Alison Bevege v Hizb ut-Tahrir: victory for women and reason
12:00AM March 9, 2016
Australian multiculturalism has limits. Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir tested them and lost to a freelance journalist who refused to resile.
After being directed to sit behind men at a Hizb ut-Tahrir lecture, Alison Bevege filed a sex discrimination complaint. Last week, it was upheld by the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
This is a victory for freethinkers worldwide and affirms Australia’s place in the enlightened world. But the question must be asked why, in the 21st century, women in the West should need to go to court to fight against being sent to the back of the room six decades after Rosa Parks refused to be sent to the back of the bus.
Hizb ut-Tahrir is one of several Islamist groups in the West reported for sending women to the rear at public events. The Daily Telegraph reported that at a University of Western Sydney lecture by the group, women were ushered through a back door while men were offered front row seats.
An earlier event organised by Islamic group Hikmah Way at the University of Melbourne led to a furore after The Australian discovered signs at the entrance directing “sisters” to the back and “brothers” to the front.
In Britain, it took Conservative government intervention led by Home Secretary Theresa May to challenge the practice of gender segregation at Islamic events on campus that Universities UK would not oppose.
Thanks to the uncritical acceptance of multiculturalism as a social virtue, Western women and girls are being forced to defend the basic rights to equality and political freedom won during the 20th century. At the UN, cultural rights trump universal human rights.
Among Islamist nations, the basic rights of women and girls are routinely held subordinate to religious law and derivative state policy. Islamist states enter numerous reservations against the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, rendering its basic articles invalid. The rationale for denying women’s equality is sharia law, sometimes presented as family law.
The notion that culture trumps basic human equality has been imported into the West through malformed multicultural policy. American academic and columnist Thomas Sowell provides a fine analysis of such policy in his book Intellectuals and Race, explaining that multiculturalism involves more than simply a recognition of difference or appreciation of diversity. It rests on the a priori assumption that the net benefit of the policy is positive, without politicians or the media offering any proof. He describes the assumption as “one of the purest examples of arguments without arguments, and one of the force of sheer repetition, insistence and intimidation”.
Evidence tendered in the NSW tribunal provides a case in point. In his response to the claim, Hizb ut-Tahrir leader Ismail al-Wahwah wrote: “What right do non-adherents to the faith have to dictate the practice of another’s faith? Unless the state would like to enter the realm of dictating the private religious affairs of its citizens, the complainant’s claim should be rightfully dismissed as Islamophobic hate.”
Freedom of thought and expression give every Australian the right to question, criticise, lampoon and lambaste Islam or any other religion. We are a secular state where religious faiths are subject to the same scrutiny as ideology, politics, or ideas. The notion that an event open to the public should be protected because it is associated with Islam defies reason.
Fortunately, the tribunal confirmed that the event was public and, as such, Australian secular law applied to it.
The term Islamophobia is used so routinely to silence dissent, it has come to signal the presence of a freethinker in a field of PC censors. It is little surprise to find that in the course of defending women’s basic equality, Bevege has been charged with the thought crime. In the socialist rag Red Flag, Daniel Lopez criticised the freelancer for her battle against Hizb ut-Tahrir.
Lopez called her a racist, accusing her of “anti-Islamic bigotry”. Yet he did not criticise Hizb ut-Tahrir for putting women behind men, a practice it defends as Islamic: “The separation of men and women is a fundamental consideration in Islam. A visit to any mosque in the world will reveal the fact women are almost entirely positioned behind the men.”
Hizb ut-Tahrir has criticised the issue of gender segregation raised by the tribunal case as a “pernicious political agenda to subjugate (secularise and liberalise) Islam”. That is some radical reframing. Rather, the case highlights a fundamental contradiction at the core of multicultural policy, namely that many Islamists hold in contempt the secular state and liberal law that comprise Western civilisation, creed and culture.
Hizb ut-Tahrir espouses views about non-Muslims that verge on conspiratorial: “The kuffar seek to dominate and subjugate for lowly ends and to deviate us from the path of Allah, and they will not be satisfied of anything less than that their beliefs and ways are actually or effectively adopted.” For those uninitiated in the us-versus-them language of Islamism, kuffar means unbelievers. Like so many tenets of Islamism, the term is an insult based on a lie. On recent estimates, the majority of the world’s believers are Christian.
The West has bent over backwards to accommodate people of diverse creeds and cultures, embracing open society as the best model for a world enlightened by liberal universal values. But Islamism poses a direct challenge to multiculturalism by asserting religious fundamentalism as a social virtue and theocracy as an ideal model of state. Those with the most to lose from the rise of Islamism are freethinking women. We will not submit.