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
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,
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:
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.
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.'
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:
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.
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
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
2003 she was co-author of a book that dealt with
the concept intégrisme and women.
'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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
calls for an end to be put to:
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.
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.
having signed the Manifesto
Against Totalitarianism, Foruest and her 11 colleagues
have been subjected to a death threat carried on an
Islamist website, ummah.net. 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.
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.
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.'
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.
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