Nasrin Parvaz is a member of the Worker-Communist Party of Iran (Hekmatist), one of the organisations involved in the protest against March4Sharia and the EDL. She spoke to Solidarity.
Q: Is the growth of Islamism within Britain’s Muslim communities a serious threat?
NP: If the Islamists see no resistance, they'll promote themselves. Official government policy is essentially anti-integration; they prefer us to be separated into our own distinct “communities”. That's what's helping minorities like Islam4UK gain power.
Government support for the religious establishment — for building mosques or religious schools, and so on — also helps entrench religious ideas within these communities; the religious right has significant financial resources which we don’t have access to.
The “Muslim communities” label is an unfair, unjust and untrue category that the government has stamped on immigrants and refugees from certain countries. This categorising policy is intended to marginalise immigrants on the one hand, and gives a boost to the most backward tendencies on the other.
It also silences those of us who fought with, and had to escape from, Islamism and religious law.
Q: What do you think about the idea that opposing Islamism at a time when Muslims are under attack and anti-Muslim racism is on the increase actually feeds into racism?
NP: We need to look at what “the Muslim community” actually means. Our “communities” aren’t single blocs — they’re full of all kinds of differences; political, cultural, even religious. It’s actually more offensive to buy into the Islamists’s claim that they’re the sole legitimate representatives of our communities and that criticising them equates to racism. It’s also important to remember that it’s not only Muslims who are are under attack by racists here; everyone who looks different might become subject to racists’ attacks.
Q: How strong are radical and secular voices within these communities?
NP: The media perception that secular voices within Muslim communities are in a minority — and that Islamists speak for the majority — is false. The media gives Islamists a platform and talks up their strength, but in reality the majority of people are pro-secularism.
Q: What do you think about the threat posed by the EDL and other far-right/fascist organisations, and how should the left — alongside immigrant and refugee communities organise — to resist this threat?
NP: I think to answer this question we need to look at a wider picture of the left; unfortunately, the left is fragmented and scattered. Because of that we cannot address important issues. We lack the basic solidarity which would bring us together to defend our basic rights. If we had solidarity, not only could we change this unjust social order, but we would have a strong enough voice to challenge both fascism and Islamism.
Q: What do you think about groups like British Muslims for Secular Democracy, who approach the issue from a pro-capitalist, liberal perspective?
NP: They’re about defending the status quo; we’re for a radical struggle for equality. They don’t share that view. It’s as simple as that. The key to all of this – fighting the Islamists, organising against racism – is to struggle for equal rights for everyone. That’s the starting point.