A reaction to Socialist Worker on ISIS: “among the most odious pieces I have come across in over 30 years of reading the far left press”

August 27, 2014 at 7:57 pm (Andrew Coates, fascism, iraq, islamism, posted by JD, reactionay "anti-imperialism", relativism, spain, SWP, Syria)

The media have tried to whip up panic about British Muslims

Above: SW says it’s combatting a media campaign to whip up anti-Muslim panic

There’s a fascinating debate going on at Facebook, sparked by this evasive and historically ignorant Socialist Worker article, and Comrade Coatesy’s reaction (republished in full below). Dave Osler initiated the discussion, thus:

‘Parallels have been drawn between young British Muslims who volunteer for ISIS and socialist/communist young men who joined the International Brigades that fought in Spain in the 1930s. Is the analogy valid?’

Later, Dave (a non-aligned socialist not prone to hyperbole) posted the following comment:

David Osler: ‘Actually, Andrew Coates puts his finger on what is wrong with that Socialist Worker article. It doesn’t just ‘blur the distinction’ between ISIS and the International Brigades, it effectively equates them. This ranks it among the most odious pieces I have come across in over 30 years of reading the far left press. Disgusting is the only word for it.

Tendance Coatesy’s coverage:


The UN has just made this announcement,

The Syrian government and Islamic State insurgents are both committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in their war against each other, U.N. investigators said on Wednesday.

Islamic State forces in northern Syria are waging a campaign to instill fear, including amputations, public executions and whippings, they said.


This follows a story in the Guardian on Monday,

Isis accused of ethnic cleansing as story of Shia prison massacre emerges

As many as 670 prisoners thought killed in Mosul with other abuses reported in Iraq amounting to ‘crimes against humanity’

A few days ago, in what can only be called one of the vilest exercises in whataboutery Socialist Worker published this week this apology for the racist genociders of ISIS/Islamic State:

There is resistance to this frenzy of Islamophobia by Hassan Mahamdallie, co-director of the Muslim Institute.

Mahamdallie begins by making a string of unsavoury comparisons.

The beheading of US journalist James Foley by the Islamic State, formerly known as Isis, was horrific. But is the Nigerian military slitting the throats of 16 young men and boys any less horrific?

Or last week’s Israeli air strike that blew to smithereens the wife and seven month old son of Hamas military leader Mohammed Deif? Surely that was horrific and disturbing too?

One atrocity was carried out by a murderer who calls himself Muslim. The second was sanctioned by a head of state who calls himself Christian. And the last was executed by an entity that defines itself as an exclusively Jewish state.

That is to ignore the widespread revulsion at the religious and ethnic cleansing by the genociders of ISIS/Islamic State.

That is, the suffering of the hundreds of thousands of Yazidis, Christians, Kurds and Turkomans massacred, tortured and driven from their homes in Iraq. The same gang is carrying out these actions in Syria.

One might imagine a few words on this topic.

But the eminently self-righteous Mahamdallie remains fixed to the Foley murder.

He comments that,

Yet only one triggered convulsions of outrage, with calls from the establishment in Britain and the US to take action. Madness descended yet again.

Continuing in this vein he comments on the condemnation of the Foley decapitation (though he is too polite to use this word) made by former Labour foreign minister Kim Howells and makes this observation that he should look into his own past and see how people are motivated to fight in wars. That is, one fight in particular, the defence of the Spanish Republic against the Franco-Led armies.

In the 1930s radicalised young men from the same mining communities illegally made their way into Spain to take up arms against general Franco’s fascist army.

He then takes time, a long long time,  to pass smug comments ridiculing British Muslims who have denounced the genociders – for a variety of reasons. Apparently Muslims should not be asked their opinion on Muslim groups and Muslim religious authorities should not have to speak about those  who declare themselves the only true Muslims.

The (present/former?) Senior Officer, Diversity, Arts Council England  concludes that he prefers this response from the leader of the Lewisham Mosque,

The press asked him to condemn a tweet from a woman “Jihadi” in Syria who might have once attended the mosque.

He retorted, “The young woman’s desire to travel to Syria has nothing to do with the Centre. Unfortunately, the Muslim community are being subjected to a burden of proof based on a ‘guilty by association’ standard”.

Not a word of condemnation for the religious and ethnic cleansing.

But instead this,  “It was good to see someone refusing to bow to the frenzy, a spark of resistance in a very dark week.”

No doubt Socialist Worker will applaud a  “spark of resistance” to the “frenzy” of the  UN announcement.

Update: Amongst Comments on Facebook about the Socialist Worker article,

“It doesn’t just ‘blur the distinction’ between ISIS and the International Brigades, it effectively equates them. This ranks it among the most odious pieces I have come across in over 30 years of reading the far left press. Disgusting is the only word for it” – David Osler.



  1. februarycallendar said,

    Utterly and completely trivial compared to the other issues being discussed here, of course, but just thought I’d mention it – Kim Howells is a man.

  2. februarycallendar said,

    re. the Boris Johnson “guilty until proven innocent” proposals, Mahamdallie is wrong if he believes (as I suspect he does) that only people of his political ilk oppose them. Harry’s Place quite rightly published an article fervently and unswervingly condemning them as an affront both to English common law and our more recent European obligations. No doubt he assumes they’re all in favour (no doubt some of their commenters *are*, but still).

  3. Rosie said,

    On that Facebook thread someone was trying to fit ISIS into the anti-imperialistic narrative. Some guys went to Syria to be anti-imperialistic, took a wrong turning, and ended up calling for a Caliphate and massacring people. I’ve heard of bad GPS devices, but didn’t know they could get as bad as that.

  4. Andrew Coates said,

    I have duly corrected my error.

    Jim is right to underline the interest in the Facebook thread.

    There are many reasons why Facebook is important, as well as being fun, but perhaps one is that many of these debates on Blogs interact with Facebook, and link outwards to people.

  5. Babs said,

    Will they even bother reporting the scandal in Rotherham?

    • Andrew Coates said,

      This Guardian columnist thinks that Asian Muslims were not to blame, because,

      “Much has been made of officials’ oversensitivity to accusations of racism. Much less discussed has been how these often poor white girls were considered disposable by authorities because they had transgressed the colour divide. In towns brimming with racial tension, it is often women’s bodies – black, white and brown – that are so fiercely contested by rival communities.

      I have worked within schools where poor white girls being groomed were, despite brilliant work from pastoral teams, viewed as complicit in their own exploitation by some staff. What did they expect from mixing with the “Asian boys”? These children were fair game because they had crossed the colour and cultural line. Doing so had rendered them beyond respectability and thus all relevance.

      Jay’s report highlights such attitudes well. She writes that: “The police gave no priority to CSE, regarding many child victims with contempt.” Why such scorn for vulnerable children? They were tainted or, as Suzanne Moore puts it, “damaged goods”, sullied by rape and miscegenation.”


  6. februarycallendar said,

    Extraordinary letter in Thursday’s print edition of the Guardian which can broadly be summed up as “Someone In Seaford Thinks Jihadists Have Read Das Kapital”.

    I still find it amazing, almost beyond belief, that ageing hippie types in the shires are now routinely more anti-Semitic than the Mail and Telegraph readers with whom they uneasily co-exist. Nobody could have dreamt of that when I was born (which was itself a decade on from “getting it together in the country” as a thing).

  7. Sue R said,

    I was reading earlier today about child sexual exploitation in Pakistan. Apparently, the government has admitted that it goes on. Lots of street children, very poor people etc. Not so different from Rotherham really.

  8. Babs said,

    Sam Bourne seems to think Jihadist twats are the new international brigade too. They just got their idea for this piece from radio 4.


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