Tuesday, June 24, 2014

An identitarian defense of honor killings shows the limit of identitarian "free" speech

The contradictions of identitarianism are on display in the Festival of Dangerous Ideas cancels a speech titled “Honour killings are morally justified”. The scheduled speaker, Uthman Badar, said:
Overwhelmingly, those who condemn ‘honour killings’ are based in the liberal democracies of the West. The accuser and moral judge is the secular (white) westerner and the accused is the oriental other; the powerful condemn the powerless. By taking a particular cultural view of honour, some killings are condemned whilst others are celebrated. In turn, the act becomes a symbol of everything that is allegedly wrong with the other culture.
Nothing in his quote is inaccurate, though I believe there's more opposition to honor killings in the East than Badar does. We can't know because where there's no free speech, people's opinions can't be known.

But my point is this: Badar's use of common identitarian rhetoric may be why he was silenced rather than debated—a debate would've resulted in questioning the neoliberal assumptions about whiteness, orientalism, and cultural imperialism.

To my mind, the scariest quote from the article is not by Badar, who draws a conclusion that can be easily refuted, but by one of the people who helped silence him:
Writer and filmmaker Laura Scrivano wrote, “You forfeit your right to free speech when you impinge on the rights of half of the world’s population to live free, and without fear.”
There is no right to free speech that can be forfeited. When you cannot say something that offends someone else, speech is not a right—it's not even a privilege. 

ETA: Lest you condemn Badar, this bit from the cancellation of the speech matters:
It is clear from the public reaction that the title has given the wrong impression of what Mr Badar intended to discuss. Neither Mr Badar, the St James Ethics Centre, nor Sydney Opera House in any way advocates honour killings or condones any form of violence against women.