Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Facing the new totalitarianism

From the Manifesto: Together facing the new totalitarianism by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Salman Rushdie, Ibn Warraq and 9 other signitories.

But we clearly and firmly state: nothing, not even despair, justifies the choice of obscurantism, totalitarianism and hatred. Islamism is a reactionary ideology which kills equality, freedom and secularism wherever it is present. Its success can only lead to a world of domination: man's domination of woman, the Islamists' domination of all the others. To counter this, we must assure universal rights to oppressed or discriminated people.

We reject « cultural relativism », which consists in accepting that men and women of Muslim culture should be deprived of the right to equality, freedom and secular values in the name of respect for cultures and traditions.
Not much to disagree with here. I do wonder about the line "we must assure universal rights to oppressed or discriminated people". If they mean that we must do this in Western countries, that is surely true - it is, in the end, the sine qua non of the defense of our own liberties. But what does it imply for the oppressed of countries whose very regimes are the oppressors? How aggressive must our 'assurance' be?

'Outreach' in Iraq is one thing, justifiable as it is, not only on the terms evoked here, but also in our own interests. However, we lack both the means and the will to do the same elsewhere. The charge of hypocrisy will be inevitable - what about Zimbabwe, the critics will say, or Darfur, or any number of benighted lands. Yet it is impossible to speak of 'universal human rights' and then modify it with 'only here, but not there'. In practice, it may be that you can only say 'where possible' while in theory, just to maintain the possible, you continue to assert the impossible.

(via Harry)

No comments: