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 https://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2009/02/420969.html?c=on). 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.
From within (but not on behalf of) Bath Activist Network