February 04, 2005


The great silence by left-leaning Western feminists, and other large parts of the left, to human rights abuses carried out in the name of Islam is, to see it as its kindest, caused by an overdeveloped sense of tolerance or cultural relativism. But it is also part of the new anti-Americanism. Look at American Christian fundamentalism, they say.

Dislike of George Bush's foreign policy has led to an automatic support of those perceived to be his enemies. Paradoxically, this leaves the left defending people who hold beliefs that condone what the left has long fought against: misogyny, homophobia, capital punishment, suppression of freedom of speech. The recent reaffirmation by Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei of the fatwa against Salman Rushdie has been met by virtual silence; as has the torture and murder in Iraq of a man who would be presumed to be one of the left's own - Hadi Salih, the international officer of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions. The hard left these days is soft on fascism, or at least Islamofascism.

The religious right in America would, if it could, wind back access to abortion and some other women's rights. But as far as I am aware, no Christian fundamentalist in the US has suggested banning women from driving cars, or travelling without their husbands' permission, or forcing them to cover their faces. Contrary to popular opinion, one is not the same as the other.

This isn't quite fair. Western feminists were happy to condemn the Taliban until it looked as if someone was going to do something about them. And they'll happily condemn the Saudis whenever they look like our allies.

Of course, there are some true Christian theocrats out there. "Christian Reconstructionist" Gary North, for example, supports capital punishment for children who curse at their parents:

Reconstructionists provide the most enthusiastic constituency for stoning since the Taliban seized Kabul. "Why stoning?" asks North. "There are many reasons. First, the implements of execution are available to everyone at virtually no cost." Thrift and ubiquity aside, "executions are community projects--not with spectators who watch a professional executioner do `his' duty, but rather with actual participants." You might even say that like square dances or quilting bees, they represent the kind of hands-on neighborliness so often missed in this impersonal era. "That modern Christians never consider the possibility of the reintroduction of stoning for capital crimes," North continues, "indicates how thoroughly humanistic concepts of punishment have influenced the thinking of Christians." And he may be right about that last point, you know.

Strangely, North is sometimes featured among antiwar "libertarians."