Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Festival of Norouz, St. Patrick’s Day, & Free Speech

The left used to think it would be a truly historic moral gain when crimes against humanity trumped the claims of 'national sovereignty' and placed a genuine responsibility to protect, a solemn duty to rescue, upon an 'international community'. . . Our agenda should be global democracy-promotion, free trade unions, human rights, women's rights, economic development and social justice, making tyranny history, making poverty history. In short, a new global social-democracy.

However, faced with the puzzling contradictions of the new political landscape parts of the left are sullen and negativist - anti-this, anti-that, always anti-American, but deeply unsure what they are for. Faced with the colour-coded democratic revolutions in the ex-Stalinist states (and their US-funded NGOs), or the first signs of an Arab Spring (being cheered on by 'that cowboy Bush'), or the purple fingers of an Iraqi voter (walking out of a polling station guarded by coalition troops), or the smiles of women – women! - cabinet members in Afghanistan's newly elected government (the result of a war fought by the 'Great Satan'), too many on the liberal-left are sitting on their hands.

The above is taken from a speech the British writer Alan Johnson gave recently in Paris, at conference titled Camus: Moral Clarity on an Age of Terror. Alan is the editor of Democratiya, which today publishes its fourth issue. Progressive Canadians who support the international struggle to help the people of Afghanistan in the work of ridding their country of fascism will find much of interest in the pages of Democratiya, especially in Alan’s speech, an expanded version of which appears there.

Alan finds deep reactionary currents among those who claim to be of the left, but have made a “Faustian pact” between reactionary anti-imperialism and theocratic fascism. My Chronicles column this week arises from a conversation with Taj Hashmi, a history professor at Simon Fraser University, who has observed precisely the same tendency in Canada that Alan describes. It’s that disgraceful inability to recognize fascism when it comes in an “ethnic” or “religious” guise.

Hashmi is a signatory to an important manifesto on free speech, signed by 11 Canadian Muslim intellectuals, which hasn’t got half the attention it deserves. Among its coauthors are such prominent Canadians as Jehad Aliweiwi, former executive director of the Canadian Arab Federation, Tarek Fatah of the Muslim Chronicle, and Munir Pervaiz of the Pakistan-Canadian Writers Forum. It begins this way: “A curtain of fear has descended on the intelligentsia of the West, including Canada. The fear of being misunderstood as Islamophobic has sealed their lips, dried their pens and locked their keyboards.”

In Britain, meanwhile the Alliance for Workers Liberty has noticed the same thing, which it attributes to "the shame of invertebrate liberals" in not confronting Islamist bigotry: “But what stinks most of all is the fact that what the bigots now try to do internationally is what they have done, and do, and intend to continue doing, to secularists, dissenters, heretics, non-compliers, liberals, and socialists in the countries where they are strong or dominant.”

Meanwhile, a dozen more intellectuals and journalists from around the world—including British novelist Salman Rushdie, Canada’s Irshad Manji, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali of the Netherlands—have just published another manifesto, similar to the one Hashmi signed. It puts the point this way: “After having overcome fascism, Nazism, and Stalinism, the world now faces a new totalitarian global threat—Islamism.”

That is precisely the totalitarian threat that Afghans, Canadians, Spaniards, Americans, and the soldiers of two dozen other countries are busy rooting out in Afghanistan. Supporting that fight is the only responsible and honourable option for Canadian progressives.

Under “Canuckistan Popular Front,”on the side of this page, you'll find links to Canadians who understand this clearly. But with the High Holy Day of St. Patrick’s Feast now upon us, you should have a look as well at the brilliant critique of these same subjects by an Irish comrade, Anthony McIntyre. Anthony, a former Irish Republican Army soldier, spent half his life in prison in the struggle against British imperialism. McIntyre exhorts us to take the Rushdie/Manji/Ali manifesto very seriously.

Want to know how to say “Saint Patrick’s Day” in Persian? It’s “Festival of Norouz.”

Well, not really. But a fine way to spend the Sunday of the Saint Patrick’s Day weekend, if you live anywhere near Vancouver, anyway, would be to pop by the Mickey McDougall gymnasium at East 23rd and St. Andrew’s in North Vancouver. Among the "new Canadians" there will be Iranian Muslims, Bahais, and Christians, and people of no particular religion; Iranian Kurds, Baluchis, Afghans and others. The opening homily will be given by a Zoroastrian. The general public is warmly welcomed.

The festival is more than just a tremendous testament to Greater Vancouver’s cultural diversity. It’s also a testament to freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly, and solidarity among and between all of us.


Blogger al said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1:51 PM  
Blogger Annamarie said...

Good post, Terry. Thanks!


8:09 PM  
Blogger Annamarie said...

Terry, I just read your essay, "The Parable of the Beast". Exquisite!


8:21 PM  
Blogger Mos and Nikou said...

Hi there,

I've been following your blog and I really find it interesting. I love reading articles from a fellow Iranian abroad.

Btw, this Norouz, send flowers to your loved ones in Iran via ParsaFlora


5:10 AM  

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