Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Seamus Milne Gets it Wrong on Islamism – Again.

with 13 comments

Michael Adebolajo speaks to a person holding a smartphone after killing Lee Rigby in Woolwich

In 2004 Seamus Milne, an Editor at the Guardian wrote,

It is the insurgent spirit of political Islam, however, that has brought the issue of how progressive movements should relate to religion to a head. Modern Islamism has flourished on the back of the failures of the left and secular nationalists in the Muslim world and has increasingly drawn its support from the poor and marginalised.

In 2008 he developed this theme,

Just as the French republican tradition of liberation came to be used as a stick to beat Muslims in a completely different social context from which it emerged, so the militant secularists who fetishise metaphysics and cosmology as a reason to declare the religious beyond the liberal pale are now ending up as apologists for western supremacism and violence. Like nationalism, religion can play a reactionary or a progressive role, and the struggle is now within it, not against it. For the future, it can be an ally of radical change.

In this spirit Milne, who has a problem with French republicanism and secularism,  wrote in 2011,

“The once savagely repressed progressive Islamist party An-Nahda (which) won the Tunisian elections this week on a platform of pluralist democracy, social justice and national independence.”

Few would now describe the conservative, anti-secular, pro-free market Islamists of  Ennahda as progressive”.

But Milne has not given up.

Today he writes in the Guardian of the butchery of Fusilier Lee Rigby.

Woolwich attack: If the whole world’s a battlefield, that holds in Woolwich as well as Waziristan

Denying a link between western wars in the Muslim world and the backlash on our streets only fuels Islamophobia and bloodshed

“Leave our lands and you can live in peace,” the London-born Muslim convert told bystanders. The message couldn’t be clearer. It was the same delivered by the 2005 London bomber, Mohammed Siddique Khan, and the Iraqi 2007 Glasgow attacker, Bilal Abdullah, who declared: “I wanted the public to have a taste” of what its government of “murderers did to my people”.

Seamus Milne 

To say these attacks are about “foreign policy” prettifies the reality. They are the predicted consequence of an avalanche of violence unleashed by the US, Britain and others in eight direct military interventions in Arab and Muslim countries that have left hundreds of thousands of dead. Only the wilfully blind or ignorant can be shocked when there is blowback from that onslaught at home. The surprise should be that there haven’t been more such atrocities.

Milne observes,

Mainstream Islamic teaching supports the right to resist foreign occupation, while rejecting violence against non-combatants or outside the battlefield. But it is the US and its closest allies in the war on terror who have declared the whole world to be a battlefield, in which they claim the right to kill whoever they deem to be a threat.

Nobody on the left would make excuses for the actions of the US and its allies in attempting to impose their ideas and power on the rest of the world, least of all their violent methods.

But is this what is at stake here?

Milne complains about the reaction to what he admits was a brutal murder.

What on earth would he have expected in any country in the world?

And is it just foreign policy that motivated these killers?

This is a report of Michael Adebolajo’s speech at Harrow Central Mosque in 2009.

Wearing a white skull cap and a traditional black Islamic robe, he says: ‘You are here only to please Allah. You aren’t here for any other reason.’

The demonstration was organised in response to a nearby protest by the English Defence League and a group called Stop the Islamisation of Europe.

During the 80-second clip, Adebolajo says that the Prophet Muhammad fought against ‘way worse’ opposition.

‘They are pigs,’ he shouts. ‘Allah says they are worse than cattle. Do not be scared of them. And do not turn your back to them. Don’t be scared of them, or police, or the cameras.’

A witness at the rally said of Adebolajo’s address: ‘After the speech some of them started running around. An imam even came out at one stage and told the hotheads to calm down and get inside the mosque, saying that they should be praying.

So the “filthy non-believers” are also a problem.

But Milne disregards evidence of pure religious hate, and tries to give a political lesson on foreign policy without considering that this loathing has its own ideological causes.

He focuses on Western actions,

They are the predicted consequence of an avalanche of violence unleashed by the US, Britain and others in eight direct military interventions in Arab and Muslim countries that have left hundreds of thousands of dead. Only the wilfully blind or ignorant can be shocked when there is blowback from that onslaught at home. The surprise should be that there haven’t been more such atrocities.

It goes without saying that this is a feeble explanation for the violent atrocities taking place every day in Syria, the sectarian violence in “Muslim countries”, and the murders of Africans, Christians and Muslims, by Islamists.

When will Milne ever admit that Islamism is a problem in itself.

The claim that “Muslim’s” have their, “our” lands, is on to begin with.

It is clear in fights over these countries the poor and marginalised are the victims of Islamists

That, in conclusion, it is the duty of progressives, that is, the Left,  to fight Islamism.

The whole world is indeed a battlefield, and Milne is not on the right side.


Written by Andrew Coates

December 21, 2013 at 12:00 pm

13 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. I don’t really agree with your analysis. Political Islam (Islamism) may be a problem ideologically but it resonates precisely because a broad political consensus exists across the main parties that it’s OK to intervene in Afghanistan. Iraq, use drone warfare, etc. It wasn’t so surprising when Irish Republicans brought their struggle to the mainland in the 1970s. Nationalism is not an ideology I have much time for, but it’s important to see why these things happen. There isn’t much coverage in the news of the investigation into British unlawful killings in Iraq or the civilian casualties of drone killings in Yemen or Pakistan. These events, as much as bad preachers, have an effect on turning young Muslims in a terrorist direction, lamentable though that may be. There’s more blowback too; as western economic policies imposed by the IMF force poorer countries to cut their education budgets and impose school fees, richer Muslim states can fill the gap by providing madrassas, usually pushing the extreme Wahabist form of Islam which is specific to Saudi Arabia and neighbouring states. Politics abhors a vacuum – where’s the left’s totalising ideological alternative for human emancipation?

    Mike Phipps

    December 21, 2013 at 1:14 pm

  2. At one time Trotksyists used to look at the global picture Mike.

    Blowback does not explain the Syrian civil war and the role of Islamists in it, the massive sectarian wars between Shiites and Sunnis across the world, nor does it explain what’s happening in Africa.

    Nor can it explain the way Islamists build ‘mini-states’ based on their coercive power – as the Salafists have done in parts of North Africa.

    Perhaps it’s obvious but the left lost a lot in the fall out of the collapse of Official Communism, and there does not seem much in the way of a “totatalising ideological alternative”.

    In this case there are just people struggling for emancipation against the Western military interventionisms and the Islamist killers – not to mention a few more things.

    Andrew Coates

    December 21, 2013 at 1:24 pm

  3. Excellent analysis, Andrew: and you’ve saved me the trouble of doing my own post over at Shiraz Socialist (though I might still write to the Graun, who never publish my letters).

    Milne’s central mistake is to under-estimate Islamism, and put it all down to a *reaction” to the evils of the “West”, instead of acknowledging that Islamism can take the political initiative quite independently – indeed Islamist outrages pre-date the “West”‘s “war on terror”. Milne is, in a way, quite racist on this, by insisting that Islamism is not a political force in its own right.

    In addition, Milne’s quite banal evocation of the “blow-back” theory is either just a banal statement of the bleedin’ obvious (that, politically, explains nothing …OR… an invitation to readers to have at least *some* sympathy with Islamicist terrorists: all the guff about “to understand is not to sympathise” cannot disguise this unavoidable conclusion, that Milne as a “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” Stalinist, sneakily and dishonestly advocates

    Jim Denham

    December 21, 2013 at 6:50 pm

  4. What gets me is that Britain and America has largely left Iraq and is leaving Afghanistan. In fact, the Americans are having some trouble quitting Afghanistan, partly because they can’t agree the terms for the ‘advisors’ who will stay on and any prosecutions arising from crimes committed on the soil, partly because Imran Khan (former Mr Jeminma Goldsmith) is now Governor of the province the vehicles will have to evacuate through when they leave and he is beign stroppy. You would think that the Afghans and Pakistanis would only be too happy to facilitate the Yanks withdrawal. Let’s not forget, the Afghans will be recieving trillions from the Chinese for mining rights soon so they have no problem about buildign up their country and employing their own modern army (joke). Seems to me that the entire Muslim world needs at the very least some form of Social Democracy that will address redistribution of wealth. Forget about religion, look at how to spread the wealth. Oh, sorry, what’s that you say…sheiks don’t do ‘spreading the wealth. Joking apart, when these Islamic parties get into power they are no more use than a chocolate teapot. But, they do allow their supporters to fill their boots with state plunder and monopolies. Why don’t the populations get ;mad at that? Instead of blaming the West.

    Sue R

    December 21, 2013 at 9:05 pm

  5. Western women should be extremely worried as their menfolk become Islam apologists and shrink from any confrontation with the pesaareen behesht, the self styled sons of ”Muslim only’ heaven..I suggest these unlucky females should start to learn Arabic,read their koran translations and prepare to welcome sharia. If fortunate they may be third or fourth in their Muslim owners wife heirarchy…. If western men had backbones there may have been hope but they are as brave as jellyfish……INSHALLAH

    Steve Vix

    December 21, 2013 at 9:25 pm

  6. I agree with all of that.
    Some people on the left just can’t get their heads around the fact that Islamism has it’s own, intoxicating dynamic. It isn’t just a reaction to western activities, anymore than communism was only a reaction to poverty and oppression. It drives itself.

    They talk about grievances, but the big grievance is the lack of a caliphate.

    Paul J

    December 22, 2013 at 2:12 am

  7. […] I’m agreeing more and more with the Pabloite revisionist Coates (who’s just posted this about the public school Stalinist and friend of clerical fascism, Milne […]

  8. It’s not necessary to be a Pabloite or anything except a rational human being to disagree with Seamus Milne. This is the problem with the Trotskyist left, everything has to be explained in terms of your ideology. Trotsky would have been as big a mass murderer as Stalin except that Stalin gave him the push too early.

    Milne is an embarrassment and a shame to the Guardian, or should be, as he is an unrepentant apologist for Stalin and an attacker of the west generally because it is the west. He is firmly in the tradition of those who said of the twin towers that the west ” had it coming”. He is a disgrace and should be sacked but it is doubtful if the Guardian will do that and he will be there until the paper goes bankrupt which, hopefully, will be sooner rather than later.


    December 22, 2013 at 9:27 am

  9. Here is a “famous quotation” to back the stand taken here,

    “But the Workers’ party ought, at any rate in this connection, to have expressed its awareness of the fact that bourgeois “freedom of conscience” is nothing but the toleration of all possible kinds of religious freedom of conscience, and that for its part it endeavours rather to liberate the conscience from the witchery of religion.”

    Critique of the Gotha Programme. 1875.

    But as Mad Mullah indicates, it is better to use simple rational arguments rather than rely on authority.

    One which I have not cited, is to ask Milne and his supporters, as well as those who think that Syria is the ‘new Spanish Civil War’ and a call to fight for a real cause, how they would try to put in the same category Sunni fighters and young Shiites who go to Syria to battle the Sunni jihadists.

    Andrew Coates

    December 22, 2013 at 3:52 pm

  10. One ha to feel sorry for Seamus Milne et al because gone are the days when they could just support ‘Muslims’. I think a lot of people came into it via anti-Zionism where ofcourse Iran was a major player with Hezbollah and funding. So there was no problem supporting both Sunni (ie HAMAS) and Shia jehadists. Now sadly, it is more complicated and they have to choose. That is why I think one doesn’t hear much from George Galloway these days, he hasn’t really made his allegiance clear over Syria because he needs to keep in with Sunni Muslims but also Shia ones. Milne needs to nail his colours to the mast: Sunni or Shia?

    Sue R

    December 22, 2013 at 7:56 pm

  11. That, in conclusion, it is the duty of progressives, that is, the Left, to fight Islamism

    Any recommendations on reading to arm ourselves intellectually? Paul Berman? Christopher Hitchens? David Horowitz?


    December 27, 2013 at 2:25 pm

  12. Excellent analysis, Andrew: and you’ve saved me the trouble of doing my own post over at Shiraz Socialist (though I might still write to the Graun, who never publish my letters).

    Maybe Andrew and Jim Denham should consider a joint blog that could be called Jimmy’s Place. Or Andy’s place. Harry’s Place, of course, is already taken.


    December 27, 2013 at 2:30 pm

  13. Read Tendance Coatesy!

    Andrew Coates

    December 28, 2013 at 11:22 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: