Against Islamism and Fascism — for Secularism and Workers' Unity (London, 31 October)

Submitted by Matthew on 22 October, 2009 - 4:26 Author: Ira Berkovic

Protest against "Islam4UK" and "EDL: St George's Division" - 1-2pm, Saturday 31 October, Edith Cavell statue, St Martin's Place, London WC2 (between National Portrait Gallery and St Martin's In The Fields).

Facebook event here

On 31 October, two groups of bigoted reactionaries will take to the streets of London to promote their racist, oppressive and anti-working class worldviews.

“Islam4UK”, a political Islamist organisation descended from the now-illegal Al-Muhajiroun, has called a “March for Sharia”. They will exhort Muslims to demand the “imposition” of Sharia law on the whole of the UK. Islamic religious law has many interpretations, but wherever it has been widely applied it has meant a massive clampdown on the rights of women, LGBT people, religious minorities and secular and left-wing political organisations. This march has been heavily publicised (for its own reasons) by the Daily Express (15 October).

A tiny fascist grouping, a splinter from the English Defence League (the “English Defence League: St. George Division”), has called a counter-demonstration.

This is not a case of fascists or organised racists attacking a mosque or a Muslim community institution. The “Muslim demonstration” has been organised by a far-right political current. The fascist counter-demonstration counterposes an equally reactionary politics.

The biggest threat in Britain today of violently reactionary politics comes from the fascist BNP and far-right groupings like the EDL. They pose an immediate physical threat to Muslim and other religious and ethnic minorities and must be confronted physically.

Forces like Islam4UK are, while less powerful, no less reactionary. If they become stronger, the first people to suffer will be women, LGBT people, secularists and dissidents within the Muslim communities. It is in the interests of everyone who believes in equal rights, working-class unity and class struggle to organise to prevent that from happening.

Workers’ Liberty believes that there should a third action on 31 October, an anti-racist, working-class presence that makes the positive case for workers’ unity, common struggle and universal human rights against the bigotry of both Islam4UK and the EDL and against the “mainstream” racism of the Daily Express. We are discussing organsing such an action alongside revolutionaries from within Britain’s migrant and asylum seeker communities, including the Worker-Communist Party of Iraq (WCPI). The WCPI has first-hand experience of the importance of organising against political Islam.

Nadia Mahmood, a WCPI member living in London, said: “Is it not enough for Islamists to turn the lives of Middle Eastern people to a hell that they have to try to do it again in Europe? Women can’t go unveiled without being beaten in many places. People in countries such as Afghanistan, Iran, Sudan, Iraq and others controlled by Islamists are struggling for freedom from Sharia law. The Islamists govern Muslims with blood and iron fists, let alone those who are not Muslims, such as Jews, Christians and atheists. People in Europe should not allow Islamists to impose their discriminatory and barbaric laws here. Secularism in Europe is an achievement for the whole of humanity and we all should defend it.”

Revolutionaries have a responsibility to stand alongside communities whenever they come under attack from racists, bigots and reactionaries. That means standing alongside Muslim communities when they are attacked by fascists, and it means standing alongside them when the political Islamist reactionaries who claim to speak in their name march to promote the imposition of barbaric theocratic law on Britain.

What sharia law means

Nasrin Parvez, Iranian socialist, adds:

There are many reasons to stand against the Islamists in the UK and abroad. The first thing is to understand why they are so eager to impose sharia law everywhere. Only by seeing what they stand to gain through it, we can see the danger. With sharia law, they can turn the household from a prison for the female population into a slaughterhouse.

Under Sharia law the man cannot be punished for any killing with the justification of defending their honour.

We know that young women are killed in Europe by Islamists for not following Islamic traditions. These kind of killings increase under Sharia law, because they can go unpunished.

The Islamic regime of Iran assassinated more than 250 Iranians who spoke out against the regime outside Iran. Who knows how many they have killed inside the country? Islamists have a history of assassinations and terrorising people. They burned hundreds of people in cinemas in Iran; unfortunately, most people in the west are not aware of this history.

Call for action:

We will not let the communalists divide us!

On October 31, two sets of reactionaries will take to the streets of London. One group is "Islam4UK", an Islamist organisation led by Anjem Choudhary and descended from the now-illegal Al-Muhajiroun. They have organised a "March 4 Sharia", in which they will demand the imposition of theocratic Islamic law in the UK. Islamic religious law has many interpretations, but wherever it has been applied it has meant severe repression for women, LGBT people, religious and national minorities, secularists, trade unionists and other dissidents. In the face of growing anti-Muslim racism from the press and the far-right, Islam4UK offer Britain's Muslims a blind alley of reactionary religious politics.

In response to this demonstration, a splinter group from the thuggish English Defence League (styling itself the "EDL - St. George's Division") has called a counter-demonstration. The EDL claim to protest merely against Islamic fundamentalism, but the prominent involvement of several members of the BNP and other fascist and far-right organisations reveals their true agenda; they are racists. Wherever such forces find room to organise, they pose an immediate physical threat to ethnic minorities, asylum seekers and others. As white working-class people are abandoned by mainstream politics and beaten down by increasing cuts and unemployment, the racist lies of the EDL, the BNP and others - which seek to scapegoat ethnic minorities, migrant workers and asylum seekers for problems caused by privatisation and profiteering - will find footholds unless the working-class left is able to provide a positive political alternative.

Hysteria around the day has been whipped up by the gutter press, with the Daily Express in particular giving the Islam4UK march coverage far out of proportion to its size and significance. The Express and other tabloids have inflated the significance of the march to suggest that Islam4UK represent a substantial tendency within the Muslim community, rather than the far-right fringe element that they are. However, with the coverage afforded to them by right-wing rags, they can realistically hope to substantially grow in size and influence. Wherever such forces have been able to grow, it is people within the Muslim communities themselves - women, LGBT people, secularists and other dissidents - who have been first in the firing line.

Against this backdrop, we believe there is an urgent need for a third presence on the streets of London on October 31 - a working-class, anti-capitalist, anti-racist presence that can make a positive case for secularism, workers' unity and common struggle against the far-right communalist reaction of both Islam4UK and the EDL. For all workers - Muslim and non-Muslim, white and black, British-born and migrant - the only way to fight against racism and the social conditions that have allowed it to grow is to cut their roots. A united struggle around issues like jobs, pay and public services could provide a vision for a society run in the interests of human need rather than private profit; a society in which the poisonous politics of groups like Islam4UK and the EDL could not take hold.

Supporters include:

Worker-Communist Party of Iran (Hekmatist)
Worker-Communism Unity Party of Iran
Alliance for Workers' Liberty

Comments

Submitted by AWL on Sat, 31/10/2009 - 16:18

Carlisle,

What do you mean by English heritage and culture? And what's your definition of terrorist?

If the EDL are just fighting Islamist terrorism, how do you account for the current and/or former links between leaders EDLers and the BNP, far-right Ulster Loyalists, German neo-Nazis etc? What do you think about the politics of Alan Lake, and his associate with the Swedish far right? Why did Welsh Defence League members do Nazi salutes in Swansea? Why have individual bystanders of Muslim-Asian appearance been attacked by demonstrating EDL supporters?

You can either anwer this on behalf of the EDL or as an individual: What's your program beyond 'fighting terrorism'? What do you say about racism and immigration? What's your solution to job cuts, repossessions, falling wages, cuts in services etc? Who will you vote for in the next election?

Sacha Ismail

Submitted by AWL on Mon, 02/11/2009 - 11:49

"Just recently there was a church destroyed along with the graves of many people from years ago. Then when the same thing happens but to Muslims there is hectic uproar and people protest about it and deem it racist i find it sickening that this happens."

Carlisle, can you provide more details? To me this sounds like saying: "A white person got attacked. Then a black person got attacked and people said it was racist; this is unfair." No, it's not necessarily unfair! Of course we should be against all religious buildings being desecrated, but that doesn't mean there isn't sometimes an additional unpleasant, reactionary, racist element to the desecration of mosques (or synagogues or gurdwaras or other minority religions).

"I couldn't tell you about the "Leaders" of the EDL what they do with their vote and their personal time is up to them but they have not killed anyone or Tryed to take over Britain have they?"

As a supporter of the EDL, don't you think you should take more of an interest in what the leaders of the movement think and do? And it's not about "personal time" - this is a bizarre comment - it's about their politics, which are expressed in the EDL as well as in their other activity. You're in a movement dominated and led by racists, right-wing nationalists, fascists, but you claim to be against racism - doesn't this bother you?

The BNP, which is prominent in the EDL, certainly does try to take over Britain. And as for killing people, only a small minority of extreme Islamist have done this; as have a small minority of the most radical fascists. But if either an Islamist movement or the BNP ever came to power in Britain (the latter, of course, is much more likely!) it would certainly mean mass killing.

"As for the Nazi salutes i find it disappointing that people would do that but they obviously do it for a reaction and unfortunately they get it if i personally saw anyone do it at a protest im at id happily give them a slap and tell them where to go."

Yes, but what do you think about the fact that such things are a) tolerated and b) likely to happen at all on EDL marches? Doesn't that tell you something about the nature of the movement? People giving Nazi salutes is not a problem we get on our socialist marches!!

"I have not heard about any Muslim by-standers being attacked but what can you say to the innocent boy that was attacked at Birmingham & the old man that was attacked because he had a Union jack in his hand these people were nothing to do with the EDL just goes to show who are the real "Thugs" doesn't it."

Clearly that's wrong, but how does it let the EDL off the hook?

"We personally can do fuck-all about terrorism which is why people unite as a group and try to get themselves heard so that the government actually wake up and realise what our country will be like within the next few years!!"

Assuming you really are just concerned about terrorism; perhaps there are many other people like you attracted to the EDL. But firstly, the politics you are putting forward can never defeat Islamism, which grows out of poverty, racism and alienation among Muslim youth. And secondly, you are involved in a movement which takes hostility to terrorism and uses it to build nationalist, racist ideas. (You don't think open Nazis also talk about Islamist terrorism? Would you unite with them?)

"Immigration i dont exactly welcome though as the most of Britain shouldn't unless we need extra workers which we dont! its not that i dont like them its that we dont need them basically and they are ruining British citizens lives."

1. Actually without immigration the British economy would be fucked. What statistics do you base your claim on?
2. What do you mean about "unless WE need extra workers". Who's WE? Workers don't run the economy, the bosses do. Why do you - assuming you're a worker - have more in common with a rich British capitalist than with another worker who happens to have come from somewhere else? Why would you want to let the rich divide the working class amongst ourselves?
3. Following from this, it's not foreign workers who come here that are ruining British citizens' lives, is it, it's British bosses sacking people, making cuts etc etc?

Wise up!

"In the next election i will be voting for UKIP mainly because of the Immigration and EU policies!"

So you're going to vote for a bunch of posh Tories who hate the working class and are massively on the make (including claiming millions in EU expenses) because they attack immigrants? And you claim not to be motivated by racism? (How about xenophobia?!)

What's wrong with EU policies that's not also wrong with British policies, eg cuts, privatisation, attacks on the working class?

Sacha

Submitted by Matthew on Thu, 12/11/2009 - 13:18

Adam,

You need to ask yourself some questions.

Why are the leaders of the EDL people who have been associated with fascist and racist groups going back many years? Is their concern just to oppose the small minority of Muslims in Britain who want to see sharia law imposed or are they using that as cover for their racism towards Asians in general? Given their backgrounds in far-right groups, you'd have to say it's the latter wouldn't you?

Speaking of cover, it also suits them for now if black people/non-Muslim Asians support the EDL as it allows them to pretend they're not racist. You shouldn't let yourself be used like that. The BNP do the same, getting a Sikh guy to appear on their election broadcast a few years ago for example.

A lot of the stuff about Xmas being banned is media myth: have a look at your local shops! OK, I'm sure some schools with mainly Muslim pupils don't do as much around it as Church schools but that's not really the same thing is it.

That brings me on to my next point, the idea that somehow Christianity is under attack by the government. It's going about it in a very odd way: continuing to fund the Church of England (through paid posts for its priests in hospitals, the armed forces and education) and letting its bishops sit in the House of Lords, allowing more religious schools to open, including academies run by wacky Christian groups who think the Earth is six thousand years old, and passing a law that lets Christians sue their employers if they feel their religious views have been offended at work.

If you look around our website, you'll see that we are no fans of either the New Labour government or of religion in general, including Islam. We are also prepared to confront the more reactionary practices associated with Islam described in the article above. However, the way to do that is through uniting workers around the principle of secularism: as the Iranian socialist quoted makes clear, the first victims of sharia law would be Muslims, especially women. Supporting the EDL will do nothing to help them.

Submitted by AWL on Thu, 12/11/2009 - 17:54

Adam,

If we are right, surely it's not a matter for shrugging your shoulders philosophically? If you're involved in a movement led by racists and fascists, isn't that a problem? A problem because racism and fascism are 'morally' wrong, but also because such movements are totally incompatible with the real needs of the working class.

The BNP, and now also the EDL, are inciting white British workers against other sections of the working class (non-white, Muslim, migrant). Don't you oppose this?

Griffin got an easy ride on Question Time, despite everyone being united against him, because he was up against a load of liberal (and not so liberal) elitists. Their entire framework amounted to finger-wagging against people who vote BNP, while basically approving of the social problems which are leading to this (and falling over themselves to show who was toughest on immigration, ie going along with the BNP's agenda!) What could really have cut through the crap is a working-class voice, someone pointing out that Griffin represents the same bosses as the Tories, Lib Dems and the New Labour leadership, except in a radically more disgusting, violent and racist form - and putting forward real solutions, ie jobs for all, homes for all, decent services, taxing the rich.

But to win these things the working class has to struggle - and it can't do that effectively if it's divided by race and origin.

What do you think?

Sacha Ismail

Submitted by Matthew on Thu, 12/11/2009 - 18:14

Adam,

Could you say what you mean when you say that most of the people on the Leeds EDL demo were 'normal people who had had enough', what do you see as their/your main grievance? Also what would you class as 'effectively cracking down on extremism'?

The thing about 'banning St George's' is a bit like the 'banning Xmas' myth. Walk round most towns and you'll see people flying English flags without any problem, in fact by next summer's World Cup it'll be unusual not to see them. I also don't think the it's true that the football hooligans who support the EDL will go back 'to doing what they do (causing trouble at football matches for most of them) normally' as there no evidence they've stopped doing that.

You're right that the choice between New Labour and the Tories means more and more working-class people don't see the point in voting. That's why Workers' Liberty has been involved in standing candidates who represent working-class interests in elections since 1997 and in attempts to put together a similar slate in next year's General Election that you can read about elsewhere on this website.

Leaving aside the question of whether Griffin should have been allowed a platform for his views on Question Time, I think you're right that once he was it was a mistake to allow him to play the role of martyr by setting up the programme like that. I also hope you're right that most workers are like your workmates in being able to see through his performance.

Submitted by Matthew on Fri, 13/11/2009 - 17:06

Adam,

I've read the stories you linked to. They don't even back up their own headlines.

The one about the St George's Day Parade in Wigan being 'banned' is actually about cuts in local government funding that have led to the council shifting the cost of policing marches on to churches, clubs and other community organisations. The response should be a fight against cuts not a debate about a ban that never existed in the first place.

Similarly, the one about the school in Harrow that 'banned Xmas' turns out to be about an assembly where kids from Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Hindu backgrounds sang songs from each others faiths. I'm actually in favour of keeping all religions out of schools but I can still see what the headteacher was trying to do there.

In an earlier post you said 'Immigration and integration is, and has always been what made this country great' but now you say 'Its obvious the current system is not working. And, its now become clear, was deliberate, in-order to 'rub the rights nose in it'. As the labour party speech writer Andrew Neather has admitted...What is clear, whether you agree with it or not ( i personally do) is that the country is now on the brink of collapse with too many people. Many of them unskilled foreign workers let in by the current regime. The schools, social services, NHS, prisons are all at breaking point." You seem to have changed your mind here.

The whole immigration debate is also fuelled by media myths, the idea that "the country is now on the brink of collapse with too many people. Many of them unskilled foreign workers let in by the current regime. The schools, social services, NHS, prisons are all at breaking point." There is not only no evidence for this but many of those 'unskilled foreign workers' are also employed in low paid jobs in the workplaces you mention.

Submitted by AWL on Fri, 13/11/2009 - 19:26

Hi Adam,

No problem about long posts - it's good we're having the discussion.

1. We're not arguing that the EDL is right-wing, and infiltrated with racists and fascists, because it opposes and marches against Islamism and sharia law. As you say, there is nothing racist about that per se. The AWL also opposes and has protested against these things. We're arguing that the EDL is right-wing because it clearly has a nationalist, anti-immigration, anti-minority agenda, and because it IS infiltrated with racists and fascists - as you yourself admit. You say you don't have any truck with racism and fascism, but you're in an organisation where these thugs are incubating and growing. What does that tell you?

2. Why are you patriotic? What is there to be patriotic about? We live in a nation which is no way oppressed, which in fact has a hundreds-of-years-long record of oppressing others and throwing its weight around, and which is run by tiny elite exploiting the labour of the majority. I can understand a Palestinian being patriotic, or a Kosovan as they gained independence from Serbia. I could understand being patriotic if we lived in a state where the working-class majority ruled society! I can understand that patriotism is a complicated thing, multi-faceted thing, and that even in Britain there may be elements of it that are progressive (eg identifying with the particular British tradition of working-class and democratic struggles, the Civil War, the Chartists, the strikes of the 70s etc.) But in general, in this country, patriotism seems to me to naturally 'lean to the right'.

3. Why do you find red flags distrurbing? Because of Stalinism? But we are 100 percent anti-Stalinist.

4. But what do you oppose Islamism in the name of? What's your alternative? What's your vision of society? You say you're not sure if you're left or right-wing (I'd be interested if you could elaborate); but then how can you have a coherent vision of what kind of world you want? We think that the capitalists are the main enemy, and that workers need to unite to struggle against them. What does the EDL say about this?

5. You say we haven't commented on the Islamist radicalisation of young kids. But we have, and we are against this! But the parallel phenomenon is the racist/fascist radicalisation of young white working-class and poor kids. Don't you see these are not only parallel, but feed off each other?

6. So there are a few black faces in the EDL? (Not many!) I've read that in the 70s National Front football hooligans sometimes recruited a few black people as cover too. Weird? Yes, but people have an amazing ability to cover up contradictions in their heads. I imagine it's that much easier now when the main target of right-wing racism nowadays is Asians and Muslims in particular.

7. I wasn't in Leeds, but I don't necessarily disagree that the anti-EDL demo was primarily middle class - although I would hesitate at dismissing everyone as that if you didn't speak to people. But that is one of the huge problems with the anti-fascist movement, and one of the reasons why the AWL is so critical of it. We need an anti-racist and fascist movement that mobilises workers, and to start with actually has something to say to working-class people. Why didn't the unions bring busloads of rail workers, health workers, car workers, firefighters, etc etc to protest? Because they have been conned by a bunch of - yes - middle-class lefties into thinking that what you do to fight fascism is simply hand over money to UAF. Or rather because that suits the self-interested bureaucrats who run the unions
I would also concede that the far left is mainly based on certain quite privileged sections of the working class - eg public sector workers, teachers etc.
(And if people are calling the EDL demonstrators chavs, I totally condemn that.)
But it's a completely different matter to claim that the EDL represents the working class. No, it mobilises some working-class people (working-class men actually), but not on the basis of class organisation or class interests. Even the crap, bureaucratic trade unions we have oppose racism and fascism, if in a totally inadequate way. And every big workers' struggle, in which workers really get organised to fight for their interests against the bosses, has challenged racism - whether the participants originally intended to or not. What you're involved is no more a working-class struggle than the tradition of workers who support the Tories.

The problem with your picture is that you write out class in any real sense - wealth, power, exploitation. In your view the worst threat working-class people face is from Islamism. Not that Islamism isn't a serious threat, though actually the main victims of it are Asian and Muslim people. But you completely airbrush out the people who are closing workplaces, sacking millions, cutting wages, trashing public services, holding down our unions - the real enemy of workers, white, black, Asian and anyone else - the British bosses.

(This was slightly rushed.)

Sacha

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