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Lutfur Rahman, the Left and ‘spiritual influence’.

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https://twitter.com/donovanian999/status/591292548578152448

Luftur Gets Support.

There have been a variety of reactions to the high court ruling by Richard Mawrey QC, on Thursday that Lufter Rahman, the mayor of Tower Hamlets borough since 2010, was guilty of vote-rigging, seeking spiritual influence through local imams, and wrongly branding his Labour rival a racist.

 This carries some weight.

John Rees on the outrageous dismissal of Tower Hamlet’s first elected Muslim Mayor

The Tower Hamlets electoral fraud trial was a political event from the beginning. Indeed, everything you need to know about the decision of High Court Judge Richard Mawrey to declare void the election of Britain’s first Muslim Mayor is contained in his summary judgement. In it he said that Muslims in Tower Hamlets are ‘not a real minority’ because, apparently, there are so many of them in the borough.

Like the rest of his remarks it will fuel every racist stereotype that has ever been uttered about Tower Hamlets, and it will legitimise the long and disgraceful war by Tories, Lib-Dems and the local Labour Party to stop the rise of Bangladeshi representation in the area.

Rees asserts,

The judge’s view is so baseless that perhaps we should not be surprised that he is refusing to issue the executive summary of his judgement that he read out in court.

And what of the main charge that Lutfur Raham used ‘spiritual influence’ to gain votes? The judge obviously imagines that Muslims are so backward and superstitious that they cannot make their up their minds how to vote without religious guidance, or to ignore such advice if they wish. How confusing it must have been for those Muslim electors in wards where the front-runners were both Muslims!

And in any case in every Tower Hamlets election Muslims vote for Labour in large numbers as well as for left of Labour candidates. The Mayoral election in which Lutfur Rahman became Mayor (for the second time) was no different.

And if the use of ‘spiritual influence’ in elections is enough to declare them void then there’s going to be a few other results declared null…in Northern Ireland where the influence of Protestant and Catholic churches will remain enormous at the coming  general election for instance. Perhaps the most amazing aspect is this spiritual law under which the judge issued his verdict is archaic, first introduced by the British in Ireland to stop Catholic preachers rallying the Irish! One doesn’t need much imagination to see how this legal relic will be used against Muslims.

He also says,

Even more staggering is the judge’s accusation that Lutfur Rahman ‘played the race card’. Actually he played the anti-racist card against a Labour Party establishment which has long abused the loyalty of its supporters in Tower Hamlets.

The Judge began (Richard Mawrey QC’s ruling on Tower Hamlets election court.   Paragraph 152)

“…just as undue spiritual influence under s 115 of the 1983 Act is not confined  to Christianity, it is equally not confined to religions which have the Christian sacraments or an equivalent, the threat of withdrawal or refusal of which can be used by clergy to influence voters. Similarly, it is not an essential ingredient of the section that the spiritual influence should be that of a monotheistic religion or of a religion which contains a belief in an afterlife where punishments and rewards are meted out for conduct in this life. In an appropriate case undue spiritual influence could be created by what some might regard as a cult, such as Mr Moon’s ‘Unification Church’ or even ‘New Age’”

He observed (Para 529) ,

The Petitioners’ case may be summarised as follows.  In formulating his campaign, Mr Rahman, as well as playing the race card, was determined to play the religious card. The campaign would be targeted at Tower Hamlets ’ Muslim population with a stark message: ‘Islam is under threat: it is the religious duty of all devout Muslims to vote for Mr Rahman and his party .’  (para 530) It was not, the Petitioners said, the first time that the religious card had been played. There was a persistent history of Mr Rahman attacking his opponents who happened to be Muslim by claiming that they were not, unlike himself, devout and pious Muslims.

Continuing he remarked,

Secondly there is a substantial body of credible evidence that the Imams’ message that it was the duty of faithful Muslims to vote for Mr Rahman entered the general campaign ,with religious duty being mentioned in canvassing before the poll and to voters attending polling stations on election day.
What this meant in practice is covered in the judgment section on ‘intimidation’.

(Para 590),  Groups of supporters would approach voters, particularly Bangladeshi voters and harangue them in a manner that appeared to some onlookers to be rather aggressive.

Several witnesses from different polling stations used the phrase ‘running the gauntlet’ to describe their passage into the polling station. Others spoke of feeling ‘harassed’.

(Para 591) Both English and Bengali speaking witnesses attest to THF (Rahman’s party – note) supporters shouting, amongst other things, that a) it was the duty of Bangladeshi voters to support Mr Rahman: this was normally expressed as support for Mr Rahman rather than for THF as a party; b) similarly it was the religious duty of all faithful Muslims to support Mr Rahman; c) Mr Biggs was a ‘racist. d) the Labour Party was ‘racist’ and ‘Zionist’; e) anyone voting Labour had been brainwashed against Islam.

Rees asks,

And if ‘playing the race card’ is grounds for declaring an election void are we now going to see other candidates judged by this standard. Will UKIP councillors or MEPs be held to account? Or perhaps it’s only an accusation that applies to people who suffer racism.

Absolutely right.

He also says,

That leaves the only meaningful charge being that of misusing funds. Yet that would have to be proved in the case of every single councillor for the election as a whole to be re-run, even if it could be agreed that this is grounds for re-running elections rather than a slap on the wrist that expense fiddling MPs receive.

A serious case here of whataboutery – which we will ignore: this is the judgement on Rahman, not on the whole council.

The conclusion Rees reaches is unfortunate.

The general climate of Islamophobia (the Daily Express is already gloating) makes any accusation half believed even before it is investigated. It is of a piece with the mounting establishment hostility to the SNP. The old system is fraying and any challenge to it is being met with a full force tide of reaction. If the establishment gets away with removing one of the few councils that came to power by fighting racism and austerity, that has an admirable anti-war record, then the whole left will have suffered a setback and every racist in the country will be rejoicing. We should not let that happen.

So the whole affair can be dismissed as part of the “tide of reaction”.

Not it can’t.

The Judge ruled that there was a great deal of politiking to gain  support – through grants and other mechanisms – in the Borough.

The Independent reports,

… former mayor, who was elected to a second term last year, had focused his electoral machine on the borough’s large Bangladeshi community – effectively bribing voters by targeting them with generous grants and using the influence of a senior cleric to tell Muslims it was their duty to vote for him.Mr Mawrey said: “The evidence laid before this court has disclosed an alarming state of affairs in Tower Hamlets. This is not the consequence of the racial and religious mix of the population, nor is it linked to any ascertainable pattern of social or other deprivation. It is the result of the ruthless ambition of one man.”

It is well-known on the left that is explained away on the grounds that “this is Big City politics”, “they all do it.” That in this instance Rahman had acted in this way to serve a progressive – anti-austerity and broadly on the left – platform.

That’s as may be – it’s contestable. But what Rees raises is the issue of ‘religious guidance’, which, he considers irrelevant, since everybody can make up their own minds.

Clearly this was not the view of Rahman and his supporters.

Is the ‘spiritual influence’ that Rahman used, and described above in the judgement (there is more detail in the full text), acceptable?

Is screaming in a mass about religious duty, hatred of  ‘Zionists’, and ‘racists’ (er, oddly conjoined), to everybody about to vote something part of “fighting racism and austerity”?

Is it ‘anti-racist’ to identify one candidate with one religion and appeal, above all, to ‘faithful Muslims’?

Is labelling – systematically – your opponent a “racist” (which is  libelous if written) a campaigning strategy to follow ?

Is machine politics left politics?

Instead of yelling,  ‘Islamophobia’, we should also look at Rahman’s connections with Islamism – including some of groups who can only be called racist – as part of his way of building support for his “electoral machine”.

What exactly is his stand on, and relations with, the Jimaat-i-Islami whose leaders have been accused of complicity in genocide, the mass murder of our Bengali sisters and brothers, in 1971?

This is apparently not a problem for Counterfire.

Nor, it seems, for former London Mayor Ken Livingstone.

Lutfur Rahman: Ken Livingstone says he hopes corrupt mayor will appeal High Court verdict says the Evening Standard.

“Former London mayor Ken Livingstone has slammed a High Court judge’s decision to void Lutfur Rahman’s election, calling the Election Commissioner an “unelected bureaucrat”.”

A dissenting voice, James Bloodworth, reminds us of a few home truths.

Lutfur Rahman played the Islamophobia card to silence his critics. And too many on the left fell for it

We must ignore the inevitable cries of “stitch up” that will now follow.

Those of us who have lived in Lutfur Rahman’s Tower Hamlets in recent years had a fair idea that something wasn’t right. An atmosphere of menace and intimidation prevailed at council meetings and a cult of personality was thrown up around Rahman himself, with posters carrying the Mayor’s face (and little else) increasingly ubiquitous in the borough. Extremist preachers were invited to speak in council chambers and council grants were directed away from secular organisations in favour of groups which mainly served the Bangladeshi and Muslim communities.

Lutfar Rahman Found Guilty of “corrupt and illegal practices” in Tower Hamlets Election.

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Guilty of ‘Corrupt and Illegal Practices”. 

Lutfur Rahman found guilty of illegal practices in Tower Hamlets election.

Hat tips to: SH, DT, Rosie and Adam.

Reports the BBC.

An east London mayoral election has been declared void and will have to be re-run after he was found guilty of corrupt and illegal practices.

Election Commissioner Richard Mawrey concluded Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman had breached election rules.

Four voters took legal action against Mr Rahman, who they alleged used “corrupt and illegal practices” in the election last year.

Mr Rahman, who denied any wrong-doing, has been banned from standing again.

‘Evasive and discursive’

At the special High Court hearing, Mr Mawrey said the mayor had “driven a coach and horses through election law and didn’t care”.

He added Rahman, who had been elected for a second term in the east London borough, would be “incapable” of standing in the new election.

Mr Mawrey – who sat as a judge – described Mr Rahman as “evasive and discursive witness whose evidence was untruthful on occasion”.

The four voters mounted the legal challenge under the 1983 Representation of the People Act.

Lawyers for the four made a series of allegations – including “personation” in postal voting and at polling stations and ballot paper tampering.

Lawyers for Mr Rahman, who was re-elected for independent party Tower Hamlets First last May, described the claims as “invention”, “exaggeration” and “in some cases downright deliberately false allegations”.

However the Election Commissioner said that Tower Hamlets First was “never really a party but the alter ego of Lutfur Rahman”.

One of Mr Rahman’s aides Alibor Choudhury was also found guilty of corrupt and illegal practices.

Rahman has been ordered to pay  £250,000 costs.

Guardian:

The mayor of Tower Hamlets has been kicked out of office after being found guilty of widespread corruption in seeking office last May.

The mayoral election in the east London borough will be rerun after Lutfur Rahman and his supporters were found to have been involved in vote-rigging, seeking spiritual influence through local imams, and wrongly branding his Labour rival a racist.

Rahman, who has been banned from seeking office again, was also found to have allocated local grants to buy votes.

Judge Richard Mawrey QC handed down his verdict on Thursday after a 10-week hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice.

A group of four residents had called for last May’s mayoral election, in which Rahman triumphed over Labour rival John Biggs, to be declared void and rerun.

Rahman – who is Britain’s first directly-elected Muslim mayor – won the ballot after a campaign of “intimidation and corruption”, the petitioners alleged.

Mawrey was asked to consider if the election was fraudulent and should be rerun. If Rahman was found to be responsible, he faced being banned from office.

The mayor denied the allegations, which he dismissed as cynical and politically motivated.

During the course of the hearing, the court heard evidence from a handwriting expert that hundreds of ballot papers carried marks suggesting they could have been filled out by the same person.

Muslim voters were told it would be “un-Islamic” not to support Rahman in last May’s ballot, it was alleged during the hearing.

Rahman was also accused of making false statements about the personal character of Biggs. The Bangladesh-born mayor was accused of “undue influence” by “means of spiritual influence” during the campaign and on polling day.

It was claimed that a Bengali newspaper, The Weekly Desh, published a letter signed by 101 Islamic leaders which was “intended to have undue influence on the Muslim population of the borough”, Hoar said. Their pronouncements had been used to cajole and control many within the local 65,000-strong Muslim community, it was claimed.

The court heard that one of the petitioners saw a voter crying outside a polling station after allegedly being told by a supporter of Rahman that it was “un-Islamic” not to vote for him, and that if you did not vote for him you were “not a good Muslim”.

Bribes were also used to win over voters, the court heard, with meals given out on election day. Hoar said that there was evidence of “interference with voters” – including in polling booths.

Rahman won the poll in the first round of the election, with 43%, and Biggs was second on 33%. In the runoff round he beat the Labour candidate by 52.7% to 47.7%.

The long-awaited verdict comes after the communities secretary, Eric Pickles, ordered a team of commissioners to ensure the council is properly run after a PwC report last year found it flouted spending rules.

Pickles took control of key functions of administration when he appointed three commissioners to oversee grant-giving, appointments, property deals and the administration of future elections in the borough.

Other functions such as education, social care provision, street cleaning, housing and homelessness services are unaffected by this move.

Rahman denied any wrongdoing in council spending, as well as the allegations surround last year’s mayoral election.

Where are they now?

Bob Pitt:  Livingstone and Galloway rail against ongoing ‘witch hunt’ of Lutfur Rahman.

and  The smear campaign against Lutfur Rahman is an insult to democracy.

Seumas Milne, “The Muslim mayor of Tower Hamlets, the former Labour councillor Lutfur Rahman – often described as “extremist-linked” in the media – has been the target of a new media onslaught. No wrongdoing has been uncovered, including by the police.

And John Rees:

And how could we forget?

Oppose Islamophobic witch hunt against Lutfur Rahman in Tower Hamlets. Socialist Worker.

 

Update:  Met considers criminal inquiry into Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman

Rahman is told to vacate post immediately after election court judge finds him guilty of widespread corruption in seeking office last May.

The mayoral election in the east London borough will be rerun after Lutfur Rahman and his supporters were found to have been involved in vote-rigging, seeking spiritual influence through local imams and wrongly branding his Labour rival a racist.

Rahman, who has been banned from seeking office again, was also found to have allocated local grants to buy votes. He was ordered to pay immediate costs of £250,000 from a bill expected to reach £1m.

Note this:

Azmal Hussain, a petitioner who said he would have lost his Brick Lane businesses if they had lost the case, dismissed claims that the judgment would be seen as racist.

“The people who have really suffered are ordinary people of all races who were supposed to accept corruption because it comes from someone claiming to be against racism. It is corruption, pure and simple, and it should be challenged,” he said.

 

More:

We concentrate on the wider political implications of this, particularly for the left.

A very well-informed source – indispensable in fact – on Tower Hamlets and its politics is  Trial by Jeory.  Latest post:  Tower Hamlets election court: Judge Richard Mawrey QC’s full ruling

Written by Andrew Coates

April 23, 2015 at 12:58 pm

Charlie Hebdo Seminar in Queens University Belfast Cancelled Amid Fears for “Reputation” and “Security”.

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Can we Laugh About Everything? Not if Universities Have their Way.

This story broke yesterday but just how rotten the reasons given by the ‘University’ are are only just sinking in.

The decision to cancel a conference in Belfast on the fallout from the Charlie Hebdo murders in France has been labelled “a bitter irony”.

The event had been scheduled for Queen’s University, Belfast, in June.

Vice chancellor Patrick Johnston said he cancelled because of the security risk and concerns for QUB’s reputation.

But two academics who had been booked to speak said it was ironic that an event about free speech should be called off in this way.

Self censorship was one of the themes of the conference.

Professor Max Silverman from Leeds University told BBC NI’s Good Morning Ulster: “It is deeply ironic that what was going on in Paris this year to do largely with freedom of speech is actually being replicated by the university itself.

“There is a bitter irony in that the ability to discuss these topics has been taken away from us by this university decision.

“If you cannot discuss these sensitive issues in a university then I don’t know where you can discuss them. I do fear for what we value most in our democracies.”

Prof Silverman said the cancelled conference was now getting much more publicity but “for all the wrong reasons”.

‘Baffled and dismayed’

“Queen’s University has a wonderful reputation. It is a very prestigious institution. I don’t think this is going to enhance that reputation at all,” he said.

Dr Brian Klug from Oxford said he was both “baffled and dismayed” by the decision to cancel.

“Organising this was an admirable initiative and I cannot understand why the university has pulled the rug out from under their feet,” he said.

“We really don’t know what the vice chancellor was worried about. We haven’t been told what that security risk consists of. I think we are all owed an explanation.”

Dr Klug said that not only was it not the role of the university to stop freedom of speech, but it was “the responsibility of academia to respond to complex international conflicts in a constructive analytical way”.

The symposium: Understanding Charlie: New perspectives on contemporary citizenship after Charlie Hebdo, had been due to be hosted by QUB’s Institute for Collaborative Research in the Humanities.

Twelve people died when two brothers, Said and Cherif Kouachi, fired on the journalists on 7 January at the satirical magazine’s offices in Paris.

Five others were killed over the two following days by one of their associates.

Padraig Reidy in Little Atoms provides essential background.

The Vice Chancellor of Queen’s University Belfast, Patrick Johnston, was today criticised after the cancellation of an academic symposium on the fallout from the Charlie Hebdo murders.

The symposium: Understanding Charlie: New perspectives on contemporary citizenship after Charlie Hebdo, was due to be hosted in June by QUB’s Institute for Collaborative Research in the Humanities. But delegates, including Oxford University philosopher Brian Klug were informed via email on Monday (20 April) that the event would not go ahead.

The email informed speakers: “The Vice Chancellor at Queen’s University Belfast has made the decision just this morning that he does not wish our symposium to go ahead. He is concerned about the security risk for delegates and about the reputation of the university.”

Doctor Klug said this morning he is “baffled” and “dismayed” by the decision.

“I don’t understand either of his concerns. The second – the reputation of the university – strikes me as ironic, as his action does not exactly reflect well on Queens,” he told Little Atoms via email.

More on Little Atoms.

Nick Cohen has commented on this story,

The Vice Chancellor at Queen’s – one Paul Johnston –  cancelled the discussion yesterday because he was “concerned about the security risk for delegates and about the reputation of the university.”

What to make of his cowardice?

The most obvious point is that senior academics now see suppression of debate as a means of protecting “the reputation of the university”. Freedom of thought and open argument, once the best reasons for having universities, are now threats which must be neutered.

Second, it is now not only difficult or impossible to satirise Islam because of fear of violence, it is becoming difficult or impossible in British universities to discuss the actual violence. Not only can you not show Charlie Hebdo cartoons, you cannot talk about the motives of the men who murdered the cartoonists. Third, although he cannot prove this, Walsh suspects that there was no real security risk, just the possibility that someone’s feelings would be hurt when he and others unequivocally condemned the murderers of cartoonists and Jews. The possibility that someone will or may hear an argument he or she does not like is now enough to justify censorship.

Finally, Queen’s has made the vice-chancellors and academics protesting against the Conservatives’ plans to ban Islamists look like perfect fools and utter hypocrites. If universities censor learned debates on Islamism, how can they possibly deny the state the right to censor Islamists?

The beloved martyr Charb’s book Lettre aux escrocs de l’islamophobie qui font le jeu des racistes has been extensively commented on in the English speaking media.

There is a very fine article today in the Independent today:

Charlie Hebdo editor’s final book: ‘Letter to the Islamophobia Frauds Who Play into the Hands of Racists’.

This is worth underlining,

Stéphane Charbonnier was a cartoonist and writer. He was a supporter of the French Communist Party. And while, under his editorship, Charlie Hebdo aggressively poked fun at Catholicism and Judaism as well as radical Islam, his book – published in France last week – is a passionate rejection of the allegations that, under his editorship, Charlie Hebdo was “racist” or “Islamophobic”.

In the book, Charb, as he was always known, defends his publication of cartoons mocking radical Islam and caricaturing (but never mocking) the Prophet Mohamed. He argues – from a left-wing, anti-racist, militantly secular viewpoint – that the word “Islamophobia” is a trap, set by an unholy alliance of Muslim radicals and the unthinking, liberal Western media. The real issue, he says, is racism and Charlie Hebdo was never racist…

The Indy’s article is essential reading.

And in French there’s more: EXCLUSIF. Le testament de Charb

Tué il y a trois mois, le directeur de “Charlie Hebdo” venait d’achever un livre où il répondait aux accusations d’islamophobie pesant sur son journal. “L’Obs” en publie aujourd’hui les extraits.

 https://i1.wp.com/cdn-parismatch.ladmedia.fr/var/news/storage/images/media/images/charia-hebdo/517440-1-fre-FR/charia-hebdo_inside_full_content_pm_v8.jpg

1o0 Lashes of the Whip if you don’t just Die Laughing.

Ken Livingstone Backs Naz Shah in Bradford as Galloway Faces Serious Challenge.

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Ken Livingstone backing Naz Shah in Bradford.

Has George Galloway met his match in Bradford West?

Parveen Akhtar

Extracts.

“Shah caught the public imagination by writing about her difficult personal life. She grew up poor and at times destitute after her father left her pregnant mother and two children for the neighbours’ 16-year-old daughter. Shah was then sent to Pakistan by her mother, who feared for her safety; there, she was forced into an arranged marriage at the age of 15. Her mother, meanwhile, suffered abuse at the hands of another man, who she ended up poisoning to death.

Shah’s journey into politics is a far cry from the PPE-at-Oxford template of the traditional upper-middle-class career politician. With this powerful story and the Labour Party political machine behind her, she is Galloway’s only credible opponent in the election.

“Galloway still has a following in Bradford West, and, as he is fond of pointing out, it’s an international one: “They’re watching this contest from Manhattan to Gaza, from Mirpur to Baghdad. They’re watching the result of this election all over the world.”

Dogged loyalists

“Galloway still has a following in Bradford West, and, as he is fond of pointing out, it’s an international one: “They’re watching this contest from Manhattan to Gaza, from Mirpur to Baghdad. They’re watching the result of this election all over the world.”

But on April 13, former Respect councillor Mohammad Shabbir released a statement announcing that he had joined the Labour Group within Bradford council. He stated that “Respect (George Galloway) is a party of one and sadly it will remain so.”

“At the end of the first hustings, an apparent Respect supporter who had heckled from the side-lines throughout asked Naz Shah a question as she was leaving for the night:

“Who will be dancing in the streets if your party wins – the Israelis or the Palestinians?”

“Human beings will,” she replied.

“Your leader’s a bacon-eating Zionist!” came the reply.

Shah responded: “Half of England eats bacon. I can’t decide my policies by that.”

 

 

Top New Statesman Writer, Francois-Cerrah, Spits on Charb and the Charlie Martyrs’ Graves.

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Charb: Took Advantage of Own Death to Make Money, Says New Statesman Writer.

M Francois-Cerrah

Myriam Francois-Cerrah

New Statesman writer; FL journo; Oxford PhD researcher; France, MENA, postcoloniality. Views=own. http://journalisted.com/myriam-francois-cerrah

 

 

These are some extracts (adapted)  from the book she is referring to:

“Racism and not of Islamophobia“The term ‘Islamophobia’ is badly chosen to designate the hatred that some cretins have of Muslims. It is not only badly chosen but it is also also  dangerous.”Charb wrote:”Communitarian activists try to impose on the judicial and political authorities the notion of ‘Islamophobia’. This has no other purpose than to push the victims of racism to assert that they are Muslims (…) If tomorrow all French Muslims converted to Catholicism or abandoned their religion, this would not change the main racist discourse: that foreigners or those who are French but of foreign origin are and will be always be held responsible for every kind of fault. “

“The Qu’ran or the Bible does not read like Ikea assembly instructions”

If he criticised the term “Islamophobia” Charb recognised that there is indeed a fear of Islam. But if this worry is “absurd”, it “is not a crime,” he said.

“The problem is not the Koran or the Bible, which are sleep-inducing, incoherent and poorly written novels. The problem comes from a believer who reads the Qur’an or the Bible as if they were the instructions of an Ikea shelf-kit.”

The author also believed that racist speech was unclenched under the presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy and his ‘debate’ on national identity:

“When the highest  authority in the State said (in effect) to every moron and fool, “say what you want, you lot’, what do you think these morons and fool will do? They began to say out loud what they had been content to yell at the end of every, well-oiled, family meal. “

 Francois-Cerrah has a very different book on the “soporific” romance of the Qur’an.

“The Qur’an was pivotal for me. I first tried to approach it in anger, as part of an attempt to prove my Muslim friend wrong. Later I began reading it with a more open mind. The opening of Al-Fatiha, with its address to the whole of mankind, psychologically stopped me in my tracks. It spoke of previous scriptures in a way which I both recognised, but also differed. It clarified many of the doubts I had about Christianity. It made me an adult as I suddenly realised that my destiny and my actions had consequences for which I alone would now be held responsible. In a world governed by relativism, it outlined objective moral truths and the foundation of morality. As someone who’d always had a keen interest in philosophy, the Qur’an felt like the culmination of all of this philosophical cogitation. It combined Kant, Hume, Sartre and Aristotle. It somehow managed to address and answer the deep philosophical questions posed over centuries of human existence and answer its most fundamental one, ‘why are we here?'”

We knew that she is one of the brigade of vultures who said of flocked around the attack on Charlie.

As she wrote in the New Statesman on January the 9th.

….they mocked the sacred symbols of many groups, but those of Muslims on a particularly frequent basis and in a distinctly racialised tone.

Not that this should ever warrant a violent response, but the eulogising of the magazine for some sort of mastery of European satirical tradition is a white wash of its chequered history as well as a capitulation to a simplistic narrative of “you’re either with the racist satirists or you’re with the terrorists”.

In weasel words she continued,

We must ensure slogans of solidarity become more than just narrow and questionable support for the targeted publication and instead provide resistance to all those voices which seek to divide France, to entrench camps and harden the already worrying divides.

Poor old Francois-Cerrah…..

Just couldn’t resist another dig at the corpses of our martyrs.

More on Charb’s much more interesting book:

A book written by the late editor of French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, Stephane Charbonnier – known as Charb – is set to be published posthumously.

The book, which upholds the right to ridicule religion, was finished two days before Charb was killed by Islamic militants in January, publishers say.

It argues that the fight against racism is being replaced by a misguided struggle against “Islamophobia”.

Charb and 11 others were killed during a Charlie Hebdo editorial meeting.

The attack on the Paris offices of the newspaper was carried out by two brothers, Said and Cherif Kouachi, who were later shot dead by police.

Charb had received numerous death threats following Charlie Hebdo’s publication of cartoons featuring the Prophet Muhammad in 2006. The magazine’s offices were firebombed in 2012.

Charb’s book – which goes on sale on Thursday – is entitled An Open Letter to the Fraudsters of Islamophobia who Play into Racists’ Hands.

It is both a defence of Charlie Hebdo’s editorial stance and an attack on the paper’s detractors.

“The suggestion that you can laugh at everything, except certain aspects of Islam, because Muslims are much more prickly that the rest of the population – what is that, if not discrimination?”

He condemns this position as “white, left-wing bourgeois intellectual paternalism”.

BBC.

There is also this, just out, on the book which was being written before the massacre at Charlie Hebdo and the Hyper-Casher supermarket:

 

Written by Andrew Coates

April 16, 2015 at 12:19 pm

George Galloway Welcomed with Joy in Palestine and Across the World – as he Follows Ian Donovan.

with 10 comments

I think Netanyahu and the entire Zionist movement wants me to lose; don’t you? #BradfordWestRising #CityOfGold.

Rosie says most of what us lot have to say, “Why aren’t the gutters of Bradford running with streams of urine as people double over hooting at the bombast and sheer grossness of this garbage?”.

Galloway remains worried….

Henry Trojan Hoax Jackson Society have simple agenda; witch-hunt Muslims and defend Israel. They have two horses in Bradford.

From Twitter.

 

But Galloway has one new friend:

George Galloway followed . 12hr.

Editor Communist Explorations – journal/website. Long-time Marxist and left-wing activist. RESPECT member and advocate of principled…

https://abs.twimg.com/hashflags/2015_uk_elections/respectparty.png

Donovan had 32 followers.

Now he has 33.

The Weekly Worker, 18.9.2014.

The September 14 meeting of Left Unity’s Communist Platform saw a parting of the ways with a member of its steering committee, Ian Donovan. This followed comrade Donovan’s espousal of views that can only be described as anti-Semitic: in his opinion, there is a Jewish “pan-national bourgeoisie”, which has constituted itself as ruling class “vanguard” in key imperialist countries, and it is this that accounts for US support for Israel. Donovan says he intends to write a book laying out this ‘theory’ in detail.

Once this line of thinking had been fully revealed to other members of the steering committee, they urged him to step down from the CP. When he refused, the September 14 members’ meeting was called, which had before it a motion from comrades Jack Conrad and Moshé Machover stating that anti-Semitism is “incompatible with membership of the Communist Platform”.

 If you really want to see first-hand how mad Galloway’s new best friend, Ian Donovan, is read (or skim) this:

Weekly Worker still refuses to condemn Galloway assault: bans criticism.

Phil Kent (19 March), trying to fill in for the failure of more substantial figures such as Jack Conrad to justify the Jewish-Zionist chauvinism that pervades the CPGB’s practice, indulges in religious fetishism. He writes that I am blinded by ‘red mist’, so angry at the slaughter and abuse of the Palestinians as to excuse ‘holocaust deniers’. It’s much worse than that, Phil. Thanks to the use of the Nazi genocide (a.k.a. “Holocaust”) as a propaganda trump card to justify murder and ethnic cleaning of Arabs by Jews, large numbers of Arabs and a minority of principled anti-racists of Jewish origin, are so angered that they are inclined to disbelieve not only the instrumentalism of the genocide, but the event itself.

“Throwing the baby out with the bathwater” is a common mistake in instances where a poisonous mixture of truth and lies about history is used to justify contemporary crimes. The reaction of many to Stalinism is a case in point. It is a commonplace that such things need to be debated fearlessly. But Phil opposes this for Israel and the genocide. He regards the latter as like the Holy Grail.

This is because of his pro-Zionist chauvinism, which he learned from his guru Jack Conrad.  JC, understanding little of the Middle East and the Jewish Question, defers to would-be ‘Marxist’ promoters of identity politics (Jewish identity as something ‘progressive’ in a transcendental sense), such as Machover and Greenstein. These people vote with their feet against the CPGB’s ‘party project’ – simply by failing to join it or any other ‘Leninist’ party. Thus the ‘party’ has no independent view of the Middle East, possibly the most strategic conflict in the world today, but depends on nebulous ‘sympathisers’. Lenin would have been quite scathing about this.

Phil is saying : ‘Don’t get too angry about Arabs being massacred by Jews, because Jews are more important than Arabs in the scheme of things anyway. If you get too angry about Arabs dying, that is a terrible thing, that leads to ‘anti-semitism”, and questioning of the holocaust.”

And so it goes, including attacks on Moshe Machover for having a “Harry’s Place style Jewish chauvinist position.”

 Update: Galloway Supporters Go for Glory!

Via Harry’ s (Jackson) Place.

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Should We Ditch Multiculturalism? Response to Kenan Malik.

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Kurdish Fighters for Humanity.

Should We Ditch Multiculturalism?

The 100th Anniversary of the genocide of the Armenians was on Sunday the 5th of April. Le Monde reminded us that it “was in the name of Jihad that the Ottoman Empire entered the war against the Entente on the 1st of November 1914. It was also in the name of Holy War that the massacre of the Armenian Christians took place.” (Génocide des Arménians. Gaïdz Minassian. 4.4.15).

Few will need reminding of the echoes Minassian’s words evoke today. On Sunday Pope Francis and Justin Welby the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke to a much larger audience than their religious constituencies when they deplored the exactions Christians faced across the world today. The carefully weighed dignity of these speeches does not need underlining. Their martyrs are humanity’s martyrs.

Another intervention was made on Sunday by Kenan Malik in the Observer (Diversity and Immigration are not the problem. Political courage is. 5.4.15). Malik is not afraid to confront the issue of Jihadism. While most Muslims are integrated and “proud to be British” (83%) there is a problem. He writes that official multiculturalism is based on the idea of constructing Britain as a “community of communities”. The resulting state strategy pushes people into boxes, “as if each were distinct homogeneous whole”. In this move, the “most conservative figures came to be accepted as the authentic voice of minority groups.” Government run multiculturalism has fostered a “parochial sense of identity”. In these conditions “a small group of Muslims”, have found an “identity and an authentic Islam in Islamism.”

The Observer article describes another form of identity politics in the rise of UKIP. Some of Farage’s supporters (not least his activists) are “hard-line racists”. But the party’s wider support comes “from people whose hostility towards immigrants or Islam is shaped less by old-fashioned racism than by a newfangled sense of fear and insecurity.” “Euroscepticism, nationalism, opposition to immigration and populism” have a strong appeal for the ‘left behind’, the “disadvantaged and economically secure” as Robert Ford and Matthew Goodwin have argued (Revolt on the Right. Explaining Support for the Radical Right in Britain. 2014).

Malik explains this in terms of his criticism of multiculturalism, “Once class identity comes to be seen as a cultural attribute, then those regarded as culturally different have come to be viewed as threats.” The ‘Polish builder’ or the ‘Bangladeshi neighbour’ come to symbolise the menacing forces of globalisation.

Despite the appeal of this picture it is not at all clear that one can explain the attraction of Jihadism in purely British terms. Every European country has a different set of policies towards communities of immigrant origin. France has, to say the least, not adopted multiculturalism. There are nevertheless Islamists, from a spectrum that goes from ‘conservatives’ (the polite British way of saying reactionary when it comes to Islamic politics) aligned to the Muslim Brotherhood and other groups, a variety of Salafist forces, to those (crossing over to) active Jihadists. Those recruited to fight for the Islamic State, Daesh, come from across the continent, and from elsewhere. This includes North Africa, including democratic Tunisia, countries whose politics and culture are criss-crossed with Europe’s.

Like Jihadism the rise of UKIP cannot be explained in purely British terms. The strong vote for the French Front National in the country’s elections has indicated a similar ‘left behind’ constituency. Identical language is used to explain the FN’s support in France: a protest at “post-industrial society” a loss of references, a wounded nationalism. (Le FN perce dans de nouveaux territories. Le Monde. 25.3.15.)

Malik has already tied these themes together. In A search for identity draws jihadis to the horrors of Isis, he argued in March,

Identity politics has, over the last three decades, encouraged people to define themselves in increasingly narrow ethnic or cultural terms. A generation ago, “radicalised” Muslims would probably have been far more secular in their outlook and their radicalism would have expressed itself through political organisations. Today, they see themselves as Muslim in an almost tribal sense, and give vent to their disaffection through a stark vision of Islam.

These developments have shaped not just Muslim self-perception but that of most social groups. Many within white working-class communities are often as disengaged as their Muslim peers, and similarly see their problems not in political terms but through the lens of cultural and ethnic identity. Hence the growing hostility to immigration and diversity and, for some, the seeming attraction of far-right groups.

Racist populism and radical Islamism are both, in their different ways, expressions of social disengagement in an era of identity politics.

There are specific influences at work in Britain. In From Fatwa to Jihad. The Rushdie Affair and its Legacy (2009) Malik filled in the details about how “conservative figures” came to be seen as leaders of Muslim communities. It was protests against Salmon Rushdie’s Satanic Verses. “What it really catalysed was a transformation of Islamism in Britain. The Rushdie affair provided an opportunity to bring order to the chaos of the fissiparous Islamist landscape – and for Islamists to stake a claim for the leadership of British Muslims and to present themselves as their true representatives.”(Page 123)

If Malik asserts that today’s jihadists are ‘estranged’ from their communities, others would argued that there are overlaps between these forms of Islamist politics and the violence of Al-Queda and ISIS. Awareness of the differences between the different strands of these movements should not prevent us from noting that some groups function as ‘paserelles’ between open and clandestine Islamism. Above all the emphasis on this form of religious politics, by definition identitarian, exclusive and intolerant, indicates a constituency for the central demands of rule by the Qur’an and the Sharia alone – the core of violent jihad. The Islamist project has taken the form of areas in which the ‘Sharia’ is enforced in a limited territory, to the ambition to restore a much large ‘Caliphate’. In Europe the practice of Islamists, notably Salafists, has been to attempt to create their own ‘micro-powers’  in which their form of ‘justice’ is preached, and, if possible put into practice.

Islamism and the Left.

A lot of water has passed under the bridge since the publication of the Satanic Verses. But one issue has remained constant: demands for “group right.” The response of British Muslims to the massacres at Charlie Hebdo and the Kosher Supermarket were in general restrained. The small number of Moslems who raised calls in the name of this right to ban offence to the image of the Prophet marched to general indifference. They had little of the impact of the Rushdie protests – not least, as the British state does not seem at present anxious to recognise their ‘leadership’. It was left to self-proclaimed liberals and socialists to make the loudest clamour about the weekly’s ‘racist’ and ‘pornographic’ cartoons.

Why is this? As Michael Walzer has remarked, (Islamism and the Left. Dissent. Winter 2015.)

I frequently come across leftists who are more concerned with avoiding accusations of Islamophobia than they are with condemning Islamist zealotry. This is an odd position with relation to the Muslim world today, but it makes some sense in Western Europe and possibly also in America, where Muslims are recent immigrants, the objects of discrimination, police surveillance, sometimes police brutality, and popular hostility. I have heard Muslims called the “new Jews.” That’s not a helpful analogy, since Muslims in today’s Western Europe have never been attacked by Christian crusaders, expelled from one country after another, forced to wear distinctive dress, barred from many professions, and slaughtered by Nazis. In fact, right now, some Muslim militants are among the chief purveyors of anti-Semitism in Europe (they get a lot of help from neo-fascists in France and Germany and other countries, too.

He continues,

All these left responses to Islamist zealots—identification, support, sympathy, apology, tolerance, and avoidance—look very strange if we consider the actual content of their ideology. Jihadi opposition to “the West” should provoke serious worry on the left before any other response. Boko Haram began with an attack on “Western-style” schools, and other Islamist groups have undertaken similar attacks, especially on schools for girls. Values that the zealots denounce as “Western” are very much in contention here: individual liberty, democracy, gender equality, and religious pluralism.

And makes this telling point,

But individual liberty, democracy, gender equality, and religious pluralism aren’t really Western values; they are universal values that first appeared in strong, modern versions in Western Europe and the Americas. These are the values that pretty much define the left, which also first appeared in its strong, modern version in Western Europe and the Americas. The left is an eighteenth-century invention, an invention of the secular Enlightenment.

Without following the argument in details an important response has to be made to Walzar’s critic, Andrew March, who notes this,

A first dimension is a consideration of the way the Islamist challenge to post-Enlightenment left principles might cause those on the liberal left to rethink their core commitments. The model here is Marx’s critique of bourgeois rights in “On the Jewish Question,” the ur-text for all subsequent leftist skepticism about formal rights, legal equality, and individual negative freedom. There are, of course, hard and soft versions of this. A hard version dismisses rights and parliamentary democracy tout court as bourgeois fictions that obstruct rather than advance emancipation. A softer version merely cautions us against seeing the achievement of rights, representative democracy, and negative freedoms as the final victory rather than as a necessary first step toward deeper forms of freedom and solidarity.

Speaking as somebody from the ‘real left’ (apparently something these academics are fond of arguing the toss about) I agree with Walzer. I have no truck with ‘post-Enlightenment’ readings of human rights. I will stop following March’s argument at this point to make this clear, Marx’s early writings, strongly influenced by the notion that ’emancipation’ was something ‘beyond’ the individualism of bourgeois society, failed to grapple with their enduring material appeal. But the issue of the value of rights was taken up by the 19th century left and embodied in the programmes of many parties, including one of the most dogmatic, the Parti Ouvrier Français (founded 1880). Marx’s later writings include sterling defences of human rights, as Robin Blackburn’s An Unfinished Revolution: Karl Marx and Abraham Lincoln (2011) indicates. They show a separation between right and power – the demands for what should be, and the actual state or government called on to deliver these declared needs. Embodied, or crystalised in substantial form, they are the backbone of the socialist and social democratic movement – as the fight over the British Welfare State demonstrates.

This applies equally to the ‘imperialist’ powers and the Islamic pro-states, to capitalism and to the (former) Stalinist regimes. Walzer emphasises Islamism for the obvious reason that it offers no possible mechanism for the translation of universal rights into power. March’s other arguments fall apart because they do not look at the importance this now holds for international politics and for the left. They are perhaps the best existing example to show that Claude Lefort’s description of a ‘totalitarian society’ as the ‘People as One’ is seriously flawed. The Islamist apparatus of power-knowledge, of surveillance, of discipline and punishment,  is the People Under the Vice-Regenency of God ( L’Invention démocratique,1981). Demands for human rights sound the trumpet of their defeat.

The flaws of the left’s position on Islam were dramatically shown in the way concern about Islamopobia has been allowed to over-ride support for democratic universal rights It is not only been the unedifying spectacle of those still trying to fish for Moslem souls for their groupuscules. The response to the massacres at Charlie Hebdo and the Hyper-Casher tainted the left up its intellectual pinnacles. New Left Review has put on its website virulent attacks on French laïcité that evoke memories of the hatred of secularists – ‘laïcards’ – and Republican universalism expressed pre-Great War by Action française. Perhaps it is no coincidence that some of the Review’s authors are associated with the American Counterpunch which has seen fit to publish material questioning the innocence of Dreyfus….

Our Response.

It a different response it is important that the left responds firmly to the ‘fear and insecurity’ created by violent Islamism. This is not because of UKIP supporters’ ‘concerns’: it is to stand up for our sisters and brothers in every country where Jihadists threaten them. Few people on the left will deny that Western intervention in the Middle East has been a disaster. The UK government’s appeal to ‘British values’, apart from sounding hollow, is not an answer to a global problem. Freedom and democracy, fighting oppression and exploitation, have universal appeal. It is urgent that we stand with those fighting Islamism, and its foreign supporters, on the ground, above the heroic struggle of the Kurdish people. There is little clearer than this battle: rights and equality against genocide and slavery. These principles and objectives, which are secular and uniting, releasing us from communalist boxes, are the only ones which can confront Islamism and UKIP and the rightward – xenophobic – moving political landscape.

Malik notes the decline of the “economic and political power of the working class”. But the labour movement, in the broad sense, still has some substance in Britain. It is up to up those who are part of it to make its weight felt. Tackling austerity, bring people together for a programme of social advance may help make inroads into the constituency of the left behind. Should we then, to bolster our politics, drop all reference to multiculturalism – or more exactly the institutional policies of ‘community relations’ in the UK? Ought we instead “defend diversity and immigration”? There is little doubt that official multiculturalism is bogged down in the type of politics that has fed reactionary identity politics. But multicultural facts are not to be opposed. That in this sense it operates as  simply another word for diversity.

It’s hard to see Malik’s demands making their way to party manifestos, or onto demonstration placards. It is also far from obvious that this response that will be able to influence the wider public, left alone official policy. But there are hopeful signs for a broader change in politics that may contribute to giving them some substance.

The disgust many feel at the failure of some on the left to take a stand in favour of the anti-racist anti-fascist Charlie Hebdo, not to mention on the public murders of our Bangladeshi comrades by Islamists, the groundswell in favour of backing our Kurdish sisters and brothers, show some basis for a different approach. Diversity and the defence of immigration are part of that stand. Pro-European and world-wide internationalism another. We shall honour the martyrs by this fight. We will not let their deaths pass in silence.