"Women are not fucking around in this area."

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The British reporter Johann Hari writes on a ferocious cultural conflict in his London neighborhood, Brick Lane. The controversy surrounding Monica Ali's book Brick Lane, about the repressive culture of a Bangladeshi community in the neighborhood, was simmering even before it was optioned for a film.

When the BBC decided to make this into a film, they naturally wanted to shoot on Brick Lane itself—and the troubles began. A small number of Bengali men were enraged by Ali. A woman—a woman!—had dared to take the rest of us on an intimate tour of the Bengali community. She had even tried, in her subtle, tender way, to incite a rebellion of Muslim women, to encourage them to become Nasneems and discover the joy of being free-thinking sexual women rather than being terrorised into tethered livestock hiding in cloth-prisons. They organised demonstrations to halt the filming, to shut up this uppity bitch once and for all. Their meetings talked of burning the book and of burning her.

There's more about the feminist Germaine Greer-conservative Muslim alliance against Ali and an interview with the foul-mouthed organizer of the anti-Ali campaign.

UPDATE: I corrected the text to make clear it's only one feminist allying with the conservative Muslims, and an iconoclastic feminist at that. But I just noticed something else. Brick Lane is included in the Bethnal Green and Bow constituency in Parliament. This is the seat represented by George Galloway.

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  1. “Their meetings talked of burning the book and of burning her.”

    I bet they talked about attacking her with acid – apparently quite the thing to do to women in Bangladesh.

    The BBC had a story on it, and there was even a small child who had been made to drink acid.

  2. This is why libertarians shouldn’t give ground in America to the religious right or to mealy-mouthed DNC presidential wannabes like Barak Obama who diss secularism and standing against religious extremists.

    Today, we’re giving ground to the Robertsons and Falwells, next thing you know, we’ll be turning a blind eye to those that threaten (or carry out threats against) the future Salman Rushdies or Monica Alis of the western creative community.

    At what point do civilized people in the west— America, UK or otherwise—just tell these religiofacists f*ckwads to take their neandertal ways, find a desert island and take their anti-female sexual hangups with them?

  3. >There’s more about the feminist-conservative Muslim alliance against Ali

    I didn’t see any feminist-conservative Muslim alliance in the article. Just a reference to the wrong-headed article Greer wrote for the Guardian. Plenty of other feminists in the UK and here have shown support for Ali.

  4. “Today, we’re giving ground to the Robertsons and Falwells, next thing you know, we’ll be turning a blind eye to those that threaten (or carry out threats against) the future Salman Rushdies or Monica Alis of the western creative community.”

    Or better yet, we could ignore juvenile “libertarians” who insist that every horrific crime committed by Islam is just another excuse to indulge their masterbatory fantasy of shaking their fist at the American theocracy.

    Whatever I think of Pat Robertson (and I think he’s nuts), he and kind aren’t hijacking planes and flying them into buildings; beheading little girls who don’t share his religion (Indonesia); bragging that he will “finish Hitler’s work” (Palestinians); threatening cartoonists, novelists, and film makers with death; or murdering his daughter because she shamed the family by allowing herself to be raped by her brother (all over the Muslim world).

    Oh, wait…Robertson’s against abortion. I guess that makes them the same. Sorry.

  5. The logic of multiculturalism has made it hard for these thugs to be challenged. Multiculturalism treats immigrant communities as homogenous blocks, represented by elderly, reactionary ?community spokesmen?.

    Fucking eh

  6. In London, the police have begun to defend free speech only selectively, telling people under threat from foaming fundamentalist fringes that they ?cannot guarantee their security?. When a Muslim man held up the Mohammed cartoons at a Free Speech rally in London earlier this year to demonstrate his support for free speech, he was actually arrested for a ?public order disturbance?. When my friends at the Liberal magazine printed the cartoons, they were told by the police they were on their own. What right have the police to decide to abandon chunks of the population to fanatics? Why did they not guarantee the safe passage of camera crews on Brick Lane?

    One of the basic functions of government is to protect the rights of individuals from being sullied by other individuals. In fact, IMHO, it is the basic function of government.

  7. Paul P-

    Whatever I think of Pat Robertson (and I think he’s nuts), he and kind aren’t hijacking planes and flying them into buildings; etc.

    I’m not one of those schmucks who doesn’t appreciate the difference between Osama bin LAden and, say, Rick Santorum, and I doubt that any knuckleheads from (say) the Christian Coalition will ever engage in actual large-scale al-Qaida-like shenanigans. However, I predict right now that a day will come when there is a religious-right version of the poor-man’s-Chomsky argument against the GWOT. Something like this: “Well, OF COURSE I deplore bin Laden’s tactics, but you must admit that he has a point about the creeping secularism of the modern world.” Etc. Robertson and Falwell famously tried this out shortly after 9/11. They got kicked in the ass for it because 1) it was way too soon, and 2) the Republicans in the White House needed to get down to business, and thus needed sniping from ‘inside the tent’ like they needed a collective case of crabs.

    One of the reasons I voted for Kerry in ’04 was that putting a Dem in the Oval Office would force that party to have to come up with some sort of reasonable response to Iraq, al-Qaida, bin Laden, etc., rather than simply sniping from the sidelines (which is really the only option they had then or have now). The flip side of that is that, if the Dems ever get to ‘own’ the GWOT in that way, the Reps may learn how to ‘own’ the sniping. Just wait until a few more elections have gone by, and it suddenly occurs to a GOP whose political fortunes have waned that they have more to gain by exploiting American weariness and trepidation over the war(s) than they do by being the “hawk” party.

  8. From the Department of Redundancy Department:

    “The controversy… was controversial…”

  9. BornAgainIconoclast =

    You conflate religion with ‘repression of women’ when in fact the two can either coexist or be mutually exclusive in any given culture. point being – are bengalis repressive of women because of Islam or Hindu religions, or are they repressive of women because they’re a 19th century culture catching up to the 21st?

    There are muslim societies where this isnt the case, as well as secular societies where women are held in second class status… Turning this into another ‘isnt religion stupid’ debate i think misses the larger picture entirely.

    JF

  10. One of the reasons I voted for Kerry in ’04 was that putting a Dem in the Oval Office would force that party to have to come up with some sort of reasonable response

    Unfortunately, the office of the Presidency has purposes other than serving as on-the-job therapy for the winner.

    If they can’t come up with a reasonably policy before winning the election, then they aren’t fit to govern.

    I mean, c’mon, would you hire someone with no computer skills to be your secretary, on the theory that this would force them to learn how to type?

  11. “I predict right now that a day will come when there is a religious-right version of the poor-man’s-Chomsky argument against the GWOT. Something like this: “Well, OF COURSE I deplore bin Laden’s tactics, but you must admit that he has a point about the creeping secularism of the modern world.”

    I think you will be waiting for a long time. A few idiotarians made the “the U.S. got what it deserved for being so secular” card, but they were shouted down pretty quickly. I know my fair share of evangelicals and none of them believe that crap.

    These people are just animals plain and simple. The bottomline is that you have to stand up to them and put a stop to it. If you are not willing to do that, than you have to stop them from immgrating. What you cannot do is have porous borders that let anyone and everyone in and then not expect any stardard of behavior from them once they get here.

    I have said this before; there are a lot of people in the world you don’t want to meet much less live next door to you. You can pretend otherwise and nail yourself to the cross of “everyone has a right to live anywhere” mantra all you want, but that is not going to change anything.

  12. “It has created the bizarre situation where the often-great feminist Germaine Greer has ended up siding with the patriarchal protestors as the keepers of authentic Bengali culture against the carping feminists.”

    The fact that anyone who calls themselves a “feminist” could defend these people and attack Ali, especially an old line feminist like Greer, says that for some anyway “feminism” was about their own personal nuerosis and societal hatreds and nothing to do with the rights and welbeing of women.

  13. John Says =
    “These people are just animals plain and simple.”

    🙂

    So much for free minds, free markets, tolerance, pluralism, free exchange… (sound of toilet flushing)?

    [then, I’d probably agree with you if you took the “These” part off the front]

    I dont know if you actually read the piece or not, but the majority of the Bengalis in the London neighborhood described (where I ate some curry once) were perfectly happy with the book and the film project – but found it difficult to shout down the minority of traditionalists who saw the thing as an affront to their ‘culture’… So when you say, ‘these people’, you’re tarring a whole culture based on their loudest few. Might as well say that “Americans” are equivilent to the Westboro Baptist Church (“Godhatesfags.com”)

    The case you make above is pretty much exactly what every Know-Nothing party member said about Irish, Italians, Jews, Slavs, at the beginning of the 20th century.

    I mean, not like any of *US* could possibly be decended from immigrants who spent 2-3 generations assimilating… that would be…contrary to your point…

    JG

  14. Gilmore,

    When I said “these people” I meant the ones who profess to be traditionalists. I am sure there are lots of nice Bengalis out there. The problem is what do you do about the traditionalists? If you sit around and let multicultural nitwits like Greer have their way, the traditionalists will terrorize the rest of the community into either at worst adopting or at best tolerating barbarism and Bengali culture will be defined as this kind of crap.

  15. “The case you make above is pretty much exactly what every Know-Nothing party member said about Irish, Italians, Jews, Slavs, at the beginning of the 20th century.”

    When exactly did the Italians, Jews or Slavs practice anything remotely similiar to this? The groups are in no way similiar. Just because one generation was too intollerant does not mean that all future generations cannot make moral distinctions and stand up to barbarism like this.

  16. John =

    Thanks for the clarification. However, it doesnt refine your other assertions much. When you say things like,

    “What you cannot do is have porous borders that let anyone and everyone in and then not expect any stardard of behavior from them once they get here.”

    Well, part of the point of the article is exactly the opposite of what you say here = that “these people” did come to the UK, and ARE changing their standards of behavior – albeit slowly and painfully – which is what is causeing crisis amongst a small number of the older-generation of Bengalis.

    I think you misunderstand whats happening there, which – despite the fluff over filming the book in the actual neighborhood – is on the whole evidence of the community’s having to come to terms with this kind of eventual change. And also the point that, like all cultures, they arent monolithic.

    Ignore greer for the purposes of your argument, because there will always be liberal idiots out there… they are a fact of life 🙂 But for the subject of whether immigrants can and do assimilate to their host cultures, the answer is definitively yes – but in ways that often take generations to really see.

    If you need examples, come to NYC and I’ll walk you through some neighborhoods that provide case studies in immigration & assimilation vs. immigration & cultural isolation.

    Or, you can just go read steve sailer. I dont think he would have bothered to caveat the “these people are animals” statement

    http://www.vdare.com/Sailer/051008_round2.htm

    incidentally, i think its interesting to consider that we worry about “immigrants” assimilating to modernity… when i think we’ve got enough of a problem dealing with differences between the many ‘cultures’ already in the US. When I went to college in Tennessee, I was jokingly referred to as ‘the yankee jew lawyer’-type. I’m catholic of course. 🙂

    JG

  17. John =

    “When exactly did the Italians, Jews or Slavs practice anything remotely similiar to this?”

    I’m afraid I’ve lost you. What do you mean by “This” Throwing acid?? There was nothing like that in the article. Just a small grassroots campaign in the community that pushed out the film production. I miss what it is you seem to be comparing different the immigrant groups to.

    As far as whether Italians, Slavs, Jews, would kill their daughters rather than let them intermarry… there was plenty of that, yeah. It’s slightly less common now. 🙂

    But again – immigrant cultures that still are in this kind of mindstate (e.g. http://jihadwatch.org/dhimmiwatch/archives/001706.php)… the question you’re raising is, ‘will they change when they enter a more tolerant, pluralistic society’?

    I believe the answer is demonstrably “yes”

    JF

  18. “‘will they change when they enter a more tolerant, pluralistic society’?

    I believe the answer is demonstrably “yes””

    Only if that society forces them to change. If it coddles them in the name of multi-culturalism, they will not. In fact the opposite can be true. Cultures can get more militant when they are in the minority. Muslims in isolated European ghettos tend to be much more militant than Muslims in their home country. If assimilation does not go well it is equally possible for the community to close in on itself and become more barbaric and intollerent.

    Further, I would love to see some evidence of Jews and Italians killing their daughters to keep them from intermarrying. I have never heard that. I am not saying it is not true, but would like to see where it is true.

  19. “Only if that society forces them to change.”

    ….
    Ok john. I’ll play. What “forced” us americans to learn to get along?

    I’d counter we did it ourselves, and it took generations. The state didnt send us all on sensitivity training courses.
    …..

    “I would love to see some evidence of Jews and Italians killing their daughters to keep them from intermarrying”

    You’re right. It’s possibly only the subject of fiction. I refer you to two great works –

    “The Jazz Singer” starring Neil Diamond
    and Debora Winger
    &
    “Romeo and Juliet” by William… something i forget

    = Both based on true stories! Anecdotal evidence, i know…

    i mean… italians never like…had ‘family violence’ issues….

    Its always a sign of a bad discussion when people make vast generalizations, and when cornered, beg you to provide actual ‘examples’

    JG

  20. “Its always a sign of a bad discussion when people make vast generalizations, and when cornered, beg you to provide actual ‘examples'”

    I don’t think it is a vast generalization to say that many socieites around the world, most but not all of them Muslim, are horribly oppressive and mysogonistic. Yes, the Saudi student who lives down the street maybe a great guy, but that doesn’t change the sorry state of Saudi culture and its attitude towards women. Ali struck a nerve or her book wouldn’t have created such controversy. To sit here and deny the plight of women in these cultures because everyone you know of seems to be a great guy is rediculous. Yeah, I am sure the Rhet Butlers and Scarlett O’Haras of the world were worldly and charming as hell, but that fact doesn’t deny the intrinsic evil of slavery and the resulting Souther society.

    I don’t think Romeo and Juliet and the Jazz Singer count as evidence of the truth of a blood liable against Italians, Slavs and Jews.

    You seem to do the same thing here.

  21. To sit here and deny the plight of women in these cultures because everyone you know of seems to be a great guy is rediculous

    If thats what you’ve decided I was saying we need to go back to square one mon frere. Straw man.

    I simply said you were painting the situation in the UK in a certain way that was totally misconstrued, given the story. We werent talking about what people do in Saudi Arabia/Turkey/Pakistan/Japan… we were talking about whether “Immigrants Assimilate”. You in so many words said, “no – some people are animals”

    Did i misread this?

    And as far as your “give me examples” of western immigrants being considered ‘animals’ by protestant nativists, there are whole freaking books about it. What do you want? George Templeton Strong citing the inherent inability of any catholic peoples to ever be loyal to the US government? If you want to play some game like, “Muslims are such a barbaric culture that they are inherently different” then I’m not interested. Go to Dearborne and debate them.

    Thanks

    JG

  22. However, I predict right now that a day will come when there is a religious-right version of the poor-man’s-Chomsky argument against the GWOT. Something like this: “Well, OF COURSE I deplore bin Laden’s tactics, but you must admit that he has a point about the creeping secularism of the modern world.” Etc.

    I remain convinced that a critical mass of fellow Christians, still clinging to their protestant roots, will always see government, ultimately, as a something of a sin against God’s will and authority.

    Robertson and Falwell famously tried this out shortly after 9/11. They got kicked in the ass for it because 1) it was way too soon, and 2) the Republicans in the White House needed to get down to business, and thus needed sniping from ‘inside the tent’ like they needed a collective case of crabs.

    Robertson and Falwell speak for a small minority of American society, a minority with disproportionate influence in the Republican Party (something like the disproportionate influence of farmers in the Senate), and whenever they over reach, they get slapped back into their caves.

    …and as megachurches and other evangelical movements continue to grow, they’re becoming even more marginalized in terms of influence.

  23. “..and as megachurches and other evangelical movements continue to grow, they’re becoming even more marginalized in terms of influence.”

    How so?

  24. …and as megachurches and other evangelical movements continue to grow, they’re becoming even more marginalized in terms of influence.

    And this marginalization further feeds into their paranoia about the massive atheist/Communist/Satanic conspiracy to destroy Christianity and undue their god’s creation. (So much for omnipotence, right?) Nuts like Eric Rudolph and David Koresh shows just how far, when they believe that the rest of the world is against them, the fundies are willing to go in the name of their religion.

    Sound familiar? I’m sure the average Arab on the “Muslim Street” feels that the “Zionists” and the decadent West threaten to destroy the faithful, so why not strike a blow for Allah, hitch up suicide bomb, and prepare for an eternity of eating lamb and screwing perpetual virgins in Paradise? It’s the same for the hard core fundies. Why wait for the Rapture? Why not strike a blow for JEEZ-us and against the gosh darn Anti-Christ by blowing up that abortion clinic or Gay night club? As long as you accept JEEZ-us as your personal lord and savior, all will be forgiven once you arrive at the Pearly Gates.

    Of course, the alternative to domestic Christian terrorism is less savory; giving them exactly what they want and turning America into a Christian theocracy.

    Either way, I fear we’re screwed.

  25. Whatever I think of Pat Robertson (and I think he’s nuts), he and kind aren’t hijacking planes and flying them into buildings; beheading little girls who don’t share his religion (Indonesia); bragging that he will “finish Hitler’s work” (Palestinians); threatening cartoonists, novelists, and film makers with death; or murdering his daughter because she shamed the family by allowing herself to be raped by her brother (all over the Muslim world).

    And if Pat Robertson got the actual political power he craved, I’m sure he’d be just as moderate as he is now, no? Reasonableness, not powerlessness, is what keeps him in check, you figure?

  26. I remain convinced that a critical mass of fellow Christians, still clinging to their protestant roots, will always see government, ultimately, as a something of a sin against God’s will and authority.

    Do you really think a “critical mass” believes this? I’m not sure I’ve ever even met anybody who believes this.

  27. Akira & others=

    You guys are wrong in general, and wrong specifically. The extreme religious right *(basically who you are talking about – not 90% of normal churchgoing people) is suffering a bit of a schizm right now. People are tired of the rhetoric. On top of the below – also look at the changes in the SBC (southern baptist conference) that reveal they’re scared they’ve been overly negative and are losing grip on the positive elements of faith, etc…

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/30/us/30pastor.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/16/weekinreview/16luo.html?ex=1302840000&en=aee7f4a99db2bde5&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss

    in general, whenever people here start talking about religion (and i dont even see how the thread devolved into this – the bengali thing was more culturally driven) you guys end up echoing these false assumptions to each other to the point you’ve invented a chimera out of it… the reality is unfortunately far more boring. As Brian points out above – what you guys characterize as ‘the majority’…no one seems to know *one* 🙂

    Westboro Baptist is still very fucked up though

    JG

  28. I thought Fareed Zakaria (an Indian-born Muslim raised in a relatively secular family) had a good, nuanced take a little while back on the cultural clash between Islamic traditionalism and the modern world, and the way it might contrast with other such clashes.

    The important thing is that I think the way it tells us … that this kind of syncretic Islam has always been able to mingle with modernity and that is the real challenge for Muslim society today. To find a way of embracing modernity… Rather than cutting itself off and saying no, we are too different, we have to construct our own Utopia. Whether it’s the Taliban, whether it’s Iran.

    This tells you no, you can mingle with the existing culture, with modernity. And you can succeed.

    – And the rest can mingle with you without feeling fearful or afraid or suspicious.

    Precisely, precisely.

    – So where does this Islamophobia come in from?

    Oh gosh! Look, I’d say there are two parts to it and one has to be careful to mention both. The first is that you have had, within the world of Islam, a genuine crisis. If you look around the world, wherever you have Muslim societies there is a difficulty adapting to modernity. Look at even China. China is one of the most absorptive civilisations. It was able to absorb the Jews. Think about it. But it was not able to absorb Islam. So there is a tension.

    – There are those in India who will say the fault lies in the Muslims. It’s not as if the Chinese were not able to absorb them, it was the Muslims who were exclusivist.

    I would say there is some truth to that. That Islam, because it has defined modernity for so many centuries, in the 7th, 8th, 9th centuries, it has difficulty adapting to another person’s definition of modernity.

    – Or accepting the fact that the rest of the world perhaps has gone ahead.

    Take a Chinese person, tell him in order to succeed in the modern world you have to learn English, put on a suit, learn computer science. He’ll say, fine, no problem. By and large you tell a Hindu that, he will have no problem.

    For a Muslim it raises fundamental questions. What is my identity? Am I subordinating my identity to that of a modernity not of my definition?

  29. You guys are wrong in general, and wrong specifically.

    Tell that to Robert Sanderson and Emily Lyons.

    You just ignore the sound of the sound of jackboots and hymns coming down the street GILMORE, after all, they’re obviously aren’t coming for you, right?

  30. Despite what the derisive Pat Robertson fan Paul says, I stand by my earlier remarks. The only difference between a nut like Robertson and Bin Laden is degree, not kind. After all, I recall how some **wonderful** right-wing Chirstian fundie types said that 9/11 and Katrina were “God’s Will,” as well as advocating the murder of heads of state.

    And if Pat Robertson got the actual political power he craved, I’m sure he’d be just as moderate as he is now, no? Reasonableness, not powerlessness, is what keeps him in check, you figure?

    Word!

  31. How so?

    Mediageek,

    The evangelicals and megachurches that have so much momentum aren’t so much about doctrine and politics–they’re more about relationships and authentic personal experience. Many are actually non-denominational.

    If these kinds of churches are gaining a portion of society’s Christians, that doesn’t bode well for doctrinal/political types. Does that mean mainstream Christianity is ready to embrace gay marriage and abortion? No. …but it does mean its more inclined to do God’s will on earth via charity and witnessing, etc., rather than tryin’ to use the government to stick it to gay people and unwed mothers.

    So, if that trend continues, Falwell and Robertson types will likely find less and less traction.

    …not that they’ll ever run out of hot air.

  32. Of course, the alternative to domestic Christian terrorism is less savory; giving them exactly what they want and turning America into a Christian theocracy.

    I wonder what would be worse–an atheist totalitarian government or a Christian theocracy?

    …but rather than argue over which deadly poison tastes better, I’d rather agree that government should have very little power over us regardless of who’s in charge.

  33. Do you really think a “critical mass” believes this? I’m not sure I’ve ever even met anybody who believes this.

    The overwealming majority of American believe in freedom of religion. …they believe that the government shouldn’t impose religion on other people, that is. …and they don’t want fanatics running things. …and whenever we’re talking about the overwealming majority of Americans, we’re talking about Christians.

    …even among the fundamentalists, many fundamentalist Christians are extremely wary of government. Many of them believe that one day the government is going to turn on Christians and that God will return to the earth and destroy it save them from the government.

    Go ask three Adventists what they think of banning abortion, and I bet at least one will tell you he’s against it because he doesn’t want government enforcement of religion.

  34. Akira sez-
    “You just ignore the sound of the sound of jackboots and hymns coming down the street GILMORE, after all, they’re obviously aren’t coming for you, right?”

    er, no, i just know the difference between the minority and the majority. There are freaks in every camp. There are limbless and dead people produced by ‘earth first’ types – does that mean that environmentalists are going to kill us all? der. Obviously not. A few religious wingnuts does not a threatening theocracy make.

    JG

  35. “UPDATE: I corrected the text to make clear it’s only one feminist allying with the conservative Muslims, and an iconoclastic feminist at that. But I just noticed something else. Brick Lane is included in the Bethnal Green and Bow constituency in Parliament. This is the seat represented by George Galloway.”

    Just as an fyi, Bethnal Green and Bow is the area of London where the Labour Party was founded, that’s why his (Galloway, a Scotsman) win against a pro-war muslim women Labour candidate was so significant…

  36. Can anyone clarify the Fareed Zakaria quote about China absorbing the Jews? I am not aware of anything approaching a sizeable population of Jews in China, especially in the historical context of which he seems to be speaking.
    If he’s comparing something like integrating a few dozen families of Jewish traders who arrived with the rest of the Europeans to absorbing the entire Uighar nation, I’d say that’s rather silly. I’ll leave it at that, because I’m not sure what he’s referring to.

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