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Sects, Lies and Shibboleths
- Respect is for all of us

Ben Drake


With Respect rocking the vote with the sort of electoral breakthrough that's eluded the Left for so many years, and the shockwaves of George Galloway's defiance in Washington still echoing across the world, it seems a good time to try to knock on the head one persistent myth that has been unfairly tagged on our tails.

Some jolly sect-ish souls, never knowingly missing a chance to bash the SWP and all its works, continue to peddle the big fat fib that Respect is against equality for women and gay people.  Their only supposed evidence is a selective quote from Lindsey German, that gay and women's rights "should not be a shibboleth" in building Respect.

Shock horror they all cry - abandoning principles!  But hang on a mo - Lindsey German has been a socialist feminist and campaigner all her life - isn't it absurd (and frankly offensive) to assert she or any of us would suddenly forget what we believe?

It might help if they checked what 'shibboleth' actually means: it's an Old Testament concept which essentially translates as 'password'.  What Lindsey meant as I understand it, is that we should not set as a precondition of working with people that they must already know all the best, 'right' (ie. Left) ways and language for talking about these issues - and certainly not as a selective precondition on Muslim groups or individuals.

What she patently did not mean is that we should soften our commitment to anyone's rights, nor work with anyone engaged in actively promoting misogyny or homophobia, or any kind of bigotry.  And we don't, won't and couldn't. Respect has explicit policy supporting gay rights and women's rights, including the right to choose.  Check for yourself: http://www.respectcoalition.org/index.php?sec=39

(Sadly, I suspect the only real bigotry on display in this 'debate' is an ill-concealed set of very nasty assumptions and stereotypes of Muslims and their beliefs.)

Respect aims to be what it says on the tin - the Unity Coalition.  We want to become the political home for all those who the mainstream parties disrespect and wrongly believe they can dismiss.  Respect is for Muslims and others who have disproportionately suffered from the Orwellian nightmare of Bush and Blairs' War On Terror.  Respect is for anti-war activists angry at the failure of democracy.  Respect is for trade unionists still held in the strait-jacket of Thatcher's strike-busting laws.  Respect is for young people declared outlaws for the heinous activities of wearing clothes and standing in the street.

And Respect is for gay people still denied full legal equality - and under attack from real homophobes like the ruling group on Kent County Council with their home-grown version of Section 28 (Local Bigotry For Local People?)  Respect is for women still paid 20% less than men - 40% less for part-time work - and still facing institutional inequality in employment, education and government.

Don't believe the hype - and certainly don't believe every rumour floating about the internet!  A Respect speaking tour is underway with the opportunity to hear Lindsey German, George Galloway, Salma Yaqoob, Abdul Khaliq Mian and others first-hand.  Come along to your nearest date and make up your own mind:
http://www.respectcoalition.org/index.php?ite=787


 

June 2005

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