There’s nothing edgy about ‘honour killings’

I can’t believe this needs to be said, but the choices of the Festival of Dangerous Ideas suggests it does.

Uthman Badar, spokesman for Hizb ut-Tahrir in Australia, will be speaking at the Festival on the topic “Honour killings are morally justified”.

How clever.

It has been many years since FODI has shown any desire to live up to its name. Their existences hinge on the flow of government grants, directly or indirectly through the units that make up the art establishment. It’s not here to disrupt the status quo. It is here because, as a Facebook friend snarked, “the whole idea of a Festival of Dangerous Ideas [is to be] some white–person wankery for inner–city latte drinkers to indulge themselves in a trip to the opera house and [provoke] the special feeling of belonging to that special part of society that attends ‘cultural’ events.

So whilst I am openly impressed that FODI has actually gone and proposed a dangerous idea in that context, as far as dangerous ideas go this is quite safe… which is what makes it so dangerous.

It is dangerous in the first instance because the material is justifying murder. Violence is generally accepted as dangerous.

For anyone who, say, might like to think of themselves as culturally enlightened, the barest of philosophical forays will lead you to the subjectivity of morality and/or its experience by the individual.

Armed with this, it is totally conceivable that people who commit what we call “honour killings” have reasons for doing so. It’s a scary rejoinder to the idea of monstrosity as other and seemingly perfect for a crowd seeking “danger”.

This makes it a safe bet. It’s destined to light up blogs like this, and papers and talkback tomorrow, and possibly the 6pm news from earlier this evening. Helen Dale – who has lit up the local media a few times, including this week – called the decision to give Badar a platform “the intellectual equivalent of streaking”, which is so right not just because it’s flashy, insubstantive, and guaranteed to get your eyeballs on the dangly bits, but also because it isn’t novel.

We know that attention will be paid because we have had these debates before. We have had these debates before because there are millions of people who believe murder is a prurient respond to the exercise of certain kinds of autonomy – but they’re other, safely ‘over there’, and the unbridled, uncritical acceptance of the other is how the worst sort of unthinking leftist gets their counter-cultural jollies.

It will be controversial. Why millions of people would hold values so far removed from our own always will be.

And thus we have Badar at FODI, surrounded by the latte elite, who have already started falling over themselves to demonstrate their open-mindedness by paying to listen to a man who fronts the national arm of an organisation that opposes the close-mindedness of a Western liberalism that would go back to stoning women if the culture wasn’t so close-minded.

If an open-mind is worth keeping on this issue this is still not a justification for FODI’s decision. The point of keeping an open mind is to think, judge, and close it eventually. If it never closes it is no great feat of mind, but the simple abrogation of critical thought. FODI is, by choosing to give this violent idea a platform, abrogating that responsibility in the name of whoring themselves out for attention. This is not an act without consequences; what we say in public sends a powerful message about (are you ready for this?) what is is acceptable to say and do in public.

They’re not concerned about that, nor are they actually concerned about whether we should kill slutty sluts for slutting. They’re concerned about how they can leverage Uthman Badar and the Hizb ut-Tahrir brand and the white guilt that creates the cultural relativism that baby leftists are injected with when they submit their first protest poster for assessment, in service of painting the Festival and it’s supporters as open-minded, critically engaged and edgy, and getting the attention that gets them paid. With taxpayer dollars.

If open engagement is what we desire there’s an endless supply of literature on the subject that could be privately consumed. Somehow I don’t think that’s what Hizb ut-Tahrir wants.

That is what I find the most dangerous – it’s lovely to have organisations like FODI that self-consciously hike their skirts and whore their stages in the pretence of glorying in liberalism while trying to undermine it. These ideas don’t deserve to be paraded on a platform as flimsy as amusement. There is no honour in giving a microphone to a man who doesn’t want to give the microphone back, when he will use it to promote a ban on microphones.

FODI sets its own agenda. They made a considered choice to offer the stage to a lobbyist for Islamototalitarianism to promote the murder of (mostly) women.

If FODI wants to truly be provocative, there are orthodoxies far better challenged than the secular, liberal, individualist democracy that permits people – including women – to pursue the free thought that allows them to consider and reject the killing women who exercise autonomy could be totally sweet.

FODI has the right to offer the PR flak for totalitarian organisation a space on its platform, and its secular “cultural establishment” type audience is mature enough to consider the idea without accepting it (the way the Murdoch-media-swilling general publicans apparently cannot, no doubt). Minds aren’t likely to slip out from under the warm, prosperous blanket of liberalism for the rock hard reality of whatever backwards logic makes it okay to kill for a contorted derivative of honour.