hitchens also shares (here, for example), though Jeff is more balanced in his own comments. It's a little difficult to blame the Islamists for the tragic decade in Algeria, since they won elections in 1991, whose results were overridden. I know people make the argument about ‘one man, one vote, one time’, but I think the dangers of this are greatly exaggerated. See for example this article.

So people are torn between respect for a democratic outcome and profound distaste for an ideology. For Hitchens etc, secularism trumps everything. Exactly the same dilemma is faced now over Hamas, of course.

I had a reply from Jeff Weintraub. He makes the point that Iran and the Algerian civil war in the 1990s 'had nothing to do with the Arab-Israeli conflict (which many journalists and pundits refer to quite naturally as "the Middle East conflict," as if there were no other conflicts in the Middle East)' and argues that this is all that's relevant for the point that Glucksmann is making.

It's true, it's quite common for the British media to talk about "the Middle East" when they mean the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and I find this very annoying.

However, I continue to insist on the centrality of analogies regarding respect for the democratic process. Britain and America intervened in Iran to replace an elected government with one more to their liking. Much the same happened in Algeria, with the approval of some of "us". I cannot go along with a sort of secular totalitarianism.  (*)

Of course Israel cannot be expected to deal with a government, even an elected one, that denies its right to exist and shows no signs of moderating its position. But, as I noted before, in the National Conciliation Document on 25 June, Hamas indicated a willingness to at least implicitly recognise Israel. Mahmoud Abbas did not get exactly the language he wanted - to "limit", instead of "concentrate", resistance outside of Israel in its1948-1967 borders. Still, it showed some movement on the part of Hamas.

Jeff also drew my attention to a post of his, from shortly after the election of Hamas (also published on on normblog). Here he remarks parenthetically: 
I suspect that the leaders of the Fatah-affiliated 'security' services would be happy to impose an Algerian solution if they could, but they can't.
In the event, the "international community", including the EU, did what they could to destroy the Hamas government by a economic blockade. Then, of course, there were the more direct actions of Israel, though, as we have seen with Lebanon, attempts by Israel to change the balance of power within an Arab state are likely to be counter-productive.

Incidentally, Chechnya is not a very good example, since the West may not care much about it, but al Qaeda and co do. And of course Russian repression there goes back to the tsars, just as does their anti-semitism.

(Sorry for the delay in posting: I have been on holiday, then catching up with various things before and after. )

(*) That is why I am a critic of headscarf bans in France and Turkey. Merve Kavakci says that, just as in the other two Abrahamic religions, in Islam the wearing of a headscarf is (or should be) a matter of personal conscience. (On the BBC's Heart and Soul, Sunday 20 Aug. It is no longer possible to 'listen again' to this - another drawback to my delay.)


Blogger georgesdelatour said...

Dear David - I think you should read this piece by Mansoor Hekmat, the now deceased leader of the Worker-Communist Party Of Iran:

It is by far the best defence of a hijab ban I have read.

As far as I know, the French hijab ban applies purely to children below the legal age of majority. I would not support a hijab ban on adults. Once a child is mature enough to choose (by voting) who will govern her country, she is mature enough to choose (by dress) which God she wishes to advertise. Below that age the issue is not the wishes of the child but of her parents. Most countries prohibit Jehovah's Witnesses from denying their children blood transfusions. But if an adult Jehovah's Witness chooses to refuse a transfusion, so be it.

4:15 am, September 13, 2006  
Blogger DavidP said...

It was something of a parenthesis to my main argument, but to respond to your point on the French hijab ban, it is a ban on the headscarf, not on the 'veil', as Mansoor Hekmat described it - and as many French 'intellectuals' continue to insist on referring to.

Withholding blood transfusions can, of course, cause real harm to a child. I don't see that wearing the headscarf is at all comparable to this.

I have written about this many times. So, I would just refer you to this: Ears and forehead.

4:06 pm, September 13, 2006  
Blogger SnoopyTheGoon said...

David, thanks for referring me to the exchange and the Clucksman's article.

Re French attitude to burqas: I have to say that, while quiute revolted by French behavior in other areas, I quite admire their relentless protection of the secular character of the country. I wish we could go that way in Israel.

Atheists are toothless for some reason, and it will become their (our) undoing.


7:04 pm, October 03, 2006  

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