Criticism vs. Racism

Interview with Azar Majedi on the threat of war on Iran, the question of the veil, the great mosque project in London. Majedi founded the Organization for Women’s Liberation – Iran in November 2002, and at present is acting as its chair. She lives in London.

Would you say that the British have become aware of the danger of multiculturalists’ policies since the London terrorist attacks?

Azar Majedi: It is difficult to judge the British public opinion, as it is usually the media that makes and shapes the public opinion. As far as the British political arena is concerned, I must say no, it has not changed. The British government continues the policy of appeasement of the so-called “Moslem leaders,” whom to my opinion, are self appointed. Consulting with these religious men, in order to “win the hearts of Moslem community, is British government’s key policy.

Unfortunately, an atmosphere of mistrust has developed between the so-called Moslem community and the general public. Moslem community feels isolated and discriminated against. It has been stigmatized. This is the negative effect of the present tension. In the eyes of some, whoever considers themselves Moslem, has their origin in the region associated with Islam, or looks “Moslem” is considered a terrorist suspect. This attitude deepens the tension and friction in the society and deepens the existing separation.

On the left, perhaps with a good intention, to fight racism and stigmatization of Moslem community, the general mood is to support Islamic movement, the veil, gender apartheid, and all the Islamic values which are deeply reactionary, discriminative and misogynist. This is very wrong. This is in effect racism. To say, that gender apartheid and discrimination is ok for the “Moslems”. This is in fact double standards. We should first and foremost distinguish between “ordinary Moslems” and the Islamic movement. Second we should feel free to criticize Islam just as we feel free to criticize any other religion, ideology or set of beliefs. However, part of the left movement does not distinguish between these categories and accepts the self appointed “Moslem leaders” proclamations. Islamic movement is not the representative of Moslems, is not the representatives of Palestinians’ or Iraqi people’s grief. This should be stressed.

I believe we need a healthy debate. We need to criticize Islam and Islamic movement and at the same time fight racism, stigmatization and defend the individual rights. Since September 11 tragic event, many civil liberties have been eroded in the society, in the name of security. We should try and reverse this tide.

Has the Trotskyite SWP distanced itself from the Islamic fundamentalists or does it carry on openly in public with them as it did at the 2005 Social European Forum in London?

Azar Majedi: I must admit that I do not follow this party’s actions closely. As far as I know SWP has not changed its policy towards the Islamists. I believe they still fully support this reactionary and terrorist movement.
What’s your opinion about Ken Livingstone’s Big Mosque project?

Azar Majedi: I am totally against it. We don’t need more mosques. There are already too many of them. What we need is better and more schools for the children and youth in the Moslem community, a better and more and funded education for them, more leisure centres and sport’s facilities. Much more funds have to be poured into these communities to improve the social environment. These mosques are the place for brain washing of the children and the youth. Usually the underprivileged and marginalized youth are drawn into these mosques and being fed by hatred and reactionary and misogynist values. It is proven that some of these mosques, for example the Finsbury which has been used to train terrorists. We should also be aware that Islamic governments like Islamic regime of Iran and Saudi Arabia are behind such monumental projects. This is quite telling about the goals for building such monuments.

You are hostile to Iran’s ayatollahs. What’s your stand concerning the war threats relayed by Kouchner?

Azar Majedi: Yes, I am a staunch enemy of the Islamic Regime in Iran. This is a brutal regime that has executed more than hundred thousand people. It is a brutal dictatorship that oppresses the people and it is misogynist to its bones. I have been fighting this regime from the day it came to power.

Having said that, I must add that I am totally against the war. Military attack will be a catastrophe. It is the people in Iran and the region who will suffer as a result of this war. This, to my opinion is a war of terrorists. There are two poles of terrorism, state terrorism and Islamic terrorism which are inflaming this war. Such a war has no positive result for humanity, for peace, or for the people of Iran and the region.

This war will strengthen the Islamic regime, just as the Iraq war strengthen the Islamists and Islamic regime of Iran, just as the war in Lebanon strengthen the Hezbollah and the Islamic movement. As soon as the threat of war becomes imminent, the Islamic regime will make more restrictions for the people. It would brutally crush any sign of discontentment. It will execute people even more mercilessly.

The war will also be an environmental catastrophe. Attacking the nuclear sites will mean a nuclear hell in the region. I am totally against the war. We should try and stop this war. It will create a chaotic situation, a black scenario, which will only be a breeding place for terrorism. Look at Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, future for Iran will be if not more disastrous, just as catastrophic.

We must take the volatile political situation in Iran into consideration. People in Iran are resisting this regime. There is a great protest movement in Iran, workers’, women’s rights and youth movement against Islamic restriction and for cultural freedom. There is a significant secular movement in Iran. The war will have devastating effects on these popular and progressive movements. I believe our slogan should be “no to the war and no to the Islamic regime!” International left and progressive movements must support these movements in Iran

We should also expose the America’s war mongering propaganda. I should add that dismantling Islamic regime’s nuclear power is a pure misrepresentation of the war’s aim, just like the destruction of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was a pure lie. American government has been defeated in Iraq. To win back its position as the bully of the world it needs another war. Islamic regime was the actual winner in Iraq. By attacking Iran the US will show the world it still has the muscles to fight this regime, to attack any country, or do whatever it so pleases to, for that matter.

How did you react when you heard about the Vosges case? (If you haven’t heard about it, I’ll sum it up for you. A lady called Fanny Truchelut used to run a guest house somewhere in Eastern France. One day a woman booked a room for two and sent a cheque over. When the two women who had booked the room arrived, they were wearing the headscarf. Fanny kindly asked them to take it off in the common area. The Muslim ladies refused, claimed the cheque back, went away, contacted a newspaper, lodged a complaint against Fanny accusing her of racism.

A few days ago at the trial Fanny was given a four-month suspended sentence and she will have to pay a fine and an award (over 8,000 Euros). Lots of people think Fanny was right because she doesn’t understand why we should be shocked by theburke in Afghanistan and not by any sort of head-scarf in France). Do you think that forbidding the headscarf altogether is the best solution to the headscarf offensive throughout Europe?

Azar Majedi: This is a complex issue. I must first state that I am against the veil. I believe that the veil is the tool and symbol of women’s oppression and enslavement. Moreover, nowadays veil has become the banner of the Islamic movement. Many women both in the west and in the Middle East and North Africa wear the veil as a political gesture. American aggression, the war in Iraq and Lebanon and American’s full fledge support of Israel vis a vis Palestinians have motivated many young women to wear the veil as a sign of protest against the US and the west’s policies.

I have been fighting against the veil and have tried to expose its nature. Moreover, I am for banning the veil for underage girls. I think no child should be forced to wear the veil. A child has no religion. It is the parent’s religion that is forced upon them. The veil restricts greatly the physical and mental development of a child and must be banned. I am also in favour of banning the burke in all circumstances. However I do not believe that other forms of the veil should be banned for adult women, except in public institutions and schools, as the French law has prescribed. I believe more than that we are restricting individual rights of citizens to freedom of clothing and religion. I have written an article on the subject of the veil, a shorter version of which was published by Respublica. I explained in depth my reason for this position.

I believe a complete ban on the veil will have more negative effects than positive ones and will create a negative backlash which will damage our goals for a free and secular society, and for the freedom and equality of women. Instead of a total ban on the veil, we should campaign strongly against the veil, the Islamic movement and American aggression. We should expose both poles of terrorism to open up the eyes and minds of those women who have “freely” chosen the veil as political manifesation. Islamic movement is trying to portray itself as the liberator of the people in the Middle East, the Palestinians, and the Iraqis. This is a big lie. We have to expose that. We need to fight against the Islamists and their banner, the veil on the ideological and political sphere as well.

This interview was first published in 

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