Perhaps gender segregation’s a non-issue; Universities UK has withdrawn its endorsement. But it seems to me as though the most common liberal reaction to it has by its immediate feminist knee-jerk – however laudable – generally underplayed the damage it poses to men.
Take Yvonne Ridley, whose conversion to Islam is indebted to a promise that she made to her Taliban captors a decade back to read the Koran – or the “magna carta for women“, as she calls it. (One imagines why she is so keen to jump for a Medieval metaphor.)
Yesterday evening she posted the following to Twitter:
I think #LondonTransport should offer a female-only carriage on buses and Underground during an evening. Pilot 1st to see how successful
— yvonneridley (@yvonneridley) December 26, 2013
Just some typical misogyny from the conservative choir, you might say; and let them wallow in their masochism. A number of Muslim women do not seem to worry that leaving their “spiritual” authority to the guardianship of male scholars and imams might have leave them some dangerous consequences.
But do not let me stand accused of misrepresenting her position. Ridley states that her position is purely a discussion in the interests of public safety; an additional female-only service on buses or the tube late at night, she suggests, might reduce the number of sexual offences committed against women.
— yvonneridley (@yvonneridley) December 26, 2013
I followed the discussion for a bit, and by the end of the evening Ridley was showcasing her good multi-faith credentials by praising such alternative suggestions as well-lit platforms, conductors and better security. To this, she constantly stressed that even if women were to receive their own, segregated public transport it would be voluntary; how, after all, could a reasonable fellow turn down the request of elderly women to travel alone, if it gives them safety?
Does Ridley seriously believe that segregated seating is a matter for the secular authorities, and those looking to control violence against women? Maybe; I don’t know. It is why she so instinctively considered the idea as a solution that bothers me when, to my mind, no Hindu, atheist or Christian woman would be so likely to suggest it. Ridley’s statement that “all rapists are men” might just have been to say that all men are rapists: men cannot be trusted. They are prone to sexual desires egregious to the sanctified woman, who gains in spirit what she lacks in muscle, or in legal rights:
The Prophet said, “Isn’t the witness of a woman equal to half of that of a man?” The women said, “Yes.” He said, “This is because of the deficiency of a woman’s mind.”
(—Sahih al-Bukhari, 3:48:826)
Gender segregation as a woman’s oasis immediately occurs to Ridley, in other words, because she has taught herself to believe that one can build a society from its chromosomes. Instead of looking to cross-gender solutions, she jumps to misandry.
If violence is disproportionately aimed at women, then it is important to bring as many of both genders into the support of campaigns against it; to question the roles of schools, and ask why alpha-males still think they matter; to encourage people to travel where it is busy; to attack binge drinking; and to promote a sense of equality between men and women. Whatever the case, it could never be healthy for one half of a society to be constantly subject to the wicked prejudice of the other.
I recently cited Milton to show can people can reach the right answers from the wrong origins; a belief in liberty of conscience so that the soul can reveal its true intentions. Ridley could learn from how the Victorian suffragists fought for equality from the deflated utopianism of the middle-class and its “separate spheres”; as Millicent Fawcett, leader the NUWSS, wrote in 1898:
To women as mothers is given the charge of the home and the care of children. Women are therefore, by nature as well as by training and occupation, more accustomed than men to concentrate their minds on the home and the domestic side of things. But this difference between men and women, instead of being a reason against their disenfranchisement , seems to me to be the strongest possible reason in favour of it; we want to see the home and the domestic side of things to count for more in politics and in the administration of public affairs than they do at present.
(—Home and Politics)
It’s a little unsatisfying that the rough-and-ready suffragettes would be the most serious blow to the pace of feminism’s first wave; that said, it would be rather encouraging if conservative Muslims could, like Britain’s tame Christian forebears, promote the integration of women rather than opine on a world from which it has taken many women rights activists a century to escape.
They’d still be wrong, though.
Another stupid, misleading article by Myriam Francois-Cerrah:
Universities UK’s guidance was not about the rights or wrongs of segregating an event by gender, rightfully steering clear of this important discussion in order to allow, as a free society should, the full expression of a range of distasteful, illiberal and even offensive views. It’s a lesson Muslims are regularly lambasted with. This means that although as a Muslim, I oppose the segregation of lectures along gender lines, even side by side, I’m glad British universities have upheld their commitment to securing free speech and promoting debate, which is exactly what university is about. It is now up to Muslims internally to push forward with greater gender equity, increase female representation and challenge sexist views which bend theological interpretations to fit their patriarchal desires. Banning segregated seating will do nothing to resolve the misogyny which at times underpins it.
“Do anything controversial, however bad, and I’ll support it. Because I like disagreeing with things.” And who said careerists were vacuous?
Francois-Cerrah has either not read UUK’s guidance, which she so readily explains to us, or she has so subsumed herself into the inferiority complex of the Muslim community that she feels that she must throw herself behind its most reactionary – and unrepresentative – elements. It’s either ignorant or dishonest.
Firstly, take a look at what UUK actually said:
Ultimately, if imposing an unsegregated seating area in addition to the segregated areas contravenes the genuinely- held religious beliefs of the group hosting the event, or those of the speaker, the institution should be mindful to ensure that the freedom of speech of the religious group or speaker is not curtailed unlawfully.
In other words, for men and women to choose to sit next to one another in a public gathering is an attack on the speaker’s “genuinely-held religious beliefs”; if you do not abandon your rights when you are instructed, you are being an odious, inward-looking and regressive troublemaker. Indeed, Omar Ali appeared on Channel 4 News to celebrate the victory of religious bigotry as being that “we live in a liberal society.”
One has to wonder whether he has completely misunderstood the meaning of liberalism – which, to its credit, were such frivolities as the emancipation of women – or whether the political Islamic pressure groups have finally understood the virtues of their alliance with the far-left.
But to Francois-Cerrah:
It is Universities UK which is calling for bans; here, on the right of individuals to express their beliefs in the physical (not merely “spiritual”) equality of the two sexes. That is an assault on freedom of expression. No one is saying that deluded victims of indoctrination – male or female – may not voluntarily segregate themselves at a mosque or Agatha Christie-esque dinner party. But I will not allow you to force me to sit where I do not wish to sit.
1) Grow up.
2) This is why we need socialism and not this stupid wishy-washy liberal attitude to things.
Remember the Laurence Krauss debate at University College London last year? He refused to cooperate with the organisers once he realised that the audience in front of him was segregated by sex. Fortunately, that story concluded with the Islamic group responsible being banned from hosting any further events at UCL; the university staff seem to have come down on the right side.
But apparently it’s much more widespread than we thought:
Student Rights event monitoring programme enables an in-depth analysis of this issue, with 180 events logged in the period March 2012 to March 2013 investigated for evidence of segregation;
46 of these events (25.5%) at 21 separate institutions were found to have either explicitly promoted segregation by gender, or implied that this would be the case, with six of these cancelled before taking place;
So what is this bullshit?
Universities UK (UUK) has issued guidance on external speakers saying that the segregation of the sexes at universities is not discriminatory as long as “both men and women are being treated equally, as they are both being segregated in the same way.”
UUK add that universities should bear in mind that “concerns to accommodate the wishes or beliefs of those opposed to segregation should not result in a religious group being prevented from having a debate in accordance with its belief system” and that if “imposing an unsegregated seating area in addition to the segregated areas contravenes the genuinely-held religious beliefs of the group hosting the event, or those of the speaker, the institution should be mindful to ensure that the freedom of speech of the religious group or speaker is not curtailed unlawfully.”
We, the undersigned, condemn the endorsement of gender apartheid by Universities UK. Any form of segregation, whether by race, sex or otherwise is discriminatory. Separate is never equal and segregation is never applied to those who are considered equal. By justifying segregation, Universities UK sides with Islamist values at the expense of the many Muslims and others who oppose sex apartheid and demand equality between women and men.
The guidance must be immediately rescinded and sex segregation at universities must come to an end.
Separate but equal? I mean, wasn’t Rosa Parks just as comfortable at the back of the bus?
Universities UK can’t even be spat out for being a group of poseur anti-establishment lefty sorts allying themselves with the Islamist far right. No, this is a sordid collection of university officials, most of whom old and unelected with a constant urge to remind us continually of both of those facts. It has no actual authority; but its “guidance” makes for a useful template for perturbed managerial staff (the current President is the Vice-Chancellor at Bristol) concerned about their “multicultural” reputation. Never mind the fact that most Muslims wouldn’t approve of this.
Sign the petition!
It’s rare to find a statement on Israel-Palestine that isn’t poisoned by political agenda, and which is seriously interested in resolving a conflict rather than – dare I say – prolonging it by the same:
We call for the immediate withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Occupied Palestinian territories, and the creation of a really independent Palestinian state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, in contiguous territory, alongside Israel.
This is of great urgency because the Israeli government continues to build settlements in the Palestinian territories, and refuses to negotiate seriously. It aims to make a genuinely independent Palestinian state impossible. This situation is a factor endangering the whole region.
There is also a religious-sectarian polarisation across the region. Secularism, equal rights for all religions and none, and the right of self-determination for all nations – including the Palestinians, the Kurds and the Israeli Jews – are an essential part of winning democracy, peace between nations, working-class unity and social advance in the Middle East.
We call on the British government, the EU and the US to withdraw the political, economic, diplomatic and military ‘aid’ they give the Israeli government until it negotiates a deal giving the Palestinians the right to a really independent state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.
We will work for the British and international labour movement to liaise with and help efforts in the region, including by Palestinian and Israeli activists, to fight for workers’ rights, democracy, secularism and the right of all nations to self-determination.
What I admire about the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty is that they rely on positive rather than negative principles. This is a statement for the people of Israel and Palestine rather than simply against imperialism, or Zionism, or religious sectarianism.
I wrote this before Ed Miliband betrayed the Syrian people, so it is a bit out of date/lacking necessary expletives, but here is my article for Cherwell.org:
“Never again,” we like to tell ourselves, again and again. Looking back, we know Thomas Hardy was right to anticipate “all nations striving strong to make red war yet redder”; the so-called “war to end all wars”, beginning in 1914 with Gavrilo Princip’s bullet of the century, would not really end until 1991. Outlived as he was by the old men who sent him to die, Wilfred Owen’s glib submission “dulce et decorum est” should represent more than anything else the grim legacy our generation inherited from the 20th century. Our heroes showcase a grand hatred of war.
Except we see the world beyond through different spectacles. The student voice, which in the 1960s called on Britain to take a moral lead in the world, drops dead with apathy or sinks into “post-colonialist” hysteria whenever faced with foreign conflicts; the Labour Party has been mellowed by a populist sickness that chases after old Tory slogans; and Barack Obama, with his innocuous charm and Nobel Prize to think of, would rather pretend there is no war than bring it to an end.
Read the rest here!
Not that I can really contribute much to the BBC’s publicity, but one piece worth highlighting is on a new study revealing some of the evolutionary benefits to sharing and cooperation:
A team from Michigan State University, US, used a model of the prisoner’s dilemma game, where two suspects who are interrogated in separate prison cells must decide whether or not to inform on each other.
In the model, each person is offered a deal for freedom if they inform on the other, putting their opponent in jail for six months. However, this scenario will only be played out if the opponent chooses not to inform.
If both “prisoners” choose to inform (defection) they will both get three months in prison, but if they both stay silent (co-operation) they will both only get a jail term of one month.
The eminent mathematician John Nash showed that the optimum strategy was not to co-operate in the prisoner’s dilemma game.
This study would be worth celebrating in its own right – but it helps to contextualise some of the arguments made by Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene. If the study’s conclusions are correct – and I stress the weight of the if – then it acts as a practical, rather than visceral, refutation to those who believe in the beneficial qualities of war as a driver for progress.
One will inevitably consider the solipsistic racists expressing contempt for the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations in Washington as they naively grapple to appease two parties of God at once. Eretz Yisrael Zionists – paranoid about the implications of a Palestinian state – and anti-Semitic Islamists – to whom a state for Jews is in itself a cause for war – pollute the two camps.
Human actions are only coherent in Darwinian terms. Thus a child-like plea from secular science: the conflict hasn’t worked out for anyone and never will. Stop it. Not that such an argument should be necessary, and not that it would work on zealots. But oh well.
Enjoy the picture.
Andrew Sullivan argues that Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev – Boston bombing suspects – were motivated by religious terrorism:
We know full well that Tamerlan had become a total extremist in his religion. He was thrown out of his own mosque for being a bigot; his family complained about his obsessive religiosity; he berated others for not being sufficiently devout; he had archaic notions of women’s role in society; he gave up his beloved boxing because of Islam. His YouTube account is full of Islamist extremism. And he deployed terrorist violence because of it. That’s Jihad, Kevin. It’s religion in its most toxic form – as the AP finally acknowledged last night. It doesn’t need a foreign terror group for it to be Jihad; it’s obviously not Chechen nationalism – because that would mean attacking Russia, not the Boston Marathon, a symbol of co-ed multi-cultural secularism. I think some liberals who have never experienced religious faith find it hard to imagine how faith alone can spur someone to mass murder. They need to get out more.
There’s more than a whisper of racism about: irony seems lost on the latest edition of The Week, its cover portraying the – Caucasian – brothers as brown-skinned caricatures of the extremist the Islamists know and love well. It’s outrageously stupid and falls right into the net of the harpies capitalising on the moment to bang on about “Islamophobia”.
Running alongside this theme is one more troubling, though: we’re told that that the visceral portrait the media inevitably paints after these is itself a defeat. Long coverage, extended panic, flashes of photography flicking through our nightmares vindicate the terrorists whose aim was only ever to leave us feeling vulnerable and defenseless. None of this is justified given so low a death toll. Apparently. Peter Hitchens tell us:
In many cases they save us the trouble of killing them by doing it themselves. But if they survive, they deserve a fair trial and then a swift vertical journey through a trap door with a rope round their necks.
Yet instead, we do exactly what they hope we will do. We act as if they are important. We turn our countries upside down to take useless precautions against them. We give the police special powers. We make travel into a silly palaver of searches and checks of obviously harmless people. We destroy half our ancient liberties as we tramp and stamp about. Then, later on, we give in to the terrorists anyway.
None of these precautions works. They are as futile as the toy golf-ball detector which a cunning fraud successfully sold as an explosives scanner, and they work on the same principle. The client is so scared that he has stopped thinking, and will gullibly accept almost anything he is told.
The distinction between horror and hysteria is a pivotal one, since however slight the difference the repercussions are serious. The story that Hitchens outlines – of unwritten racial profiling, of written control orders, of treating every air passenger like a violent child – is the ultimate capitulation, making a suspect of everyone and a citizen of none. The same is true of those driven mad by the prospect of an Islamic community centre at Ground Zero as though all Muslims were agents of the Satan they saw in the smoke.
But not all horrors are hysterical; indeed it’s the rational nightmare that is the most truly terrifying. That, if nothing else, is what terrorists want us to abandon. Faces chilled by apathy are like broken instruments; because the terrorist want to stop the music, not just kill the musician. If we try to hide the disgust we feel towards murder then they win on both accounts. Consider the saying of the French when the Germans stripped them of Alsace and Lorraine in 1871: “Always think of it. Never speak of it.” Their rationale was impotence; and despair sealed their defeat. Western armies might never be able to stop lunatics grabbing bombs, but: religious terrorism assaults a culture to which arbitrary slaughter should forever be alien. In making that normative we sell off those very principles that they fear.
No one really knows who told us that good men who sit in silence allow for the prospering of evil. I suspect the reason is because it’s so obvious a dictum that attributing it to one person would be to sacrifice the integrity common to every decent person.