Rushdie: "Veils Suck."

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salman rushdie y bono.jpg

Salman Rushdie seems to be angling for a new death sentence, and not simply for hanging out with Bono of U2:

"Speaking as somebody with three sisters and a very largely female Muslim family, there's not a single woman I know in my family or in their friends who would have accepted wearing the veil.

"I think the battle against the veil has been a long and continuing battle against the limitation of women, so in that sense I'm completely on [British House of Commons Leader Jack Straw's] side.

"He was expressing an important opinion, which is that veils suck, which they do. I think the veil is a way of taking power away from women."

More here. Hat tip: Drudge.

Reason interviewed Rusdie in 2005. A sample quote:

The idea of universal rights–the idea of rights that are universal to all people because they correspond to our natures as human beings, not to where we live or what our cultural background is–is an incredibly important one. This belief is being challenged by apostles of cultural relativism who refuse to accept that such rights exist. If you look at those who employ this idea, it turns out to be Robert Mugabe, the leaders of China, the leaders of Singapore, the Taliban, Ayatollah Khomeini. It is a dangerous belief that everything is relative and therefore these people should be allowed to kill because it's their culture to kill.

I think we live in a bad age for the free speech argument. Many of us have internalized the censorship argument, which is that it is better to shut people up than to let them say things that we don't like. This is a dangerous slippery slope, because people of good intentions and high principles can see censorship as a way of advancing their cause and not as a terrible mistake. Yet bad ideas don't cease to exist by not being expressed. They fester and become more powerful.

Whole thing here.

Tim Cavanaugh calls the hijab hinky–and even worse, laws against it–here.

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  1. The idea of universal human rights requires relativism.

  2. I think the battle against the veil has been a long and continuing battle against the limitation of women, so in that sense I’m completely on [British House of Commons Leader Jack Straw’s] side.

    What Rushdie fails to realize is that prohibiting veils is just as limiting as requiring them.

  3. It seems like the concept of universal human rights (natural rights) is nice to believe in, but one wonders whether it is demonstrable.

  4. What Rushdie fails to realize is that prohibiting veils is just as limiting as requiring them.

    Then make them optional by prohibiting any person from making them mandatory. This would be a better illustration because I’m sure Rushdie and Straw would agree to this as reasonable, but it’s a pretty safe bet that Muslim fundamentalists won’t, because there is no room for optional in their worldview.

  5. albo,

    Then make them optional by prohibiting any person from making them mandatory.

    So much for religious freedom, the right to associate, etc.

  6. Well, when one says “mandatory”, I would ask “mandatory” for what? Mandatory to attend a particular house of worship, that’s okay and not a violation of anyone’s freedom. Mandatory to be allowed to live in peace is, of course, much different, and clearly a violation of the individual’s rights.

    Regarding natural rights, I don’t see why it would need to be demonstrable since it’s not supposed to be some kind of scientific theory or fact but rather a moral principle. We decide that all humans have certain rights based on being human.

  7. PL is heading rapidly straight into the contradiction inherent in the PC prescription of perfect toleration and absolute relativism.

    Are we violating the abuser/oppressor’s human rights by prohibiting them from abusing and oppressing others?

    What if their religion calls for them to perform clitorectomies, beat their wives for speaking out of turn, and kill their female child if she has the temerity to be raped? Does their religion give them an exemption, in the name of “tolerance” and “religious freedom” from laws prohibiting assault and murder?

  8. fyodor,

    Regarding natural rights, I don’t see why it would need to be demonstrable since it’s not supposed to be some kind of scientific theory or fact but rather a moral principle. We decide that all humans have certain rights based on being human.

    Then I guess hundreds of philosophers have wasted their lives on the issue of its demonstrability.

    Who is this “we?” And who gave them the power to decide the issue? When you unpack your statement one sees rather quickly that all it does is change the locus of debate.

  9. R.C. Dean,

    Perhaps you should ask me my opinion instead of telling me my opinion.

    ______________________________________

    Anyway, any concept of “toleration” requires the “toleration” of the intolerable. Nevertheless, one should not “tolerate” the intolerable. Unfortunately those who are radically P.C. as well as many of their opponents don’t really understand this distinction.

  10. R.C. Dean,

    What if their religion calls for them to perform clitorectomies, beat their wives for speaking out of turn, and kill their female child if she has the temerity to be raped? Does their religion give them an exemption, in the name of “tolerance” and “religious freedom” from laws prohibiting assault and murder?

    So exactly when did the voluntary wearing of a veil turn into the equivalent of wife beating, etc.?

    Here’s another question: do you take issue with Christian sects which view women as inferior and enforce that inferiority by demanding that women do not speak in Church?

    We have to accept that there are numerous illiberalities in social life without at the same time muzzling our position against those.

  11. Then I guess hundreds of philosophers have wasted their lives on the issue of its demonstrability.

    Correct.

  12. “This belief is being challenged by apostles of cultural relativism who refuse to accept that such rights exist. If you look at those who employ this idea, it turns out to be Robert Mugabe, the leaders of China, the leaders of Singapore, the Taliban, Ayatollah Khomeini.”

    Rushdie misdiagnoses the problem, at least when he speaks of Islamist dictators. The Taliban and the Ayatollah Khomeini don’t base their right to oppress women on the unique applicability of their beliefs about Islam and Sharia to their own socieites. Quite the opposite, they consider those beliefs to be universally applicable to all of humanity.

    As a rule, cultural relativists don’t generally call you “Satan” and declare war against you to convert you to their way of thinking, or to punish you for living by different standards.

    Though Rushdie is on more solid ground when he calls out the Chinese and Singaporians for their statements about “Asian values.”

  13. Did you somehow miss that we are talking about MANDATORY veils, not voluntary ones, PL?

  14. Did you somehow miss that we are talking about MANDATORY veils, not voluntary ones, PL?

  15. The really important thing that you must remember is that any discussion of Salman Rushdie is a good enough excuse for a gratuitous photo of his wife.
    Look at that look on Rushdie’s face. He knows how lucky he is.

  16. Then I guess hundreds of philosophers have wasted their lives on the issue of its demonstrability.

    Not MY problem!! 🙂

    (filo: LOL!)

    Who is this “we?” And who gave them the power to decide the issue?

    The “we” is the human race. We have no choice but to choose one set of moral principles or another!

    When you unpack your statement one sees rather quickly that all it does is change the locus of debate.

    Whatever. I’m just trying to address what you said as straightforwardly as I know how. Those reading both our sets of posts can decide which of us appears to be debating in the more appropriate “locus”!

  17. highnumber,

    I see what you mean. Yeah, fuck veils. And, um, burkas, too!!

  18. Yes, I take it as axiomatic that people should have, for the most part, freedom to live how they will. Whether that means wearing veils or partying naked. Granted, the old clich? olds true as well that their rights only extend to themselves and can be limited when they interfere with mine, but that leaves a lot of room, in my opinion.

  19. Fatmouse,

    To be a female member of the Church of Christ it is mandatory that one not speak in church. Shoudl this sort of doctrinal position be banned?

    filo,

    Incorrect.

    fyodor,

    The “we” is the human race. We have no choice but to choose one set of moral principles or another!

    Are you trying to be ironic here?

    If not, as I wrote above, any notion of universal human rights depends on relativism. Indeed, the very backbone of what is best about the West is based on relativism.

    Whatever. I’m just trying to address what you said as straightforwardly as I know how. Those reading both our sets of posts can decide which of us appears to be debating in the more appropriate “locus”!

    It has nothing to do with propriety (again here I assume that you are not being ironic). You appear to be simply trading one a priori position for another, and that quite frankly gets us nowhere.

  20. Yes, I take it as axiomatic that people should have, for the most part, freedom to live how they will. Whether that means wearing veils or partying naked. Granted, the old clich? olds true as well that their rights only extend to themselves and can be limited when they interfere with mine, but that leaves a lot of room, in my opinion.

  21. Anyway, these are voluntary acts in a free society, and we see Christians and other religious groups in the U.S. submit themselves to all sorts of clothing restrictions and the like without a wimper about the issue (indeed, many of these restrictions can be analagous to veil wearing). So it quite clearly isn’t some general problem that people are concerned, but something about Muslims.

    Let’s also note that there is a radio program (run by Muslim women) in Straw’s constituency which was apparently (according to the BBC) inundated with calls blasting Straw. At least some Muslim women in the UK voluntarily go along with the “mandatory” wearing of the veil. And thus the question becomes, is their will simply to be ignored?

  22. To be a female member of the Church of Christ it is mandatory that one not speak in church. Shoudl this sort of doctrinal position be banned?

    By law? No. And neither should a requirement to wear a veil to belong to a mosque be banned by law.

    as I wrote above, any notion of universal human rights depends on relativism

    Yes, you’ve asserted this twice now. I’m curious to know what you mean by it, though I suspect you’ll just give me a reading assignment rather than condescend to explaining yourself.

    joe,

    I agree that Rushdie’s rather off target. My understanding of cultural relativists is that they’re more in the business of defending other cultures rather than their own. I wouldn’t be surprised if some in their ranks have defended the folks Rushdie names, but clearly that doesn’t justify describing those folks as apostles of the philosophy themselves.

  23. fyodor,

    I went into a fairly in-depth discussion of the matter at grylliade as I recall.

    Read the so-called Sophists. :^)

    Anyway, I would think that why relativism is so important would be obvious. Humans, for whatever reason, break up into groups (or “factions” to use Madison’s terminology). For a liberal society to function those groups have to co-exist in some degree of harmony with one another. That requires some measure of relativism, even if one doesn’t formally or doctrinally admit such. Contrast this with societies that had rigid “moral” structures and were not relativistic; for example, the Nazi regime or the USSR.

  24. fyodor,

    Cultural relativism is a huge sprawling mass of a thing. Thus one would need to differentiate it from its as a heuristic tool as opposed to the sort of the popular political content that infuses it in general conversation today. Honestly, the concept as originally ‘invented’ (he din’t coin the phrase, but he was the modern day progenitor of its original underlying definition) by Boas seems perfectly without controversy and completely appropriate.

  25. I don’t recall that grylliade thread, so I may not have read it.

    Anyway, thank you for explaining yourself, yes now I see what you’re talking about. I’ve never heard that kind of tolerance called relativism, and I doubt that’s what Rushdie is referring to, but rather the point of view that Wikipedia says became associated with the term “cultural relativism” since 1942. In fact, Rushdie may be making the mistake that Wikipedia warns against of confusing the term with “moral relativism”. But either way, as I’ve already said, I think he’s rather off target by describing the folks he’s named as apostles of cultural relativism.

  26. fyodor,

    Well, it could have been on another blog.

    Anyway, my use of the term may be controversial, but I think it better describes what is at play than the term “tolerance” does. I also use it in part because the Sophists argued that this was the proper type of society, and they used terms which were similar to relativism in meaning.

  27. Totally OT, but:

    I realized recently that Rick Santorum’s dead-baby-snuggling thing is so freaking weird that it’s caused my liberal cultural relativism to kick in.

    Hey, who are we to judge? Why should we consider ourselves any better than the Santorums, just because they grieve differently than us? Live and let live, I always say.

  28. If anyone has the right to be cranky about islamofascism, it’s Rusdie. I think, at this point, any gratuitous swipe he makes is perfectly understandable.

    And good lord, is his wife hawt. Why would anyone want to hide that in a burka?

    Veils suck.

  29. I think the veil is a way of taking power away from women.

    This statement is perfect for demostrating the unbounded hypocracy of the so-called women’s rights supporters. Let women make their own choices, and don’t punish them for making a decision you don’t agree with. He is no different than the fuckers who try to force women to wear the veil.

    If you find the veil distatseful, then it is your problem. I think Rushdie’s beard is fucking ugly, can I force him to shave it?

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