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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Profile: Caroline Fourest

The Blanket will feature a biography of each of the 12 signatories of Manifesto: Together Facing the New Totalitarianism, along with each of the Danish cartoons their number represents.

This is the eleventh in the series.

Anthony McIntyre • 1 June 2006

Editor in chief of Prochoix, a journalist and sociologist who graduated in sociology and political sciences, Caroline Fourest is the author of numerous works on the extreme right, the anti-abortion lobby and religious fundamentalism. While not an Islamic scholar she had specialised in fundamentalisms of various hues. She has focussed intensely on religions for ten years.

She has acquired a major reputation in France because of her investigation into the Swiss theologian, Tariq Ramadan. One of the major Islamic intellectuals in the tradition of Sayyid Qutb, executed by the Egyptians in 1966, the French magazine L'Express had described him as 'the man who wants to install Islamism in France.' Fourest observed that at one time she had hoped Ramadan was one of a number of 'ambassadors in the struggle against discrimination.' But to her great consternation she found him promoting a 'political Islam that is arrogant, dominating, Manichean.'

Fourest would see the 'unmasking' of Ramadan as a necessary battle in the struggle to prevent creeping totalitarianism clogging up the pores of French life. She is keen to point out that Ramadan has never acquired a doctorate in theology although he passes himself of as a genuine theologian. Her interest in him was such that she read 15 of his books and 1,500 articles which were either written by him or of which he was their subject. She also studied 100 tapes that he had made to distribute his message. In these tapes:

One here discovers Ramadan, the warlord giving orders and spelling out his political objectives: to modify the secular state and help matters evolve toward 'more Islam'. Unfortunately, the Islam in question is not an enlightened and modern Islam, but a reactionary and fundamentalist one.

In her book, Frere Tariq, she outlines how many people were terrified at the thought of having to testify against Ramadan who would employ a range of intimidatory strategies to dissuade them from appearing in court. She endorses the position of Antoine Sfeir, a co signatory of the Manifesto Against Totalitarianism, who has said of non-violent fundamentalist Muslims that they are 'more dangerous, precisely because they appear to be inoffensive. Terrorists are hunted down. The non-violent seem to be reassuring.'

Believing that there is an insidious intellectualism permeating Ramadan, she accuses him of manipulating Muslim youth into uncritically absorbing the ideologies of the Muslim Brotherhood and people such as Youssef al-Qaradhawi, who is one of the few Islamic theologians to openly advocate suicide bombings. 'I don't see anyone today who is as effective as Tariq Ramadan in furthering fundamentalism in France.' In her view he has achieved in France what some Islamists have managed to do through the Respect Party with Britain's Irrelevant Left:

He weakens secular resistance to fundamentalism by forming alliances with secular anti-racist associations. He has accomplished a sort of tour de force: to make Islamism seductive in the eyes of certain militants of the anti-globalization Left. His tactic is simple: to send young partisans of his cause to register in anti-racist associations and left-wing parties.

In a debate organised by L'Express, towards the end of last year which 'couldn't have been more heated' Fourest and a political scientist, Francois Burgat, explored the role of the Left in preparing the way for fundamentalism. Burgat rejected Fourest's criticism of the notion that women within Islam could improve their lives by using aspects of their own culture. He accused her of being part of the Left that had had confronted Islam 'with a sectarian and arrogant rejection, a veto.' Fourest's response was:

Let's talk about this Islamic feminism, that you find more interesting than my lay feminism. According to Tariq Ramadan's definition, women should take on activities which suit their 'nature' - on the condition that this does not endanger their role within the patriarchal family, and naturally, that they wear headscarves so as not to bring their men into temptation. If that's your view of women's liberation ...

In 2003 she was co-author of a book that dealt with the concept intégrisme and women.

By 'intégrisme', I mean religious movements which are not only extremist, violent or terrorist but which may be simply opponents of liberty from the political point of view, including Muslim movements like the Muslim Brotherhood as well as the Christian Coalition.

Yet she sees significant differences between the religions. 'Why do Taslima Nasreen or Hirsi Ali need more courage to fight Muslim intégrisme than I needed when I confronted Christian intégrisme in France for ten years?' She rejects any explanation that points to the similarities that exist between the three main religions. Sexism and oppression of women 'are the main values shared by fundamentalists of all three monotheist religions.' She illustrates this:

St Paul recommended the veil for women as a sign of subjection to God and he denied them the right to speak in public. Certain intégriste Christians continue to believe in his teachings. An ultra-orthodox Jew begins his morning prayer with the words: 'Thanks be to God that he did not create me a woman" and when one sees the few rights granted to ultra-orthodox women one understands why: they are deprived of the right to sing or to study the Torah, they are obliged to shave their heads or to wear wigs, and they are rejected if they are suspected of being barren. Which comes down to saying that they are only useful as mothers.

However Fourest outlines what for her is a central component of Islam that differentiates it from Judeaism and Christianity, making it much more oppressive and dangerous towards women. 'Intégriste Moslem groups, as they develop, dream of becoming a form of resistance to the westernisation of the world.' But because 'equality between men and women in their eyes represents the height of Western decadence' the intégriste Moslem groups 'redouble sexism … taking women hostage twice over: through their sexism and through their anti-Western

Women of the other two big religions can escape their diktat by seeking recourse to the state. In Islamic societies such as Saudi Arabia or in Iran, 'if a woman brings a case because her husband has forced her to wear the veil, the State itself will put her in prison.' These regimes are 'reactionary and, to some, fascist.'

Another danger to women from the Muslim intégrisme is cultural relativism.

Even in the countries where Islam is a minority religion, women's rights are threatened. In this case, perhaps precisely because of this minority status, which Muslim intégriste movements know exactly how to exploit to appear like martyrs of the policy security, racist, neo-colonialist policies, as we say in France .... On the pretext of freedom of expression and not being judgemental, the veil, the female genital mutilation or even lapidation are presented as 'cultural' or community rights that must be respected in order to avoid the racist label. …This kind of differentialist reasoning, to my truly racist eyes, supports Moslem intégrisme still further by depriving those who resist of the support which they should expect to get from progressive thinkers, in the rare secularized countries, where religion should be called into question by politics.

She calls for an end to be put to:

this intolerable and clearly racist cultural relativism that excuses in Moslem intégrisme what we would not excuse in Christian intégrisme. We must say no to this trap that presents feminism as a Western value or the defence of equality between men and women like as a form of cultural colonization. The right to equality and freedom does not belong to the West but to mankind and must be able to be shared by all.

Fourest sees in Islam a sinister dimension to which well meaning onlookers respond with gullibility, naively ignoring what is happening in front of their eyes. She urges society to refrain from using the term 'islamophobia - which deliberately confuses criticism of religion with racism.

For having signed the Manifesto Against Totalitarianism, Foruest and her 11 colleagues have been subjected to a death threat carried on an Islamist website, The group behind the threat called on its followers to act soon adding that it was not necessary have a fatwa issued. Fourest hits out at the theocratic fascist threat.

The threat is simply not acceptable. Our Manifesto urges to resistance by means of ideas. But the Islamists have answered with threats of violence. A proof - if such was necessary - of their rejection of democratic debate and of their totalitarianism.

She explained the reason behind the manifesto. It 'isn't against Islam but against Islamism and the Islamists using the religion politically to oppress, for example, Freedom of Speech.'

Caroline Fourest, like her fellow signatories has set her face like stone against the racism which sees some people not being as worthy of human rights as the rest of humanity. Her particular emphasis has been on the oppression of women by Islamists. In the face of their death threats she has continued to struggle against their power driven misogyny and is representative of a genuine Leftist current that opposes rather than accommodates totalitarianism, and which recognises that the worth of a human society is measured by the rights it affords to all. Having little time for the pseudo-Left, which measures progress in terms of how much hatred can be whipped up against American citizens, she offers something more than a chant, a rant and a paper, the defining feature of the pseudo-Left's equally pseudo-revolution.




See also:

MANIFESTO: Together Facing the New Totalitarianism
Freedom of Speech

Caroline Fourest
Bernard Henry-Levy
Salman Rushdie
Ibn Warraq
Chahla Chafiq
Philippe Val
Antoine Sfeir
Maryam Namazie
Taslima Nasrin
Irshad Manji
Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Le « manifeste des douze » fait réagir
English Translation by Liam O Ruairc
BHL: Bernard Henri-Levy
The Muslims America Loves
Freedom of Expression: No Ifs and Buts
Manning the Firewalls
Ulster Muslims' Fury at Web Cartoons
For Freedom of Expression
Muslim News Interviews The Blanket
Who Fears to Speak
Cartoons and Caricatures: An anarchist take on the cartoon row
Taslima Nasrin (2000)
The Clash of the Uncivilized
Misunderstandings Abound
A Vital Question Not Easily Washed Away
Zen and the Heart of Blasphemy
Closer to Home
The Right to Offend
Wrong to Claim Freedom of Speech
The Parameters of Free Speech
Unreal Paradigms
Cowardice on Cartoon Controversary

Standing Up to the Enemies of Free Speech
Irish Republicanism and Islam
Real human rights - without any religious blackmail
Resisting Censorship
Controversy over the publication of cartoons
Stereotypes Must Be Challenged Openly
New Convert
About the Possible Posting of the Muslim Cartoons
Well Done
A Muslim's Response
Straight Talk vs Orthodoxy

One Man's Terrorist is Another Man's Prophet
Christ Collage
An Eye for An Eye
Glad to See Someone is Not Afraid
There Are No Sides to Peace
Rights and Responsibilities

Censorship: The Blanket's first article (2001): Silence is Not Golden; It is Complicity



Index: Current Articles + Latest News and Views + Book Reviews + Letters + Archives

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



There is no such thing as a dirty word. Nor is there a word so powerful, that it's going to send the listener to the lake of fire upon hearing it.
- Frank Zappa

Index: Current Articles

14 June 2006

Other Articles From This Issue:

The Mark of Cain
Anthony McIntyre

Debris of the Dirty War
Mick Hall

More Claims
Martin Ingram

Case Unproven
Anthony McIntyre

Chain Gang
John Kennedy

Better to Put the Past Behind US
David Adams

The Gamblers
Dr John Coulter

Diarmaid Ferriter's The Transformation of Ireland
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Profile: Caroline Fourest
Anthony McIntyre

Le «manifeste des douze» fait réagir
Caroline Fourest

Reaction to the Manifesto (English Translation)
Liam O Ruairc

Freedom of Speech index

6 June 2006

We Believe Freddie McGuinness
Anthony McIntyre

Under Scrutiny
John Kennedy

Unionism's New Puppetmasters
Robert Matthews

Dr John Coulter

Two Peace Processes
Mick Hall

'The Beginning of the End has Past …'
Davy Carlin

How Many Grannies?
Dr John Coulter

Even the Dogs Bark in Irish?
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Bards for St Brigid's
Paul Dougherty

USA v Iran
John Kennedy

Threat to Iran Based on Duplicity
David Adams

Manifesto of the Third Camp against US Militarism and Islamic Terrorism

Profile: Bernard Henry-Levy
Anthony McIntyre

BHL: Bernard Henri-Levy
Liam O Ruairc

Freedom of Speech index



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