Tuesday, May 01, 2007


It is not racist to condemn religious violence

Excellent piece by Johann Hari in yesterday's Independent, saying what really needs to be said. Too many of us are crippled by our liberalism, and by the fear that speaking out against cultural violence and abuse will lead to accusations of racism. It is not racist to object to abuse, even if it is abuse that is sanctioned by religion or cultural tradition. As Maryam Namazie says, we should respect human beings, not beliefs and traditions.

This is a question I struggled with for a long time, and in some ways still am. I was brought up to support multiculturalism and celebrate the diversity of cultures around the world. after all, isn't variety the spice of life and all that? isn't it great to travel the world and gain new perspectives from people who were raised with a totally different view point?

but sure there are some things that are just flat out wrong, things that cannot be justified by claiming "it's my culture" or "it's my religion." things like, stoning a woman in the streets because her ankle was showing, for example.

but if i judge other people's cultures, if i tell them that what they're doing is wrong, doesn't that make me just as fanatical and judgemental as them? if they say "we are right and you are wrong," what is to differentiate me if I say the same thing?
No it does not make you as fanatical and judgemental as them. You are condeming acts of violence committed in the name of religion or tradition, not carrying them out. That makes you right and them wrong. End of story. Cultural relativism is a pernicious evil in this world that is responsible for condemning millions of people — mainly women — to miserable lives, illness, injury and death on a daily basis. If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.
I think your posting of the story of the girl being stoned to death today illustrates Hari's point perfectly. He's a great writer, and I remember a particularly fab appearance on Any Questions?, where he was talking about gay marriage and asking why any gay couple would want to be wed in a church when religion hates them and thinks they're evil?
Good point me thinks. I'd put it like this: If a cultural norm, idea or practice encourages the breach of someone elses liberty then it is fine to condemn that cultural norm. In general it is fine to criticise and analyse any cultural norm, idea or practice.

However, when condemning or criticising it is best to do so on the basis of a set of criterion so that you do not introduce some form of bias in the process.

Its kind of like a police force. They should be able to arrest people for shop lifting but if they arrest black people and turn a blind eye to white shop lifters that is worse than not arresting shop lifters at all. So the police have criterion for when to act and measures in place to reduce bias (although they don't always work).
Read the original.
Sorry, part of that tag was cut off in the way this auto-edits a line. Let me try again.For the original article go to
[and then add this after the slash]

It took a while to find, but like most of Der Spiegel's work, the journalism puts most of the UK broadsheets to shame - or perhaps the journalists are stifled by gutless editors who prefer to churn out pulp for the people!
Good for people to know.
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