Irene Khan on Lateline

01 Nov

Did you see her last night? I am sure she would have been off-putting for some, but she can whip me any time she likes… Seriously, she articulated so much that I agree with in the most forthright way imaginable that I am tempted to rip off the whole transcript and put it up as a page here. Just a small taste:

TONY JONES: Well, now to tonight’s guest Amnesty International Secretary-General Irene Khan who’s here in Australia after being named the winner of this year’s Sydney peace prize. Thanks for joining us. You’ve arrived here just in time for this fierce debate on Sheik Hilaly’s Ramadan sermon which clearly states that women are Satan’s soldiers wielding the weapons of seduction. If they don’t wear the veil and stay home in their boudoir they are provoking their own rapes. How dangerous do you regard remarks like this?

IRENE KHAN: It’s not just dangerous, it’s outrageous. It’s outrageous to put the blame on the victim and it indicates an enormous state of denial on the part of the mufti because he is ignoring the countries where women do cover themselves. There is a high level of sexual violence. I’ve been in Afghanistan, I’ve been in Sudan, places like that and women are covered and there is a great deal of sexual violence there. What mufti is not acknowledging is underlying violence against women are complex factors of inequality of women, impunity of crime committed against women, and apathy, intolerance. In many countries laws discriminate against women and put them in an inferior position where they become subject to violence. Police and the system ignores them and then society tends to put the blame on the woman and the responsibility on the woman and I think that’s absolutely wrong and the focus should be on those causes and an attempt to address them.

TONY JONES: Is this a particularly Islamic perversion, these kinds of comments. He says “When it comes to adultery it’s 90 per cent the women’s responsibility. It’s she who takes off her clothes, shortens them, flirts, puts on makeup and takes to the streets. God protect us. If she had not left the meat uncovered the cat would not have snatched it.” This he takes from an Islamic teacher.

IRENE KHAN: I wouldn’t put it Islamic. What it does reflect is a kind of patriarchal authoritarian society where women are seen as sexual objects, a society where the whole emphasis is on woman’s body as a piece of property that is owned by others and therefore women cannot control their live, cannot control their bodies and what he’s reflecting is that kind of thinking which is, in my view, medieval because things have moved on. Almost every country in the world is party to the convention against elimination of discrimination against women, to international human rights laws which recognise equality of women.

TONY JONES: You’re a visitor here and it’s a hard question to ask you but what do you think should happen to him?

IRENE KHAN: Well, I think people like him should not be given the privilege of being considered as leaders because the question – I think there’s a question on the part of the Muslim community and there is a question on the part of the larger community as to how much space do you give to views that reflect only a very narrow part of the community. The Muslim community is a very large community with many diverse points of views, very diverse history from Morocco to Indonesia. To have a single voice like this to be seen representing the community I think is actually to create a situation where your religious identity takes over all other identities and you’re seen as this Muslim person with this kind of a very narrow point of view…

And that’s just one issue to get the Khan treatment.

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Posted by on November 1, 2006 in Aussie interest, Current affairs, Films, DVDs, TV, Multiculturalism and diversity, Politics, Religion



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