“But mobilising for the physical defence of the Bengali community, an obligation for all socialists, is not the same as running a communal election campaign to get George Galloway re-elected to Parliament. It is different, and SWP Respect footsoldiers could learn some useful lessons from the best of the 1930s anti-fascists. The latter understood the distinction between mobilising alongside Jewish organisations and individuals for physical defence against the fascists, and throwing their political lot in with the leaders of the synagogues and with communal prejudices” – John Bloxam, Workers Liberty, 2007.
Communalism – the idea that people should relate to each other primarily on the basis of their community or religious identities, is a poison that the British labour movement has taken years to purge. It was once very strong, especially in Liverpool and Glasgow. The political bandit and friend of dictators everywhere, George Galloway, did his best to revive this backward tradition with his vanity-project ‘Respect’, now thankfully defunct.
But as the sun sets on Galloway and ’Respect’, that other irrepressible opportunist and irresponsible self-promoter (not to mention, tax-dodger and grade-’A’ hypocrite), Ken Livingstone, attempts to revive communalism in his bid to become Mayor of London once again. Yesterday’s Daily Telegraph (yes, I know: a Tory rag. But no-one, including Livingstone, has questioned the accuracy of this), reports the following:
Ken Livingstone has promised to turn London into a “beacon” for the words of the Prophet Mohammed in a sermon at one of the capital’s most controversial mosques.
Mr Livingstone, Labour’s candidate for mayor of London, pledged to “educate the mass of Londoners” in Islam, saying: “That will help to cement our city as a beacon that demonstrates the meaning of the words of the Prophet.” Mr Livingstone described Mohammed’s words in his last sermon as “an agenda for all humanity.”
He praised the Prophet’s last sermon, telling his audience: “I want to spend the next four years making sure that every non-Muslim in London knows and understands [its] words and message.” He also promised to “make your life a bit easier financially.”
Mr Livingstone was speaking at last Friday’s Jummah prayer at the North London Central Mosque, also known as Finsbury Park Mosque, formerly controlled by the terrorist recruiter Abu Hamza.
Hamza was removed in 2003 but the mosque is now controlled by an Islamist organisation, the Muslim Association of Britain, which has been linked to the banned terror group, Hamas. A man who has acted as spokesman for the current leadership, Azzam Tamimi, is on record as supporting suicide bombings. One of the mosque’s current directors, Mohammed Sawalha, is described by the BBC as a former senior figure in Hamas who “is said to have masterminded much of Hamas’s political and military strategy” from his post in London.
In 2009 Mr Sawalha also signed the Istanbul Declaration which calls for attacks against the allies of Israel, which include the UK. The British Government interpreted it as calling for attacks on British troops.
In 2010, the Labour MP Khalid Mahmood, a Muslim moderate, resigned from the mosque’s board of trustees and reported it to the Charity Commission, accusing the mosque of forging his signature on key legal documents.
Mr Livingstone has been dogged by allegations of links to Islamic fundamentalism. In 2010, in the London borough of Tower Hamlets, he campaigned against his own party’s candidate to back a controversial independent politician, Lutfur Rahman, sacked by Labour for his links to a Muslim extremist group, the Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE).
During his mayoralty, Mr Livingstone’s London Development Agency channelled hundreds of thousands of pounds to the East London Mosque in Tower Hamlets, controlled by the IFE, even though senior LDA managers strongly opposed the grant. In return, IFE activists campaigned strongly for him at the 2008 mayoral elections, boasting that they “got out the vote” for Mr Livingstone and achieving dramatic swings to him in their east London heartland.
Mr Livingstone also gave thousands of pounds of public money to the Muslim Welfare House, a charity closely associated with the Finsbury Park Mosque, which signed an open letter backing his re-election campaign in 2008.
In his last sermon, delivered in the valley of Mount Arafat, near Mecca in 632 AD, the Prophet Mohammed attacked discrimination, saying that “a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over white, except by piety and good action.” However, he also said that men had a right to ensure their wives “do not make friends with anyone of whom you do not approve.”
(NB: the above is the longer, online, version of the story that appeared in yesterday’s print edition of the Telegraph).
Let’s be clear about this: if what Livingstone was arguing for was tolerance and a “live-and-let-live” attitude towards mainstream Muslim believers, or indeed offering solidarity against prejudice and demonisation, then there would be no objections from me. Indeed, given the recent outrages in France, it would be a timely and welcome intervention. But that is most definitely not Livingstone’s message: he’s promising Muslim leaders that he’ll actively promote their religion, as well as (in what can only be understood as a latter-day version of Tammany Hall-style bribery) to “make your life a bit easier financially.”
Have a look at the Youtube clip (above) of his speech and I think you’ll agree that, like Galloway before him, Livingstone is sending out a clear (and entirely cynical) message that he’s about to convert.
I’ll leave aside, for now, the decidedly dodgy nature of the present leadership of North London Central Mosque and Mr Azzam Tamimi; I’ll also leave aside Livingstone’s record of sucking up to Islamist bigots. What I’m concerned about is Livingstone’s irresponsible, opportunist and entirely self-serving attempt to revive communalist politics – a betrayal of all those who fight for working class unity and – in particular – a betrayal of progressives, democrats, women and gays within the Muslim “community.”
This sordid example of political corruption and vote-grubbing comes especially badly from an operator whose concern for the sensibilities of ethno-religious minorities is, shall we say, selective…
Unfortunately, this loathsome creature is the Labour candidate for mayor, so we have to vote for him, on an elemental class basis. But all the more reason for socialists to actively involve themselves in the Labour Party: to ensure that we don’t have to vote for anti-working class scum like Livingstone.