Monday, October 17, 2005

I Don't Know How He Does It

Nick Cohen’s latest (; Observer) manages his too-frequent trick of making an essentially sound point after an incredibly irritating opening.

A week ago, at a reception in one of London’s dowdier hotels, Maryam Namazie received a cheque and a certificate stating that she was Secularist of the Year 2005. The audience from the National Secular Society cheered, but no one else noticed.

This story was of course reported on the NSS site, Maryam Namazie Named “Secularist of The Year" which has the benefits of greater exactitude — and photographs.

The happy crowd who arrived at the Montcalm Hotel on Saturday were also joined by Honorary Associates Dr Evan Harris MP, Joan Smith, Martin Rowson and Jonathan Meades. The hilarious entertainment was provided by top notch comedian Stewart Lee, who is co-author of Jerry Springer — The Opera. His joke about what happens if you lick a lollipop with the face of the pope on it doesn’t bear repeating in a family e-letter.

That would be the Montcalm which may, for all I know, be the dowdiest 4-star hotel in the world.
Not quite no one else, Nick. It’s true that readers of tehgrauniad group newspapers, wouldn’t. Here’s the tehgrauniad’s site search for Maryam Namazie. Clearly, apart from Nick’s article, her only way to get into the paper is to write letters to the editor. Nick’s worked there how long, and he’s mentioned her how often?

For all that, Maryam Namazie’s obscurity remains baffling. She ought to be a liberal poster girl. Her life has been that of a feminist militant who fights the oppression of women wherever she finds it.

I’m baffled Nick and the monstrous legion of his colleagues haven’t mentioned her.
Others have noticed her before. Ophelia Benson (there’s a Butterflies and Wheels email every Monday if you’re interested) — Google found 46 references to Ms Namazie (some may be duplicates). The press didn’t cover it all, with the exception of Reuters.The NSS links to the limited coverage elsewhere, which manages to get everything wrong: here and here.
Coda: The one reaction everyone, including Nick, has missed is the one on Islamophobia Watch. (IW has a prominent copyright notice, which says in part, “All material remains copyright of original author and publisher, as cited in documents. Copyright material is posted on this website for the purposes of criticism or review.” I’ll note here that I’m posting their copyright material “for the purposes of criticism.")

This would be the same Mayam Namazie who offered the following thoughtful comment on the issue of the hijab: “I suppose if it were to be compared with anyone’s clothing it would be comparable to the Star of David pinned on Jews by the Nazis to segregate, control, repress and to commit genocide.” So perhaps it’s just as well they didn’t get her started on Islamophobia.

This is entirely argument by innuendo. Her point is entirely reasonable. (I think there’s a difference between, say, a BNP candidate saying that, and someone who’s lived in a Muslim country saying it. The difference isn’t in the words themselves, but the speaker’s purpose and his/her views on women.)
Update: I mentioned Islamophobia Watch, and should have guessed that they’d post on our boy.

The Ontario proposal [for “right to faith-based civil arbitration"] provoked a racist backlash throughout Canada against Muslims and their supposed barbaric religious practices, which it was claimed had no place in a civilised Western society. And it was another WPI central committee member, Homa Arjomand, who played a leading role in encouraging this upsurge of Islamophobia. For her trouble, she became the “poster girl” of the most hardline right-wingers, receiving plaudits from the likes of Front Page Magazine.
It can’t be long before Cohen and the WPI go the whole hog and join their friends in GALHA — with whom they have co-operated closely in the anti-Qaradawi campaign — in promoting an anti-Muslim agenda that is indistinguishable from the vile propaganda of the racist Right.

Nick doesn’t need me to defend him here, but I will anyway. I don’t think he’s anti-Muslim in any sense which he isn’t also anti-Jew (he is militantly secular, so he is anti-Muslim in a sense). I do think that his intention ("agenda” is such a loaded word) is distinguishable from the straightforward racists. Just as taking sound bites from George Orwell can make his anti-Communism sound indistinguishable from old-style Tories who stood for many things he hated, of course, Cohen and Namazie’s writings can be cherry-picked. If Nick agrees with FrontPage, it may be because, like a stopped clock, FrontPage is right every so often. (I could have put this in so many other ways, almost all of them better, including citing Goebbels on propaganda having to contain truth, but this will have to do.)
Update 2: I’ve had an email which says that the Guardian search above doesn’t work. It did for me, but I found four articles, one was the Nick Cohen piece under discussion and these: 2004; 2003; 2002. Ms Namazie was also mentioned by name by Kenan Malik in January this year. It’s still not much a platform to attack Woman’s Hour from.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Surely theres the obvious difference that the Star of David was forced on Jews whereas Muslim women choose to wear the hijab - not all of them, certainly, but i fail to see why all women shoudl be prevented from exercising their choice as a result. Given that the issue in regard to the hijab in Europe is forcefully preventing women from wearing clothing, if you defend the choice of Iranian women have the right not to wear the hijab, surely its necessary to also defend the right of their co-religionists to wear it? Comparisons with the Star of David are a crude and inacurrate piece of propaganda.

10/17/2005 12:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I dunno. She also said (as I mentioned below) that the UK and US states were "one pole of international terrorism in the world today" and had a go at the Iraq war. I think if she had said that on the BBC Cohen would have dedicated a column demanding to know why she was allowed on. That's increasingly the view I have of him: he just wants something to rant at. A hack, I guess.

10/17/2005 02:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The description is not applied solely to compulsary veiling in Iran and elsehwere; its applies to the clothing itself. the Worker-Communist party of Iran, of whom Namazie supports the ban on the hijb in Europe:'s_Right.htm

the denial of women's right to display their faith is surely as legitimate as the right not to display it.

10/17/2005 04:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I don't think that banning anything is a good idea (and that goes for activities I dislike and want no part in, like smoking or foxhunting), I still think that she has a point about oppression in Iran. She isn't in government, and she stands bugger all chance of getting into any government, so what she wants banned really doesn't concern me. I may be wrong, but I see her rhetoric as a bargaining tool.

10/18/2005 10:18:00 AM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

All I can really add to this discussion is whatever the truth is with respect to Maryam Namazie, it's clearly got chuff-all to do with "relativist liberals". To quote the great Simon Joyce:

"It is a sign of bigotry to hitch a pet hate onto an otherwise sensible point".

-- one of the other bruschetta boys

10/18/2005 07:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The one article that nick found (on lexis nexis) About Maryam Namazie is written by Yasmin Alibhai Brown, but he does not have the good grace to say that

10/19/2005 11:45:00 AM  

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