Response to Efe

by on Friday, 03 February 2012 Comments

A reader's response to Efe's Levent article: The Year of the Voiceless

Where to start? After reading Efe’s article entitled ‘The Year of the Voiceless’ I felt compelled to respond. I must first congratulate Efe on the Guardian-esque style of his penmanship, it must not be easy to appear both sanctimonious and completely unconstructive in a second language, but you’ve done an excellent job of it. What annoyed me most is that the article rested on the deliberate misconstruing of the words of other people in an attempt, no doubt, to court controversy, which makes his comments about cheating at chess amusing if not worryingly self-delusional.

First I’d like to start with the binary opposition of Voicelessness vs Voice that the series of articles play on. This notion carries with it a narrative that what is heard is the oppressing voice of authority or the lies of the aggressor and the voiceless represent what should be heard, the victim, the truth. I disagree with the narrative this binary view of things produces, as it conceals from view the complexity of the idea of ideological truth, and the paradoxical idea that speaking for the voiceless somehow gives them a voice. The resultant effect is just to prioritize one ideological narrative over another, causing those who could originally speak to be silenced and throwing up another arbitrary narrative as “the truth”.

Moving on to Efe Levent’s article in particular, I think the conflation of two separate notions are somewhat ironic given the author’s own status as a non-practicing “cultural” Muslim: he somehow confuses criticism of rule by religious law (essentially theocracy) – whether those rules come from Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism or elsewhere – with an attack on the existence of the Islamic religion. The former is what many of the figures he attacks in his article address (including an author that Efe criticizes as a “drama queen” for having received death threats on the basis of writing a novel that many who attack him probably never read, and which Efe himself admits to never bothering to read). The problem with any non-secular form of government as the history of Europe can well attest to, is that religious laws differ from secular laws, in that they have a sacred or divine backing to the morality they outline, which undermines any challenge to them or debate of them. Regardless of the joy that the painful death of Christopher Hitchens seems to arouse in Efe, it does not change the fact that disagreeing with the tenets of someone else’s religion or the sacred moralism the religion outlines is not racism. The “four horsemen” Efe refers to do not attack Islam exclusively, and have often stated their opinions with regard to Christianity also. Efe fails to acknowledge that multiculturalism has to be more than just “tolerance” or turning a blind eye to religious practices as long as they conform to the law in any country, rather it involves intercultural dialogue and the ability to scale cultural barriers which is simply not happening in contemporary Europe, and is resulting in conflict.

The very structure of Efe’s article is culturally divisive and unconstructive, whilst pretending the opposite. Echoing the oversimplification inherent in the very notion of “voicelessness” versus “voice”, he picks from the sea of voices in the West (a contrived concept in itself) one voice that is suitably extreme as to be an easy dueling partner or simply just misconstrues that voice. I'd like to end with a few questions to the author: What would make the world better in his opinion? Do you want democratically elected theocracies in the middle east? Do you want criticism of China's neo-colonialism in Africa and its internet censorship to stop? If anyone fits into your generalization of aggressor (white, Western, descendent of colonists, not a plumber) should they no longer offer up opinions? Do you agree that someone should be threatened with death for writing a novel?

Illustration by Bendu

Conor Stuart (蕭辰宇)

Born in Belfast. Just finished his Master from the Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature at National Taiwan University (NTU). Currently lives and works in Taipei. 

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