Title: A "Muslim" Right? Where? Credit: Craig Young Comment Friday 22nd July 2005 - 12:00pm1121990400 Article: 828 Rights
Some commentators seem to believe that there are large numbers of scimitar-waving "radical Islamists" concealed under our beds, ready to declare jihad on us all. Nonsense. I am not denying the tragedy that happened in London last week, nor that in New York on September 11, 2001. However, is there a "Muslim Right" developing in New Zealand? Some people have extrapolated from isolated incidents, and argue that is indeed the case. What are these incidents? Triangle Television aired an imported Islamic current affairs programme that communicated antigay sentiments. The Muslim Association of Canterbury's website carried links to another, overseas site that condoned violence against women. More recently, Labour Muslim MP Ashraf Choudhary was quoted as condoning stoning of gay people in Islamic societies, but has now retracted his original statement. He has since stated that the current affairs programme in question was Islamophobic in sentiment, and there may be grounds to that. Certainly, we ourselves have had occassion to complain to the Broadcasting Standards Authority about questionable depictions of lesbian and gay community members on current affairs programming in the past. Don't forget, too, Choudhary has a moderate voting record on so-called moral issues. He abstained on the Prostitution Law Reform Bill's third reading, ensuring its passage, and solidly supported the Civil Union and Relationship (Statutory Reference) Acts through Parliament. For this, the Christian Right pontificated about his alleged duties as a devout Muslim. So, is there any 'threat' from a nascent New Zealand Muslim Right? I don't think so. In Britain and Australia, I'd have to say that past and current racist immigration policies and tolerance of far right extremist groups like the National Front, British National Party and Pauline Hanson's One Nation mob have only fueled the rise of radical Islamist groups, as has the Bush administration's foreign policy adventurism in Iraq over the last two years. None of this justifies the atrocities in London and New York, but the far right and opportunist Howard and Thatcher administration co-optation of anti-immigration, anti-refugee and asylum seeker sentiment did much to create that problem in the first place. By contrast, Canada has had no such history, and has broad multicultural policies. As a consequence, it hasn't tolerated racism and social exclusion against its Muslim immigrant communities, and some interesting results emerged during the recent debate over same-sex marriage. Islam contains a variety of political traditions and orientations, as it is a world religion. In Canada, liberal Muslims and Sikhs supported same-sex marriage, opposing social conservatives within their religious and ethnic communities. Don't forget, too, that there are LGBT Muslim networks. In New Zealand, as yet there is no interfaith Christian Right. Fundamentalist Protestants have a hard time accepting religious pluralism, even when it comes to potential allies within the Muslim and Orthodox Jewish communities. While Bruce Logan attended a World Congress of Families conference in Mexico last year, and met Pakistani Muslim social conservatives at it, his Maxim Institute isn't sympathetic to prospects of increased Muslim immigration to New Zealand. The Christian Right is just that, and is unlikely to change. Granted, conservative Catholics are more pragmatic than their Protestant counterparts on interfaith cooperation, but they haven't dominated the NZ Christian Right since the heyday of the anti-abortion movement here, in the early eighties. There is no Muslim Right in New Zealand. Let us not buy into social conservative rhetoric about 'clashes of civilisation' and 'culture wars' that create anti-Muslim sectarianism and racism that might lead exactly the rise of such sentiments here. Recommended Reading Doris Buss and Didi Herman: Globalising Family Values: The Christian Right in International Perspective: Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press: 2002. Maxim Institute: World Congress of Families website: Craig Young - 22nd July 2005    
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