I feel like I should start this off with a disclaimer (something which, now that I think about it, is sort of meta commentary in itself considered the state of current affairs. Heh.)
Uthman Badar is a very prominent figure in the Sydney/Australian Muslim community, and an extremely controversial one even amongst Muslim. It goes without saying that I disagree with about 90% of whatever he decides to blurt all over his public Facebook at any given time, and the 10% I do agree with is pretty much exclusively his views on ethnocentrism, Islamophobia and colonialism.
But see, this isn’t really about how I feel about Uthman Badar. Nor is it about what Uthman Badar’s radical viewpoints may be, misguided or not.
So today the Australian Media, and the mass of liberal advocates went completely bezerk in regards to Uthman Badar’s proposed topic at the Sydney Opera House for the “Dangerous Ideas” festical. The topic, “Honour Killings are Justified”, has, not surprisingly, rejoiced right-wing conservatives and liberal political activists in campaigning for one common goal. “Dangerous Minds” has responded to the criticism and outrage and has definitively pulled Uthman Badar’s talk from their programme.
I’m generally not inspired to write blog posts about every single hint of Islamophobia I see in the Australian media, because heh, who seriously has time for that? However, I wanted to write about this because I think this event CLEARLY illustrates how deep-rooted Islamophobia is. And most importantly, the fact you don’t have to be a conservative right-wing Christian nut like Fred Phelps, nor an anti-theist overly privileged white dude like Richard Dawkins, to be Islamophobic.
I’ll say it clearly: the media, and public’s reaction to Uthman Badar’s publicised talk, is straight Islamophobia.
If you look at the issue in a bubble, it doesn’t seem like anything’s wrong. “Honour Killings are Justified”. What a terrible idea, what a terrible premise, I agree. It’s provocative, offensive, and controversial — like pretty much every other topic that’s presented at the “Festival for Dangerous Ideas“.
The thing is, had a white non-Muslim man delivered this topic, it may have ruffled a few feathers but there is no way it would have gotten the immense amount of denunciation, nor media scrutiny, it’s getting now. Had a white non-Muslim man delivered this topic, it wouldn’t have been ultimately viewed by the people as a radical Muslim man trying to justify the Islamic practice of honour killing (a practice I may add, that Islam does not condone). But rather, it’d be seen as a nuanced, but controversial discussion, on the cultural practice of honour killings in comparison to our views of violence in the west. Ironically, Uthman Badar’s talk had absolutely nothing to do with the former, and everything to do with the latter. Considering my track record when it comes to the opinions’ of Uthman Badar I share, I would probably vehemently disagree with him anyway, but I digress.
There are a lot of loud people, people whose opinions I respected and whom I’m now sorely disappointed by, exclaiming that this has absolutely nothing to do with Islamophobia, and everything to do about civil and human rights. Which is of course, absolute and complete bullshit, because if it was true then those same people would be protesting against the entire festival from being held. After all, the festival has previously held, and will hold talks for politically correct and enlightened gems such as:
– Slavery is big business
– Women are sexual predators
– All Women are Sluts
– Is Torture Necessary?
Holy shit. If Uthman Badar even tried to talk about one of these topics at “Dangerous Ideas” he would have been put on a stake. Can you imagine if his publicised talk was “Women are sexual predators”? The Islamophobes would cream their pants at how will it’d fit in their “Muslim women are oppressed” narrative. Of course, none of these talks ever ended up being as controversial, or as terrible as the headlines promised. The titles constructed to be provocative and attention grabbing, to keep in line with the festival’s themes. Likewise, it’s ridiculous to think Uthman Badar would actually deliver a talk where he tried to condone honour killings. He’s said it himself:
“As for the content of my presentation, I wont be revealing much before the event itself. Surprise, surprise. I will, however, say that the suggestion that I would advocate for honour killings, as understand in the west, is ludicrous and something I would normally not deem worth of dignifying with a response. Rather, this is about discussing the issue at a deeper level, confronting accepted perceptions, assumptions and presumptions and seeing things from a different perspective.”
“Discussing the issue at a deeper level, confronting accepted perceptions, assumptions and presumptions and seeing things from a different perspective.” That quote is basically the premise in which entire festival is based on, and if a white man or woman had proposed the same topic, no one’s mind would immediately jump to “they’re going to spend an entire talk trying to justify honour killings”. As Patrick Stoke presumptuously proposes in his Drum article: “But could you declare, with anything approaching moral seriousness, that honour killings are sometimes morally permissible? I don’t see how.”
No you can’t. Obviously. Or at least we clearly don’t see how. Which is why no one would assume a non-Muslim man or woman delivering a similar talk would actually try and attempt that. However, with Uthman Badar, a controversial Muslim figurehead, people are quick to strip him off any humanity and rationality, and simply assume that obviously this angry, radical Muslim man is going to try and justify and advocate for acceptance of honour killings. There was literally ZERO information about what his talk would be about before both the left and right winged media jumped on the bandwagon condemning him for things he hadn’t even said (and from the looks of his response, had never even planned to say). No one went up to rally against Lydia Cacho for suggesting “Slavery is Big Business”, despite the fact that if you pretend you don’t know it’s obvious sensationalism, what you take away from the headline is Lydia trying to advocate for slavery in our capitalistic market. Hell, even the obviously humorously intended “Now I’ll Have to Kill You” talk by Glenn Robins and Dave O’Neil would be taken as an act of malice and a declaration of Jihad against western civilisation if linked with Uthman Badar. Doesn’t it say enough that I need to add a disclaimer before this blog post just so people don’t think I’m part of an Islamist group for defending Uthman Badar?
So to answer the Patrick Stoke posed in his article: “Can an idea ever be so dangerous it can’t even be discussed?”
If you’re Muslim, the answer is apparently a resounding yes.