A week ago, at a reception in one of London’s dowdier hotels, Maryam Namazie received a cheque and a certificate stating that she was Secularist of the Year 2005. The audience from the National Secular Society cheered, but no one else noticed.
This story was of course reported on the NSS site, Maryam Namazie Named “Secularist of The Year” which has the benefits of greater exactitude — and photographs.
The happy crowd who arrived at the Montcalm Hotel on Saturday were also joined by Honorary Associates Dr Evan Harris MP, Joan Smith, Martin Rowson and Jonathan Meades. The hilarious entertainment was provided by top notch comedian Stewart Lee, who is co-author of Jerry Springer — The Opera. His joke about what happens if you lick a lollipop with the face of the pope on it doesn’t bear repeating in a family e-letter.
That would be the Montcalm which may, for all I know, be the dowdiest 4-star hotel in the world.
Not quite no one else, Nick. It’s true that readers of tehgrauniad group newspapers, wouldn’t. Here’s the tehgrauniad’s site search for Maryam Namazie. Clearly, apart from Nick’s article, her only way to get into the paper is to write letters to the editor. Nick’s worked there how long, and he’s mentioned her how often?
For all that, Maryam Namazie’s obscurity remains baffling. She ought to be a liberal poster girl. Her life has been that of a feminist militant who fights the oppression of women wherever she finds it.
I’m baffled Nick and the monstrous legion of his colleagues haven’t mentioned her.
Others have noticed her before. Ophelia Benson (there’s a Butterflies and Wheels email every Monday if you’re interested) — Google found 46 references to Ms Namazie (some may be duplicates). The press didn’t cover it all, with the exception of Reuters.The NSS links to the limited coverage elsewhere, which manages to get everything wrong: here and here.
Coda: The one reaction everyone, including Nick, has missed is the one on Islamophobia Watch. (IW has a prominent copyright notice, which says in part, “All material remains copyright of original author and publisher, as cited in documents. Copyright material is posted on this website for the purposes of criticism or review.” I’ll note here that I’m posting their copyright material “for the purposes of criticism.”)
This would be the same Mayam Namazie who offered the following thoughtful comment on the issue of the hijab: “I suppose if it were to be compared with anyone’s clothing it would be comparable to the Star of David pinned on Jews by the Nazis to segregate, control, repress and to commit genocide.” So perhaps it’s just as well they didn’t get her started on Islamophobia.
This is entirely argument by innuendo. Her point is entirely reasonable. (I think there’s a difference between, say, a BNP candidate saying that, and someone who’s lived in a Muslim country saying it. The difference isn’t in the words themselves, but the speaker’s purpose and his/her views on women.)
Update: I mentioned Islamophobia Watch, and should have guessed that they’d post on our boy.
The Ontario proposal [for “right to faith-based civil arbitration”] provoked a racist backlash throughout Canada against Muslims and their supposed barbaric religious practices, which it was claimed had no place in a civilised Western society. And it was another WPI central committee member, Homa Arjomand, who played a leading role in encouraging this upsurge of Islamophobia. For her trouble, she became the “poster girl” of the most hardline right-wingers, receiving plaudits from the likes of Front Page Magazine.
It can’t be long before Cohen and the WPI go the whole hog and join their friends in GALHA — with whom they have co-operated closely in the anti-Qaradawi campaign — in promoting an anti-Muslim agenda that is indistinguishable from the vile propaganda of the racist Right.
Nick doesn’t need me to defend him here, but I will anyway. I don’t think he’s anti-Muslim in any sense which he isn’t also anti-Jew (he is militantly secular, so he is anti-Muslim in a sense). I do think that his intention (“agenda” is such a loaded word) is distinguishable from the straightforward racists. Just as taking sound bites from George Orwell can make his anti-Communism sound indistinguishable from old-style Tories who stood for many things he hated, of course, Cohen and Namazie’s writings can be cherry-picked. If Nick agrees with FrontPage, it may be because, like a stopped clock, FrontPage is right every so often. (I could have put this in so many other ways, almost all of them better, including citing Goebbels on propaganda having to contain truth, but this will have to do.)
Update 2: I’ve had an email which says that the Guardian search above doesn’t work. It did for me, but I found four articles, one was the Nick Cohen piece under discussion and these: 2004; 2003; 2002. Ms Namazie was also mentioned by name by Kenan Malik in January this year. It’s still not much a platform to attack Woman’s Hour from.