Many of you will have seen or been part of the the current campaign against CUSU’s motion to twin itself with the Islamic University of Gaza. IUG has ties with Hamas (the terrorist group that has much more power in Gaza than the West Bank), and is known to uphold many of the most repugnant illiberal views of extremist Islam. Women and men take classes separately, and in fact don’t even use the same areas of the university to study, for example.
Maybe I’m a lone voice here in saying that I support CUSU’s motion and think that twinning with IUG would be a great idea.
I’m an ardent feminist, and the fact that there are societies around the world where gender inequality is unimaginably rampant is horrific for me. However, I am also a strong believer in cultural understanding. I don’t think we can tackle, let alone reduce, misogyny around the world by cutting off all contact with it. Doing so hoists us by our own petard because if we do not understand the society that we disagree with, then we begin to hold the very same illiberal and extremist (and inaccurate) views that we condemn in them. Hence the huge number of people who now think that Islam is a religion that promotes hatred and violence, rather than peace and spirituality. Understanding other ways of seeing the world is the most essential thing we can do if we ever wish to see a world without conflict.
I understand that a large part of the objection to twinning with IUG is due to the fact that we seem to be making a political statement by doing so. The argument goes that IUG has links to Hamas, therefore if we support IUG we implicitly agree with Hamas. By any objective reasoning this is absurd: however, I do realise that this is the way the world works. It just seems so ludicrous to ignore and isolate real people in the name of “politics” or “symbolism”.
In fact, doing harm to individuals because we see them as symbols is exactly what the feminist movement is struggling against. Its exactly because categorisation of real people comes so naturally to us that gender inequality exists. In my mind there’s little difference between the statement “person in dress=woman” (and all the trappings this entails) and the statement “person at IUG=Hamas”. Surely CUSU is intelligent enough to find a way of fostering a strong and beneficial cultural exchange with students at a war-torn university without letting people assume we support terrorism (why a university famous for its intellectual and reasonably liberal history would suddenly be thought to be terrorist-sympathisers is beyond me but whatever).
I’ve written a lot more on the subject on the facebook page.
You might have to scroll down quite some ways for some of what I said, but I’d encourage you to read it before you criticise my arguments because I’ve made many points over there that I haven’t made here.