Mehdi Hasan says the Prophet Mohammed is more important to him than his children. He also uses his own experience of fatherhood as an argument for making other people’s decisions for them. This is why deeply religious people tend to unsettle me no matter how benign they seem. I mean, I’m sure Mehdi Hasan’s a great guy. I just wouldn’t like to be with him in any kind of enclosed space.
Mehdi Hasan stresses that his position on abortion isn’t anything to do with his Islamic faith. Rather it’s an attempt to reclaim the ‘pro life’ cause for the left. ‘It has long been taken as axiomatic that in order to be left-wing you must be pro-choice,’ he complains. Well, I’m not crazy about abortions either. I think there is a point where an embryo becomes a human being and I think current law reflects this. I know a few people who’ve undergone the procedure, it’s not a thing I’ve seen done lightly. It’s a sad, distressing thing. In an ideal world no one would need abortions. No one would ever be raped, contraception would be 100% foolproof and love a thing that never went wrong.
Fact is though, the right not to have a child if you don’t want to is absolutely key to secular civilisation. Childbirth keeps women in their place. The right to opt out is crucial. For that reason I don’t truly believe you can be a feminist if you want to limit that right. Fuck with it and you fuck with freedom.
Another problem with pro life arguments is the awful aggressive cloying sentimentality that always has to accompany the process. As soon as the blue line comes up the discussion becomes about the needs of a hypothetical child over a living, breathing person. So Hasan writes: ‘Isn’t socialism about protecting the weak and vulnerable, giving a voice to the voiceless? Who is weaker or more vulnerable than the unborn child? Which member of our society needs a voice more than the mute baby in the womb?’ The best response to this comes from Wilbur Larch, the orphanage director and abortionist in John Irving’s The Cider House Rules. In a letter to FDR, he implores the President that ‘Mr. Roosevelt – you, of all people! – you should know that the unborn are not as wretched or as in need of our assistance as the born! Please take pity on the born!’
There is a wider implication here. Hasan writes:
Abortion is one of those rare political issues on which left and right seem to have swapped ideologies: right-wingers talk of equality, human rights and ‘defending the innocent’, while left-wingers fetishise ‘choice’, selfishness and unbridled individualism.
‘My body, my life, my choice.’ Such rhetoric has always left me perplexed.
To argue that the concept of choice is essentially rightwing, something evil and capitalist, is not a good position to be in. We are in danger of forgetting first principles. You can’t be a free or happy person without making choices. But there are prominent voices on the left, religious or religiously influenced, who argue for the community and the struggle over individuality, free decision making and personal autonomy. This has been developing for years but has become apparent now over the controversy around Galloway and Julian Assange. No wonder in the debate with David Aaronovitch Hasan claimed that free speech was being ‘fetishised’. ‘We were in a society dying,’ says Aunt Lydia in The Handmaid’s Tale, ‘of too much choice.’
The result is that smart women are leaving the left. Here’s Naomi McAuliffe:
To view women’s rights as simply desirable rather than essential, as an optional extra rather than necessary for our mere survival, is what allows us to negotiate with the Taliban for peace in Afghanistan. Peace is important but peace for women and girls can wait no matter how many 14 year old girls are shot in the head for wanting an education. It is the idea that women’s rights will be achieved AFTER other ‘more important’ ‘male’ rights are achieved. It allows people on the left to think that women’s right to justice for allegedly being raped and molested are not as important as an imaginary global conspiracy to jail a darling of the Left. The Left have a long history of postponing women’s rights until their socialist revolution has happened, their war has been won, their peace declared, their poster-boy has defeated capitalism. But of course it never comes. There is always another reason why women have to wait for their rights and why they are being selfish for having the temerity to fight for them.