The recent exchange between Hollywood star Ben Affleck and writer Sam Harris on Bill Maher’s popular show has highlighted the fundamental problem of the ‘liberal left’. The crux of the argument rested on Affleck’s Politically Correct presumption that it is never acceptable to criticise another culture. This view holds that all cultures are equally valid and that persons inside the dominant culture – in this case a Post-Renaissance, post-Christian European one – may never criticise any aspect of another culture, which in this case was Islam.
Now the rights and wrongs of the argument are clear to anyone who watches the exchange, which is here: (http://youtu.be/vln9D81eO60) and I advise readers to do this. They will see that Harris maintained a reserved and non-confrontational position throughout, whereas Affleck behaved like a hectoring bully.
Affleck, while wrong, was only iterating the underlying viewpoint of the culture he espouses, which he calls ‘liberal’.
There are many problems with this point of view, however. The first is that it is anything but liberal. Instead it is rigidly conformist. One is never allowed to disagree with or challenge the central tenets of its world view. When anyone does, they are shouted down, and when someone who actually knows what she or he is talking about does, the hostility and aggression of the ‘liberal’ point of view goes into overdrive. This was clearly demonstrated by Affleck, in his tone, his words and his body language. He was saying to Harris ‘If we were in the schoolyard right now I’d beat you into a bloody pulp.’ This is hardly a recommendation for ‘liberalism’.
Of course the schism – Harris is a genuine liberal, whereas Affleck is of the class that seeks to appear liberal, without actually understanding what it means – is illustrated by the greatest current challenge to the ‘liberal’ world view, Islam; and Affleck articulated the central deception of the ‘liberal’ world view.
In essence, these ‘liberals’ have a dilemma. On the one hand they argue that no culture is inferior to any other, and on the other they argue that all individuals have equal rights. The dilemma is provoked because the culture under discussion, Islam, does not accept that all humans are equal. In fact, it doesn’t even accept that all muslims are equal, and herein lies the problem for fair-weather ‘liberals’ like Affleck.
Islam considers women to be lesser in value than men. This is stated in the Qu’ran itself, for example in Surah 2:282: ‘call two witness from among your men, two witnesses. And if two men be not at hand, then a man and two women’ – clearly, a woman’s word is worth half a man’s. And again: ‘(women) have rights similar to those (of men) over them in kindness, and men are a degree above them’ (Surah 2:228). We could go on to list many other examples, all of which say the same thing: women are worth less than men.
If that were not bad enough, and by rights it should be, Islam is not merely the words purported to have been recited by Mohammed, any more than Christianity is just those of the New Testament. Islam is a culture that draws on many sources, of which the Qu’ran is one. But there are other sources that inform the culture, principally the hadith (writings about the alleged life of Mohammed), the scholarly interpretations of the Qu’ran and hadith, and popular tradition within the culture itself. These are not easily separated and when taken together, Islam is exposed for what it is: a viciously misogynist cult that suppresses women throughout and in all aspects of their lives.
Many other patriarchal religions, of which Islam is but one, hold the same poisoned, misogynist viewpoint. That is where custom within the culture becomes important. While it is true that there are verses in the Bible that also state the superiority of men over women, in modern Western culture, these texts are simply ignored.
The same may be said of Judaism; there are certainly texts in Scripture that are as unpleasant and misogynistic as those in the Qu’ran, but outside a rabid minority, nobody pays them any heed. In fact, all of the Abrahamic monotheisms have a profound misogyny at their core, something that will be explored in detail in my next book, ‘Why Men Made God’, co-authored with Karis Burkowski.
Despite this, in no modern expression of these religious and cultural ideas, other than Islam, do we see women having acid thrown in their faces for not covering them, women being sentenced to floggings or, regularly, judicial murder – to be inflicted in the most horrible ways imaginable, in public – for such ‘crimes’ as having sex outwith marriage, even when the woman was herself raped.
For liberalism to have any meaning at all, such atrocities must be condemned by those who call themselves ‘liberal’. But apparently not. According to ‘liberals’ like Affleck, cultural practices, even when these are obviously obscene and unacceptable, may never be criticised where that would imply a criticism of the culture itself.
Yet the misogyny that is a central part of modern Islam – and we have not touched on the thousands of Female Genital Mutilations that are carried out every year, or the forced marriages (of women) or the ‘honour’ killings – of women by men, often close relatives who are given licence to do murder by a culture that holds that women are the literal property of men, to do as they will with – is not ‘borderline’, or ‘extremist’, but normal. It is mainstream Islamic culture.
This puts ‘liberals’ like Affleck in the position of having to make a choice: they either decide that the important issue is that women’s rights must be defended, or that a certain group has the right to abuse these as much as it likes, and defend it by calling it ‘part of their culture’.
Clearly, despite being ill-informed, Affleck is an intelligent man; how can he possibly state that it is acceptable to treat women as being of less worth than men? That they are the literal possessions of their male relatives, their sexuality to be bought and possessed by men, and their reproduction to be regulated by men, for the benefit of men?
There is only one possible answer – Affleck, and ‘liberals’ like him, are patriarchal misogynists to their back teeth. Perhaps they cluck their tongues and shake their heads to show good form when they hear about the latest abominations inflicted upon a woman in the name of Islam, but criticise it? Never. Their position is clear: women’s rights not to be abused by men are worth less than men’s rights to hold cultural ideas that not only permit them to, but oblige them to abuse women.
At the end of the day, ‘liberals’ like Affleck and all the others who defend the ‘right’ of the followers of Islam to abuse women, are just as patriarchal as the ranting, pulpit-bashing demagogues of Southern Baptism, or the ruthless mullahs for whom women themselves are an abomination. All are part of the same deception, the same lie – that women just don’t count, and the sooner we all accept that the better. And, of course, even if we don’t accept it, we must never be allowed to criticise the culture that expressly permits it.
Well I say enough. People like Affleck should not be permitted inside the home of any right-thinking person and in public they should be shamed for the misogynistic woman-haters they really are.
It doesn’t matter whether you believe the Dark Age treatise of an illiterate camel-herder, the words of the Pope or that life is controlled by space aliens – women’s rights, to be treated as equals to men in every way, are more important than any religious or cultural ideas.
We need to recognise that some cultures are indeed better than others. It’s a simple fact. Cultures that do not sanction burying people up to their waists or necks and stoning them to death, or public beheading, are, by definition, better than cultures that do. Cultures that at least try to treat women as equals are better than those that do the exact opposite.
It’s time to get off the fence and realise that ‘multiculturalism’ and the ‘liberalism’ that supports it, are just other masks of the patriarchy, other tactics in its millennia-old campaign to enslave, disempower and denigrate women. It’s time to tell the slick, weasel-wording advocates of this form of ‘liberalism’ that their cover is blown, that they have been identified, that we know what they are.
Ben Affleck is a misogynist, pure and simple. We should confront him and all the others like him with that simple truth and make them squirm.
Also published on Medium.