Bringing secularism into disrepute: has the LSS lost the plot?

August 1, 2015 at 1:33 pm (Free Speech, immigration, Islam, islamism, Pink Prosecco, Racism, secularism)

Liberty GB leader Paul Weston speaks during the first Pegida Rally

By Pink Prosecco

Last year the Lawyers’ Secular Society was instrumental in persuading the Law Society to withdraw its ‘practice note’ offering advice on Sharia compliant wills. Now it is supporting another venture, a Mohammed cartoon exhibition organised by Sharia Watch UK and Vive Charlie. In response to criticism, the LSS President Charlie Klendjian has written a long post defending the decision to share a platform with Geert Wilders and Paul Weston, Chairman of Liberty GB.

In the ‘about us’ section of the LSS site it is asserted:

‘The LSS is not anti-religious, and we are equally opposed to the religious or the non-religious being discriminated against.’

It is difficult to square that policy with having anything to do with Paul Weston. Although Klendjian is right to insist on the importance of free speech, there is no reason why one can’t defend this and other secular values robustly without getting involved with dubious individuals and organisations. It is implied that Weston is controversial because of his views on immigration, but this only scratches the surface of the problem.

Klendjian makes this passionate appeal to his readers:

“If Mohammed can’t be depicted then Islam can’t be challenged, at which point democracy dies a horrible death.”

But what kind of ‘democracy’ does Paul Weston support? The answer, according to his party’s manifesto, is one in which Muslims are barred from public office. And whereas some gloomily fret about a future ‘Eurabia’, dominated by Muslims, Weston is openly preoccupied, not just with religion, but with race:

“In England we only have 45 million whites and we have 11 million non-whites, and again we have to look at the fact that only 10 percent of that is aged under 16 on the white European side; and on the non-white side we’re looking again at figures of 30 percent aged under 16. So if you look at those figures we see that we today have under the age of 16 4.5 million whites in England and 3.3 million non-whites.”

Klendjian points out that the LSS used to share platforms  with ‘an open communist’ (Maryam Namazie of the Worker-communist Party of Iran). But whereas many evils have been carried out in the name of communism, I can’t imagine Maryam Namazie condemns these any less strongly than the rest of us. She is also an uncompromising anti-racist.

Klendjian goes on:

“Another accusation against Wilders and Weston is that “they’re not secularists” or that they don’t share the other goals of secularists. I don’t even know whether they describe themselves as secularists and you know what? I don’t care.

“We can’t restrict the people we share platforms with to those who describe themselves as secularists or who sign up to the entire ‘shopping list’ of secularism causes (faith schools; Bishops in the House of Lords; council prayers, etc).”

This (at least if he knows the full extent of Weston’s views) is disingenuous. It’s one thing for ardent secularists to allow a bit of leeway to liberal allies who don’t oppose ritual slaughter and don’t lie awake worrying about Bishops in the House of Lords. But – barring Muslims from public office? This discriminatory policy is the very reverse of what secularists should stand for – ensuring that people from all faiths and none are treated equally.

And here’s another bad argument:

“The LSS’s priority should be to defend free speech and to support this event as fully as possible, and not to guard itself against baseless accusations of ‘racism’.

“In any case, as we have seen over the years, such accusations will be thrown no matter what.

“Look what happened to Charlie Hebdo. The Charlie Hebdo corpses are still regularly smeared as ‘racist’.”

This is like a BDS supporter saying there’s no point condemning Holocaust denial or even the Holocaust itself because some will see any opposition to Israel as anti-Semitic.

At one point in his post Klendjian states (and I’m not making this up – check it for yourself): “It is no exaggeration to say that fear of being called racist could quite easily dismantle the superstructure of western civilisation as we know it.”

And what about racism itself – is that not a threat to our values too, or are Paul Weston’s supremacist views acceptable?

Klendjian ends by quoting at length from Douglas Murray. Here’s just one paragraph of Murray’s argument.

“The organizers at the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, are not left-wing journalists but conservative activists; and because the Dutch politician Geert Wilders spoke at the opening of the exhibition, that added a layer of complexity for people who like labeling actions with political valences, rather than just seeing actions as apart from them. It seems clear, however, from the pattern of condemnations on one side and silence on the other, that a cartoonist may be worthy of defense if he is associated with a left-wing organization, but not if he is associated with a right-wing one.”

Murray is also being disingenuous in suggesting there’s a hypocritical distinction between attitudes to secularists from the left and right. Plenty of Conservatives have no time for Geller and Spencer. Those who dislike them don’t do so because of their views on fiscal policy or the size of the state. As for Weston – I’d expect Conservatives to oppose his horrific views as strongly as left/liberal types.

And I’m sure there are many on the left – like myself – who would be quite prepared to put differences aside to work together with centre right allies against theocratic fascists – or against Weston and his ilk.

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Hope Not Hate report into “Islamophobic” cartoon exhibition

July 29, 2015 at 2:09 pm (Anti-Racism, Free Speech, Islam, islamism, posted by JD, reblogged, religion)

Sarah AB has written this thoughtful and nuanced piece over at That Place. I have not been able to contact her to obtain her express permission to re-blog here, but I’m confident she’ll have no objection and I think it deserves to be read as widely as possible:

By Sarah AB

I agree with plenty of Hope not Hate’s blogs and campaigns, but have some reservations about their latest report on the UK’s counter-jihadist movement and a planned exhibition of Mohammed cartoons in London this September.

The first thing to note is the cover.  This depicts red ink splattering from a pen nib, and thus conflates those who draw the Prophet Mohammed with those who react violently to such drawings.  People will have different views about the various Mohammed cartoons but neither they nor their creators are responsible for others’ violent reactions.

This choice of image reflects the main thrust of the report – the claim that the organisers of the planned exhibition are concealing a sinister agenda behind the banner of free speech – a wish to provoke violence, even ‘civil war’ (p. 2).

It’s possible that some of the organisers and their allies may both want to provoke some kind of reaction and genuinely care about free speech.  I don’t agree with the counter-jihadists’ analysis or strategy, but that doesn’t mean their concerns aren’t sincerely held. I can imagine some of those backing the exhibition might welcome a clearly illiberal and intolerant demonstration against it as that would help prove their point and attract more supporters.  But that’s very different from actively wanting to spark violence and civil war.

However the report alleges that just this scenario was discussed earlier this year by Anne Marie Waters, Alan Lake and Tommy Robinson.  Yet the only source for this claim is the decidedly dubious Knights Templar blog (p. 6 and p. 20) The views of Anne Marie Waters are certainly increasingly vehement, but I’d want to see more evidence to support such a serious claim.

Although I agree with much of the analysis of individual counter-jihadists contained in this report, there is a tendency to downplay the threat posed by Islamism and focus almost all criticism on the counter-jihadists. One example of this is the account given of the attempted murderous attacks against Pamela Geller (pp. 10-11).  Another problem is the failure to consistently discriminate between those on different parts of the counter-jihadist spectrum. The report’s executive summary ends by asserting that the counter-jihadists are as dangerous as their Islamist foes and that they want to bring society to its knees (p. 2).   This is a pretty sweeping claim.  Some – including, as far as I know, Waters and Klendjian – are prepared to accept secularist Muslim allies, for example.

It is not always easy to tell which counter-jihadists are implicated in the report’s various claims – such as the assertion that some want to see genocide.  There is no evidence that all counter-jihadists want to see any such thing, though they may be bigoted or blinkered. Yet on p. 25 it is claimed that ‘they’ all have as apocalyptic a view of the world as jihadists and are willing to use equally violent means to achieve them.  This claim is distractingly hyperbolic (certainly with regards to some of the people featured in this report) and draws attention away from the serious problems with counter-jihadism, with the completely appalling views of Fjordman for example (p. 26), rather as the counter-jihadists themselves distractingly overegg the very real problem with Islamism and often fail to distinguish between liberal and extremist Muslims.

I completely agree that, assuming the exhibition goes ahead, the best response will be to ignore it, and not to engage in direct counter protest (p. 28). But I don’t agree that it would be wise or right to ‘change the narrative from free speech to incitement’ (p. 28) in order to get the exhibition banned.  ‘Incitement’ really isn’t the right word in this context, whatever one thinks of the exhibition and the motives behind it.  And to ban the exhibition would be just the step to play into the hands of any counter-jihadists who do want to stir things up as it will prove their case perfectly.

However, if Hope not Hate haven’t quite got their line and length right here, neither – although I do agree with some of his points – has Raheem Kassam writing (twice) in Breitbart. Hope not Hate is hardly ‘hard-left’, and this is a very misleading summary of the report:

Hope not Hate … has come out against free speech, mocking the counter-jihadist claim that Islamism “is a supremacist and expansionist ideology”, despite recent evidence at home, and abroad, through groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir, and ISIS.

Nick Lowles very clearly (and accurately) states that the counter-jihadists think that Islam, not Islamism, is a supremacist and expansionist ideology (p. 3).  In sharp contrast with UAF, Hope not Hate has helped draw attention to some Islamist groups and individuals – and come under attack from the usual suspects for doing so.

habibi adds: have a look at this from Hope not Hate’s key source:

In the context of the cartoon plot, however, ISIS and Al Qaeda are merely bystanders. The biggest beneficiaries would – unsurprisingly – be the group directly behind the proposed operation. And, while HopeNotHate are unwilling to use the Z-word, it is a simple fact that the common denominator in every single one of the plotters is that they either are themselves hardcore Likud extreme nationalists or are funded by ultra Likud Zionists.

 

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The Guardian and the ‘Pompey Lads': the Delusions of British Liberalism and Multi-Culturalism

July 28, 2015 at 5:02 pm (Cross-post, fascism, Guardian, islamism, multiculturalism, posted by JD, relativism, religion)

A Briton has been killed fighting for Isis in Syria, a leading observer of the conflict has claimed. Mamunur Mohammed Roshid was one of six, aged between 19 and 31, who left Portsmouth to join the militants. He is the third of the group to have been killed, with one having been convicted and two others thought to still be fighting.

I wrote the small piece below in response to an article on The Guardian website by Emine Saner on 27 July (also in today’s G2). This reports that the final member of the ‘Pompey Lads’ believed to be fighting for the Islamic State in Syria, Asad Uzzaman, has been killed. The Guardian, and especially its Comment is Free section, has a tendency to remove my comments, so I thought I would duplicate them here. 

The most telling thing about Emine Saner’s article is part of its title – “How the Pompey Lads Fell into the hands of ISIS.”

Perhaps the Pompey lads took a rational decision that ISIS broadly met their beliefs, and the caliphate was an ideal worth fighting for?

It is remarkable how readily good liberal journalists can now infantalise people from ethnic minorities in a way we would never see with others. During the conflict in Northern Ireland, did we ever talk of young Catholics in west Belfast ‘falling into the hands’ of the IRA? Or young unionists who joined loyalist paramilitaries in such terms?

Its the same with the woman and girls who have traveled to live in the Caliphate – they are always ‘groomed’ or ‘lured‘ . Despite every one of them being over the age of criminal responsibility, we are asked to pretend nobody ever takes a rational decision.

I wonder if the war in Syria, the emergence of the Islamic State and British Islamist support for it actually tells us more about the crisis of liberalism and our staunchest advocates of multi-culturalism, than it does about the state of British Islam. Whatever you want to say about British Muslims, they are certainly not as prone to deluding themselves as our liberal media….

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AWL on Corbyn and the Middle East

July 22, 2015 at 2:16 pm (anti-semitism, AWL, internationalism, islamism, labour party, Middle East, palestine, posted by JD)

Corbyn and the Middle East: the hypocrisy of the right, a challenge for the left

By Sasha Ismail (at the Workers Liberty website)

The controversy sparked, or ramped up, by Jeremy Corbyn’s appearance on Channel 4 News on 13 July raises important issues for the left.

(You can watch it on the Channel 4 website here.)

Corbyn responded to interviewer Krishnan Guru-Murthy asking about his description of Lebanese Islamists Hesbollah and Palestinian Islamists Hamas as “our friends” by stressing that peace in the Middle East requires negotiations with all sorts of people.

The first thing to say is that, however one assesses the performance and motives of Guru-Murthy and Channel 4, there is clearly a right-wing push against Corbyn on these issues. If the Corbyn leadership campaign continues to perform as strongly as it has so far, the right-wing outcry is likely to get louder.

The motivations of these attacks are made clear by the fact that those making them are not bothered by the friendly relationship of the entire New Labour hierarchy with the Saudi dictatorship, or the links between all kinds of bourgeois British politicians – particularly Tories – and unpleasant regimes around the planet. They are targeting Corbyn because he looks soft on the ‘wrong’ people, and above all because they are bothered by the success of a left-wing campaign that is bolstering labour movement confidence.

The left must expose such cynicism and hypocrisy, both for general reasons and to defend the Corbyn campaign. At the same time, we should say that – judged by our own standards, not those of the right – Corbyn’s stance on the controversial issues is wrong.

In the March 2009 speech to a Stop the War Coalition meeting in which Corbyn talked about “friends” (on YouTube here) he said:

“Tomorrow evening it will my pleasure and my honour to host an event in Parliament where our friends from Hesbollah will be speaking. I’ve also invited friends from Hamas to come and speak as well…

“The idea that an organisation that is dedicated towards the good of the Palestinian people, and bringing about long-term peace and social justice and political justice in the whole region, should be labelled as a terrorist organisation by the British government is really a big, big historical mistake…”

“Our function is to support those people who are supporting and defending and representing the Palestinian people… part of [that] is inviting and welcoming our friends from Lebanon and from Palestine to London…”

The issue is not this or that phrase, nor the legitimate idea that getting peace often requires negotiations with people you don’t like – nor, of course, Corbyn’s absolutely correct opposition to repressive “anti-terrorism” legislation. It is the lack of sharp hostility to – and indeed praise of – brutally reactionary political forces. The problem with the likes of Hamas and Hesbollah is not that they are “terrorists” but that they are violently anti-women, anti-semitic, anti-working class theocratic bigots. In 2009 Hamas was engaged in a brutal clampdown on women and workers’ organisations among others in the Gaza strip: see here.

That a socialist could describe Hamas as “dedicated… to social and political justice” and describe working with them as a “pleasure and honour” is ridiculous. So is the comparison Corbyn made with the ANC. From a socialist point of view there were many problems with the ANC even before it took power, but to compare it to Hamas or Hesbollah is a slander.

We suspect that in this speech Corbyn got carried away, and that his underlying thought is that Hamas and Hesbollah are bad, but peace is the priority, Western imperialism and Israel are the chief evils, and so it is necessary to be diplomatic.

The problem with such diplomacy is that it means representing militaristic forces as peace-loving, and promoting bigoted reactionaries busy smashing our comrades – working-class activists, the left, feminists, etc in the Middle East – as progressives. People with Corbyn’s politics in Gaza face physical attack, prison or exile!

We want peace in the region, yes, and an end to the oppression of the Palestinians, but we also want to help the left there battle against Islamism. In addition, being able to vigorously denounce such forces would put the left in a stronger position to point out the hypocrisy of the right.

These kind of failings are not just a problem with Corbyn, but with wide sections of the left, from liberals through to self-styled revolutionaries. Those leading the Stop the War campaign have played a central role in spreading such ideas.

Against that approach we need to restate the basic Marxist idea of international working-class solidarity: “We shall never forget that the workers of all countries are our friends and the despots of all countries are our enemies” (German workers’ resolution during the Franco-Prussian War). The working-class movements, socialists, feminists and democrats of the Middle East are our friends, not Hamas and Hesbollah.

None of the candidates in the Labour leadership election are good on foreign policy; Corbyn at least opposes British militarism, nuclear weapons, etc, and despite his comments he is the most likely to support solidarity with working-class activists around the world. This in addition to his policies and record on austerity, workers’ struggles, migrants’ rights, and so on: a vote for Corbyn is a vote to break from the New Labour consensus on these issues, and rally the left and labour movement for a fightback.

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Time to get rid of faith schools

July 22, 2015 at 9:29 am (anti-fascism, conspiracy theories, David Cameron, Education, islamism, posted by JD, religion, secularism)

Why can’t most of the left be as clear-cut and straightforward on the scandal of state-sponsored sectarian schools as the NSS?

Prime Minister ‘blinkered to ignore role faith schools play in segregating communities’

Statement from the National Secular Society

Prime Minister 'blinkered to ignore role faith schools play in segregating communities'

Despite criticising “segregated” education, Prime Minister David Cameron has defended the continuation of faith schools in a speech on counter extremism.

In a wide-ranging speech, delivered in Birmingham, Mr Cameron set out his thinking on how to confront extremism and Islamist ideology and rejected what he called the “grievance justification” for Islamist violence.

He talked about Britain as a “multi-racial, multi-faith democracy” and as a “beacon to the world”. He said no-one should be demonised but said there was a need to “confront, head on, the extreme ideology” behind Islamism.

He said that Britain needed to be bolder in asserting “liberal values”, which he called “our strongest weapon”.

The Prime Minister issued a strong challenge to “the cultish worldview” of extremists and the “conspiracy theories” that support it, and he said the UK should contrast the “bigotry, aggression and theocracy” of the Islamists with our own values.”

Mr Cameron indicated that funding would be made available for groups willing to lead reform and spread an “alternative narrative”. He also committed to do more to tackle extremism in prisons.

Turning his attention to the newly introduced “Prevent duty” for public sector bodies, Cameron said that it is “not about criminalising or spying on Muslim children” and accused some of its opponents of “paranoia in the extreme.”

However, despite warning that “the education that our young people receive” in schools in “divided communities” is “even more segregated than the neighbourhoods they live in”, David Cameron said the UK should not “dismantle faith schools.”

Instead, he said “it is right to look again more broadly at how we can move away from segregated schooling in our most divided communities.” The Prime Minister suggested that faith schools could share sites or facilities.

“It cannot be right that children can grow up and go to school and not come into contact with people of other backgrounds [and] faiths,” he said.

Research by Demos recently found that “some faith schools effectively exclude other ethnic groups” and that minority faith schools were particularly segregated.

NSS campaigns manager Stephen Evans said, “Much of this speech is very welcome – and echoes what secularists have been saying for a long time. But it is blinkered to ignore the role that faith schools play in creating the segregated communities that Mr Cameron rightly criticises. The potential of faith schools to exacerbate the separation of communities is obvious for all to see.

“Children from different backgrounds need to mix with each other on a daily basis if we are to break down the barriers. They will never truly understand and trust each other if their schools are encouraging an us-and-them mentality. Tinkering round the edges with occasional visits and shared resources is not good enough – in fact it can be counterproductive, reinforcing the feeling of being from different worlds.”

The Prime Minister also said action was needed on unregulated religious ‘schools’, an issue previously raised by the NSS.

On hate preachers and Islamist speakers invited onto university campuses, the Prime Minister said: “When David Irving goes to a university to deny the Holocaust university leaders rightly come out and condemn him. They don’t deny his right to speak but they do challenge what he says.”

In contrast, Cameron argued that university leaders “look the other way through a mixture of misguided liberalism and cultural sensitivity” when Islamist speakers attend university events.

He also issued a strong rebuke to the National Union of Students.

“When you choose to ally yourselves with an organisation like CAGE, which called Jihadi John a ‘beautiful young man’ and told people to ‘support the jihad’ in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said, it brings “shame” to your organisation and “your noble history of campaigning for justice.”

The Prime Minister cited the review of sharia ‘courts’ among measured to crackdown on non-violent extremism, and promised a consultation on lifetime anonymity for victims of forced marriage, in a proposal welcomed by the National Secular Society.

He spent much of the speech dealing with non-violent extremism, and argued that “if you say ‘yes I condemn terror – but the Kuffar are inferior’… then you too are part of the problem.”

Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said: “This all sounds very familiar, and we are glad that the Prime Minister is catching up with the NSS’s thinking and suggestions. All he has to do now is carry out his plans, which may be more difficult than he thinks. There is a lot of resistance not just from the Islamists but from the liberals who imagine that taking a stand against the Islamist threat is equivalent to attacking all Muslims. It is not and for all our sakes we must not be put off tackling the bad guys for fear of offending the good ones.”

The Government will publish its counter-extremism strategy in the autumn.

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Corbyn at his best … and his worst

July 19, 2015 at 9:35 pm (anti-semitism, islamism, Jim D, labour party, left, Middle East, reactionay "anti-imperialism")

I am a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn for Labour leader. I campaigned for him within Unite before the Unite leadership decided to back him.

As such, I think its important for all of us who support Corbyn to put 15 minutes aside to watch this 13 July Channel 4 News interview by Krishnan Guru-Murphy.

On domestic policy, Corbyn is excellent, clearly rejecting Harman’s position on welfare cuts, advocating higher taxation of the super-rich, and speaking up in defence of immigrants. That’s why I and others like me support him.

But on foreign affairs he is – and let’s be frank – shite. Corbyn dodges the questions  dishonestly although quite effectively

Yes, Guru-Murthy was probably determined to discredit Corbyn but why can’t he (Corbyn) say on national television what he has already said to countless left-wing audiences: that Hamas and Hezbollah are good, progressive people?

Corbyn doesn’t have the guts to come out and say that openly on TV because he knows that, outside the Stalinoid ‘common sense’ of the pseudo-‘left’, most people (rightly) think supporting these fascistic anti-Semites is outrageous. So he obfuscates and pretends what he said was just about supporting multilateral peace talks, etc (the bit where he says “I’ve also engaged with people on the right of Israeli politics on this issue” – which is simply untrue). Instead of answering the question, he becomes angry and self-righteous. His response to a reasonable line of questioning is, frankly, a dishonest disgrace.

Corbyn does not raise his policy on Israel/Palestine much in his campaign – probably because he realizes how unpopular it is.

Corbyn has been comparatively open that he does not see himself as Labour leader at the next election. I am told that he has said that there should be another leadership election before 2020. This is what I would want in the event that he wins: in which case some of his more idiotic positions on foreign policy may not matter so much.

A bigger problem with Corbyn (and where he may not be in a minority on the Labour left) is the issue of Syria.

Kurdish representatives of the pro-Rojavan PYD went to see him last week. As I understand it they were hoping to get him to moderate his total opposition to Western airstrikes as well as call for arms for the secular Kurdish militias. This would mean Corbyn moving away from his position of simply endorsing the positions put out by the Stop The War Coalition. It would be an ideal way for him to demonstrate that he is not ‘soft on militant Islamism’, but it would involve  breaking with the Stalinist/soft-left consensus on Syria/Iraq: something that Corbyn’s politics and established alliances will not allow him to do. It is something that should be raised by Labour leftists alongside Kurdish organizations.

The serious left must support Corbyn, but not hesitate in exposing and denouncing his truly wretched positions on foreign affairs.

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Socialism, feminism, secularism and Islam: interview with Marieme Helie Lucas

July 9, 2015 at 12:49 pm (AWL, fascism, Feminism, Human rights, islamism, misogyny, posted by JD, reactionay "anti-imperialism", relativism, religion, religious right, secularism, terror, women)

Interview with Marieme Helie Lucas

Marieme Helie Lucas is an Algerian sociologist. She participated in the national liberation from French colonialism and was close to the then-underground PCA (Parti Communist Algerien, Algerian Communist Party). She worked as a senior civil servant during the first three years after independence, before leaving to teach at Algiers University for 12 years.

In 1984, she founded the international solidarity network Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) and served as its international coordinator for 18 years. WLUML linked women fighting for their rights in Muslim contexts, throughout Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. WLUML focused on research and grassroots solidarity work aimed at reinforcing local struggles. In 2004, she founded the international Secularism Is A Women’s Issue (SIAWI) network, and serves at its international coordinator. She is currently based in India.

Earlier this year she spoke to the AWL’s paper, Solidarity, about the struggles of women, workers, and other democratic and progressive forces against the Muslim far-right in Algeria and elsewhere.


Solidarity: For many years, large parts of the global left have regarded political Islam as essentially progressive against the dominant (US) imperialism; what do you think about this analysis? What are its roots?

We can incriminate several factors. The left’s traditional focus on the state impeded its ability to decode in time the warning signs of supposedly religious non-state forces rising as powerful extreme-right political actors. Human rights organisations – sorry, comrades, for this unholy comparison but I must make it – also have trouble delinking from an exclusive focus on the state and considering these new players for what they really are. I situate this difficulty at the same level as that of re-identifying and re-defining classes today. One badly feels the need for innovative, intellectually fearless, communist thinkers and theorists to account for the many changes in the world in the last century.

Allow me a digression about the state. The question of “less state” or “more state” is at the heart of the dealings with the Muslim far-right in Europe. Interestingly, in France, the once-grassroots organisation Ni Putes Ni Soumises (NPNS, Neither Whores Nor Submissives), led by women from Muslim migrant descent, was the first one to call on the state to fulfill its obligations vis a vis citizens. The suburbs of big cities had slowly been abandoned by French authorities (police patrols, which were stoned as soon as they set foot in it, did not dare enter these locations, but neither did the fire brigade, or emergency doctors, not to mention garbage collectors or postmen). As a result, these areas were governed by Muslim fundamentalist groups and organisations who did the social work the state was not doing any more; in the process, among other things, they imposed dress codes and behaviours on the girls. NPNS was set up in response to one of these odious crimes, in which a girl aged 17, whose behaviour was not considered “proper” enough, was burnt alive in the garbage dump of the building where she lived.

In Algeria, we witnessed a similar approach, with Muslim fundamentalist groups taking over and politicising social work: they slowly replaced the state when it abandoned areas to their fate – and, in the process, were imposing their rules, laws, and “justice”, terrorising the population, which subsequently also wished for the state to be back in their areas.

Not that the state was ever seen as any good – people loathe our successive governments – but fundamentalists’ rule was much worse. After the slaughtering of the population by non-state, far-right armed groups in the 1990s, this reaction increased: people despise President Bouteflika [Algerian president since 1999] (who, in order to stay in power, made all sorts of compromises with the religious far-right and traded with corrupt politicians), but they vote for him in order, they hope, to keep direct far-right theocratic rule at bay.

The terms “political Islam” or “Islamists” are misleading: both suggest religious movements, while they should in fact be characterised in political terms. The left (and far-left) in Europe did not take the trouble of going through a thorough analysis of the political nature of Muslim fundamentalist movements; it mostly saw them as popular movements (which indeed they are, and populist too, but that did not ring any bells, it seems) opposing… you name it: colonisation, capitalism, imperialism, undemocratic governments, etc. The European left only looked at what it thought (often mistakenly, for example when it presumes the Muslim right is anti-capitalist) fundamentalist movements stood against, never at what they wanted to promote. Yes, they stood against our undemocratic governments, but from a far-right perspective. In Algeria, since the nineties, we have been calling them “green-fascists” (green being here the colour of Islam) or “Islamo-fascists”.

Many historians in Europe dismiss us when we use the term “fascism”. However, their ideologies (if not their historical and economic circumstances) are scarily comparable: it is not the superior Aryan race, but the superior Islamic creed that is the pillar on which they base their superiority, a superiority they infer from a mythical past (the glorious past of Ancient Rome, the Golden Age of Islam, etc.), a superiority which grants them the right and duty to physically eliminate the untermensch (on the one hand: Jews, communists, Gypsies, gays, physically and/or mentally disabled, on the other: kafir, communists, Jews, gays, etc.). Nazis, fascists, and the Muslim far-right all want women in their place, “church/mosque, kitchen, and cradle”, and all of them are pro-capitalists: the Muslim right calls on the rich to performing the Islamic duty of zakkat (charity), which leaves untouched the power structure, and the “poor” in their place too, which is god’s will.

Overlooking the political nature of the armed Muslim far-right had terrible consequences for us, anti-fundamentalists from Muslim countries. What Cheikh Anta Diop, the famous Senegalese historian, used to call, in another context, “leftist laziness”, needs to be blamed and exposed.

If we agree that Muslim fundamentalism is a far-right movement, the question then becomes: can the left support far-right, fascist-type movements in the name of anti-imperialism? And an additional question is: is there still, in this day and age, only one imperialism (i.e., US imperialism)? Or are there emerging imperialisms, for example in oil-rich countries, which should now be taken into account? Is the promotion of the religious far-right, in various forms, one of the elements in the global strategy of these emerging powers?

A simplistic approach, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”, supplemented the old dichotomy between the “main” enemy and the “secondary” enemy that so very few thinkers on the left and far-left have questioned in relation to Muslim fundamentalist movements. As women, we experienced the “main enemy” theory being been used against movements for women’s rights: it was never the right time to demand these rights; they should be postponed until after decolonisation; until after the liberation struggle; until after the reconstruction of the country; until we gain some political stability…

Let me pay tribute here to Daniel Bensaïd, one of the lone voices on the left with a better perspective on this issue. In La Republique Imaginaire (2005), he writes (my own translation from French): “The control of capital over bodies, its strong will to reveal their market value, does not at all reduce their control by religious law and the theological will to make them disappear…The poor dialectic of main and secondary contradictions, forever revolving, already played too many bad tricks. And the ‘secondary enemy’, too often underestimated, because the fight against the main enemy was claimed to be a priority, has sometimes been deadly”.

Bensaïd goes on to quote Erich Fried’s poem: “Totally caught into my struggle against the main enemy / I was shot by my secondary enemy / Not from the back, treacherously, as his main enemies claim / But directly, from the position it has long been occupying / And in keeping with his declared intentions that I did not bother about, thinking they were insignificant”.

So-called “political Islam” is treated by the left in a way which is very different from its treatment of any other popular far-right movement working under the guise of religion. In fact, I should say that “Islam” is treated differently from any other religion. Jewish fundamentalism or Christian fundamentalism, even in oppressed groups, would not be met with such patronising benignity; they would be analysed, in terms of class for instance, and of ideology, of political program. Nothing of the sort is even attempted for supposedly Muslim groups: no research is done on those who plant bombs and organise attacks in Europe or North America, for instance – it is assumed that they are lumpen, while the evidence is that they are from lower-middle-class and educated backgrounds, mostly middle-range engineers or technicians. “Leftist laziness” again…

Imagine for one second what would be the reaction of the left if even working-class or lower-middle-class Jews in France had been attacking Muslim schools and killing pupils, or the customers of “Arab” groceries; how come that when it is “Muslims” doing it to “Jews”, the left starts looking for good reasons they may have had for doing so? I cannot help feeling there is hidden racism at work here, against “Muslims” who are seen as such inferior people that barbaric behaviour is naturally to be expected from them.

To a situation of oppression there is no “automatic” response: there are several possible responses: one from the far-right, but – also ! – one from the left, a revolutionary one. Accepting – even implicitly – the idea that joining fascist groups is the only possible response to a situation of oppression, or to racism, exclusion, and economic hardship, etc., seems like an incredible twist of fate coming from the left!

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7/7 survivor talks about her “positive anger”: amazing!

July 8, 2015 at 11:01 pm (fascism, islamism, Paul Canning, terror)


Above: a different – but equally inspiring – clip with Gill Hicks

Paul Canning writes (in a BTL comment at Coatesy’s blog):

I was trying to avoid 7/7 stuff much today but saw a great interview on Aussie TV with Gill Hicks, whose legs were blown off http://t.co/adBDhlH1mX

You can watch and figure it out for yourself but to prod into watching I mention that the interviewer had (I think ‘had’) to say ‘did we cause this’ and Hicks sidesteps to answer. And she does it so graciously.

I wonder how I would react. I wonder if all the politics we talk about would mean anything or everything if my legs were blown off.

This is how any decent human – conservative or leftie – would hear someone like her: I wonder.

I also dug up some post 7/7 polls and, clearly, there is a group of Brits in favour of blowing up Gill Hicks to make some point.

We had the same traitorous problem in the 30s and 40s. Brown and red. Lord Haw Haw (Russell Brand) and Lord Halifax (Peter Hitchens/Simon Jenkins) and the Comintern between 1939 and 1941. You can add your own names to the analogy. We all know how the brown behaved, the red history has been systematically buried, like the Russian executions of the Poles at Katyn.

We have been here before. Look how some behaved during the Battle of Britain. It is history repeating.

‘Traitorous?’ Traitorous to humanity, beholden to ideology.

ISIS support needs to be rooted out because it is fascism. It is completely unacceptable for wavering on this.

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Express delete story claiming ‘half of British Muslims support ISIS’

July 8, 2015 at 8:54 am (iraq, Islam, islamism, media, Middle East, posted by JD, terror)

For the record, I’m not sure what to make of this, or how significant it is – JD.

From Political Scrapbook:

The Daily Express appear to have deleted a story suggesting that 1.5 million British Muslims support terror group Islamic State — based on polling which apparently did not ask respondents their religion or state clearly that ISIS was a terror group.

The headline for the online version was …

“Half of British Muslims ‘support ISIS’ as fears grow over influence of terror group”

… with the strapline:

“HALF of Britain’s three million Muslims could support the Islamic State terror group, a shocking new survey has revealed.”

While Scrapbook cannot locate the new polling, the 2014 ICM survey on behalf of Russian news agency Rossiya Segodnya only asked a single question about ISIS — which used a formulation recently condemned precisely because it conflates the beheading enthusiasts with a legitimate nation state:

“From what you know, please, tell me if you have a very favorable, somewhat favorable, somewhat unfavorable or very unfavorable opinion of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant otherwise known as ISIS?

While the piece is still available in search engine caches, visitors to the original link are now greeted with ‘Page Missing Mystery’:

Express vanishing ISIS support story

What is more of a mystery is how the Express can justify such a headline.

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Air strikes against ISIS in Syria: what should the left say?

July 3, 2015 at 3:24 pm (fascism, iraq, islamism, kurdistan, left, Middle East, posted by JD, Stop The War, Syria, terror, war)

Two Tornado GR4 jets took off from a British military base in Cyprus to commence the UK's campaign against Isis in Iraq. An RAF Tornado GR4 jet at a British military base in Cyprus during the UK’s present campaign against ISIS in Iraq

How should the left respond to the possibility of air strikes against ISIS/Daesh (who cares what they’re called?) in Syria? – asks Comrade Coatesy. And, in particular, he asks, where does the Stop The War Coalition (StWC) stand?

An interesting reply comes from one John R, in a BTL comment:

“Where does the StWC stand?”

I’m assuming this is a rhetorical question, Andrew as the stance of the StWC will be opposition to any Western attack on Isis – no matter the cost to the Kurds and others.

In your article, you put two points of view which, to my mind, are contradictory.

“Another foreign intervention in Syria and Iraq is a bad idea, ethically and in terms of Realpolitik.”

… (and) …

“There is little we can do in this tumult, but we are must use all the resources we can to help our Kurdish sisters and brothers who are fighting for dear life.”

If “we” must use all our resources to help the Kurds, surely we should not rule out the possibility of air strikes?

Here is a report from the Independent (Feb 2015) –

“An important aspect of the Kurdish offensive by the People’s Protection Units (YPG) is that it is receiving air cover with US Central |Command recording 21 airstrikes in two days against Isis ground positions and vehicles. This means that the US is now cooperating militarily with the YPG…

Now for the first time there is evidence that this military cooperation between the Syrian Kurds and the US is continuing in offensive operations. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says that Isis has lost 132 fighters killed in this area in Hasaka province since 21 February while only seven YPG fighters have been killed, including one foreigner. The disparity in casualties can only be explained by the extensive use of US airpower.

“This is an important development,” says veteran Syrian Kurdish leader Omar Sheikhmous. “It means that the PYD [the political arm of YPG] has reached an understanding with the US about cooperation.”

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/isis-in-syria-aided-by-us-air-strikes-kurds-cut-terrorists-supply-line-linking-syria-and-iraq-10070691.html

I think the crux of the matter should be what do those [who are fighting ISIS/Daesh on the ground], especially the Kurds, say they want and need to fight Isis? If they believe that British air strikes can help to beat back Isis, then good.

Who knows, though? Maybe John Rees and the StWC will come up with the kind of imaginative idea they had last year when they were calling on Hamas, the ANC and Venezuela to “arm the Kurds.” Except this time, perhaps Mr Rees will have a press conference with CAGE and Moazzam Begg to call on Al-Qaeda to help them.

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