We need solidarity on multiple fronts

"If we are going to push back against the far right, what is really needed is solidarity on multiple fronts," says Maryam Namazie

News / 20.8.18

Collusion of neoliberalism and fundamentalism

When we look at current processes like neoliberalism, deregulation, privatization, and outsourcing, we also see a rise in religious conservatives taking over the running of justice, education and healthcare. We are witnessing the disintegration of the concept of citizenship vis-à-vis the state, which is especially detrimental to women’s rights and minority rights.

Firstly, no group is homogeneous, and secondly, it is usually those in power who represent the group that decide who is an ‘authentic’ member of that group. With the rise of the religious right throughout the world, we see a dangerous shift in language whereby communities have a right and choice to control women and silence dissent.

We can see such problematic developments in India with the Hindu far-right killing Muslims for eating beef, the Buddhist extreme-right attacking Muslims in Myanmar, the Jewish right attacking Palestinians, and the Christian right attacking women’s reproductive rights.

In any group or society there are also class politics and widespread social movements challenging the status quo and regression. There is constant contestation of legal norms, gender segregation, compulsory dress codes and intrusion of religion in public life.

In Rojava, for example, they have banned sharia courts and polygamy. If you are looking for these moments of dissent, you will find them. But in Europe, if we try to contest religious fundamentalism, we are accused of imposing neocolonial views, when in fact the demand for freedom is a universal demand.

Confronting racism unapologetically

Of course, there is huge amount of racism, xenophobia, and bigotry in Europe. These are dangerous phenomena that are life-threatening and affect all of us. I am opposed to the far-right, but I believe that you don’t end racism by silencing criticism.

We need to challenge racism, defend migrant rights and open borders, but at the same time also oppose regression without apologizing for it.

What is most unfortunate is that we face opposition from other progressives and leftists. We have had cases where women who accused powerful, religious, male figures of sexual harassment and rape were called islamophobic. I find that people on the Left – those who should be my allies – have double standards when it comes to criticizing the religious right. Why is it okay to criticize one religion, but not another? It’s bigotry not to.

If we are going to push back against the far-right, including the religious right, what is really needed is solidarity on multiple fronts.

You can’t just speak about women’s rights, you also have to speak about LGBT rights and freedom of expression. But when it comes to religion, we are expected to remain silent. But we can’t afford to remain silent, because there are many people in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere who are facing great risk and we have the added responsibility to amplify what many of them are already saying.

It’s important for me to push the concept of citizenry with rights and equality for everyone irrespective of people’s background, as well as to push for secularism. For women’s and minority rights to be respected, secularism and universal rights are a precondition.

This is an abridged speech delivered by Maryam Namazie at our event on “Collusion of fundamentalism and neoliberalism: Its impact on women and minority rights“.

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This conference is a joint initiative of the European Network of Migrant Women, the Kurdish Culture Project, and Coppieters Foundation.

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This conference is financially supported by the European Parliament. The European Parliament is not liable for the content of the conference or the opinions of the speakers.

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