Comment, Comics and the Contrary.
There is a movement to dress up modern racism in the clothes of progressivism. This is nothing new, in form. Racism, at least, successful racism, has rarely built its rationale on blatant hate. Rather, the demonisation of minorities and immigrants has been conducted via what were, at the time, apparently reasonable, rational grounds; concerns with the intelligence of the nation, with the biological health of the populace, with the maintenance of the indigenous culture, and so on. And why? Because in order to successfully build a modern racist society the support of middle-classes and the intelligentsia needs be won. We can see this happening now, when attacks on Muslims are dressed up as assertions of ‘Enlightenment values’, as defences of ‘free speech’, as efforts to safeguard ‘superior’ European culture. I have written [here
] about two of the recruiting pamphlets in this campaign.
Despite knowing this, I rarely fail to be surprised by those who dress their attacks on Muslims up as blows for feminism. It is one thing to point out that Islam can be practised in ways that repress women. But when this is used to legitimate calls for restrictions on the immigration of Muslims, the true face of those dancing in this ‘progressive masquerade’ is revealed. If one is concerned for the welfare of Muslim women, one would welcome their immigration to the West, where, according to the unspoken contradictions in the narrative of these racists, these repressed women will find opportunities for liberation that they could not find in their homelands. So do those who make calls for restricting the immigration of Muslims have the welfare of women at heart? Some do, and have been recruited, in their good-natured but slapdash liberalism, by racists. Some are plain racists. And the rest? The rest we might describe as ‘National Feminists’ as, yes, they care about the welfare of women, just so long as these women are of their own kind. It is these National Feminists who, rather than demanding the establishment of women’s refuges and multi-lingual support services, call for restrictions on the movement to women to the West and for the burkha to be banned.
How would that be managed, anyhow? Would the police strip women in the street, or merely toss them in riot vans for the way in which they dress. Do either of those options sound like a liberal society to you? And yes, I have some sympathy for the argument that the burkha is an objective symbol of oppression. But to enact a repressive policy to liberate women that takes no notice of the subjective understandings of women who wear the burkha will get you nowhere but oppressive authoritarianism. To adorn a law with the language of liberation when, in practise, it would lead to harassment, embarrassment, insult and arrest for those women whom lounge bar legislators feign concern for is to perform a grotesque act of doublespeak. Social analyses using the language of false consciousness are all well and good; indeed, we must all believe in the existence of false consciousnesses to some degree if we are to make sense of human beings with different value and belief systems to our own. But it does not a democracy make to legislate in all but the most egregious cases, which, for liberty’s sake, ought be limited to those cases that psychologists, not rabid islamophobic racists, describe as mental illness.