Sunday, 10 January 2010

Islam4UK and the Silence of the Left

In recent weeks a lot has been made in the media of the antics of the far-right Muslim group 'Islam4UK'. Islam4UK are a pro-Sharia group who advocate the turning of Britain into an oppressive Muslim state. They advocate capital punishment, flogging for public drunkenness, and a whole raft of other oppressive policies, and have as one of their many slogans: “Freedom go to hell”. The group has recently proposed a demonstration in Wootton Bassett (the town where British war dead are repatriated), ostensibly to commemorate Afghan and Iraqi casualties in the two ongoing military occupations, but in reality they are just using it as a chance to publicise their deplorable fascist views (whilst great care must be taken when bandying about this much-abused phrase, in terms of Islam4UK's strong authoritarian slant, advocacy for a strong police state, and excessive punishment for minor crimes and acts of dissent, we feel the term is justified).

While the reactionary forces of white nationalism have been quick to condemn the march and use it as a justification for their racist viewpoints, the radical left has been characteristically silent for fear of being labelled Islamophobic. It is with this silence in mind that we have decided to pen this open letter outlining why it is the duty of the radical left to oppose bigotry and injustice in all its forms, including Islam4UK and other far right Muslim groups.

It was last February that thousands of workers at the Lindsey oil refinery and dozens of other depots around the country engaged themselves in a series of direct actions and wildcat strikes in protection of their jobs, in the face of unemployment and Total Oil's cynical corporate practice (see article Despite framing their actions from a clearly non-racist and anti-capitalist perspective, the response from the radical left was at best lukewarm, with sections of the left being downright condemnatory, branding the strikers as 'racist'. The lack of a coherent support base from the political left and anarchists alike has left the strikers out in the cold, with only the British National Party as uncritical allies - allies whose support that the strikers vehemently and physically rejected.

This and the Islam4UK march are two examples of events that require a definitive and class-conscious response from a unified and radical left. Instead, we are allowing political naivety, liberal tendencies and the sensibilities of some of our more questionable 'allies' to prevent us from making a clear call and framing important events from a radical left wing perspective. Thus we allow the forces of the far right the chance to exploit the events to convey their hateful diatribe.

It will be a tragedy for us and for common sense if we allowed the events in Wootton Bassett to only fuel the excesses of right wing extremists and Muslim fanatics alike. This can't be allowed to be publicly viewed as the salt-of-the-earth white nationalists supporting the British people and poor soldiers, whilst the out-of-touch left unquestionably champions political correctness and excuses Islamic lunacy.

Both the BNP and Islam4UK represent a threat to the working class generally and pander to the efforts of the elite, who want to see us all divided along the lines of race, religion, gender and sexuality - as opposed to the only genuine divide in society, which is class. Surely we want to build a working class movement which is capable of, and willing to, overthrow discrimination and oppression in whatever guise it appears.

Since the opening of hostilities in Iraq and Afghanistan, various groups have increasingly been using the parading of war casualties in Wootton Bassett as a propaganda tool. While some groups have been revelling in the body count to promote anti-western sentiment, others have been using corpses to stir up nationalist feeling and fly their flags. The truth is that dead soldiers are neither heroes nor monsters – they are simply men and women who have paid a harsh price for doing the dirty work of corrupt politicians and generals. Their repatriation is not a political event, and any attempt to make it so is being cold and manipulative. To this end, both BNP leader Nick Griffin and Islam4UK have been specifically made unwelcome by the residents of the town and rightly so, but, like circling vultures, both view the potential propaganda gains from dead bodies and grieving mothers as too significant to pass up.

Let's not beat around the bush; the radical left needs to wake up and treat these people like the fascists they are. Therefore, this call goes out to all ordinary people to join together regardless of their race, faith or lack thereof, and oppose authoritarianism, discrimination and oppression in all its forms, both in Wootton Bassett on the day of the march and in everyday life. The BNP and Islam4UK are two sides of the same hateful coin, and both their visions of an ideal future should be seen as an antithetical barrier to the free and socially just world for which we strive – a barrier that we must overcome.

In solidarity

From within (but not on behalf of) Bath Activist Network

1 comment:

Red Angus said...

I am surprised that you have seen fit to publish this open letter on your website. To compare the actions of Islam4UK- a tiny and unrepresentative group with suggested links with the security services- with the BNP is ridiculous. While of course deeply reactionary and unpleasant, they don't intimidate their opponents or disrupt their activities- unlike the BNP. So, while the BNP can't be ignored (their ideas have some resonance in sections of the working class, and their vote is growing), this tiny group can safely be ignored -as socialists have mostly done, to focus on bigger, more immediate threats.

Perhaps the author(s) think it is now a good thing that Islam4UK has been banned!

A couple of other points:

1) the definition of fascism "in terms of Islam4UKs strong authoritarian slant, advocacy for a strong police state and excessive punishment for minor crimes and acts of dissent" could also apply to the Tories (and possibly the labour party too)- and undoubtedly to many countries around the world (such as Singapore and Egypt). Unpleasant as these regimes are, they are not facist.

2) the construction workers strikes

a) I can't accept that initially the strikers "(framed)their actions from a clearly non-racist and anti capitalist perspective. Just google "Lindsay Oil Terminal Strikes" and look at the newspaper articles at the beginning of the strike.

b) socialists did then intervene successfully to change the focus of the dispute from a potentially racist approach (get rid of all foreigners) to a far more positive approach (all workers, to get the agreed rate for the job- foreign contractors not to be allowed to undercut rates for their workers). I'm no supporter of the Socialist Party but they played a key role in this with some of the strike committee being members of the SP.

c) of course there wasn't a "definitive and class-conscious response from a unified and radical left". To expect this is cloud cuckoo land- there isn't a unified and radical left" and just wishing it, can't make it happen.

3) The war in Afghanistan, and the events at Wootton Bassett.

a) could the authors give one example where the "out of touch left unquestionably champions political correctness and excuses Islamic lunacy", please?

b) its surprising that the authors focus solely on British casualties of the war in Afghanistan. Thousands of civilian Afghans have died- none of these had any choice as to being in a war zone, unlike British Soldiers. Of course all life lost is a tragedy, but lets not ignore the innocent victims of this conflict. Ironically of course, it is the fact that the UK media does ignore this, that Islam4UK were highlighting- while I expect the mainstream press to focus solely on UK (and US) deaths, I don't expect this from the Bath Activist Network website)- perhaps we can now look forward to another post arguing that what the army needs is better weapons/helicopters/tanks, etc! Rather, of course what socialists and anarchists should be doing is arguing that the war on Afghanistan must be ended- with all UK and US troops being withdrawn immediately.