The genius of the ‘Islam is right about women’ stunt

Posters bearing that message have appeared in a town in Massachusetts. No one knows how to react.

Alaa al-Ameri

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Trolling the woke left has become a popular pastime. It can be clever and funny, but it can just as often be a crude attempt to elicit outrage for its own sake. Rarely, however, does something show up that is easily dismissed as ‘trolling’, but which is so remarkably incisive and apt that it rises not only to the level of satire, but borders on civil disobedience.

Think of Posie Parker’s billboards quoting the dictionary definition of the word ‘woman’. The power of such acts comes from two things. First, they acknowledge – usually with irreducible simplicity – that something that went without saying a moment ago has suddenly become unsayable. Secondly, the outrage they provoke does not come from any epithet, caricature or insult, but rather from having the nerve to draw the viewer’s attention to an act of cognitive dissonance that we are all engaging in, but would rather not acknowledge.

The result is that those who attempt to explain why the act is offensive end up simply tying themselves in knots, while revealing that they have never given a moment’s thought to the position they find themselves defending. This seems to generate even more anger, with the inevitable online mob quickly joined by politicians, journalists and other public figures, eager to see that the heretic is made an example of.

At their best, these acts of public disobedience are examples of real-life Winston Smiths pointing out to the rest of us that ‘Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four’. Their persecutors, like his, are those who know and fear the truth of Smith’s next sentence: ‘If that is granted, all else follows.’

The example of perfectly crafted dissent that I’d like to submit here appears in this video from Massachusetts local TV news, showing some reactions to the fly-posting of white sheets of paper bearing the statement ‘Islam is right about women’. The reactions are deeply revealing. Nobody can clearly point out why they object to the statement – indeed, nobody seems to object to the statement at all on its face. Yet most seem to express offence at it – if a little unconvincingly.

The reason for their dilemma is obvious enough to anyone who has been paying attention. Western society has managed to convince itself (at least in public) that any statement criticising any aspect of Islam is, by definition, bigotry. As a result, Western societies have effectively decided to enforce Islamic restrictions on blasphemy, and called it ‘tolerance’.

The strain of conforming to this lie is evident in the fumbling attempts by the interviewees to explain their objections. Do they believe that Islam is right about women? If so, why the objection? Do they believe that Islam is wrong about women? If so, in what sense is the statement an attack on Islam or Muslims? Do they believe that the author of the poster is saying that ‘Islam is right about women’, but doing so ironically? In which case, the objection can only be that the author is guilty of a thoughtcrime by stating that ‘two and two make five’ with insufficient sincerity. Or do they worry that they are guilty of thoughtcrime for noticing the irony?

I think the source of the objection is as follows: ‘I thought we had all agreed to pretend not to have any negative opinions about Islam. But this statement forces me either to agree with it, which I don’t, or disagree with it, which I’m not allowed to.’

The result is utter confusion on the part of the interviewees about how to signal their obedience to the unspoken lie. One woman, who struggles to explain why she found the posters ‘upsetting’, nevertheless, ‘ripped them down, took them to the police, and alerted social media’.

The situation is a beautiful inversion of the analogy set out in the iconic essay ‘The Power of the Powerless’ by Václav Havel, in which a greengrocer puts up a sign in his window that says ‘Workers of the world, unite!’. Rather than being the result of any deeply held ideological conviction, the sole purpose of the sign is to signal his obedience to authority, which he hopes will afford him the right to be left in peace.

In Czechoslovakia in 1978, it was a sign placed in a shop window. In the suburbs of Boston in 2019, it is confused expressions of ‘offence’ that can’t quite be pinned down or explained, but which must nevertheless be expressed in public, and reported to the police. The confused rambling is unsurprising since, as Havel explains, subjugating oneself to ideological conformity in return for a quiet life can only be achieved by abdicating one’s reason.

Such abdication grinds down the ideologically obedient citizen, because it reduces life to a purely material existence, in which moral integrity and human dignity must be sacrificed in order to keep the state off one’s back and oneself in a job. This is a fate which Havel suggested might one day befall the West if it were ever to succumb to the ‘profane trivialisation of humanity’ required to live within a lie rather than challenge it. With police now calling on citizens to ‘check their thinking’, and people regularly losing jobs over social-media posts, who can say that we have not reached it?

Alaa al-Ameri is the penname of a British-Libyan writer.

Picture by: YouTube.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

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Comments

A Game

29th September 2019 at 9:57 pm

Too funny.

I think another angle that is a real possibility, not just the straight out Islam good, Women good, thus I am confused about why its wrong, is it goes straight to one of the great hypocrisies of western, white feminism. Islam is right about BROWN/BLACK WOMEN, but you go f**k yourself if you are saying Islam is also right about WHITE women. (Which it implies by its lack of specificity, in a western country.)
That REALLY opens up a can of hot, stinking, hyperactive worms.

Fredric Smith

27th September 2019 at 4:40 pm

I’m waiting for someone to post flyers around the U.S. that read, “We Are All African American.” After all: 1) All humans came out of Africa originally; 2) There are people who claim race is just a construct (so we can legitimately “construct” our individual race however we like); and 3) with “reparations” in the political air these days, why not let’s all get in line?

Winston Stanley

27th September 2019 at 1:02 am

Being self-aware I take the slogan as an invitation to consider how our own inherited religion institutionally fairs regarding the equal place of women. The constitution of Ireland actually states that a woman’s place is in the home, so it is not that long ago since women were considered to have a distinct labour.

German bishops and laity are having a synod to allow women deacons (and then priests), married priests, the blessing of gay weddings in churches and to rethink s ex. The Vatican is trying to stop them. Either German Catholics will give way or the Vatican is likely to declare them to be in “impeded communion” with the RCC. There is talk of “schism”, which it is, but I doubt that the Vatican would issue a formal excommunication against the RCC in Germany – we will have to wait and see. The synod has been precipitated by the clerical child abuse scandals in Germany like elsewhere.

Celibate priests are considered “disciplinary” and liable to change. But the Vatican has totally dug itself into a hole with women priests, gays and s ex. Hopefully the German RCC will hold fast and see the synod through.

> ROME — The liberal Catholic Church in Germany seems to be taking steps toward a schism with Rome under the banner of “synodality,” according to veteran Vatican observers.
Under the leadership of Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich-Freising, “the Church in Germany is poised to pursue a radical ‘binding synodal path’ that seeks to dislodge settled Church teaching in the name of ‘synodality,’” warn the editors of the U.S.-based National Catholic Register Sunday.
In open opposition to Pope Francis and senior Vatican officials, the German Church has pushed a controversial plan that includes the creation of a “Synodal Assembly” in close partnership with the Central Committee of German Catholics, “a lay group that has demanded the ordination of women, an end to clerical celibacy, the blessing of same-sex unions by the Church and rethinking of all Catholic teachings on sexuality,” the editors state.
In response to the German scheme, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, declared that the proposals for the proposed unilateral synodal process are contrary to the pope’s stated instructions and are “not ecclesiologically valid.”

Winston Stanley

27th September 2019 at 6:25 am

Look who is talking. How about you allow women priests and let gays get married in church?

> VATICAN CITY, September 26, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) ― In an address to Jesuits in Mozambique, Pope Francis recommended an infamous 2017 article that characterized the cooperation between U.S. Catholic and Evangelical social conservatives as an “ecumenism of hatred.”
In the same address, the Pope criticized a woman who professed joy that two young people had converted to Catholicism. And he suggested young priests who wear cassocks are expressing a form of “rigid clericalism” that conceals “moral problems.”

Winston Stanley

27th September 2019 at 7:08 am

Irish Catholics are trying to reform too but they will get nowhere unless they “disobey” Rome. The German RCC can plot a course forward for other local churches. They have done it before.

> DUBLIN, September 24, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — Bishop John Fleming of Killala put his official support behind a process intended to effect the ordination of women as priests, following a vote by 69% of the members of his diocese.
According to Bishop Fleming, whose diocese is in the far west of the Republic of Ireland, a vote was held as a part of a “listening process” he instigated. The process was sparked by an analysis that estimates that there will be but three to six priests serving the 22 parishes of the rural diocese by 2037.
In the balloting, 80% of the assembly voted in favor of a female diaconate, while 69% voted for female priests. The vote found that 85% want married priests. The vote also found that 86% want the Catholic Church to change its teaching regarding homosexual relations and to include persons regardless of marital status, family status, or sexual orientation.
According to the Irish Examiner, Fr. Brendan Hoban of Ireland’s Association of Catholic Priests claimed that Bishop Fleming wants to incorporate the assembly’s findings into diocesan policy. Those suggestions that are not within the diocese’s capacity will be passed on to the Catholic bishops’ conference and the apostolic nuncio. The newspaper quoted Fr. Hoban, who said,
“There was no point us deciding that we were going to ordain women or married men as we don’t have the ability to do it, but we could control organizing lay ministers in a different way.”

Hana Jinks

27th September 2019 at 10:02 am

I lack the intellect to understand what you’re on about half the time. Why are you talking about this? Because it seems to me as if all of these churches are acting outside of Biblical Truth.

Winston Stanley

27th September 2019 at 11:59 am

The Bible does not actually say that women physically cannot be priests. Paul said that they should keep quiet in the churches and never teach men but that was likely a concession to the prejudices of the age and a desire to avoid scandal. It was disciplinary and liable to change but it was not doctrinal or immutable.

> A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. (1 Timothy 2:11-12)

In fact women did teach.

> He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately. (Acts 18:26)

Thus there was no absolute prohibition on what Paul seems to prohibit, women teaching men, and some accidental reason must rather be found, such as the custom of the time and the avoidance of scandal.

And so it is with other prohibitions and prescriptions that Paul lays upon women, they are not absolute but relative and limited to the time and the custom of the age.

Paul was willing to adapt church discipline to the needs of the time and Christians would follow his example to do the same and to allow women to take clerical positions in the church.

Again, nowhere does the Bible say that women physically cannot be priests, so it would be adding to the Bible to say that they cannot. Surely the Bible would have said such an important point clearly, so the implication is that women can be priests. The weight of the Bible thus supports women priests.

The Vatican does not go by the Bible alone, it has its own traditions. AFAIK it has never clearly “defined” that women cannot be priests, they are just being stubborn about it.

Hana Jinks

27th September 2019 at 12:29 pm

Ha, you got me again. I still don’t understand what you’re trying to say. Who is your audience on this, and what are you trying to tell them?

Hana Jinks

27th September 2019 at 12:40 pm

Catholic women? Lol. Catholics in general? Bogus churches? Hopefully there’ll be some Christians that read what you’ve written and understand it.

Robert Storm

27th September 2019 at 3:43 pm

Ms. Jinks, most Christians will be as left out as you are. Mr. Stanley seems to be interested in sectarian developments within the Roman church, not within Christendom or the West as a whole.

Hana Jinks

27th September 2019 at 4:02 pm

Then that’s pretty weird. I appreciate your reply, and accept that Mr Stanley might be talking to “other” Christians, but the only Christians I’m aware of have The Holy Spirit in their church, and are being fed by God, which would preclude most any of the churches that he speaks of.

Winston Stanley

28th September 2019 at 2:13 am

Ms J, I was not aware that anyone made you the “pope” about who is a “Christian” and who “has the Spirit”.

Mr S, you will likely find that “most” who self-identify as “Christian” actually are RC.

Hana Jinks

28th September 2019 at 7:15 am

God is clear about the spirit of homosexuality, and that and any other evil spirit won’t be tolerated in His house. Homosexuals should be going to church to be liberated from this evil, as opposed to having it indulged.

Ven Oods

2nd October 2019 at 9:03 am

““most” who self-identify as “Christian” actually are RC.”
RC – 51 m
Baptist – 33 m
Undenom – 14 m
Wesleyan – 14m
The rest – 30 m+ ….

So, not in global terms, Winston.

Robin Harwood

6th November 2019 at 5:58 am

Where do you get those figures, Ven Oods? They add up to 142 m, but according to Wikipedia (dodgy source, I know) there about 2.42 billion Christians globally. Of these, 1.313 billion are Catholics of one sort or another, 920 million are Protestants, and 270 Million are Eastern Orthodox.

Axauv Grunder

28th September 2019 at 10:28 pm

It’s funny to see you all prove the point of the article by demonstrating a total inability to react to “Islam is right about women” and instead taking a giant tangent leap into a diatribe about Christianity, which by of way of simplification is a compulsory religion in exactly zero countries on earth, not to mention the fact that its numbers are declining.

Terry Crane

29th September 2019 at 3:59 pm

Exactly right.

Asif Qadir

29th September 2019 at 7:28 pm

Western governments have been attacking Protestantism for decades as a way to remove God from public life, and there has been a corresponding slide in the morality and integrity of a political class that now only exist to promise everyone else’s money to those that vote for them.

H McLean

26th September 2019 at 11:38 am

This’ll be the point where the outrage mob declare they ‘don’t care about facts’. The average green-voting lefty would rather spoon out their own eyes than face up to their own blinkered cognitive dissonance. It explains utterly why the woman who appeared in the original news story, after ripping some of the signs down, went straight to the police station to report her upset fee-fees. She was an Aussie too, sad to say.

paul frentrop

26th September 2019 at 11:26 am

Always good to see Discordians at work

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