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Opinionista

Al Jama-ah’s Shameemah Salie is wrong, disingenuous and, frankly, offensive

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Ismail Lagardien is a writer, columnist and political economist with extensive exposure and experience in global political economic affairs. He was educated at the London School of Economics, and holds a PhD in International Political Economy.

It is not so much mendacity that shaped Shameemah Salie’s homophobia, but disingenuousness and an absence — or avoidance — of the coldest facts about her political party, the religion upon which it rests, and the glaring contradictions, all of which amounts to ‘political lying’.

In an recent television interview, the spokesperson for Al Jama-ah, Advocate Shameemah Salie made several statements and claims that were terribly misguided, lacking in any basis of truth and… she was so wrong, actually, that it is virtually impossible to even conjure, in jest, the Epicurean idea that there are intellectual gains to be had from being wrong because you have the opportunity to learn something new.

Almost everything Salie said was either without substance, contradictory or terribly disingenuous. And I am not referring to the way she pivoted and deflected questions in a way that would make Kellyanne Conway, one of Donald Trump’s most loyal defenders, cringe.

It is not so much mendacity that shaped Salie’s responses, but precisely the disingenuousness and an absence — or avoidance — of the coldest facts about her political party, the religion upon which it rests, and the glaring contradictions.

Taken altogether the answers she gave were the cynosure of “political lying” that grew in strength and size with each utterance. We can grab hold of anything and everything Salie said, and get your hands filthy with the muck of mendacity. From that point onward, nobody would (even) deign to take Salie seriously.

Minority political party throws shade on minority groups

Salie’s main claim, presented as “the feeling of the majority,” was that the LGBTQI+ community, which she said — correctly — were a minority, were forcing their beliefs, values and lifestyle onto others.

Seriously now? Al Jama-ah is, in truth, itself a minority in Parliament and in politics. By her own logic, nobody should allow the Islamic party to foist its beliefs, values and way of life onto others.

Let us stay with this. I am almost completely certain that the LGBTQI+ community does not want everyone to become gay. I would wager a large amount of what is in my small bank account (it’s somewhere around R900), that Al Jama-ah would want more people to become members of the country’s Muslim party.

Also, the LGBTQI+ community is not going around signing up “gays”. Being gay is not a choice, like, say being a Muslim, Christian or Jew. You can always change your religion. Religious conversion is almost always out of choice. Unless you believe in supernatural beings that can speak your mother tongue…

As for being gay, you don’t someday wake up and say, “I think I want to be gay.” Homosexuality is not a disease, nor is it a mental disorder, or some debilitating affliction that can be cured. A significant body of scientific research has shown that “same-sex attraction is at least partly genetic and biologically based”. (I am actually a bit disappointed that I have to explain this; it is really elementary-school level stuff that a whole advocate should know).

Constitutional rights apply to everyone

Another point Salie made is that “everyone, we agree, should enjoy the constitutional rights of our country. Groups should not take advantage of imposing their rights and ideologies on others and interpret rights in a biased manner.”

This sounds good, but it is intellectually clumsy. First, the LGBTQI+ community as a “group”, can and should, necessarily, “enjoy the constitutional rights of our country”. Second, as far as I know (I have been following this issue in various ways for more than three decades), gay people have never sought to “impose their rights and ideologies”. Homosexuality is not an ideology.

Three, as for interpreting rights in a biased manner, I would say that Salie is doing the exact thing, and we all, each one of us, interprets rights with some kind of bias. If you’re Jewish, Christian or Hindu, you might well look at the Bill of Rights, and how it affects you, your family and community.

Salie insisted, in the interview with Stephen Grootes, that the LGBTQI+ community was a minority “who is imposing an agenda and a narrative on the majority, and this has been subtly happening for a while now, and now it’s being pushed onto our family structures and on the rights of parents and families to educate their children, especially with regard to the religious beliefs, the traditional and the cultural beliefs of families… are being impacted by a minority group.”

This is getting repetitive and tedious.

Educating children to better understand the society and the world in which they live is rarely a bad thing. Making children aware of people around them, and letting them know, understand and celebrate diversity is, also, rarely a bad thing (I have a habit of saying “almost always” or “rarely” because I always leave room for error).

The alternative is, of course, that you can shield your children (at home) from the outside world, but someday they may run into someone who does not look like them, who does not speak the same language, who dresses differently, and whose skin is darker or lighter… It’s probably a good thing to let your children know that what goes on in the neighbour’s bedroom is none of their business.

I have read a few books and visited 65 countries from South Korea to Patagonia, and I have never come across a gay person, nor have I read anywhere, of a gay person who wanted to change the “family structure” or alter “the rights of people”. If anything, people in the LGBTQI+ community simply want to be recognised, allowed to live their lives, enjoy the privacy of their bedrooms, and be protected from homophobes.

As citizens who enjoy constitutional rights, this is the least that they want. I am aware, of course, that as a “straight person” I cannot fully represent the LGBTQI+ community. I do, nonetheless, believe that this is not about gay people; it is about what society we want to live in. I don’t want to live in a country, or be part of a society that discriminates and excludes people because of their personal choices.

Sodom and Gomorrah

There is a lot more in Salie’s statements that really falls flat. Most of all, she parades her offensiveness through a type of certainty of false certainties. She peddles falsities and then authenticates them with more falsities. Her parting shot came out of left field. “At the end of the day,” she said “we’re already living in Sodom and Gomorrah [bywords for debauchery] and you know that. The murders, the rapes, the LGBTQI+ community…” 

Let those last few words sink in, dear reader, and you will be forgiven for driving a hammer through your computer monitor (metaphorically, of course).

I cannot, in good faith engage with all that stuff about “murders” and “rapes”… We can, of course, go on and on about how the reportedly human, kind, generous and munificent god brutally slaughtered people.

Or we can raise questions about when Lot’s two daughters conspired to have children of their own and made their father drunk with wine to the point where he was unaware that his daughters were sexually abusing him (Genesis 19:35). These things will be justified by fundamentalists and evangelicals.

I’m not sure that the myth of Sodom and Gomorrah was meant to signal the end times, or whether it was something that actually happened. There is enough literature to suggest that Salie’s “Sodom and Gomorrah” reference is comically false, or simply the product of some adventurous daydreamer.

Much of the biblical account, as history, is really just stories written by men, and passed down by men…. Here I want to present a challenge to Salie. Present evidence that the Biblical account of Sodom and Gomorrah, that the places actually existed, and that the story is irrefutably true. If she is unable to provide this evidence, the type of eschatology she suggests is just jibber jabber.

As for the suggestion that the LGBTQI+ community is seeking to expand, well there is at least one religion that is permanently proselytising. It is a Muslim’s duty to da’wa, to seek converts. There is no such da’wa in the LGBTQI+ community. They simply want to be heard, accepted and enjoy the protection that everyone else in society takes for granted. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Denise Smit says:

    Excellent article, Mr Lagardien , as usual. You know just how to hit the nail on the head. Denise Smit

  • James Webster says:

    I think you’ll find that many biblical stories of this ilk actually do have a basis in fact even though the reality might not be quite what you would expect. Sodom and Gomorrah is a case in point, they were probably located on a peninsula that is now covered by the Red Sea. The area was devastated by an earthquake in around 1900 BCE or so. The petroleum and natural gas found in the area probably caught fire during the devastation caused by the earthquake which contributed to the story of brimstone and fire. This is a classic case of a common occurrence in the bible where the authors of the bible have taken a concrete fact and spun it up to teach a lesson to the Israelites. This happens often in the bible and it in no way detracts from the validity of the lesson which is what the authors of the bible wish to convey. An interesting ( but perhaps dated ) book on the subject is “The Bible as History” by Werner Keller.

    • Ismail Lagardien says:

      Hi
      Thanks for your comments. I disagree. I think the Abrahamic religions are not based on facts. The texts require faith, not reason, or irrefutable evidence. There is enough literature and scholarship that discounts the belief that the Bible was written by a supernatural being. At best, absolute best, I consider it as historical fiction. Very little of the Bible can be proven as true. There MAY have been someone like Jesus, but there is little evidence of miracles and supernatural beings. It is difficult, also, to accept that people like Moses or Abraham 1) actually lived or 2) that they did the things the are said to have done.

      Again, as historical fiction, you may find stories about biblical figures, but there is very little if any at all, that these people actually existed. There are, no doubt, scientists who are creationists, but it’s almost impossibly to take creationism seriously, given the abundance of evidence (not just of the CMB) which helps us think about evolution and things like the shift from geo-chemistry to bio-chemistry – I actually don’t think Biblical texts help in anyway. BUT, BUT… this is not a good discussion for the comments section. Too much is lost. That really is all I can say with any confidence. Cheers

  • William Dryden says:

    Great reading as usual Ismail, it should be sent to Salie and wait for her response.

  • Hermann Funk says:

    I love reading your comments. Thank you.

  • Rob vZ says:

    I thank my God ( the Spaghetti Monster ) that this is a minority party that cannot impose its beliefs on my family. We live in a secular liberal democratic society – where both Islamic and LGBTQI+ communities are allowed to exist equally before the law. That should be celebrated.

    • Graeme J says:

      It’s so good to know there are other Pastafarians that support DM. Salie does nothing but spread homophobia, thinly hidden in the guise of supposed religious and family values. She needs to get a wake-up and discover that not every religion insists that their women cover themselves whilst the men can wear whatever they want. Perhaps a little introspection is necessary for Ms Salie.

  • Beverley Roos-Muller says:

    Thank you for your sane smackdown of Salie. I had not seen her comments, and am embarrassed on her behalf, as I know she won’t be. This is very close to hate speech, if not actually there already.
    As for your comments on religion, you will know the quote of the great Scots philospher David Hume: there is no such thing as a rational belief. For those who don’t, reread it – it’s really nicely subtle. Dr Beverley Roos-Muller

  • Kanu Sukha says:

    Thank you for a clinical and surgical analysis ! It is not just mendacity but sophistry that drives the likes of Salie … not unlike dilly Dali … for whom the title ‘advocate’ entitles them to lie or prevaricate. Your analysis in ‘women’s month’ dispels the myth that it is a ‘masculine’ propensity. Salie sounds as if she would be most at home amongst the Taliban … if they let her in. The reference to Kelly Ann is most appropriate. There are women who still feel the need to pay homage to male domination … irrespective of their ‘education’ level. A similar situation arises with most other major religions where certain ‘groupings’ claim absolute certainty about their beliefs. It might be relevant to mention et al, that in the most populace country in the world India … under Modhi … Hinduism is being replaced by Hindutva attitudes. Would it be misplaced to suggest that in Russia, Putin subscribes to the belief in the efficacy of Novichok and special military operations ?

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