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Ayaan Hirsi Ali: The Somali-born campaigner has bravely spoken out about the tyranny of cultural relativism. (credit: Getty Images)

During the past decade, something insidious has happened to global feminism. White Western women are being punished, insulted and demonised for speaking out against the atrocities heaped on our sisters from Muslim cultures. Despite the fact that the international women's liberation movement has helped bring about worldwide recognition of and action against the many forms of male violence and abuse of women and children, the new "cultural sensitivity" towards Islamic practices has resulted in a two-tiered system. It is fine, for example, to be appalled at widespread child sexual abuse by the likes of Jimmy Savile, but "racist" to respond in the same way to forced marriage, gender segregation, or the requirement that girls and women are veiled from head to   toe.

I am a deeply committed radical feminist who, for more than three decades has fought against sexual and gender-based violence, but am I within my rights to speak of a universal war against women? Not according to the appeasers of Islam. I am, it would appear, allowed to speak about the abuse of women by men, so long as they are within my demographic. But if I stray from my own turf and begin to speak of such abuse within Muslim communities, I am sticking my nose in where it is not wanted. Worse, I am imposing my white, Western imperialism on what is described by my critics as a much misunderstood, maligned community. 
 
Or so goes the logic of the cultural relativists such as Ken Livingstone, the former Respect party leader Salma Yaqoob and countless scared and misguided individuals who believe that to highlight specific acts of violence that disproportionately affect Muslim women is to imply that they only occur in communities of "others".
 
The oppression of women, for those defenders of Islam, is not a major concern if it is done in the name of religious and cultural freedom. But whose freedom? Not the women who escape Islamic regimes and come to the UK hoping to live under equality, or those feminists born into a Muslim faith who campaign passionately for the right not to wear the full-face veil, enter into an arranged or forced marriage or have their daughters undergo genital mutilation (FGM). These women and their freedoms matter less to the cultural relativists than the freedom of Islamist men to practise such discrimination under the guise of freedom of religious expression.
 
This magazine has led the way in exposing both the atrocities faced by women living under Muslim laws in the UK and the hypocrisy of those on the Left who defend such practices. From Pakistani grooming gangs, forced marriage and the gross homophobia of young Muslim men in the East End of London, it has refused to go the way of some publications by blaming the "Islamophobia" of those speaking out about such human rights abuses. 
 
Over the last decade, those feminists who seek to condemn violence and abuse towards women in the name of culture or religion have often been accused of condemning an entire community or faith. Muslim women who publicly support harmful cultural practices by arguing that polygamy, FGM and the wearing of the full-face veil are merely expressions of a Muslim identity are held up as evidence that such practices are nothing to do with male dominance and patriarchal power. 
 
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cartimandua
April 25th, 2014
8:04 AM
Where in the Koran is Mohammed telling a cutter not to "do it too much". Qaradawi (Livingstone's chum) was advising parents to do it until 2006. Indeed this "advice" may still be out there on the web somewhere. The MB kept it legal in Yemen and they offered to "do it cheaply" in Egypt.

Mellie
April 18th, 2014
12:04 PM
This points to what is wrong in the UK and other EU countries. I'm shocked by the apologists and the PC and realized that 3 decades at least have actually been under an official policy of 'cultural relativism' or multi culturalism in the UK and other EU countries. All workers in social services, courts, police, teaching etc have been taught that every 'culture' or religion must be treated differently even if they are breaking the law. I realized this after the Rochdale scandal. Some people wrote articles saying this. I witnessed this myself during a stay in the UK where ordinary people were afraid to say anything because they've been pushed to silence with the 'racist' card. I've seen it in the press, where muslims are called 'asians'. I say this from France as an expat, where this system has been criticized and rejected for the integration policy. French laicity means separation of religion and the state. Britain is not a secular country with an official church and imposed religious instruction in schools. France has battled to keep the church and other religions out of state institutions and whereas before it was the Catholic church, now it's mainly Islam. Whereas the UK claims to respect and accept religious or cultural differences by allowing clothes or symbols in schools, hospitals, etc, France considers people are first of all individuals, or nationals, without their religious identification that is considered a private matter. So children or teachers or doctors, nurses, town councillors, or politicians aren't allowed to wear veils or outstanding religious symbols because they are supposed to be neutral as serving the whole population. Allowing girls to wear veils in school means they are first of all muslim, and not just a child that can have a neutral environment to learn. It refuses the notion that a child is 'born a muslim, jew, catholic' etc. Banning the niqab in public was after a scandal of a polygamy and abuse case of a family who drew attention to themselves after the woman was fined for driving with 'impaired vision'. The law was passed by a majority parliament vote for the offical reason that nobody is allowed to hide their face in public. This was, of course, decried by many 'human rights' people in the UK as a scandal. However, it is now becoming a problem in France for two reasons, that are the same all over Europe : 1 - resident muslims have become more radicalized, especially the youth, 2 - more new immigrants from poorer muslim countries who have no intention, or are incapable of integrating. What is needed is far more people like this to speak out on all the hypocrisy of feminists and leftist apologists. It's urgent, not just because of the rampant continuation of abuse, and social problems, but also because the whole subject has been given to the extreme right for the lack of courage and willingness from the other parties and civil orgs. Being of the generation that had to fight for contraception, abortion and equal rights, I find that the younger generation have forgotten this. They are now into another form of 'equality', meaning differences for some women and not others. When I see a woman in the street wearing a veil or niqab with little girls in a hijab, I feel it's an agression, a slap in the face. I feel that all 'our' work has been stolen by an alien culture that is even welcomed, not even criticized for forms of abuse that never even existed before in our countries. What has gone wrong ? Ignorance and naivety, incompetence and now fear. ps I'm against male baby or child circumcision too, males can decide when adults.

Anonymous
April 17th, 2014
4:04 PM
Poppycock. Bindel's opposition to FGM is clearly justified, but to blame 'Islam' is to exhibit complete ignorance in respect of the cultural and historical development of 'Islam'. Where, for example, in the Qur'an is the justification for FGM. It isn't there! And so she might consider moving on to the hadith, yet the use of this material is fraught with difficulty, especially after the work of Goldziher and Schacht. Nevertheless Bindel et al will continue to blame 'Islam', and one wonders how the failure of feminism impacts upon this decision to generate copy for magazines. Note also how Douglas Murray (Standpoint's resident expert on all hings 'Islamic') remains silent regarding this Western feminist discourse.

hegel`s advovate
April 11th, 2014
7:04 PM
Maybe the anthropologist Lloyd de Mause and his `The Origins of War In Child Abuse` should be featured in Standpoint ? www.psychohistory.com There`s an instinctive opposition to islam from all `non-believers` that islam thinks shouldn`t exist. Islam can`t rationalise it without destroying itself. The more it engages the more it destroys itself. It`s not eternal. It`s got a shelf-life.

Sarah
April 11th, 2014
9:04 AM
"It is fine, for example, to be appalled at widespread child sexual abuse by the likes of Jimmy Savile, but "racist" to respond in the same way to forced marriage, gender segregation, or the requirement that girls and women are veiled from head to toe." No that's really stupid. It's fine to respond with horror to sexual abuse among Muslims, just like it's fine to respond with horror to sexual abuse among old rich white men like Jimmy Saville. What's not acceptable is to generalise it to "Islam" or "Muslims" just like you shouldn't respond to Jimmy's abhorrent actions with that's "Whites" or "the English". How is this hard to understand? Don't be a bigot *AND* don't excuse sexual abuse.

Rachel L
April 9th, 2014
8:04 PM
And Julie too...has her Damascus moment, mixing my metaphors I'm afraid. The extraordinary capitulation of Western feminism to the militant Islamic agenda, together with the implicit and sometimes enthusiastic support for practices like FGM and honor killing defies comprehension for many. But in Ms. Bindel and others there is still some hope; that a real-and-powerful feminism can struggle from the ashes of the disaster that academia has inflicted upon it. Just how feminism can get over the association it has now with supporting oppression of women and children (including rape, mutilation, torture and murder) remains to be seen. Retrieving feminism for women will be tough and perhaps one of the greatest cultural battles to be witnessed early this century.

Sharon Presley
March 23rd, 2014
8:03 PM
It's one thing to not condemn, say, face painting, tattoos and eating odd things--that's what cultural relativism was supposed to be about--not overlooking monstrous crimes against innocent women. But harming innocent females is morally corrupt regardless of culture.

hegel`s advocate
March 20th, 2014
2:03 AM
Anonymous is being academicI`m not aware of any circumcised males who want the foreskin back. Is there a website campaigning against it that we should know about? The Mayor of London has joined in the anti-FGM campaign. Who will stand up for the lost foreskins ? It`s only a joke about male circumcision but don`t most women like 20% off everything?

Anonymous
March 17th, 2014
10:03 PM
To add to my earlier comment, Hegel's Advocate continues to be an apologist for relativism. Clearly the author knows very little about Islam and relies on more than one simplistic dichotomy, 'Islam' and 'non-Islam', 'Feminism' and 'non-Feminism'. It makes for provocative copy but can not stand against sustained informed criticism. Let us consider, for example, the issue of male circumcision, justified within 'Islam' and 'Judaism' as a cultural practice. You can hear the silence....from the cultural relativists and the Standpoint editorial team.

vera lustig
March 8th, 2014
3:03 PM
I agree with the cavil above that FGM isn't a purely Muslim phenomenon. I also do believe that some (adult) women wear the niqab out of their own free will; it's a kind of "up yours" gesture to what they perceive as Western decadence. I may be accused of "whataboutery", especially as I'm posting on Int'l Women's Day, but I do think too little is said about the harsh treatment of children from Muslim families: physical abuse is widespread in after-school madrassahs, and I'd regard a child's being forced to undertake an 18-hour fast, without hydration, 30 days in succession, as abuse.

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