The imam of Australia’s biggest mosque, in Lakemba, Sydney, recently caused an outrage after being reported as having “told a service at the mosque that women who do not wear the hijab, or headdress, are like uncovered meat.” In an apparent reference to the (actually 55 year) sentence given in a notorious gang rape case Sheik Hilaly was reported as saying:
“Sheik Hilaly said there were women who "sway suggestively" and wore make-up and immodest dress "and then you get a judge without mercy (rahma) and gives you 65 years." The Australian, 26 October.
Pip Hinman, of the Castroite Democratic Socialist Perspective, acting as a spokesperson Australian Socialist Alliance says “there is nothing to be gained from trying to silence” a medieval reactionary like sheik Hilaly. (Howard’s Muslim-bashing won’t advance women’s rights, 2 November 2006 http://www.socialist-alliance.org/page.php?page=588)
But Apparently the same does not apply to reactionary and, yes hypocritical, bourgeois politicians like Peter Costello or Prime Minister John Howard or a judge who is quoted as saying that it is acceptable for a husband to engage in “rougher than usual handling” when faced by his wife’s refusal to have sex. No, we are happy to condemn & try to silence them or get them sacked from positions of power & influence over women’s lives. But in Hinman’s world the sheik’s views merely “reflects the sexism that is rife in this society—something that cuts across all religions and communities.”
Hilaly responded to calls for his resignation with the statement that he would resign “only when the world is clean of the White House”. Such a response by the sheik no doubt proves his anti-imperialist credentials. The ememy of my enemy is my friend. A sentiment presumably endorsed by those on the left who have lost their way politically and no longer put working class mobilization at the core of their activity.
In fact rather than trying to silence the sheik or call for his resignation his spokesman, Kayser Trad, has often appeared as a speaker ‘on behalf of the “Muslim community” at DSP organised anti-war events and presumably that’s Ok as he is “anti-imperialist” too.
Trad was quoted in the Australian newspaper (27 October) as saying:
"Reaction from the grass roots is that we appreciate all the hard work the mufti has put in for the community," Mr Trad said outside Lakemba Mosque, where more than 2,000 Muslims gathered for Friday prayers today. "We're certainly not going to pass judgment on the basis of one comment in which we know his intentions were completely different. "The grass roots are behind him."
This is a logical extension of the double standards carried out these days in the name of socialism or as it should be called by its proper name, the anti-imperialism of idiots. This idiocy happens when the interests of the working class or, in this case women, are put to one side to laud apparently anti-American sentiments.
Stand “shoulder to shoulder” with communities under racist attack from reactionary politicians, media commentators etc but do not confuse the views of equally reactionary leaderships in parts of those communities with “anti-imperialism”.
There are Muslim women interviewed in the media who object to Hilaly as reactionary. Hinman makes the mistake of taking a side in a conflict between Howard/Costello on one side, and Hilaly on the other. And so she can’t see that there are Muslim women standing up for women’s rights against Hilaly, and that Hilaly is unelected, does not even represent the majority of muslims in Australia.
Indeed Hinman’s critique of the hypocrisy of Howard & Costello’s sudden concern for women’s rights is true enough. But it doesn’t mean Hilaly should be defended. Hypocrisy of a proponent of a view is not a reason for opposing the view they hold hypocritically.
We side with people who are oppressed by tyrannical religion and superstition, who are brave enough to defy religious officials and dogma. The shame of Howard and Costello’s approach is that it tends to galvanise the supporters of the reactionary Hilaly around him. We can hope though that the polarisation it also creates, strengthens those women and youth who are struggling for freedom from the reactioanary prescriptions of Hilaly’s brand of islam – and they are the people with whom we solidarise.