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[Xmca-l] Re: Prof. Ionna Kuçuradi

the literature on this problem is sooo extensive and sooo complex I am almost lost in trying to respond to your message, the more so because the domain is so contested and aggravated.

"Human Rights" has a long history, which I think can be traced back to 1776 and the "Rights of Man and the Citizen" of the American and French Revolution and were ensconced in the founding of the United Nations in 1948. Here "human rights" were raised by advocates of liberalism against repressive or aristocratic regimes governing them. But the first time I recall "human (universal) rights" being counterposed to culturally specific conceptions of right was when Ronald Reagan introduced "human rights" into the discourse of "free trrade" in about 1982. This move reflected the shared interest of US capitalists and their employees to prevent the importation of products of cheap labour. Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew responded with the idea of "Asian Rights" which he claimed represented cultural differences in the conception of right. (also "human values" and "asian values"). So we had perfectly legitimate conceptions promoted for self-serving reactionary motives on both sides of this discussion. At the same time, Reagan was arming the religious Mujaheddin to fight the secular government in Afghanistan.

Your observation, that 40 years ago women in Turkey went about their business without wearing veils, is important. Of course, Turkey has had a militantly secularist government since 1922. But even in Cairo or Tehran, it was the same. I have seen a photograph of a market place in Cairo in the 1950s, filled with women doing their shopping, and not a veil in sight, indistinguishable from a market place in London. Why has this happened? I would say that the secular, modernist, socially progressive, nationalist leaderships which led the people of the Arab world in the decades after the Second World War, to free their countries of domination by Western colonialism and imperialism, unfortunately failed to deliver the prosperity and happiness that they had promised. Oddly, even though these leaders were explicitly "anti-western" they were seen as vehicles for modernism. After the defeat of Egypt in its struggle with Israel, Egypt reconciled itself with the West, and Sadat was seen as a representative of the West. The Shah of Iran would be the classic representative of this type. Secularism by means of the torture chamber. Even without the actual overthrow of the "founding fathers" who had fought the colonial powers, these regimes became representatives of "the West"; secularism became identified with foreign domination, and the cause of people's misery.

This spread from the Middle East to the European and American metropolis, where it intersected with the discourse of the various emancipatory movements which had grown up in the wake of the Civil Rights and Womens Liberation movements. And this is where the really perverse results came about. Women, blacks, homosexuals, immigrants, etc., etc., all demanded respect for *difference*. Initially these movements had begun with the demand for equality, which was usually taken on the basis of "justice is blind", but developed by separating the notions of equality and sameness, and demanding not that people be treated the same, but be accepted as different.

I have friends who fervently support the French line on laiete, which seems to unite native French people from extreme left to extreme right and everything in between. I can see the logic of it. But I think to some extent we have to see the re-assertion of the right to be oppressed by one's own religion, as a *social problem* rather a matter of crime and punishment, or government regulation.

It is a tragedy that the great ideals of the Enlightenment have been so discredited in the eyes of those who really need those values and forms of life. But it cannot be resolved by forcefully imposing emancipation.

Apologies for all the oversimplification, inaccuracies and omissions in this sketch.


*Andy Blunden*

Ulvi İçil wrote:
Dear all,

For your information.


*You have even said that the promotion of respect for all cultures is a
“trap” for human rights.*

**The differences of cultures is a fact. But these differences should not
cause discrimination. I have nothing against people living as they like, *so
long as their world views, ways of living and norms do not prevent
themselves and their children from developing their human potentialities.
The unconditional promotion of respect for all cultures as an attempt to
fight discrimination is well-minded but very problematic. Many cultures
have norms that are incompatible with human rights – take as an example
polygamy or blood feud. This escapes attention, probably due to the
importance of culture in the singular. That is a trap for human rights.
What we need to respect are human beings – not cultural norms. Cultural
norms must be evaluated. *

*What is, for instance, your stand on the claim of schoolchildren or
employees to carry symbols of religious conscience?*

**When I was a student more than 40 years ago, there were no girls wearing
a scarf in Turkey, neither in school nor in the university. *Today there is
a revival, all over the world, of world views and norms that prevent
people, and children in particular, from developing as human beings. This
revival is closely connected with the promotion of “respect for all
cultures”. The best way to solve this problem is through education. The
concept of laïcité is often misunderstood. It does not simply consist in
the separation of religion and the State. Laïcité is a negative principle
which demands that religious and cultural norms in general do not determine
the establishment of social relations and the administration of public
affairs. This is why laïcité is a precondition for human rights and the
reason why it is very important. Those who agree with the claim of
schoolchildren to carry religious symbols are probably not aware that they
push children to give priority to one of their various collective
identities, that they push them to give priority to their cultural identity
and not their human identity, and that by doing this they promote
discrimination.* There is a philosophical problem behind all this. The
premises from which universal human rights and cultural norms are deduced
are different, and so are the ways in which they are deduced. So to better
protect human rights we need a philosophical understanding of their
concepts and foundations. Unfortunately, I still see it missing

Status: O