The Left shouldn't hold back, but speak out against oppression

22 February 2019

The Left shouldn't hold back, but speak out against oppression

Writing in the Nederlands Dagblad news paper of 19th February, protestant pastor Jan Jaap van Peperstraten said that alarm bells will ring when I say that I want to liberate Christians and Muslims from their faith. Van Peperstraten's interpretation is fairly simplistic, but, to be honest, that probably goes also for my own text. Our opinions, moreover, are not so far apart.

- By Jasper van Dijk

What I had written on Facebook was a response to a column by journalist Fidan Ekiz in a rival daily, (Algemeen Dagblad, 11th February). She wrote that she finds it difficult to criticise political Islam, because such criticisms were, in her ‘progressive’ circles, regularly met by incomprehension. They appeared to think that her views meant that she should vote for the far right PVV, before the discussion lapsed into silence. She states correctly that criticism of political Islam is absolutely necessary if you don't accept the oppression of, for example, women and homosexuals Left parties keep such criticisms to themselves because they don't want to disturb the 'multicultural ideal'.

I am in complete agreement with Ekiz that this is a major error for the left, which is what made me use my Facebook to look at the political history of socialism, a history of struggle against oppression and inequality. First and foremost against capitalism, but also against other institutions guilty of oppression in the name of whatever. It would therefore be bizarre to leave religion unscrutinised. Because I assume that Van Peperstraten knows how much suffering has been caused in the name of God – look at the wars of religion, the inquisition, the patriarchy by which women are oppressed. As the son of a feminist theologian I was aware of this very early in my life. And don't misunderstand me, a great deal of suffering has also been caused in the name of communism. From this the SP most emphatically distances itself, just as we condemn the Gulag, the prison camps which Van Peperstraten claims are the result of my struggle for liberation. So I also agree with the French Jewish writer Simone Weil that you have to be on your guard if people in the name of a particular doctrine call for a 'total transformation of the system' in the guise of the 'liberation of humanity' or words to that effect. Alertness is called for, because new tyranny does indeed then lie on the horizon.

I agree too that fine things have come from religious belief, which is why I attended a 24-hour service in the Bethelkapel church in The Hague held for the family of Hayarpi Tamrazyan, Armenians who have lived in the Netherlands for nine years and were about to be deported before the action, which lasted a total of 96 days, led to a reversal of the decision. I have great respect for all those fighting for a functioning 'kinderpardon', a way to allow children who have integrated into Dutch society to remain.

That takes nothing away from the struggle against oppression, discrimination and unequal treatment that is desperately needed today. Look at the merciless exploitation of workers all over the world, the result of raw capitalism; or the brutal violence of political Islam against women and anyone who thinks differently to them. But look also at the controversial Nashville Declaration put out by evangelical Christians attacking homosexuality. Socialists must not hold our tongues when it comes to such oppression, but speak out. That is my message.

This opinion article by SP Member of Parliament Jasper van Dijk was first published, in the original Dutch, in the national daily Nederlands Dagblad on 19th February.

You are here