[Marxism] The hijab controversy

Marvin Gandall marvgandall at rogers.com
Mon Feb 16 10:25:42 MST 2004

David Quarter wrote:

> From:           "Marvin Gandall" <marvgandall at rogers.com>

> But Siddiqui is mistaken in his belief that [...] modernizing
> secular reformers like Kamal Ataturk were in their own way as
oppressive as their misogynistic opposite numbers in the Taliban.

>  Can you elaborate?


I'm not sure how much credence we want to give Siddiqui's article,
except insofar as it's a good illustration, IMO, of how modern liberals
have strayed from their secularist roots -- which I think is related to
the fact that in Western societies the decisive battles against religion
and clerical influence were largely fought and won a long time ago
(notwithstanding the residual fundamentalism in the US south and
midwest). This is why I think the contemporary battle against the hijab
in Europe is largely unnecessary in a way struggles against religious
fundamentalism in predominantly rural societies are not.

What surprised me about the Siddiqui piece (and its echoes in today's
post by Jose) is the depth of conviction with which both defend the
right of Moslems and others to retain their religious beliefs. I
subscribe to the principle of public education enunciated by Richard F.
and Paul F., and look forward to the day when religious symbols are
(voluntarily) abandoned and the demand for religious schools disappears.
I suspect there may be an element of "Third Worldism" in the way in
which this view is sometimes dismissed as simply another expression of
Western imperialism.

It's this attitude, I think, which makes Siddiqui -- a very progressive
commentator who has been sharply critical of US foreign policy -- as
hostile to the efforts of early 20th century reformers like Kamal
Ataturk and Reza Khan, who sought to ban religious symbols in public
places, as he is to the Taliban, which sought to enforce them. To a
liberal like Siddiqui, the element of coercion in each case is decisive,
the surrounding context secondary -- a similar confusion to the earlier
liberal twinning of Hitler and Stalin because both presided over
totalitarian states. This was true as far as it went, but was
unhelpful -- in fact, misleading -- as an explanation of the social
processes which were underway in Germany and the USSR at the time. In
the same way, to wildly equate the Taliban with Ataturk is to obscure
the fact that, in the latter case, the direction was to liberate women
and men from religious oppression; in the former, to reinforce it. I
hope this helps explain my comment above.

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