Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Archive for the ‘Secularism’ Category

Culture and the Death of God. Terry Eagleton. An Atheist and Secular Critique.

with 2 comments

Review Article. Culture and the Death of God. Terry Eagleton. Yale University Press. 2014.

Xll

And who or what shall fill his place?

Wither will wanderers turn distracted eyes

For some fixed star to simulate their pace

Towards the goal of their enterprise?…

Xlll

Some in the background then I saw

Sweet women, men, youths, all incredulous

Who chimed, ‘This is a counterfeit of straw

This requiem mockery! Still he lives to us!

XlV

I could not buoy their faith: and yet

Many I had known: with all I sympathised;

And though struck speechless I did not forget

That what was mourned for, I, too, long had prized.

God’s Funeral. Thomas Hardy. (1)

Terry Eagleton introduces Culture and the Death of God by announcing, “This book is less about God than about the crisis occasioned by his apparent disappearance.” He continues, “I start by showing how God survived the rationalism of the eighteenth century, and conclude with his dramatic reappearance in our own supposedly faithless age.” (Page iix) Determined, it appears, to wrong foot one of his most cutting critics, Gregor McLennan, that his ‘theological turn’ simply sets one “static slogan, (God is back) against another (God is dead)” Eagleton turns to cultural and intellectual history (2). That is, a would-be dynamic account, “The history of the modern age is among other things the search for a viceroy for God, reason, nature, Geist, culture, art, the sublime, the nation, the state, science, humanity, Being, Society, the Other, desire, the life force and personal relations: all of these have acted form time to time as forms of displaced divinity.”(Page 44)

Culture and the Death of God is not, then an account of the wider social and individual fortunes of atheism or secularism. The “lived experience” explored by Charles Taylor, the web of changing attitudes in the “move from a society where belief in God is unchallenged and indeed unproblematic, to one in which it is understood as one option among others…” is dismissed (like – initially – Taylor himself) to a footnote. (3) Yet Eagleton is not shy of referring to the loss of “fundamental value” “moral rationales” (some of the deepest parts of feeling) – once offered by religion – in “underlying political power”.

Eagleton’s latest work is not a “sociological” history of faith and secularism at all. It is the story of the, long in coming, installation of “authentic atheism”, resting on the faithless ‘marketplace’ where the Economy is “rank atheist.” Eagleton tries to associate the ‘New Atheism’ with the ‘War on Terror’. The “alarmed liberal intelligentsia” clutching at “Reason, truth, science, progress and objectivity…” in the shape of Sam Harris, might suggest a very literal End of Faith to halt religious violence. That is by a pre-emptive nuclear strike against terrorism. (Page 202)

The Enlightenment.

Culture and the Death of God offers a rapid overview of the Enlightenment. It is informed by a number of secondary works, such as Peter Gay’s classic account of the battles for “freedom”, and its synthesis of the Christian and Pagan heritage, and by Jonathan I. Israel’s more recent studies. The latter distinguished a ‘Radical Enlightenment,” of figures like Spinoza, Bayle. Diderot, based on “toleration, personal freedom, democracy, equality racial and sexual, freedom of expression, sexual emancipation and the universal right to knowledge and a ‘Moderate’ version – Locke, Newton, Hume, Voltaire, Montesquieu, Turgot and Kant, to throw in a few names. Israel commented, “the difference between reason alone and reason combined with faith and tradition..”

Israel traced modern ideas of “personal liberty, comprehensive toleration, equality, sexual and racial and a secular morality of equity” back to this radical strain (5). Eagleton is more interested in its stand on religion. Many, the majority, classed as Auflkärer (the German word he frequently employs) were deists, who had no beef with God, only with Revealed and, institutional religion. “It was religion in this institutional sense that most of the philosphes took as their target.”(Page 7) Indeed, even the most radical sceptics and atheists were frightened of a godless, and ‘thus’ potentially immoral, populace. “The Enlightenment’s assault on religion, then, at root a political rather than theological affair.”(Page 12)

In fact Enlightenment thinkers were not really capable of killing off God even if they had wanted to. The claims of Reason – even, one assumes, Hume’s extreme scepticism ‘Pyrrhonism’ – were curbed, and their overweening ambitions, bootless. “When human reasoning becomes autonomous, it approaches divine status; but a rationalised world is also one in which its presence gradually dwindles, so that he grows remote from rationality and becomes accessible only through faith and feeling. In this sense the other face of rationalism is fideism.”(Page 34)

The French Revolution’s brief radical Dechristianisation, never struck a popular chord. The idea that “patriotism should be the new faith, the Declaration of the Rights of Man its Apostles” did not last long. The Culte de l’Être suprême that followed struck no roots, although the Constitutional Church had some support.  Eagleton does appear close to one of Robespierre thoughts that, “Atheism is aristocratic. The conception of a great being who watches over oppressed innocence and punishes successful crime, is democratic through and through.” Nevertheless, he observes, the  ‘bloodless Supreme Being” could not, nevertheless take the place of the real, and bloodied, thing. (6)

Culture and the Death of God then takes us through a whole series of thinkers – remote from popular culture. The German Idealists tried to repair any split between reason and nature, the romantics went further and reinvented God as nature of culture, incarnate in Nationalism, and by the 20th century (modernist) Culture itself (post-Matthew Arnold) had risen to the empty throne, as the new vice-regent of God. As (falsely) in Eagleton’s eyes, as a source of social cohesion, the “corporate sense of culture” of ultimate value, and transcendence, all have stumbled along, ‘surrogates’ for the divine.

It is hard to take seriously Eagleton’s claim that “None of (these) divine deputies are “graven images of the godhead.” They are “phenomena in their own right, not simply a locum tenas or camouflaged version of something else.” But nearly every page of Culture and the Death of God traces religion in “textual styles of thought, which then unwittingly help to keep divinity alive in a more clandestine way.”(Page 45) So if many ideas do not simply stand in for God, if we look beneath the disguise – from the appearance to the ‘essence’ – we will find some divine contraband.

To cite just two cases. Nietzsche’s views on the ‘death of Man’, to pair with the ‘death of God’ are the condition for the birth of New Humanity. For Eagleton this is “orthodox Christian doctrine” – regardless of his notorious loathing on Christianity. (Page 159) Eagleton also asserts that Marx was “deeply informed by Judeo-Christian thought. It is not here, then, that an authentic atheism is to be found.”(Page 161) And “humanity for Marx is not a self-determining absolute, and so cannot scramble on to the empty throne of its Creator. If Marx is more religious than Nietzsche in some ways, he is less so in others.” (Ibid). In this – shabby – way at least one of the two most notorious atheists in history comes close to a posthumous conversion.

A Theology?

A commonplace – irritating – of some of the faithful is that people cannot really disbelieve in god. To try to do so is to end up with ersatz religion. Culture and the Death of God is not short in finding proof that we cannot do without ‘something’ to fill what Ferdinand Mount has called “an enormous empty space in people’s lives” created by the “the eclipse of a single God-centred explanation.” (7) Perhaps one of the most scathing criticisms of these “substitutes” is of George Elliot’s devotion to Duty. A.N. Wilson has cited F.W.H. Myers’ that most beautiful and humane of Ethical novelists, “I seemed to be gazing, like Titus at Jerusalem, on vacant seats and empty halls – on a sanctuary with no presence to hallow it, and heaven left lonely of a God.” (8)

In these, and countless ways, Eagleton tries to demonstrate that  ‘God’ never really died in Western culture – his shadow loomed too large.

Before looking at what Eagleton considers authentic atheism – which does not mourn these sanctuaries – what exactly is his God centred explanation? In a sense only one part of the Godhead plays a role: Christ. Christian faith, he wrote in Reason, Faith and Revolution (2009) is not primarily about whether “there exists a Supreme Being” but “the kind of commitment made manifest by a human being at the end of his tether foundering in darkness, pain, and bewilderment, who nevertheless remains faithful to the promise of a transformative love.” (9)

This is what is presented to us, “The crucifixion proclaims that the truth of human history is a tortured political criminal. It is a message profoundly unacceptable to those sunk in dewy-eyed delusion (idealists, progressives, liberals, reformers, Yea-Sayers, modernisers, socialist humanists though one which as perfectly understood by a Jew like Walter Benjamin. Only if you can gaze on this frightful image without being turned to stone, accepting it was absolutely the last word is there a slim chance that it might not be. This chance is known to the Christian faith as resurrection. To acknowledge this thing of darkness as one’s own discerning in this monstrous image a reflection of oneself and one’s historical condition, is the revolutionary act which the Gospels know as metanoia, of conversion.”(10) Repentance, acceptance of this Revealed Truth, is a commitment to the future, not a submission to the past.

This, then, is the root of a “tragic sense” of religion, “Those who hold suffering and hope most finely in balance – the true tragic protagonists, so to speak – are those who rise up because they have little enough to lose, yet for that reason have the power to transform their condition.” One might call this Faith, a leap into the world itself, through divine grace. (11)

In Culture and the Death of God we learn of the social message contained within. The New Testament “shows no enthusiasm for social consensus. Since it holds that such values are imminently to pass away, it is not greatly taken with standards of civic excellence or codes of good conduct. What it adds to common-or-garden morality is not some supernatural support, but the grossly inconvenient news that out forms of life must undergo radical dissolution if they are to be reborn as just and compassionate communities. The sign of that dissolution is solidarity with the poor and powerless. It is here that a new configuration of faith, culture and politics might be born.” (Page 208)

These images of suffering, of the crucifixion, the Passion of the Christ, or the Mel Gibson portrait of the Stations of the Cross, faced with the imminence of the passing of the world, are unlikely to appeal to many a Doubting Thomas. Creating something from what we do not see, on the basis of one writer’s Christology, beyond the range of possible experience (and with little sign of the gentle warmth and kindness of the Redeemer), and putting this at the heart of faith itself, is the purest and most virulent irrationalism. How this will end in “compassionate communities “is a mystery too deep to grasp. One suspects that not many theologians, who have their own rooted human rationality, would follow Eagleton, for all of those twentieth century writers who have made the “scandal” of the crucifixion at the centre of their thought.

Capitalism, Secularism and Fundamentalism.

“Whenever the Almighty seems safely dispatched, he is always liable to stage a reappearance in one disguise or another.”(Page 119)

The economy, for Eagleton, we have noted, is “atheist”. Culture and the Death of God explains, “The faithlessness of advanced capitalism is built into its routine practices. It is not primarily a question of the piety of scepticism of its citizens. The marketplace would continue to behave atheistically even if every one of its actors was a born-again Evangelical.”(Page 196) The coming of Postmodernism – a self no longer coherent enough to need to project itself as God onto the world, has bolstered its faithless character. There is “no Big Other, no grand totality or transcendental signifier.”(Page 190)  It is only now that the whole of Western society is undergoing the real harrowing of atheism.

Yet, “No sooner has a thoroughly atheistic culture arrived on the scene, one which was no longer anxiously in pursuit of that place-holder for God, than the deity himself was suddenly back on the agenda with a vengeance.”(Page 197) A vast list of causes, from the West’s international interventions, globalised capitalism, to social anxiety, anomie and powerlessness, has created a new surge in religion. “Western capitalism, in short, has managed to help spawn not only secularism, but also fundamentalism”. The latter, in its multiple forms, has appeared “as a refuge an a strength for those who feel crushed by its own predatory politics.”(Page 198) “The Almighty, it appears, was not safely nailed down in its coffin after all, He had simply changed address, migrating to the US Bible Belt, the Evangelical churches of Latin America and the slums of the Arab world. And his fan club is steadily increasing.”(Page 199) As a result we have a new ‘grand narrative, “the so-called war on terror.”

Is ‘secularism’ the “spawn” of capitalism? In Inventing the Individual. The Origins of Western Liberalism (2014) Larry Siedentop has argued that its liberal roots, the ‘privatisation’ of individual judgement, lie in Christianity and the importance it places on the individual, not the group, the family, the tribe or the nation. From the grace of faith, to freedom of choice to believe or not, the journey Charles Taylor describes, was not smooth. Secular states – that is not dominated by religious authorities with freedom of belief for all – are the result of a long European ‘civil war’, to establish these freedoms. The left, in the broadest sense of the term, has shouldered much of this struggle. Many believers, particularly from religious minorities, have joined. The fight was not borne forward by those uniquely dedicated to Truth of the Event of the Crucifixion but by those with more modest horizons, the love of their fellows, those dedicated to tolerance and liberty.

That there are those opposed to this ideal, ‘fundamentalists’ is all too clear. The problems they cause, above all from political Islam, are with us now. Eagleton wrote in On Evil “Had the West acted differently in its treatment of certain Muslim nations, it might have escaped at least some of the aggression that is now seeing visited upon it.”(12) But is less than obvious that extremist Islamism would have been killed in the egg, if ‘justice’ to their calls – that is, their demands for a theocracy – a Caliphate – had ever been met. The killers in Pakistan are those whose “radical innovation consist of bringing chaos into being, thus putting creation into reverse. By blowing a black hole in what God has fashioned, he tries to catapult himself into equal terms with him.” (13) What possible ‘justice’ could slake their murderous “death drive”?

Culture and the Death of God is stitched together from a patchwork of intellectual texts. It folds up when it’s placed over the real, the mundane real not the Lacanian Real. It is Eurocentric. The ‘war on terror’ is a thin enough doctrine, but it covers something much deeper. As Fred Halliday pointed out (in 2002), there is an “enormous, long and very violent clash within the Muslim world between those who want to reform and secularise and those who power is threatened or who want to take power in the name of fundamentalism.” (14) Comments about the decentred self of Western capitalism and a “new form of Western cultural supremacism” are, frankly, trivial in comparison with the depth of these clashes. (Page 202)

A Marxist stand, a democratic socialist position, would be to side with the secular intelligentsia, defending religious pluralism, and the working class against the pious Islamist bourgeoisie and the genociders of the Caliphate and Al-Qaeda. But I leave that, vast, issue, hanging.

Eagleton never bothers to distinguish between agnosticism – hard (it is impossible to know that god exists or not), or soft (there is no reason to believe or not to believe in god) – and atheism – god does not exist. Many people who hold to these views simply do not feel the need for religion, have no “religious experience” and have no more divine gaps in their lives than they have a Third Eye. Believers are right to smart at ‘New Atheist’ charges that they are “are thick and/or uneducated “(Ferdinand Mount). There is a great deal of kindness carried out by religious people and we should glory in these acts. To be told that our ideas are either ‘really’ religious and/or Western examples of Western ‘supremicism’ is equally condescending. And we observe that Eagleton’s particular New Left Church stands, on the evidence, with few followers and empty of newly converted sceptics

References.

(1) Cited in God’s Funeral. A.N. Wilson. John Murray. 1999. This is a much more humane and intelligible account of the loss of faith, and the ‘bereavement ’ felt by Victorians at this, than Eagleton’s lofty pamphlet.

(2) Mr Love and Justice. Gregor McLennan. New Left Review Second Series. 64. 2010.

(3) Page 3. A Secular Age. Charles Taylor. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. 2007.

(4). The Enlightenment: An Interpretation. Vol. 1. The Rise of Modern Paganism. Vol. 2. The Science of Freedom. Peter Gay. W.W.Norton. 1977 (1966). Page 4 Enlightenment Contested. Philosophy, Modernity, and the Emancipation of Man 1670 – 1752. Jonathan I. Israel. Oxford University Press. 2006

(5) Page 869. Jonathan I. Israel op cit.

(6) Page 266. Fatal Purity. Robespierre and the French Revolution. Ruth Scurr.Chatto and Windus. 2006. See also Religion and Revolution in France. 1780 – 1804. Nigel Aston. Macmillan. 2000. For Aston Robespierre and the Jacobins’ Supreme Being did have supporters but for the majority, worshiping this deity was “like taking an ice-maiden for bedfellow…”(Page 274)

(7) Page 215. Full Circle. How the Classical World Came Back to us. Ferdinand Mount. Simon & Shuster. 2010.

(8) Pages 151 to 152. A.N. Wilson. Op cit.

(9) Page 37. Reason, Faith and Revolution. Reflections on the God Debate. Terry Eagleton. Yale University Press. 2009.

(10) Pages xxvii – xxviii. Terry Eagleton Presents Jesus Christ. The Gospels. Verso 2007.

(11) Page 272. The Trouble with Strangers. Terry Eagleton. Wiley-Blackwell. 2009.

(12) Pages 157 – 8 On Evil. Terry Eagleton. Yale University Press. 2010.

(13) Page 97 Holy Terror. Terry Eagleton. Oxford 2005.

(14). Page 46. Two Hours that Shook the World. Fred Halliday, Saqi Books. 2002

See also: Eagleton, Terry (19 October 2006). “Lunging, Flailing, Mispunching. London Review of Books.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 19, 2014 at 12:56 pm

Turkey: Black Sunday for Freedom.

leave a comment »

Turkey: Chuck Press that offends the Palace into the Bosphorus! 

Some time ago it was claimed that Turkey was an example of democratic, tolerant and pluralist  Islamism. That the Erdogan governments had established a more open country – at least in comparison to the nationalist Atatürk  parties and military regimes. Western leaders praised Erdogan’s pro-market policies. It was suggested that political Islam was evolving a home-grown democratic culture, with parallels to European Christian democracy.

How long ago this seems now!

The 2013 – 2014 protests in Taksim Gezi Park   indicated that not everybody in Turkey admired or accepted the politics of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The crack down on media outlets associated with the Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen (whose politics have been critically examined on Tendance Coatesy, Gulen Movement, an Islamic Opus Dei?) perhaps marks the moment when Erdogan has passed beyond the threshold of authoritarianism towards – crazed –  dictatorship.

Turkey’s President has drawn ridicule internationally for claiming that Islamic explorers discovered the Americas three centuries before Columbus, and for his Science, Industry and Technology Minister Fikri Işı’s assertion that it was Muslims who first found that the Earth is round.

Erdogan’s Palace has equally drawn attention to himself, “It is reportedly larger than the White House, the Kremlin and Buckingham Palace: Turkey’s new presidential palace spreads over some 50 acres of forest land, boasts 1,000 rooms, an underground tunnel system, state-of-the-art anti-espionage technology and a blend of modernist and medieval architecture. The ornate palace reportedly cost more than $350 million.”

A third bridge across the Bosphorous has been named after the 16th century Sultan Yavuz Sultan Selim  – responsible for massacring tens of thousands of members of the liberal religious group the Alevis.  Selim was in many ways a forerunner of today’s Islamist genociders (1)

Plans to teach the old Ottoman language (in a form of Arabic script) indicate that the country’s leader looks to its own imperial past, rather than to democracy.

Turkey has been accused of playing an ambiguous game in Syria, covertly supporting jihadists and other Islamist reactionaries.

Earlier this year the Turkish state restricted use of Twitter alleging it was “biased” and had been used for “systematic character assassination” of….Erdogan.

Now there is this.

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) shows no signs of reigning Erdogan back from his actions.

Turkish Press Review

Monday’s newspapers cover the government-orchestrated crackdown on local media figures and police officials across Turkey
 ISTANBUL

The Anadolu Agency does not verify these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy.

On Monday, Turkish media outlets largely covered the government-orchestrated crackdown on local media figures and police officials in 13 provinces across Turkey.

All the people detained are alleged to have links to the U.S.-based preacher Fethullah Gulen and his so-called “Gulen movement.”

MILLIYET headlines “December 14 Operation,” and says the operation has been on Turkey’s agenda for a while. The total number of people in custody has risen to 25 since the crackdown began.

The daily said police took Ekrem Dumanli, the editor-in-chief of Turkey’s Zaman daily, into custody. There were some formal difficulties with detaining Dumanli initially, due to the lack of a necessary document.

Dumanli, who is a staunch critic of the government, dismissed all the allegations against him, and protested his innocence in a speech at the daily, before he was taken away by the police.

ZAMAN runs with the headline “Black Day for Democracy,” changing its logo and the whole front page into black, and says December 14 marked the worst day in Turkey’s history for freedom of speech.

The daily said the detainees were taken into custody after Parliament passed a law that enabled prosecutors to detain the people based on reasonable suspicion.

Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor Hadi Salihoglu said he has ordered the detention of 31 people on charges of forgery, fabricating evidence and forming an alleged crime syndicate to overthrow the government. Earlier, it was reported that the prosecutor’s office had given the order for 32 detentions, but Salihoglu revised down the figure to 31.

Hidayet Karaca, chairman of the Samanyolu Media Group, is another senior media figure who was detained earlier in the day.

Producer Salih Aslan and Director Engin Koc of a Samanyolu TV series were also taken into custody in Eskisehir province and sent to Istanbul, police said.

The front page of Monday’s HURRIYET reads, “First the Headline, Later Detention,” referring to the ZAMAN daily’s editor-in-chief holding an editorial meeting for Monday’s paper at 3 a.m., and then being taken into custody at midday.

The Zaman newspaper is alleged to be close to the so-called “Gulen movement.”

Turkish newspapers also covered Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s remarks about the wave of arrests across the country on Sunday.

VATAN quoted Davutoglu on its front page: “Those who infiltrated state institutions and wiretapped the president and prime minister must know that their actions have consequences.”

In December 2013, an anti-graft probe targeted several high-profile figures, including the sons of three former government ministers and leading Turkish businessmen.

The government then denounced the December probe as a “dirty plot” constructed by a “parallel structure,” an alleged group of bureaucrats embedded in the country’s institutions, including in the judiciary and the police.

Since then, hundreds of police officers have been detained on charges of eavesdropping on Turkey’s top officials, disclosing highly-sensitive information, forming an organization to commit crimes, violating privacy, illegally seizing personal information and forgery of official documents.

(1) From Ottoman Persecution of the Alevis (Wikipedia).

Typical persecution methods

From the early 16th century the Ottoman administration was specialized in “chasing” Qizilbāshes. This century was perhaps the most harsh century for the Alevis (Qizilbāshes). They were persecuted for both sympathizing with the Safavid struggle, but also because of their “heretical” beliefs. In order to capture Qizilbāshes the Ottoman state used several methods.

Being “Qizilbāsh” was a crime on its own and Qizilbāshes were kept under constant surveillance. Some of the most frequently used surveillance and persecution methods in the Ottoman Empire were:

  • Persecution based on others’ reports / notifications.
  • Open or secret persecution.
  • By asking people who were regarded as more “credible” or “objective”, for example officials or Sunnis.

Typical punishment methods

The Ottomans also had different methods of punishment against Qizilbāshes. Most of the punishments took place by fabricating a reason to kill them.These false accusations were often led into the formal procedures to make them seem more realistic.In cases where the accused Qizilbāshes had many sympathizers or relatives, the Ottoman regime tried to avoid riots by not killing too many at a time.[16]

Some of the most common punishments were:

  • Expulsion: Many Qizilbāshs were expelled to Cyprus and cut off from their villages and families, but the Qizilbāshes who were halifes were executed immediately. The most typical displacement locations were Cyprus, Modon, Coroni, Budun(?) and Plovdiv.
  • Imprisonment: Some were also jailed and then usually expelled to Cyprus to cut them off from their families.[20]
  • Forced labour: A second method of punishment was to send Qizilbāshs for forced labor on galleys (Kürek mahkumiyeti) where they should work as oarsmen.
  • Drowning: Some Qizilbāshes was executed by being drowned in the Halys River (Kızılırmak)
  • others were executed “on the spot”.[23] Other times Qizilbāshswere executed with the sole purpose, to deter other Qizilbāshs and give them a “lesson”.
  • Execution: This method, often termed siyaset or hakkından gelme in the Ottoman archives, was perhaps the most widely used method of punishment of Qizilbāshes.
  • Stoning: Although stoning was normally only used against people who had committed adultery, this punishment method was also used on Qizilbāshes. There is an example of a Qizilbāsh named “Koyun Baba” who was stoned because of his faith.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 15, 2014 at 12:59 pm

Caliphate Motion Mover Criticises Lack of ‘Empathy’ Chez Coatesy.

with 22 comments

Left Unity member says Tendance Shows lack of “empathy” with Isis. 

John Tummon writes, 

Andrew, your demonisation of me seems to know no bounds and the lack of grammatical grasp that has caused lots of people who say they are angry at this proposed amendment shows their political cowardice in denouncing any attempt to try to reach out towards a more strategic analysis of the Middle East shows the moralism ratehr than the politics of you and them and dependence on western media for your facts.”

“What do you know about what the concept of the Caliphate is, has been and might be apart from via propaganda?

Using secularist reflexes rather than engaging empathy and curiosity is the mark of Left dogmatism.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 22, 2014 at 12:16 pm

New Trojan Horse Scandal as school accused over allowing Islamist influence.

with 3 comments

Three words that go together, though not apparently in some UK schools. 

Top London CofE school ‘failed to safeguard pupils from Islamic extremism’.

The BBC states,

A Church of England school previously graded outstanding is expected to be put into special measures over concerns about a sixth-form Islamic society.

Sir John Cass Foundation and Redcoat school, in Stepney, east London, is believed to have failed for not safeguarding and monitoring pupils.

It is believed the society’s Facebook page had links to a radical preacher.

Ofsted has carried out a series of unannounced inspections in Tower Hamlets.

The education watchdog will publish reports on seven schools in the borough on Friday, which is expected to include a numbe

Exclusive: Playground segregation and failure to protect against radicalisation blamed.

One of the country’s most successful inner-city state schools is to be failed by inspectors for neglecting to safeguard its pupils from extremism in an echo of the Birmingham “Trojan Horse” affair.

Sir John Cass’s Foundation and Red Coat Church of England school in Tower Hamlets, east London, will be placed in special measures by the education standards watchdog Ofsted for failing to monitor the activities of an Islamic society set up by sixth-formers at the school.

In particular, a Facebook site set up by the society contained links to hard-line Islamist preachers – a move which could have made pupils vulnerable to radicalisation. The society also set up its own YouTube channel which was not monitored.

The Guardian states,

Ofsted found that sixth formers at Sir John Cass secondary school in Stepney had posted links to Islamist extremist material via a Facebook page claiming to be associated with the school, and that the school’s leadership had failed to act appropriately after being informed.

Then there is this,

SJC ISOC Facebook

And this,

SJC ISOC EVENT

Now there is the claim that this is not extremist Islamism but, well just Islamism.

Hummm

It is worth pointing out that having religious schools in the first place is a breach of the principles of equality and freedom backed by secularists.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 20, 2014 at 12:42 pm

Muslim Assocation of Britain Listed as Terrorist Organisation.

with 2 comments

 http://adnatcongsco-digitalsalam.com/uploads/content/4f7068e196d7b.jpg

We publish this for information.

UAE Cabinet approves list of designated terrorist organisations, groups.

Included on list:

Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW) of the  Global Muslim Brotherhood.

Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe.

Muslim Association of Britain (MAB).

Islamic Relief UK.

Union of Islamic Organisations of France (L’Union des Organisations Islamiques de France, UOIF).

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

November 16, 2014 at 1:55 pm

Labour Representation Committee Backs Kurdish Struggle.

leave a comment »

Kurdish Fighters: Our Kith and Kin. 

Yesterday the Labour Representation Committee AGM voted to back the Kurdish struggle.

Cagdas Canbolat from the Daymer Turkish and Kurdish Community Centre made a moving speech describing the current situation of the Kurds in Northern Syria. He talked of the importance of the heroic struggle of the people of Kobane against Isis (Da’esh). Warning against the manoeuvres of the Turkish state and the support of Qatar and Saudi Arabia (all (implicated in allowing the jihadists to flourish),for he stressed the need to be wary of the actions of the Western powers. But, with the common socialist objectives of his organisation and the British left, our priority must be support the Kurdish people’s fight.

In the afternoon the LRC’s views on international affairs were debated.

There was no full resolution on the Kurdish issue, although comrade John McDonnel (MP) has held a welcome meeting in the House of Commons on the topic.

There as however a general declaration in support of the Kurds’ fight, and for their right to self-determination.

During the discussion the Tendance regretted that the LRC had not had time to adopt the very recent Fire Brigades’ Union resolution ,

The FBU Executive Council is appalled by the ongoing siege of the predominantly Kurdish town of Kobane in northern Syria by ISIS forces.

The Executive Council notes:

  • The ISIS attack on Kobane and resistance of Kurdish and other local forces.
  • The role of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE (all UK/US allies) in building, assisting and encouraging the growth of ISIS.
  • The particular role of the Turkish government in allowing money, arms and fighters across the border to build support for ISIS.
  • The role of Turkey at various times in obstructing the flight of Kurdish and other refugees and in blocking any support for predominantly Kurdish defenders of Kobane, thereby increasing the power and influence of ISIS and likelihood of collapse of opposition to it.

As the union of firefighting humanitarian professionals, we believe it is right to warn of the prospects of a massacre and to demand that governments (including the UK government) act to prevent atrocities. As professionals who have to deal with international humanitarian disasters as well as the effects of terrorism on our own doorstep, we cannot passively fold our arms and do nothing in the face of a likely massacre.

We send our message of solidarity to the workers’ organisations in Turkey, Iran and Iraq, including the Kurdish workers’ organisations. We believe these are the progressive forces that can oppose oppressive governments and reactionary and sectarian forces of all types, and can best guarantee workers’ rights and ensure democratic relations between the peoples of the region.

We support the right of Kurdish people across the Middle East to self-determination, including their right to defend themselves against attack from ISIS.

We oppose the horrific brutality of ISIS and its sectarian and murderous behaviour towards peoples of the region.

We condemn the Turkish government’s comments equating Kurdish fighters (including the defenders of Kobane) with ISIS.

We have no confidence in a US/UK/French bombing campaign against ISIS, based on the bitter experience of such efforts in the last decade and on the appalling role played by the Turkish government and other key western allies in the region.

We demand that:

  • The Turkish government lifts border obstructions to refugees.
  • The Turkish government allows relief efforts, including by opening a relief corridor to the Kurds and other forces defending Kobane.

We call for the TUC to raise these matters urgently, including with the Turkish embassy, the UK government and with trade unions in Europe and elsewhere. We call for international trade union solidarity and support for the defenders of Kobane.

Best wishes.

Yours fraternally

Matt Wrack
General Secretary

FBU

Afterwards I interviewed comrade Cagdas Canbolat.

He reiterated the importance of Kobane, the Kurdish defence of diversity in a region where this is threatened, and the role of women in leading their struggle against the genocidal Islamists.

Back in Ipswich that evening – at nearly ten o’clock – I went into a Kurdish run Newsagents/Off Licence on my way home.

Having already in the recent past already discussed the Kurdish fight with the people there I mentioned the debates at the LRC Conference.

Immediately the proprietor grasped his mobile and showed me pictures of him and his wife at last Saturday’s London day of Solidarity with Kobane.

He began talking about the bravery of the women fighters of the YPG – People’s Protection Units.

I asked if he had seen the video of the Kurdish comrades with the Italian Partisan Song, Bella Ciao.

He sang the first words!

I said that what I liked about the Kurds was that they are “normal people”.

By this I meant – and was understood to mean – that they are simply ordinary decent people.

He liked that expression and repeated it.

A phrase I used in the LRC debate was that these are our “kith and kin“.

That is, people who know, people we feel at ease with, not a special ‘heroic’ ‘victim’ group.

They are friends, neighbours – in my case a number of allotment holders, those who come to the Ipswich Trades Council May Day events, and those I have taught English to.

Nothing special – just plain decent people.

We in the labour movement and left do know the Kurdish organisations – they have supported us, they are part of us.

Ordinary or not the Kurds of Northern Syria are called on to do extraordinary acts.

As our flesh and blood they must be supported to the hilt.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 9, 2014 at 11:40 am

Back the FBU Statement in Support of the Kurds and Why We Don’t Back ‘Labour Solidarity with the Kurds’.

with 2 comments

Defend the Kurds: But How? 

In response to the attack by Isis on Kobane one the most respected trade unions in Britain, the Fire Brigades Union, issued the following appeal a few days ago.

The FBU Executive Council is appalled by the ongoing siege of the predominantly Kurdish town of Kobane in northern Syria by ISIS forces.

The Executive Council notes:

  • The ISIS attack on Kobane and resistance of Kurdish and other local forces.
  • The role of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE (all UK/US allies) in building, assisting and encouraging the growth of ISIS.
  • The particular role of the Turkish government in allowing money, arms and fighters across the border to build support for ISIS.
  • The role of Turkey at various times in obstructing the flight of Kurdish and other refugees and in blocking any support for predominantly Kurdish defenders of Kobane, thereby increasing the power and influence of ISIS and likelihood of collapse of opposition to it.

As the union of firefighting humanitarian professionals, we believe it is right to warn of the prospects of a massacre and to demand that governments (including the UK government) act to prevent atrocities. As professionals who have to deal with international humanitarian disasters as well as the effects of terrorism on our own doorstep, we cannot passively fold our arms and do nothing in the face of a likely massacre.

We send our message of solidarity to the workers’ organisations in Turkey, Iran and Iraq, including the Kurdish workers’ organisations. We believe these are the progressive forces that can oppose oppressive governments and reactionary and sectarian forces of all types, and can best guarantee workers’ rights and ensure democratic relations between the peoples of the region.

We support the right of Kurdish people across the Middle East to self-determination, including their right to defend themselves against attack from ISIS.

We oppose the horrific brutality of ISIS and its sectarian and murderous behaviour towards peoples of the region.

We condemn the Turkish government’s comments equating Kurdish fighters (including the defenders of Kobane) with ISIS.

We have no confidence in a US/UK/French bombing campaign against ISIS, based on the bitter experience of such efforts in the last decade and on the appalling role played by the Turkish government and other key western allies in the region.

We demand that:

  • The Turkish government lifts border obstructions to refugees.
  • The Turkish government allows relief efforts, including by opening a relief corridor to the Kurds and other forces defending Kobane.

We call for the TUC to raise these matters urgently, including with the Turkish embassy, the UK government and with trade unions in Europe and elsewhere. We call for international trade union solidarity and support for the defenders of Kobane.

Best wishes.

Yours fraternally

Matt Wrack
General Secretary

This appeal was also issued last Saturday,

WE SAY NEVER AGAIN

Labour Solidarity with Kurds.

“And all of those who’ve been the victims of genocide and crimes against humanity. We honour their memory, we remember their persecution and their suffering and we say never again”

Ed Miliband, Leader of the Labour Party, Holocaust Memorial, January 2014

An open letter to the Labour Movement

We, non-Kurdish members of the British Labour Party and Trade Unions, are calling for an urgent and significant increase in the support from Britain and other countries to the people defending the world against the onslaught of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS). The Kurds of Kobani, Rojava and the Kurdistan Region, including Yezidis, Christians and other minorities, are on the front line of a global battle against the vilest fascism of our age. We must help them, we must call on the world to help them, and this help must be given by whatever means necessary. The Labour movement is an internationalist movement which understands deeply the plight of those who suffer at under tyranny. We must now stand united in our efforts to secure changes to current UK government policy in this conflict.

The images of grandmothers and grandfathers fighting, and often dying, alongside their younger families is something almost impossible for us in Britain to comprehend. The tales of beheadings, the abandoned dead bodies of women with their breasts cut off, men with their eyes gouged out, sex slavery, genocides and mass executions, and reports of the burning skin of possible acid attacks are too horrific for the British Left to give a half hearted response, or worse.

These atrocities are real, they are happening right now, and those suffering them are real too. They are real women, real men, and real children. They are workers and trade unionists, they are nurses, doctors, teachers and other public servants. They are farmers, electricians, chefs, politicians, and they are fathers and mothers, sons and daughters. They are the same as us, they are our international sisters and brothers and they desperately need, and profoundly deserve, our support.

We pay huge respect to those who have fought and continue to fight so courageously against ISIS. The role of Kurdish women fighters and leaders has been widely reported and had added a further poignancy to a battle which, if lost, would be a victory for an ideology which degrades, silences and enslaves women as a matter of principle. Many of the women on the front line are mothers. They are fighting for the lives and futures of their sons and their daughters. We must help them.

We in Britain are privileged to live in a peaceful, liberal, secular and democratic society, and we must never forgot that such a society had to be fought for, won and defended. It did not happen through some passive progressive evolution, but was won and preserved through progressive politics, through agitation, and most recently through war against Nazism. Now, a powerful horror is being unleashed into the world by ISIS, who believe they are carrying out divine work. They will not give up, they will not stop. They have to be taken on, and defeated, and this has to be done intellectually, spiritually, and practically. The Labour Party does not turn away from those in need. We help. And we must do so with great urgency now.

Each year politicians say “never again” as they lay their wreaths of Remembrance and at events marking the Holocaust. “Never Again” is a commitment to the men and women who fought and died in these wars that their sacrifices will be honoured and defended, through words and deeds. This surely means doing everything and anything necessary to help stop these atrocities now. To turn away from those in need at this moment would be an historically unforgivable act of abandonment to the past, the present and the future.

We on the Left have an historic responsibility to turn powerful statements about solidarity into concrete action and to give our full support to the Kurds at this moment of their greatest need. We therefore implore the entire Labour movement, the Leadership of the Labour Party and the Trade Unions and our fellow members to use our collective influence to seek and support the following:

  • The Kurds of Rojava in Syria and of the Kurdistan Region in Iraq are asking for solidarity against ISIS, which is active in both Iraq and Syria and between which there is no longer any border. We are asking that you support the use of British jets in air strikes against ISIS in both countries and urge the British government to change their position on British airstrikes against ISIS in Syria.
  • British government to send increased aid and arms, including heavy weapons, to the Kurdish forces fighting ISIS in Kobani, and in the Kurdistan Region.
  • A recognition within the Labour Movement that the Kurds and the Iraqis will play the most decisive role in ground operations to defend their homelands. They are not currently asking for the assistance of British and other western ground troops but a global fight of this kind cannot rule this out in the future.
  • To recognise that there may be future incarnations of ISIS and that this needs to be tackled by a mixture of political, economic and other measures to help increase tolerance, pluralism, and women’s rights to reduce and prevent the radicalisation of young people in the Middle East and more widely.
  • To urge Turkey to recognise the Kurds as allies in the fight against ISIS.
  • To recognise that ISIS barbarism has resulted in the flight of over a million refugees from Syria and internally displaced people from Arab Iraq into temporary sanctuary in the Kurdistan Region. The strain of this humanitarian crisis is enormous and the cold winter will mean many needless deaths unless the international community and Baghdad provide much needed support to the communities on the front line.
  • To call upon the Iraqi Government in Baghdad to end the economic blockade against the Kurdistan Region in Iraq.

People are dying every day at the hands of ISIS. They are being enslaved, raped, tortured, mutilated and brutalised and there is no end in sight. Our Labour Party and Labour movement has a duty to do justice to the anti-fascist, internationalist, courageous history of the Left and to do what is so needed now.

Yours in solidarity,

In  reporting on this appeal the Kurdish News Agency site Rudaw added this,

Nick Cohen, a prominent British left-leaning columnist who nevertheless regularly castigates the left for its compromises with Islamic fundamentalism, welcomed what he called “a glimmer of light can pass for a dawn.”Commenting on the open letter in The Spectator magazine, he wrote: “Today’s intervention by the Labour friends of the Kurds is a sign that there is not one ‘left’ but many lefts, and not everyone goes along with the  compromises of the past decade. Call me a trusting fool but perhaps, too, it is a sign that left-wing politics is becoming a little less seedy.”

Are the two appeals different?

Yes and in very important ways.

This is hard to say, and even harder to write, but there are fundamentally distinct objectives in the underlying  approaches.

Nick Cohen in the Spectator  draws out the implications of the Appeal.

Their proposals are both essential and sensible. They want the RAF to join allied air strikes against ISIS in Syria as well as Iraq; and for Labour to call on the British government to send to send increased aid and arms, including heavy weapons, to the Kurdish forces fighting ISIS in Kobani, and across Kurdistan.  Both are  desperately needed – Iraqi Kurdistan alone must cope with one million refugees and a well-armed force of clerical fascists, which could return to slaughter Kurds at any moment.

The MPs, party activists and trade unionists are too tactful to mention that an alliance between the Labour leadership and Tory right (not quite a Hitler-Stalin pact, but in the same territory) stopped British action against Assad, Cameron dare not allow the RAF to deliver the support to the Syrian Kurds they want for fear that left and right will combine again and destroy his government.

He then makes this observation: explaining why Miliband is unwilling to call for the RAF to attack Isis.

Bush, Iraq, post-colonial guilt, pacifism, parochial stupidity and the appeal of minding your own business and not wasting blood and treasure in other people’s conflicts

It would not be unfair to say that Cohen does not want intervention to stop at the defence of the Kurds.

He  has been consistently explicit in his stand on removing Assad,

As in (1st January 2012)  The west has a duty to intervene in Syria

Cohen cites Michael Weiss from the Henry Jackson Society, so-named after a virulently anti-communist American Democrat  ‘Scoop’ Jackson. He was a Congressman and Senator known for close ties to the Defence Industry and  who supported the Bombing of North Vietnam (1). Weiss had a plan for this intervention,

American, British and French air power might combine with Turkish ground forces to create a safe haven in northern Syria, where mutinous troops from the Syrian army could build a fighting force. Nato officials have studied it, while Burhan Ghalioun, chairman of the Syrian National Council, described the report as a “crucial resource for understanding how a humanitarian intervention in Syria can still be carried out responsibly.

This plan was not adopted.

Most people would not accept that it was ever viable, that interventions were bound to be botched, run up against the opposition of large numbers of Syrians,  and that the Syrian National Council was never a real player in the emerging civil war.

Cohen has not accepted this.

For him the absence of Western intervention (meaning a determined thrust to remove Assad)  in Syria was a betrayal.

He has written earlier this year (Observer).

A great evil has been done to Syria. I cannot see how any western project against Islamic State can prosper until the “conscience of the world” provides redress by saying it will not tolerate the continuation of the Assad regime. At present, however, the world won’t even acknowledge evil’s existence. We must expect evil in return.

The FBU did not back Western intervention in Syria.

It would be unfair to accuse them of ‘tolerating’ Assad: they, like most people on the left, simply did not see Western intervention as a serious means to create a democratic Syria.

No doubt they could point to the fact that there has been intervention (if not on Cohen’s personal terms). That is there was a flow of arms from the West to (initially) a broad swathe of the Syrian opposition, and a blind-eye to the weapons and recruits to the original jihadis, were part of the reason why we now have Isis/Islamic state.

Now the FBU does not call for UK aircraft to bomb Isis .

This is part of a blanket statement.

It “places no confidence” in a US/UK/French bombing campaign.

The FBU does not oppose arming the Kurdish resistance – it simply does not state a position.

Tendance Coatesy argues for arms for the Kurds according to their own wishes.

This is both distinct from the Stop the War Coalition’s view and from the call, without asking the Kurds’ opinion, on the British Government to use air power in Syria.

If it sounds ridiculous to have a dogmatic stand on this, from our real position in the world, we certainly welcome air raids and any means possible to defend Kobane.

We will not go further.

This comment has appeared in Tendance Coatesy’s comment boxes; asking why we do not ‘go further’.

Well, the FBU have said they want the UK Govt to “prevent atrocities” but have “no confidence” in a bombing campaign against Isis. Well, what should the Govt do then?

The Kurds in Kobane, on the other hand, do have confidence in the present airstrikes against Isis and are very happy to receive arms from the Americans.

While, I am sure, the Kurds are happy for the support of Unite and the FBU, I think they would prefer Ed Miliband and the Labour Party to adopt the ideas outlined above by “Labour Solidarity with the Kurds.”

Comments Jonr R.

It is clear that amongst those signing the Labour Solidarity with the Kurds are those who consider, like Cohen, that we should go further.

A lot lot further.

That this should be a bridgehead for much wider intervention in the Syrian Civil War – a demand which was predicted would be raised.

This is so completely off the wall that it is hard to know where to begin.

Perhaps we should say, in Henry Jackson style, that one can’t get use arms in a civil war, getting intimately involved in a life and death struggle, on the basis of all the horror and outrage one can muster at Assad and the Islamist genociders.

We can take sides in a precise case where we know something of the forces pitted against each other: the PKK/PYD against Isis/Islamic State.

We do not need to underline the links between those who’ve signed this appeal to the pro-Tony Blair Progress and the Henry Jackson Society to make further points casting doubt about it.

But one thing stands out: perhaps the most prominent signatory of Labour Solidarity with the Kurds, is Gary Kent  who is intimately involved in the politics of the Middle East. (2). He has just published in Progress an account of their appeal, Taking on ‘the vilest fascism of our age’. He has also spoken at more than one Henry Jackson event (including its launch).

Kent is a classic liberal interventionist.

Well it worked so well in Iraq, why not give it a try in Syria?

(1)  “The Henry Jackson Society is a non-profit organisation that seeks to promote the following principles: that liberal democracy should be spread across the world; that as the world’s most powerful democracies, the United States and the European Union – under British leadership – must shape the world more actively by intervention and example; that such leadership requires political will, a commitment to universal human rights and the maintenance of a strong military with global expeditionary reach; and that too few of our leaders in Britain and the rest of Europe today are ready to play a role in the world that matches our strength and responsibilities.”

(2) Gary Kent, Labour member, Director, of Labour Friends of Iraq, Unite/NUJ/Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions (honorary). Labour Friends of Iraq, Founding statement 2004. “Iraq is emerging from its long nightmare of Saddam’s totalitarianism, wars and privation. Iraq now has an opportunity to use its natural and human wealth to build a democratic civil society. An independent and secular labour movement is a key part of civil society and can do much to promote the unity of working people, regardless of creed or gender.”

See also: ROJAVA, IMPERIALISM AND THE ISLAMIC STATES .

And: LES COMMUNISTES-OUVRIERS ET LE « CONFÉDÉRALISME DÉMOCRATIQUE » Camille Boudjak

And: Solidarity with the Kurds, or NATO-bashing?  (Alliance for Workers ‘Liberty).