Cultural relativism and its more seemingly
palatable multiculturalism have lowered standards and redefined
values to such depths that not only are all cultures and beliefs
deemed equally valid, they seem to have taken on personas of their
own blurring the distinction between individuals and beliefs
(whether theirs or imputed).
As a result, concepts such as rights, equality,
respect and tolerance, which were initially raised vis-à-vis the
individual, are now more and more applicable to culture and
religion and often take precedence over real live human beings.
This is why any criticism and ridiculing of or
opposition to beliefs, cultures, religions, gods and prophets are
being deemed racism, disrespecting, inciting hatred and even
violence against those deemed believers. Moreover, the social
inclusion of people into society has come to solely mean the
inclusion of their beliefs, sensibilities, concerns and agendas
and nothing more.
The above is particularly applicable to and
spearheaded by Islam and political Islam as it is a religion in
state power like in Iran or vying for political power in the likes
of Britain and Canada. Cultural relativism has become the channel
through which it and its apologists have sought to deflect
criticism of its inhumane nature and at the same time undermine
the very fabric of society here and elsewhere.
Needless to say, cultural relativists have it
The distinction between humans and their
beliefs is of crucial significance here. It is the human being who
is sacred, worthy of the highest respect and rights and so on and
so forth not his or her beliefs.
It is the human being who is meant to be equal
not his or her beliefs.
Of course, people have the right to their
beliefs no matter how absurd they may seem but that is a different
matter. Having the right to a belief, culture, or religion does
not mean that the belief or culture or religion must be respected
or that those who disagree, oppose or choose to mock said beliefs
must refrain from doing so because it is unacceptable to
believers. (As an aside, given that much is unacceptable to the
Islamists – including holding hands and dancing to music - there
wouldn't be much left to say or do if they had their way.)
The demand of cultural relativists for
'sensitivity' and 'responsibility' (whilst thoughtfully
reminding us that we have the right to mock and criticise - at
least for now - in the west) are savvy attempts at actually
restricting expression on and opposition to religion and culture
and its adverse effects on people's lives. After all, cultural
relativism is brisk business for the many self-appointed cultural
and religious 'leaders' working hand in hand with the state.
But are we really expected to respect, for
example, a belief that women are sub-human, that 'disobedient'
children need to be exorcised, or that gays are perverts because
someone or some religious groups believe it to be so? How about
the belief that girls who date non-Muslim men should be murdered
in the name of honour? Or that little girls should be veiled and
not mix with boys or swim? And does anyone in their right mind
really think that such beliefs are equal or equally valid to
humanist, secularist, left and progressive ideals fought for by
This is of course not to deny that racism,
including against Muslims, exists, but racism exists because of
the profitability of racism for the class system and not because
of critical thought and freedom of expression however offensive
and insulting it may seem to those who hold those beliefs.
And anyway, how can criticising or mocking or
opposing a belief, culture or religion be racism against or
disrespectful of those who believe them? Firstly, you cannot be
racist against an idea or belief or ideology. Racism is
distinctions, exclusions, restrictions or preferences based on
race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin (albeit
constructed) of individuals - of human beings - not their beliefs.
Saying a criticism or mockery of Islam, Mohammad, or political
Islam is Islamophobia or racism against Muslims is like saying
condemnation of Judaism and Zionism fans anti-Semitism.
Clearly, there is a big difference between
Muslims and political Islam - as a contemporary right wing
political movement like many others, as well as between Muslims
and Islam, which is the ideological aspect of this contemporary
movement and a belief like many others.
Blurring the distinctions between the two and
the use of rights and anti-racist language here in the west to do
so are devious ways of silencing criticism and opposition –
criticism which is particularly crucial given the havoc that
political Islam has inflicted in the Middle East and North Africa
and more recently here in the west. Needless to say, the language
calling for restraint rapidly becomes one of threats and
intimidation when Islamists has some form of political power. In
Iran, Iraq and elsewhere, they kill and maim indiscriminately,
tolerate nothing and no one, hang the 'unchaste', 'kafirs' and
'apostates' from cranes in city centres, and say it is their
divine right to do so.
Cultural relativism is not only a prescription
for inaction and passivity in the face of the oppression of
millions of people struggling and resisting in the Middle East and
here in the west but is in fact racist in and of itself.
This is because it implies that masses of
people choose to live the way they are often forced to and imputes
on them the most reactionary elements of culture and religion,
which is that of the ruling class, imams and self-appointed
leaders. I am supposedly automatically Muslim because I was born
in Iran as if that is the only option available; the Muslim
Council of Britain, the Islamic Human Rights Commission and the
rest of them supposedly automatically represent me – though I
wouldn't touch any them with a ten foot barge pole.
Cultural relativism also implies that Islam and
political Islam represent all those who are considered Muslims –
whether they were born or living in the Middle East, Asia or North
Africa or once came from there umpteen generations ago. It would
be similar to assume that the Catholic Church (that is during the
inquisition) and the right wing British National Party represent
It's as if there are no classes, political,
social and rights activists, communists, atheists, progressives,
humanists, rationalists or secularists among this group - all are
Muslims and the most reactionary of Islamists at that!
In addition, for society,
cultural relativism promotes a policy of minoritism where people
deemed to be different because of their culture are ghettoized in
regressive fragmented "minority" communities where they continue
to face apartheid and Islamic laws and customs. Their rights are
not the highest standards available in the given society as one
would expect but the most regressive and reactionary ones. They
live in Bantustans with somewhat separate legal, social, cultural,
and religious systems. They are compartmentalised to the lowest
reactionary denominator and are relegated to second and third
class status. They are forever minorities and never ever equal
citizens. They are denied access to universal standards and norms.
They are denied equal rights and the secularism fought for and
established by progressive movements over centuries.
The idea of difference has always been the
fundamental principle of a racist agenda not the other way
The defeat of Nazism and its biological theory
of difference largely discredited racial superiority. The racism
behind it, however, found another more acceptable form of
expression for this era. Instead of expression in racial terms,
difference is now portrayed in cultural terms.
In the face of this
onslaught, secularism, universalism and values worthy of 21st
century humanity have to be defended and promoted unequivocally.
We must not allow any more
concessions to cultural relativism; we must no longer allow the
respect for and toleration of inhuman beliefs and practices. We
must hold the human being sacred. We must start first and foremost
with the human being. We must stop sub-dividing people into a
million categories beginning with religion and nationality and
ethnicity and minority and not even ending in Human.
At a minimum, we must have
the complete separation of religion from the state and educational
system. Secularism is an important vehicle to protect society from
religion's intervention in people's lives. A person's religion has
to be a private affair. All religious and religious-inspired
notions and references must be omitted from laws. No reference
must be made to them in any official documents or in the media,
whether as individuals or groups. Faith schools, religious
education and religion in assemblies must be abolished. Child
veiling and religious symbols in schools and public institutions
must be prohibited. Children and under 16s must be protected from
all forms of manipulation by religions and religious institutions.
Cultural and religious practices or ceremonies, which are violent,
inhuman, or incompatible with people's rights and equality must be
banned. Any kind of financial, material or moral support by the
state to religion and religious activities and institutions must
be stopped. All religious establishments must be registered as
private enterprises, taxed...
And it is the state that
is duty bound to implement these. Everyday, the state intervenes
to protect people whether they want it or not (e.g. in domestic
violence or child neglect cases). It has to do so with regards to
religion as well. Not necessarily because it likes to but because
civil society and established norms force it to.
Civil rights, freedom and
equality, secularism, modernism, are universal concepts that have
been fought for by progressive social movements and the working
class in various countries.
That people worldwide,
including in Iran, continue to struggle for equality, freedom,
secularism and to overcome their lack of rights and repressive
regimes is a confirmation of this universality.
Of course, cultural
relativists have said and will say that universal rights are a
western concept. This is just more deception on their part. When
it comes to using the mass media to broadcast their decapitations,
or using the web to organise terrorist attacks, and the internet
to issue fatwas and death threats, the Islamists do not say it is
western and incompatible with an Islamist society. It is only when
it comes to universal rights, standards and values, and
secularism, that they suddenly become western. Even if such rights
and values are western, it is absurd to say that others' are not
worthy of them.
In fact, though, rights
are gains forcibly taken by the working class and progressive
social movements. Therefore, any gain or right obtained anywhere
is a gain and a right for all humanity.
Only an unequivocal
defence of universal rights, secularism and the de-religionisation
of rights and values will challenge cultural relativism and its
racism head on and relegate it to where it belongs - the dustbins