Namazie breaks the stereotypical mould that immediately
jumps to mind when we think of what has come to
personify Marxism. A committed Marxist, she is a
million miles removed from Screaming Wolfie Smith
and the comrades who thrust their weekly toilet
paper in the faces of those cursed with enough bad
luck to trip over them outside some event or other.
Whereas Marxism has become a joke by dint of association
with the Wolfies, in the hands of someone interested
in struggle rather than squabble, such as Maryam
Namazie, it takes on a new vitality. Observers then
come to see that Karl Marx fathered ideas, not idiots.
her commitment to a Marxism that values human rights
above paper selling she has become the bane of those
'right-thinking, left-leaning people' who Nick Cohen
in the Observer claims have backed away from her
because she is just as willing to tackle their tolerance
of oppression as the oppressors themselves.
in Tehran, Maryam Namazie left Iran in 1980 shortly
after the murderous Shah was deposed and replaced
by a theocratic regime. Before studying for her
university degree in the US she lived in both India
and Britain. When she completed her studies she
went off to Sudan to work with Ethiopian refugees.
While there an Islamic government was established
and it soon threatened her for having established
a human rights organisation.
after she fled Sudan and returned to the US she
became the executive director of the International
Federation of Iranian Refugees. It had branches
in almost twenty countries. She is a member of the
Organisation of Women's Liberation Central Council
where she campaigns against stoning, the veiling
of children, Sharia law, executions, sexual apartheid,
and women's rights abusers.
respected commentator, most of her energy is devoted
to defending women's rights. She has been hosting
a weekly programme on the London based TV International
which according to Keith Porteous Wood, Executive
Director of the National Secular Society in Britain,
'focuses on issues pertaining to the Middle East
from a progressive, left-wing perspective.' She
is also Director of the Worker-Communist Party of
Iran's International Relations Committee and has
served in Amnesty International.
one of the great political questions of our day,
the war in Iraq, she views the US led occupation
of the country as brutal. Arguing that one pole
of terror in the world today is political Islam
she asserts that the other 'is US state terrorism
- an example of which can be seen by looking at
the situation in Iraq.' While she acknowledges that
the failure of Arab nationalism helped fertilise
'political Islam', the bulk of culpability she places
firmly at the door of the West which used it as
an alternative during the Cold War. Political Islam
is a 'monster created by Western governments' which
since 9/11 has 'moved beyond its control and the
West is now moving to contain it.' But she insists
Western governments want only to contain aspects
of it - those that are moving outside of the region.
They have 'no problem leaving it contained in the
region to continue its reign of terror.'
frequent broadcaster and commentator she often uses
International Women's Day as a platform to highlight
the many injustices faced by women at the hands
of theocrats. At this year's event she proclaimed:
International Women's Day, we commemorate 23 year
old Hatun, murdered in cold blood in Germany by
her brothers for 'dishonouring' her family, for
divorcing a man she was forced to marry at 16, for
unveiling, and for dating German men. Hatun's death
outrages us not because her murder is a rare tragedy
but because it is so common. There are millions
like her living under sexual apartheid, veiled,
gagged, bound, burnt, hacked to death, hung, decapitated,
stoned... Millions like her refusing and resisting
and demanding a life worthy of 21st century humanity.
Millions like her demanding to live a life of their
an Iranian judge literally became the hangman for
a sixteen year old girl sentenced to death for having
sex Namazie organised worldwide protests. All the
while she remains steadfast in her challenges to
those 'apologists for Islam', some of whom have
fashioned an 'Islamic feminist' perspective in order
to avoid having to confront the theocrats. This
insult to our intellect and cannot be taken seriously.
Islam has wreaked more havoc, massacred more women,
and committed more holocausts than can be denied,
excused, re-interpreted, or covered up with such
feeble defences. Misogyny cannot be interpreted
to be pro-woman even if it is turned on its head
just as fascism, Zionism and racial apartheid cannot
be interpreted to be pro-human.
stance on cultural relativism is equally uncompromising,
which she has lambasted as 'this era's fascism.'
promotes tolerance and respect for so-called minority
opinions and beliefs, rather than respect for human
beings. Human beings are worthy of the highest respect,
but not all opinions and beliefs are worthy of respect
and tolerance. There are some who believe in fascism,
white supremacy, the inferiority of women. Must
they be respected?
flags up a range of practices that reveal a nefarious
dimension to cultural relativism alongside the cynicism
with which Western governments rely upon it for
their own self-serving ends. In Germany a court treated
with leniency an Islamic wife slayer on the grounds
that he was practicing his culture and religion.
In Holland cultural relativism has been cited in
defence of the forcible deportation of asylum seekers.
Iranian prison conditions are by such relativist
measurements 'satisfactory for third world standards.'
relativism serves these crimes. It legitimizes and
maintains savagery. It says that people's rights
are dependent on their nationality, religion, and
culture. It says that the human rights of someone
born in Iran, Iraq, or Afghanistan are different
from those of someone born in the United States,
Canada or Sweden. Cultural relativists say that
we must respect people's culture and religion, however
despicable. This is absurd and calls for the respect
ridicules those cultural relativists who seek to
conceal their tolerance for oppression by arguing
that universal human rights are a western concept.
come when it comes to using the telephone or a car,
the mullah does not say it is western and incompatible
with an Islamist society? How come when it comes
to better exploiting the working class and making
profits, technological gains are universal? But
when it comes to universal human rights, they become
a secularist she complements the stance towards
religion taken by Taslima Nasrin that Islam itself
is the problem rather than what are termed fundamentalists.
for Islam state that the situation of women in Iran
and in Islam-stricken countries is human folly;
they say that Islamic rules and laws practised in
the Middle East are not following the true precepts
of Islam. They state that we must separate Islam
from the practice of Islamic governments and movements.
In fact, however, the brutality and violence meted
out against women and girls are nothing other than
also sees political Islam attempting to impose restrictions
on the rights of women in Western societies and
argues that women who have escaped theocratic regimes
should be protected in the West from the very practices
that led to them seeking political asylum in the
first place. 'People fleeing political Islam must
be given asylum, full stop', is how she sums up
the Islamists are generally more 'civilised'. They
cannot hang the likes of sweet 16 Atefeh Rajabi
for "acts incompatible with chastity"
as in Iran, stone the likes of Amina to death for
adultery as in Afghanistan or beat doctors for treating
female patients as in Basra. Instead, they demand
the 'right' to veil for women and children in France
when in the Middle East they impose compulsory veiling
by throwing acid in the faces of those who refuse
and resist. In Britain, they cry racism and Islamophobia
against anyone who speaks out against Islam and
its political movement, whilst in Iran and its likes
they hang 'apostates' and 'Kafirs' from trees and
cranes. In Britain, they demand the prosecution
of those who 'incite religious hatred' when everywhere
it is they themselves who incite more hatred and
violence than can be articulated or imagined. In
Europe, they call for tolerance and respect of their
beliefs, when it is they who have issued fatwas
and death threats against anyone who they deem disrespectful
views on racism strike at the heart of the pseudo
anti-racism that sections of the left dabble in
but which in essence amounts to little more than
providing a shield for theocrats and misogynists.
She feels that many on the left apologise for the
political Islamic movement and are attempting -
similar to what they are doing in Ireland without
much success - to silence all criticism of theocratic
regimes as 'racism' or 'Islamophobic.'
Islam is not racism
You cannot be racist
against an idea or belief or ideology. Racism is
distinctions, exclusions, restrictions or preferences
based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic
origin of individuals - of human beings
cannot attribute human qualities to a belief system
and institutions in order to rule out and deem racist
any opposition or critique.
Marxist views leave her scathing of some on the
left who argue that exposing reactionary beliefs
is also racism. Her riposte:
the rape of a nine year old girl who is forcibly
married does not serve racism
sexual abuse of a child even though the Islamic
Republic of Iran's court says the father was forced
to abuse the child because his wife did not satisfy
him, does not serve racism - just like opposing
anti-Semitism doesn't make one a Zionist.
demands to know how it is racist to condemn a 'vile
political Islam' which has passed the death sentence
on women for adultery whose 'crime' was to have
been raped and which has blamed mothers for not
satisfying husbands as the cause of child sexual
beliefs is not racism. Is it racist to condemn fascism,
nationalism, capitalism, sexism, religion? Does
a critique of fascism, nationalism or racism promote
abuse against fascists, nationalists, and racists?
This is the pathetic whining of reactionaries
who want to silence defenders of women's rights
and frighten them into inactivity and submission.
a strategy of discursive reversal she slaps the
racist label firmly onto those who are most wont
to scream 'racism' each time someone steps forward
to defend women's rights against the theocrats.
women's rights activists as racists is a dim-witted
ploy to justify and excuse women's status under
Islam and political Islam, and deny women and people
living in the Middle East and Iran universal rights
a committed anti-racist she urges that the people
in the Middle East, just like people in Europe,
have a right to universal standards. Those who say
so because they want to maintain Islam. They want
to justify it. Excuse it. They have an interest
in safeguarding religion and political Islam. Or
at best, they believe women in Iran and the Middle
East are sub-humans who actually enjoy being segregated,
veiled, stoned, flogged and dehumanised.
the same anti-racist fervour she dismisses demands
for apologies being made of those who published
the Danish anti-theocratic cartoons, and in defiance
of the fascistic mindset, boldly stated, 'in defence
of free speech, secularism, and 21st century values,
I too am reprinting the caricatures. I urge everyone
to do the same.' She argues that ridiculing is a
form of criticism, resistance, and a serious form
of opposing reaction. She will hardly have missed
the paradox as pointed out by Slavoj Zizek in the
New York Times that, 'Muslims' only real
allies are not those who first published the caricatures
for shock value, but those who, in support of the
ideal of freedom of expression, reprinted them.'
like the offended Islamists - from the Islamic Republic
of Iran to Islamic Jihad to the Saudi government
to apologise; not for their backward and medieval
superstitions and religious mumbo jumbo but for
their imposition of these beliefs in the form of
states, Islamic laws and the political Islamic movement.
If any of them want to apologise for the mass murder
of countless human beings in Iran and the Middle
East, and more recently in Europe, for veiling and
sexual apartheid, for stoning, amputations, decapitations,
Islamic terrorism and for the recent brutal attack
on Tehran bus workers and so on and so forth, just
email me direct.
those who have despaired of Marxism in the face
of the cults and sects who hide their reactionary
perspectives behind little red flags, Maryam Namazie's
position comes as a breath of fresh air. A genuine
Marxist committed to universal human emancipation,
who measures progress in terms of lives saved and
not papers sold, she has tormented oppressors in
a way unimaginable to the sectarian ponds of quacking
ducks. Her place has been at the coal face where
she intends to remain and not amongst the paper
sellers of the quack pack.
Index: Current Articles + Latest News and Views + Book Reviews +
Letters + Archives