Britain a Sharia state? Get a grip! Don’t fall for this stupid media / right wing panic!

We are seeing a mass media led panic about Islam. This is generating a new mass right wing movement seeking to mobilise the public against one of Britain’s small ethno-religious minorities. This right wing mass movement will find that success comes easier than any of our left wing mass movements. Thats because the far right are targeting a vulnerable ethnic minority whom the police, the media and the state want to target already. We on the the left, on the other hand, are proud to take on the most powerful groups in society – the capitalist class – who own and control much of our society, and whom the media, the police and the state are designed to protect. It takes massive and persistent struggle to win even the tiniest of reforms to benefit the working class. But it only takes a few small demo’s for the right to succeed in dragging us into a pogrom atmosphere. Muslims are a soft target for right wing bullies, a movement of bullies who are too weak and intellectually feeble to address the real problems that the English working class actually faces.

1) Muslims make up just 2.7% of the population of Britain. 2.7% of the population are not about to impose Sharia. Get a grip! Don’t panic!

2) Only a minority of Britain’s 2.7% Muslim population are Islamicists. The majority are ordinary working class people like you and me trying to make a living and raise their families.

3) There is no ‘global Islam’. This is a fantasy of Islamicists, Islamophobes and an imperialism desperate to manufacture an enemy to keep us docile (read Orwell’s 1984 on the states need for an enemy for domestic cointrol). In reality Islam is fractured and fragmented, with most of its armed movements being animated by local disputes. They are not about to unite. Hezbollah and Al Qaeda are deadly enemies. Iran and the Taliban are enemies, the list goes on. There is no ‘global Islam’ about to invade us, turn our tiny 2.7% minority of British Muslims into a homogenous fifth column and impose a Sharia inspired dictatorship on Britain.
Islam is not a credible threat. Its even less credible than the mythical bogeymen the western right manufactured in the cold war. It turned out that Russia was never about to invade us, and never had the capacity. Neither did Saddam Hussein’s evil dictatorship have weapons of mass destruction or pose a threat to us. Can you see a pattern here? The right wing are always exaggerating and manufacturing threats to keep us docile and divided. Those who buy into the ‘threat of Islam’ have weak minds, no understanding of politics, geography or history and are those easily stampeded into a mass panic.

4) We DO face an immediate threat from our own governments and ruling classes, however. We are about to see the final destruction of our welfare state by either Labour, the Tories or a mixture of either of these with the Lib Dems through massive cuts. We will see our wages and pensions cut to the bone. This is combined with the increasingly authoritarian nature of the British state. In order to make these cuts and anti-working class attacks, our rulers will need to divide the working class. The Islamophobic panic is a perfect tool for this. Islamophobia will turn out to be the biggest enemy of the British working class, the non-Muslim majority as well as the Muslim minority.

I just wait to hear the pretend ‘leftist’ Islamophobes respond to my argument with discourses of Muslim birth rates ‘outbreeding us so they can take over’. These are old discourses, used against Jews, Irish Catholics, or any other minority who are made the scapegoat. They never come true. Islamophobia is merely a veil to disguise the underlying racism of these right wing movements. This is one veil we should not hesitate to rip from the face of the EDL, the BNP and the rest of the far-right rabble!

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9 Comments

Filed under Crisis of capitalism, Fascism and Anti-fascism, working class self-defence

9 responses to “Britain a Sharia state? Get a grip! Don’t fall for this stupid media / right wing panic!

  1. Excellent points, Barry. I entirely agree with the main thrust of your post. Of course there is no chance of the imposition of sharia in the UK.

    But for clarification – what do you think the attitude of the left should be towards groups who do advocate this?

    Should they be actively opposed? Should they be simply ignored? Are there any circumstances in which alliance could be countenanced?

  2. barrykade

    I think we should condemn groups like Choudary’s Islam4UK when they propose provocative actions like ‘march for Sharia’ or the Wotton Basset wind up.
    The call for Sharia law means different things in different contexts – sometimes it means the call for the imposition of a right wing dictatorship over secular society, sometimes it merely means the right to practice ones own religion according to its laws. Its a complex question. My main point, as you have seen, is that the threat of Britain becoming an Islamic theocratic dictatorship is utterly remote, and used by the right wing as a scare tactic to divide the working class.
    Socialists hope to undermine all reactionary prejudices through united struggle against capitalism. This struggle can lay the foundations for undermining racism and islamophobia, and also undermining sexism and homophobia. If we can unite the working class in common struggle, we hope that will undermine racism and break the isolation of ethnic and racial minorities. Such a struggle will also empower women of all sections of society to challenge and break fee from patriarchal domination. This will transform the way Islam and other patriarchal abrahamic religions are practiced. So I don’t support a ‘multiculturalism’ whereby we ignore sexism and homophobia within racially oppressed minorities. However, these oppressions can only be challenged from within, by the oppressed themselves. A white racist power structure cannot root out these oppressions – its actions will merely forced people to turn inward and cling to their religion all the more strongly. Indeed, it is becoming transparent that white racism is hypocritically using issues of sexism and homophobia as a stick to beat Muslims with. This complex of intersecting oppressions can only be broken apart by united working class struggle, which provides a new cultural space empowering Muslim women and gays to resist islamophobia, racism, sexism and homophobia simultaneously.

    Its useful to study Marx’s complex teachings on religion. I discuss this in a previous post:
    https://barrykade.wordpress.com/2009/11/06/cutting-through-or-tightening-the-gordian-knot-of-oppression-investigating-the-complex-intersections-of-homophobia-and-islamophobia/

    Maybe this can provide a basis for further discussion and the elaboration of a workable socialist position on all this?

  3. Pingback: Sharia: British Islamism’s clause four? : David Osler

  4. barrykade

    Ah, have just realised which Dave O this is! Hi comrade. Well, I’m teaching my granny to suck eggs here, as it were. So you will have read my previous post on islamophobia and homophobia already a while back.

    I think the above lays down the basic socialist position on challenging multiple oppressions – and not using the liberation struggle of one oppressed group to reinforce the oppression of another.

    But I haven’t properly answered your question on socialist attitudes to sharia. Thats because I don’t know – yet! Lets find a space to think it through!

    My crude hope is that we can rebuild a powerful socialist movement that offers hope to all sections of society. This can pull Muslim working class people away from Islamism and reactionary utopian yearnings for Sharia – and pull working class white people away from reactionary English and / or British nationalism and racism.

    But we probably need something more nuanced to guide our everyday tactics.

    Sharia is a call to be ruled by gods laws. Given the failure of ‘mans laws’ under capitalism (where the laws are the bosses laws to serve capital), it is understandable why some sections of the oppressed call for Sharia. They are under the illusion that ‘gods laws’ will bring social justice where the laws of capitalist society fail. Of course, the history of ‘Islamic states’ that institute sharia show that people do not end up with ‘gods laws’ but more man made laws in the interests of corrupt clerical elites acting for capital! This reminds me of the movements around the English revolution of the 1640’s. Here a group called the ‘fifth monarchists’ helped execute the tyrant, King Charles 1st, believing they were instead bringing in the millenium of justice where Jesus would return to become the next king! In fact, they ushered in the rule of mercantile capital, but at least they ended monarchical absolutism. Of course, calls for social justice via the rule of gods laws represent a reactionary utopian call, and can provide no real solution. But they can express the aspirations of different classes in different periods and different contexts. Similar rhetoric’s can have very different meanings across these varying class and historic contexts.
    What about the context being a working class or petite-bourgeois Muslim of Asian heritage in Britain today – i.e amongst people likely to experience some degree of racial oppression and poverty? The class content hidden within even the most obscurantist religious schemes must seek to speak to these experiences of oppression, even if it then obscures the real causes of and solutions to that oppression. Many workers will harbor all sorts of reactionary utopias in their hearts. This does not mean we do not unite with such workers in common struggle. Therefore, if an individual Muslim, or group of Muslims support Sharia, this does not mean we shouldn’t unite with them in a specific struggle against racism, or against public service cutbacks, etc. But this is different from political movements that formally call for Sharia.
    So we should unite with all workers around the key demands raised by the class struggle – stop cuts and privatisation, fight racism and war etc. – even if some of those workers drawn into the struggles hold reactionary ideas. Under some circumstances we should even attempt to bring some of the organisations of the oppressed into united campaigns and alliances around these key class demands, even if these are organisations which organise the oppressed along religious lines – ie. the MCB joining ‘Stop the War’, etc. The key is that all these different organisations are uniting around left, progressive, secular and democratic demands – stop the war, stop racism and islamophobia, stop the cuts, privatisations and unemployment – etc.
    But we should not unite with these organisations to demand sharia, even if the oppressed argue that Sharia will end oppression. Instead, we challenge this argument. There is also a difference between a desire or wish for Sharia amongst mainstream Muslim organisations, and the agitation for it as a key programatic demand of the more hardline Islamists such as Choudary. With the latter we might sometimes condemn them or ignore them. But I doubt if we should physically oppose them, unless we were find ourselves in the scenario of systematic and organised physical attacks on womens groups, trades unionists, socialists etc carried out by such hardline rightwing Islamists in the UK. This is unlikely to happen on any scale. Again, the only force that can effectively challenge rightwing groups within oppressed ethnic minorities would be leftwing groups within those minorities supported by the wider left. It is also necessary to add a caveat to what I have just written – sometimes, when an ethnic, racial or national minority are under physical attack, we must politically support their right to self-defence – no matter whether the self defence is carried out by forces we consider left wing or right wing. I would support a Zionist group against the Nazis in 20th century Europe, no matter what my disagreements with zionism. The same with Black nationalists or Islamicists resisting racial attacks on their communities. When the Catholics in the north of Ireland came under pogrom style attack by loyalist mobs in the late 1960’s it was not the left wing official workerist part of the Irish nationalist movement that eventually lead resistance, but a provisional group who were initially seen as being more right wing.

    Our starting point therefore, must be the materialist analysis of religion. In contrast to the idealist analysis, materialism is able to discern the different class content in different religious movements and demands. In times past, progressive working class demands have been expressed within religious language – as have been reactionary demands and ruling class agendas. Marxists have learned to understand this when it comes to Methodism or Catholicism. We need to do the same with Islam.

    As you can see, I’m still thinking Dave’s question through. These perambulations above are therefore meant to open up discussion, rather than close it down. What do you think? How do we fight Islamophobia while at the same time undermining political Islamism and building the forces of socialism and liberation?

    [P.S – I was just editing, intending to correct a few typos and add a few sentences here and there for clarification – and ended up doubling the size of this comment. whoops.]

  5. Yes, further discussion certainly needed. I’ve written something on my blog, my thoughts sparked by your post above. I hope we can have a constructive debate on this one.

  6. barrykade

    Cool! Yes, just read it. Cheers Dave, thanks for the plug.

    Good distinction between minimalist and maximalist Sharia advocates.

    Re the maximalists – should we oppose them in the same way as we oppose fascists? Maximalist Sharia-ism is certainly hostile to independent working class and labour movement politics. But it cannot pose the same threat to us as British national fascism. Thats because its rooted in a small ethnic minority – 2.7%, who cannot impose a fascist or islamicist dictatorship on us.
    But the British national fascists have more chance, as they base themselves on the majority group.
    (Hopefully neither the British national fascists nor the Islamicists have a snowballs chance in hell in getting anywhere in Britain).
    But while the islamicists pose no real or significant threat to the British working class or labour movement as a whole – they are a threat to Muslim workers and Muslim women and gays. As I said before, however, a bunch of white people (either us socialists or the xenophobes of the right) are not going to be key to challenging this. We have to instead encourage the growth of a left within the Muslim working classes. And the best way to do this is rebuild the left generally, and break the siege mentality imposed on Muslims by uniting to beat back the escalating tide of racism and islamophobia.

    Now, which ‘Islamist’ candidates might I as a green socialist be backing? Presumably Dave O means Salma Yaqoob and Abjol Miah. While Yaqoob has a background in Birmingham Central Mosque, she appears to have developed politically. She advocates womens rights, workers rights, works with the trades unions, leads a party committed to LGTB rights – and has received death threats from islamicists. When I write about encouraging a left wing within the communities of British Muslims, I think Salma Yaqoob represents the real possibility of this.

    What about Abjol Miah? Well, when there was a wave of homophobic attacks in East London, Respect leaders condemned the homophobia. Abjol said:
    “”This is a horrendous attack and I utterly condemn it. I know and trust that leading politicians and community leaders will do likewise. Whatever perverse and distorted justification the perpetrators might think they have for this crime, they are wrong. There is no justification, in any language or any belief, for savagely setting upon a young man like this. My heartfelt sympathies go to the victim and his family. I hope he will make a full recovery and the perpetrators brought to justice.”

    So this is hardly the voice of a right wing islamicist building a career out of baiting gays.
    Neither Yaqoob nor Miah are rising to prominence by calling for attacks on the labour movement, gays or women. On the contrary, they have issued statements supportive of these social struggles, and appear to be seeking ways to link the movements of Muslims and Asians with those of the left. While not perfect, I think this represents something new and worth supporting, while of course maintaining our critical faculties.

  7. Alex

    “Sharia-ism is certainly hostile to independent working class and labour movement politics. But it cannot pose the same threat to us as British national fascism. Thats because its rooted in a small ethnic minority – 2.7%, who cannot impose a fascist or islamicist dictatorship on us.
    But the British national fascists have more chance, as they base themselves on the majority group.” (barrykade)

    Neither have much chance in the near future, or even medium term. However, I would suggest that there is a bit of a difference between Islamism and British nationalism. Islamists are openly anti-democratic, and anti-free speech. British nationalism, however, is openly pro-democracy and pro-free speech. In fact, strangely perhaps, if you go by official policy at least, the BNP is more genuinely democratic than any of the main parties. Also, the BNP actually gets accused of being, in reality, “far left”. That may be exaggerating, but it does seem to be left-leaning in economic matters. I don’t know, is it actually the most successful “socialist” party in the UK right now? (I’m sure the BNP would hate the term themselves.)

  8. barrykade

    1) “the BNP is more genuinely democratic than any of the main parties”.
    You’ve got to be joking! Nick Griffin has described the BNP as “a strong, disciplined organisation with the ability to back up its slogan ‘Defend Rights for Whites’ with well-directed boots and fists. When the crunch comes, power is the product of force and will, not of rational debate” he said.
    They have not changed! Look at what happening now! The BNP publicity director is currently under police investigation for death threats against Griffin as we speak! Violence is inherent in this party, they have not changed their spots.
    And here is the famous video where Griffin explains how they hide behind nice words “freedom, security, identity and democracy” to sell their ideas, but then do the opposite:

    2) The BNP is not a left leaning party. They may sometimes opportunistically try to give working class people this impression to steal their votes, but the BNP’s constitution declares that: “The British National Party is pledged to the maintenance of a private-enterprise economy”. A leading BNP member and parliamentary candidate organised a strikebreaking effort against Britain’s Miners during their great battle with Margaret Thatcher 25 years ago. We will never forgive these BNP fascist scabs. Some of us are paying attention, we who have long memories and are not taken in by the surface gloss of the media or cheap party propaganda. If the BNP ever try to claim they are ‘socialist’ it will of course be the ‘National Socialism’ that the world grew to know and hate in the middle of the last century, with Hitlers NSDAP. Goodbye.

  9. Jack

    Thanks for this! As a Muslim, I get fed up of refuting the old anti-Muslim rhetoric, the ‘imposing’ of Sharia law being the main gripe. To people who believe that it’s happening I say this, thank you, if a tiny number (2.7ish % of the population) of us can arrive in a nation and within 40 years completely take it over, smashing it’s legal systems, subverting it’s government and ‘imposing’ ourselves on it’s people all without a shot being fired or a single protest then God really must be with us!! Next stop, the world!!

    Anyway, Sharia Law, like Islam itself is not about beheading people and oppressing women like people think. Mohamed himself was a social reformer and Islam was sent as a light to the oppressed masses. In his short time he gave rights to women, destroyed unfair marriage arrangements, forbade the killing of baby girls, encouraged everyone to be educated (women included), preached that everyone was equal and that only good deeds set people apart, set up a ‘social welfare’ system (Zakat) that meant that all Muslims gave money to the less well off, ordered that leaders be accountable to their people, discouraged hereditary rule, the list goes on and on. All this as well as uniting the waring tribes of Arabia and laying the foundation for one of the world’s greatest empires! And in less than 30 years!

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