The recent controversy surrounding the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar has in my opinion, provided a very revealing insight into the attitudes of many people on the far-left of Irish politics towards religion. I have observed many photos of the demonstrations demanding legislation in accordance with the X-case (A cause which I myself support) as well as having read many articles on the issue written by members of far-left groups. Throughout, I find a continual hostility towards the Catholic Church as can be witnessed in the following picture from the ‘Galway Pro-Choice’ Facebook page:
Similar sentiments can be seen in many other photo’s with placards reading ‘Keep your rosaries off my ovaries’ and ‘Politicians and priests make crappy doctors’. If one examines the websites of far left political organisations it is not difficult to find more examples of the Catholic church being blamed for Ireland’s outdated legislation on abortion such as on the websites of the Socialist Party and Socialist Workers Party. I personally agree that the Catholic Church has long been a malign influence in Irish society, having tried to prevent every positive advance in Irish society for decades. Indeed, I’ve long been a harsh critic of the intertwining of Catholicism with Irish national identity and the church control of many state bodies, so this post is not a defense of Catholicism. When Salvita was allegedly told she could not receive an abortion because Ireland is a ‘Catholic country’ then it is entirely justified that people will feel anger towards the church. I do feel it is slightly hypocritical however, that so many of the people currently decrying Catholicism are the most stringent defenders of Islam.
The intertwining of left-wing causes with radical Islamism is a problem which has become increasingly prevalent over the past decade or so. Because of the racism which is often directed towards those of predominantly Muslim ethnic groups in Western society and the conflicts between radical Islamist groups and the occupying armies in Iraq and Afghanistan, it has become common for those on the left to immediately any criticisms of Islam as being ‘Islamophobic’ which they use as a synonym for racism. An example of such logic can be seen here, with it being claimed that criticisms of Islam by atheists are used to reinforce the racism of right-wing groups. The Socialist Workers Party in Britain (Of which the Irish party is merely an offshoot) has long defended Islam against any criticism, with this article providing a good example of their outlook. The British SWP even went so far as to form part of the Respect Party alongside George Galloway, a man who has yet to find a religious fundamentalist he doesn’t like. Meanwhile Richard Boyd Barrett of the Irish SWP has been so supportive of Islamic fundamentalists such as Hamas and Hezbollah that he has been approvingly quoted by Al Qaeda.
Not only is such defense of Islam misguided, its also inconsistent with the treatment of Christianity by many of the same groups and individuals. Too often have I seen people on the far left criticize Ireland as being backward due to the lack of separation between church and state while at the same time expressing support for radical Islamic organisations such as Hamas, a group who support the subjugation of women and the strict censorship of all forms of artistic expression. While any mocking of Islam is viewed as being an act of racism, the mocking or insulting of Christianity is entirely acceptable. Here is an example from the Workers Solidarity Movement facebook page:
This comment has been on the page since the 16th of November and has met with no criticism. Imagine a comment referring to Muslim opposition to abortion (Which is a widespread viewpoint) as ‘terrorist’ (In fairness to the WSM however, they did publish this article in 2003, which criticizes the illogical alliance between socialists and the very worse Islamic fundamentalists).
Of course, I’m not advocating hatred towards Muslims. Nor am I mounting a defense of Christianity. What I am advocating, is a consistent and common sense approach towards religion by people on the left. Any religion which acts as a barrier to freedom and social progress deserves to be criticized and Islam is in many ways currently acting as a restriction on individual freedom in many areas of the world. The rights of women and LGBT people are infringed upon in the name of Islam and it is only fair that such repression receives the condemnation it deserves, together with the intolerant practices of many Christians throughout the world. People must be able to speak freely about the damage caused by an ideology without instantly being accused of racism. It is not racist to criticize the damage caused by an ideology. If socialists are to remain consistent to their supposed belief in equality and freedom they must cease this defense of religious fanaticism.