Air France is about to resume flights to Iran after an eight-year hiatus, and in an internal memo told their female flight attendants that when they deboard in Iran they must wear a headscarf to comply with Iranian laws. Not surprisingly, the French flight attendants revolted. They claimed this would seriously violate their right to the secularism that is so fundamental to the French state. In response, Air France agreed to allow them to opt out of working Iran-bound flights.
Now, another group of Air France employees is protesting the requirement that they work this new route. Gay male flight attendants have started a petition that would give themselves a similar option as their female colleagues. But their cause goes beyond a violation of their secular rights. In Iran, homosexuality is illegal, and not just in name only. The punishments range from several dozen lashes to the death penalty.
If these flight attendants deboard in Iran, they risk arrest and death. Would Iran jeopardize the recent diplomatic thaw by arresting a French citizen under these charges? Probably not, although after Iran seized 10 U.S. sailors in January it’s hard to say. But that isn’t the point.
The point is, while the West congratulates itself on the Obama administration’s diplomatic “achievement” vis-a-vis Iran, we are reminded that the Islamic theocracy has serious problems with human rights, especially regarding the gay community.
Although there has been some outcry over Iran’s human rights record since the Iran nuclear deal, media organizations have, for the most part, downplayed it. They’re more engrossed in human interest stories that conform to their narrative that life in the Middle East is not so different from life in the West. This is, of course, an important message for us to hear, and we should encourage awareness of our similarities where they exist. But not at the expense of hiding our differences or dismissing systematic violations of human rights, and not to promote a progressive, utopic vision of multicultural bliss.
The fact is, there’s a persistent problem with multicultural ideology that sees evidence of injustice and discrimination everywhere at home, but turns a blind eye abroad.
Take, for example, women’s rights. In the United States, the Left sees bias, sexual harassment, and micro-aggressions against women around every corner. They have convinced themselves that men and women are paid radically different salaries, culminating in last Tuesday’s “equal pay day,” even though when looking only at earners who are not primary care-givers that difference all but disappears.
Meanwhile, in many Muslim countries, a woman must get a man’s permission before being allowed to work at all. This is because women are largely restricted to the “home sphere” as opposed to the “public” one. But a progressive will more or less give you the old “separate but equal” line to justify what they claim merely boils down to “cultural differences.”
There’s also a backlash against those who speak out on the issue. Ayaan Hirsi Ali was disinvited from Brandeis University for her views on women and Islam, and Mona Eltahawy’s article “Why Do They Hate Us?” sparked outrage from the Left.
How Multiculturalism Contradicts Freedom
The same hypocrisy is on display regarding gay rights in Muslim countries. While the hardships of being homosexual in these countries are sometimes reported in Western media, there is usually very little discussion of why countries that adhere to Islam persecute homosexuality. That Western media seems to have so little interest in this is surprising, given that more than 75 percent of people in Lebanon, Turkey, the Palestinian territories, Egypt, Jordan, and Tunisia don’t think society should accept homosexuality.
The West is skittish about criticizing any aspect of Islamic culture, regardless of how much it might fly in the face of progressive values, because the multicultural framework forbids it. If all cultures are equal, no culture can be criticized.
In academia, it’s pedestrian to see posters for talks on hyper-specific aspects of homosexuality in America and their attendant discriminations. Campus activism for LGBT rights is a hallmark of the academy. So is the promotion and defense of Muslim culture. But it’s rare to see any acknowledgement of how these two causes sometimes clash.
The Left Sacrifices Gay People to Islamists
As is the case with women’s rights, multiculturalism ends up winning out over the human rights of homosexuals in the Middle East. Progressives would prefer to avoid insulting the Muslim community abroad rather than point out that they have a systemic problem with how they view and treat homosexuality in their countries.
This hypocrisy is especially pronounced at a time when so many people who have invested in multiculturalism as a political philosophy and way of life are gnashing their teeth over the trans bathroom fight now raging across the country. Jimmy Buffett and Bruce Springsteen have even canceled their shows in North Carolina and Mississippi to object to what they see as a grave injustice.
How trivial and unimportant this must seem to a man in Iran who is about to be put to death for living with a male partner, or to the gay men living under ISIS or the al-Qaeda-backed al-Nusra Front, who are thrown off buildings and stoned to death. How little perspective this shows on the part of the Left.
I’m not arguing that all fights against discrimination at home are insignificant. But there should be some awareness of how focused we are on gay rights in the United States compared to what we are willing to brush aside in the name of tolerance when it comes to Muslim societies. We’re willing to chock it up to cultural differences—if we dare to bring it up at all.
So as we celebrate the “historic” nuclear deal, we ought to remember that all is not well in Iran. Air France employees, at least, are seeing it first-hand.