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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.

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.

On the Ambiguities of ‘Islamophobia'; Debate Launched by Yves Colman and AWL.

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The supplement Anti-semitism and anti-Muslim racism in Europe, by Yves Colman (from Ni patrie ni frontières) is published by the Alliance of Workers’ Liberty. It is essential reading.

These are some comments on one section,  About the ambiguities of the “Islamophobia” concept.

The original title is perhaps more forthright: De l’usage réactionnaire de la notion d’« islamophobie » par certains sociologues de gauche et… Amnesty International. It is also, Yves notes, “a slightly different and longer version”. In French he refers to, for example, to claims about ‘hypersensitive’ Jews, by  French academic, Olivier Esteves (joint author of De l’invisibilité à l’islamophobie : Les musulmans britanniques (1945-2010) with  Gérard Noiriel. 2011).  I doubt if anybody outside of France would be greatly  interested in Esteves, although Yves’s annoyance at the use the writer makes of Maxime Rodinson would be shared by many on the left in the scores of countries where Rodinson’s works on Islam are read and appreciated.

This, nevertheless,  suggests a wider point. The political and cultural bearings of any discussion about Islamophobia – and anti-Semitism – are different in France and Britain. This is not just that different writers can be, or need to be, cited, but   that there are some deeper distinctions. Not only has continental Europe a more direct exprience of the history of the consequences of anti-Semitism, but France has a distinct relation to Islam (North African colonialism was more ‘immediate’ than, say the Raj), and a much stronger secular and radical left, which is hostile to the kind of religiously inspired fudging of these issues that exists in the UK.

Much of this may be well-known, but it is less appreciated in the UK, and elsewhere, just how far a large chunk of the French left just does not accept the same premises on these topics. It is  doubtless partly due to the efforts of groups like the SWP, who systematically turn reports on France to fit their own ‘line’, but also from other groups, who are themselves aligned with the various (minority) French groups who make up such bodies as the Collectif contre l’Islamophobie.

We have to begin, then,  by noting that in France, to a much greater degree than in the English-speaking world, the concept of ‘Islamophobia’ remains contested, above all on the anti-racist left. Houda Asal observes that it remains “champ de bataille ” (Battle field). That is, as a political issue of great importance, its content remains to be clearly defined (Contretemps). Above all, she notes, the identification of Islamophobia (a term she backs, as a supporter of the group cited above) as a form of racism, has met with sustained objections amongst important sections of the French left. A variety of objections have been made to the word, not least by important French left parties, such as the Parti de gauche of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who are firm secularists and fear a restriction on their right to criticise reactionary religious politics.  Apart from the obvious point that faith is not in the genes, this runs up against the idea that people can have their ideas challenged and that they should be free to leave their ‘birth’ religion. 

Yves Colman begins his article by giving some reasons why the word Islamophobia is not just ‘essentially contested’ but eminently contestable. This is is so not just in terms of French debates, but for the whole international left.

He begins,

I have tried not to use the word “Islamophobia” in this article and chose expressions like “anti-Muslim paranoia”, “anti-Arab”, “anti-African” and “anti-Muslim racism”, in line with what Sacha Ismail proposed in Solidarity.

Among many other reasons, I prefer not to use the word “islamophobia” for the following motives:

• The phenomenon involved is not a simple phobia (fear) but a paranoia, therefore much more serious than a simple fear;

• This concept is manipulated by Islamists and the 57 States of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to prevent any criticism both of political Islam and Islamic religion;

• It’s used by left militants and social scientists who refuse to criticise religion: for example, Clive D. Field 60 considers the rejection of sharia courts in Britain an “islamophobic” prejudice!

It remains to be seen if one can clearly distinguish paranoia and fear. Or, that there is any point in saying that because anybody intensely dislikes, say Boko Haram, they are imagining something about them.

Viewers of this week’s BBC 2 documentary Kill the Christians, might equally become fearful about Islamic religious intolerance and hatred towards non-Muslims.

It is hard to see what worse one could imagine about groups such as the Islamic State – Daesh.

Which is not to say that racists, of any stripe, are not capable of deluded fantasies about the objects of their loathing.

There are few more disgusting sights than listening to Nigel Farage speaking, and his views on Muslims are no exception.

UKIP is striking evidence of that – and spans a very wide variety of targets. ‘Populism’ in this case seems about very classical scapegoating, too simple in fact to need any sophisticated cultural, ideological/discourse analysis. However it does not have one clear target: it’s an heap of images, Polish, Gypsy, Muslim, Chavs, Africans, Caribbeans, idle British benefit claimants, Brussels,  single mothers, and, let’s not forget, the large Hindu and Sikh populations, to give a far from exhaustive summary.

But the deep rooted, all-embracing, hatred of one group has yet to take hold. There is not the obsessive loathing against Jews looked at in books such as Sartre’s  Réflexions sur la question juive (1946), with their institutional and political backing in National Socialism and other European extreme-rights, has yet to take hold in large sections of the population. There is no version of the Protocols featuring Muslim ‘Elders’. Éric Zemmour, who advocates expelling Muslims from Europe, does not lead a political party, even a groupuscule. 

These reservations should not obscure the principal point that  across Europe there is widespread intolerance against migrants and all ethnic minorities.

In this noxious mixture there are anti-Muslim strands.

How can this best be termed? Sacha Ismail’s list strikes me as right: there is “anti-Arab”, “anti-African” and “anti-Muslim racism” .  Though unfortunately one has to add a long list of other prejudices, xenophobic hatred, and biological racism to the tally. There is, though not at present of visible importance in Europe, intra-Muslim conflict, too well known to catalogue.

These qualifications said, Yves’s argument is extremely fruitful: it has implications for the left’s strategies to oppose this tide of prejudice.

The Left and ‘Islamophobia’.

As a first step we have to look at what we should not do. 

The line advanced in the pages of the Socialist Workers Party magazine, Socialist Review, by  Hassan Mahamdallie of the Muslim Institute (January 2015) gives some indications of very misleading approach.  (Resist the racist offensive against Muslims)

Mahamdallie works with this central premise,

Although the term “Islamophobia” is widely used to describe the phenomenon of hatred and discrimination against Muslims, we should regard it like other racisms as having historic roots, and a particular role to play in modern capitalist societies.

This is true in the west, whose governments are failing to deliver the needs of their working classes, whilst engaging in military interventions in regions they see as strategic. Muslims in the West are being used as scapegoats for a situation not of their making, and simultaneously being divided from the rest of the population, cast as alien, dangerous and thereby set apart from those with whom they have most in common.

‘Islamophobia’ is not at all reducible to the something that can be reduced to  a “function” or role in “scapegoating”. The expression is already flawed enough without this. But it’s the political consequences which Mahamdallie draws that are most ambiguous:

local initiatives include the vibrant campaign around the Trojan Horse affair in Birmingham; the work of activists to repulse the racialisation of child abuse “grooming” cases in towns such as Rotherham; and the defence of Tower Hamlets council and schools. This is a vital bulwark against Islamophobia, not only in demonstrating that Muslims can count on the support of others, but in radicalising a new generation of activists, Muslim and non-Muslim, who can feel that they can move from the defensive to the offensive, and by doing so making themselves active in changing the world around them for the better.

These are very far from clear issues. Anybody who ‘defends’ the Birmingham schools, to start with, is misled. Why Tower Hamlets Council leadership should be ‘defended’ without any qualification (or evidence in the courts) is equally questionable. Not to mention why the left should be deeply involved in the child abuse cases, which defy any kind of rational political intervention….

Indeed the words hornet’s nest barely cover the issues Mahamdallie baldly cites.

But, (we learn)

…there are bigger issues at stake, which means breaking out of the Good Muslim/Bad Muslim framework and championing the right of Muslims to practise their religion and to express themselves culturally and politically freely and without fear, to organise against war and injustice without suffering the fate of activists such as Moazzam Begg and to defend their communities and leadership without being labelled as “fundamentalist” conspirators.

It is natural that Britain’s Muslims should reach out for allies in this struggle. The responsibility falls on the wider movement against racism and imperialism, on trade unionists and socialists to actively demonstrate, without pre-conditions, that it will consistently unite with Muslims under attack. Only then can we begin to roll back the state repression and the bigotry and discrimination that are in danger of being embedded in British society.

No socialist can accept the phrase, “Without pre-conditions’, without, pre-conditions…..

We have just seen some reasons why; there are plenty of others.

Defending those who identify as Muslims, from racist assaults, is absolutely right, in general.

But what of  organised groups, political and religious associations? Every single Salafist? And is every individual to be backed? ‘Against’ the state, and ‘against’ what else? Every, well the word begins with a ‘J’……

There is a drift, ultimately, to the blanket ‘defence’ of every Muslim, which the SWP, and many on the left, make all too often – for all their ‘yes ISIS is terrible’ but…...

Yves notes, that Islamophobia is used, in this context above all, to protect a range of figures from criticism (from Islamists to ‘traditional’ leaders, ‘conservative’ – reactionary – clerics, academics and perhaps most important, would-be political leaders) , to encircle ‘The’ (as if there is ‘one’) Muslim ‘community’ and as Charlie Hebdo’s murdered Editor, Charb says, to encourage ‘identity’ against the ‘enemies’ of Islam (Lettre ouverte aux escrocs de l’islamophobie qui font le jeu des racistes. 2015(1)

Behind this is not a powerless body of migrants, but some wealthy and powerful countries, the 57 States of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

Does the left defend “without pre-conditions” all of these bodies?

Clearly not.

Multiculturalism. 

Yves takes us the critique of official multiculturalism”. He singles out

“….imaginary “communities” whose self-proclaimed representatives want to impose a “traditional” law on their cultural/religious group, we can’t just look away and forget the necessity of defending democratic rights for everyone… including Muslim workers.”

The comrade from Ni patrie ni frontières looks at Amnesty International’s report 63 (April 2012).

This asserts,

“States must take measures to protect women from being pressured or coerced by third parties to dress in certain ways, and in so far as social, cultural or religious norms prescribing dress codes are a reflection of discrimination against women, the state has a positive obligation to take steps to prevent such discrimination.”

He states,

Amnesty is right to criticise the discriminatory policies adopted by Western states: in the countries where the hijab ban has been implemented (outside Turkey and Tunisia, where these decisions were taken by Muslim governments), it has only served to expel young girls from the state-run, or “non-denominational” schools, which was a major setback; it has pushed them either to abandon their studies, or to follow long-distance education and remain isolated at home, and made them more vulnerable to (self-) indoctrination; and it has reinforced the influence of private schools and religious (Christian or Muslim) schools.

I disagree that the French law on wearing ostentatious religious symbols in schools is wrong. There is no reason why a public education system should be permitted to become a battleground in which personal religious symbolism, above all, religious standards of ‘modesty’ and ‘purity’, should be allowed to enter. The French concept of laïcité for all its obvious faults (notably, the failure to tackle class and other inequalities), nevertheless represent an advance in this area: schools should not be the place for the aggressive assertion of faith, either by the instructors, or by those trying to extend the  ‘micro-powers’ of religious observance.

To those who say that we not ‘defend’ the French state, I reply: schools are funded and run by the state. Unless you plan to take them away from the public authorities we are discussing about what should happen within them. Secularists want them to be secular. Obviously some on the left do not agree.

Anti-Semitism.

“The Islamophobia concept is sometimes used to counter the necessary struggle against anti-Semitism, the latter being presented, by the most extremists, as a “Zionist” tool to prevent any criticism against Israeli war crimes (see for example the opposition raised in the left by the working definition of anti-Semitism elaborated by an European Union commission which proposed to point the limits of anti-Zionism). “

In other words, everyone but the anti-Semites are responsible for…anti-Semitism.

There is another example of this in the  Parti des Indigènes de la République, and its leading figure Houria Bouteldja (admired by Verso Books and Richard Seymour amongst others).  Bouteldja has recently argued that there is a State philosemitism  in France (philosémitisme d’État). This state, apparently, ‘uses’ this, including the Shoah, as shields (boucliers idéologiques) to disguise its own racism. Thus, Arab anti-Semitism in France is…..a reaction to this State (racist) philosemitism. (François Calaret Combattre le philosémitisme » : impasse de l’antiracisme).

We wonder where this particular journey will end.

 In provisional conclusion: Yves Colman’s discussion and the major piece, Anti-semitism and anti-Muslim racism in Europe, are essential reading for everybody on the left. The AWL are to be congratulated on publishing it.

As the comrade says,

It’s never too late to recognise our errors and wage a clear fight against all forms of racism. For this we must understand their specificities, without negating the existence of any form of racism and without building an absurd hierarchy between them.

More articles by Yves on site Ni Patrie, Ni Frontières.

More on the increasingly overtly anti-Semitic  Parti des Indigènes de la République (PIR)Non au philosémitisme d’État » : un slogan indigne !  (Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l’amitié entre les peuples).

Update: RW points us to this translation of the speech that marked this turn by Houria Bouteldja, membre of PIR translated into English.

The most striking is this sentence, “Last question: what is it that prevents the « real left » from struggling against state philosemitism? I will answer unambiguously: the real left is itself, with a few exceptions, philosemitic.” (State racism(s) and philosemitism or how to politicise the issue of antiracism in France ?).

Yes, they like Jews those French leftists……

How awful.

(1) I am considerably more a “follower of the line of Charlie Hebdo” than Yves Colman.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 17, 2015 at 12:11 pm

Another Free-Thinking blogger hacked to death in Bangladesh – in Memoriam Beloved Washiqur Rahman.

with 5 comments

 Washiqur-Rahman

Beloved Washiqur Rahman.

Another blogger hacked to death in Bangladesh. Reports the Times of India.

DHAKA: A blogger was hacked to death in the Bangladesh capital on Monday, in the latest brutal attack on the country’s independent writers, a senior officer said. Police have arrested two men over the murder which comes just weeks after an American aethist blogger was also hacked to death in Dhaka, a crime that triggered international outrage, the officer said.

Bangladesh arrests chief suspect in US blogger murder “He was brutally hacked to death this morning with big knives just 500 yards (460 metres) from his home at Dhaka’s Begunbari area,” local police chief Wahidul Islam told AFP.

Islam said the men were arrested immediately after the attack trying to flee the scene.

Police said they were unsure whether the victim, Washiqur Rahman, 27, was also an atheist blogger but another social media writer said that he was known to write “against religious fundamentalism”.

“It appeared Rahman used to write using a penname Kutshit Hasher Chhana (Ugly Duckling),” Imran Sarker, head of Blogger and Online Activists Network in Bangladesh, told AFP.

“He was a progressive free thinker and was against religious fundamentalism,” he said.

Police have also arrested a suspect over the killing in February of American atheist writer and blogger Avijit Roy.

Roy was the second atheist blogger to have been murdered in the Muslim-majority country in the last two years and the fourth writer to have been attacked since 2004.

His killing sparked an uproar at home and abroad with hundreds of secular activists holding protests for days to demand justice.They also slammed the country’s secular government for not doing enough to protect humanist writers.

The Dhaka Tribune states,

“Two madrasa students have been detained for their alleged involvement with the killing

Blogger Washiqur Rahman has been hacked to death in the capital’s Dipika Mosque Lane in Tejgaon. Tejgaon Industrial Police OC Salauddin confirmed the Dhaka Tribune about the death. Deceased Washiqur, son of Tipu Sultan and Rehana Begum of Lakshmipur, lived in Begunbari area of Tejgaon. The incident happened just a month after the murder of secular blogger and science writer Avijit Roy. OC Salauddin said miscreants stabbed Washiqur mercilessly around 9am Monday. Locals took him to Dhaka Medical College Hospital where on-duty doctor declared him dead on arrival.

Blogger Washiqur Rahman. Photo: Collected

DMCH police outpost Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI) Md Sentu said the body was kept at the hospital morgue. He said none has come to claim Washiqur’s body as of 1:30pm. “His face has been distorted as the miscreants hacked him mainly on the face,” said OC Salauddin. Washiqur-Babu-Logical-Forum-Profile

Washiqur’s profile on Logical Forum

Meanwhile, police detained two madrasa students for their alleged involvement with the killing. Washiqur, known as Washiqur Babu on Facebook, was active on different blogging sites. He was also a member of Local Forum, an online discussion forum. On his Facebook account, Washiqur wrote several notes opposing irrational religious belief. WashiqurBabu-Facebook-Profile-Cover-Photo He was a admirer of another secular blogger Avijit Roy, who was killed by extremists in Dhaka one month ago. After Avijit’s killing, Washiqur paid tribute to him making his Facebook profile and cover photos with the text: #iamavijit and words cannot be killed. He was member of eight Facebook group pages including Atheist Bangladesh. The OC said he has been murdered in the same way like blogger Rajeeb Haider. Rajeeb, known as Thaba Baba in the blogging community, was hacked to death on February 15, 2013 near his Pallabi home. A US-based Bangladeshi, Avijit Roy was hacked to death near the TSC roundabout on DU campus on the evening of February 26. In the same attack, Avijit’s wife Rafida Ahmed Bonya, also an active blogger, got critically injured.” Latest Update from Bangladesh (Dhaka Tribune):

Two madrasa students have hacked blogger Oyasiqur Rahman to death for his writing against Islam. The killers are Zikrullah, 22, a student of Hathajari Madrasa in Chittagong and Ariful Islam, 22, student of Darul Ulum Madrasa, Mirpur 1 in Dhaka, said Biplop Kumar Sarker, deputy commissioner of Tejgaon Divison. Another killer Abu Taher managed to flee from the scene. No detail was found regarding him, the police official added. Zikrullah, son of Mainuddin, hailed from Raipura of Narsingdi and Ariful Islam, son of Tazul Islam, came from Barkawlia of Comilla. “They killed Oyasiqur for his writings against Islam,” the detained killers confessed to the police during primary interrogation.

One mastermind Masum is behind the killing, they also confessed, the police official said. On Sunday night, mastermind Masum, two madrasa students Zikrullah and Ariful Islam, and Abu Taher made plan, in a meeting at Hatirjheel in Dhaka, to kill Oyasiqur, said Biplop. Masum gave Zikrullah three machetes on Sunday night to complete the mission. Zikrullah became acquainted with Masum during traveling by train on way to Chittagong from Dhaka in last Ramadan while Ariful acquainted with Zikrullah in a mosque in Farmgate in the capital two months ago.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 30, 2015 at 12:32 pm

Loony Tunes Condemn Terror Laws for Creating ‘Witch-Hunt’ against Islam

with 16 comments

Muslim women who want to expose FEMEN for the Islamophobes/Imperialists that they are….

There are plenty of Loony Tunes who  back this, British Muslims condemn terror laws for creating ‘witch-hunt’ against Islam

Muslim community rejects the state’s criminalisation of Islam and condemns moves to silence legitimate critique and dissent. This joint statement expresses a position with respect to the ongoing demonisation of Muslims in Britain, their values as well as prominent scholars, speakers and organisations.

We, the undersigned imams, sheikhs, advocates, activists, community leaders, community organisations and student bodies of the Muslim community, make the following points in this regard.

So who are these people.

Some prominent cases.

The Muslim Action Forum (MAF).

“Google is world wide web Terrorist.”

Hizb ut-Tahrir : Caliphate only way for Stability in Middle East.

How right they are!

The ‘Islamic Human Rights Commission‘ who have just awarded the murdered staff of Charlie Hebodo ‘International Islamophobe of the year award’.

 People Mourn Murdered Charlie Staff: Same as Nazis Says Islamic ‘Human Rights’ Group. 

And, no doubt the jewel in the crown of the ‘prominent scholars’ we find this: “Sofia Ahmed, Muslim Women Against Femen.”

Islamic Human Rights Commission Dances on Murdered Charlie Hebdo Staff’s Graves.

with 19 comments

Same as Nazis Says Islamic ‘Human Rights’ Group. 

This came up on Facebook,

MURDERED CHARLIE HEBDO STAFF NAMED ‘INTERNATIONAL ISLAMOPHOBE OF THE YEAR’

We turn to the link on  and find, indeed this is the case:

IHRC’s Islamophobia awards.

There are also no prizes for guessing the winner of the “International” category.

The French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo which was the target of a murderous attack in January won the prize here for its continual stoking of Islamophobic sentiment by caricaturing Muslims as terrorists and ridiculing their beliefs.

Charlie Hebdo’s repeated mocking of Muslims is part of a culture of hate that is intended to marginalise, further alienate and further endanger a community that has effectively been “otherised” in much the same way that Jews were in Nazi Germany.

Apparently this is all part of a jolly jape

subverting the stereotype of Muslims as angry and fun-hating religious fanatics.

 

 

It is not known whether the victims of the Hyper-Cacher at the Porte de Vincennes  are included in this fun-loving jamboree’s list of Islamophobes.

Join the struggle for a good larf: Islamic Human Rights Commission.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 9, 2015 at 6:26 pm

Muslim Manifesto: More Right-wing Identity Politics.

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 The New Identity Politics.

After UKIP we now have another “identity” political group in the UK. (Hat-Tip: JB)

On the launch of the Muslim Manifesto, right-wing Blogger, Guido Fawkes, notes,

Sayeeda Warsi and a host of Labour MPs attended the unveiling of a ‘Muslim Manifesto’ yesterday at an event on the parliamentary estate. Did they know it was organised by an ‘Islamic extremist’ who has praised Al-Qaeda?

That is, Azad Ali.

Ali, MEND ‘Head of Community Development’, is known to readers of this Blog as an enemy of free-speech and, specifically, of Charlie Hebdo.

He appeared at the notorious Je ne Suis pas Charlie jamboree at the misnamed ‘Unite against Fascism’ conference a few weeks ago.

Claiming that our much-loved Charlie incites hate,  this is Ali’s background,

Assad Ali,

We must not call Charlie Hebdo killers ‘terrorists’, says boss” (Here)

“AZAD ALI, Islamic Forum of Europe (undercover footage): Democracy, if it means that, you know, at the expense of not implementing the sharia, of course no one agrees with that.” “Mr Ali has also threatened journalists – not Parisian cartoonists, but an undercover colleague who secretly taped his “no one agrees with democracy” quote – though there is, of course, no suggestion that he has carried out the threat or any other act of violence.” (from Here).

This is from the draft of the Manifesto, drawn up by the Institute for Muslim Community Development.

Te start with there is one good point.

The document makes clear its opposition to “Muslim-hate” and “Anti-Semitism” – that is hatred against people, not religions – something  the confused term Islamophobia mixes up.

These points stand out for less honourable reasons:

  • Introduce more robust legislation to curb media hate campaigns against Muslims.
  • Guarantee the Muslim community the opportunity to evolve independently of government social engineering programmes.
  • Acknowledge that the holy scripture of Muslims (the Qur’an) does not endorse terrorism and the murder of innocents.
  • Acknowledge and celebrate Muslim contributions to knowledge and civilization including European civilisation.
  • Recognise Muslims have a distinct ‘way of life’ (deen) which opposes any understanding of religion or faith as separate from other aspects of life
  • Promote the positive shared Abrahamic history of Moorish, Christian and Jewish culture in Europe.

I think we can guess what ‘curbs’ on free speech Ali and his cronies have in mind.

Why on earth the state and ‘Britain’ have to ‘acknowledge’ the Islamic religion in such detail, including the plea for celebrating ‘Muslim contributions to knowledge and civilisation” is beyond most people.

This pompous demand seems an Islamic version of the reactionary ‘history’ of the wonders of Britain’s past – empire, slavery and massacres included.

Why we have to endorse their interpretation of the Qur’an is even more questionable.

One cannot but fail to notice that the statement only refers to the murder of “innocents” – what happens to the ‘guilty’ is left unsaid.

In all this draft document looks to many like a plea for separate religious rights for the ‘Muslim community’ – as this group cares to define it.

There is also this, “Encourage enquiry into the effects of oversexualisation of public spaces upon young people.”

Ho hum…

Apart from anything else this reads like it’s been taken from Mary Whitehouse and the Festival of Light circa 1969.

Most people will ignore the ‘Manifesto’.

Still the voice of the Iranian dictatorship, Press TV, seems keen on it.

Important update: US far-right Conspiratorialist site Veterans Today endorses Muslim Manifesto.

The Manifesto has only one main demand, ‘ethical politics for an ethical Britain’, a fact which may be impossible to deliver, when the Prime Minister of Britain has already declared he is a Zionist and ‘will be good for Israel’ and most MPs both Conservative and Labour are members of the lobbying group, Friends of Israel.

For Muslims the main concern is what impact will the Manifesto make against a background of powerful interest groups fuelling Islamophobia through government policies and media, repeating the same tune ‘ Not all Muslims are terrorists but all terrorists are Muslims’.

All this Islamic terrorism rhetoric has achieved nothing else but more wars and conflict, making the bankers and the elite richer, while the majority suffers poverty and austerity measures, with a loss of civil liberties heading to an existence of subjugation governed by Orwellian governments.

What is Veterans Today’s agenda?

myriad claims that there was a conspiracy behind 9/11 (Israel orchestrated it, in cahoots with the American government), that the American government is a puppet (of Israel), that the Holocaust never happened or was greatly exaggerated (Jews made it up to manipulate non-Jews), and, most recently, that Julian Assange, the man behind Wikileaks, is a pawn (of Israel).

Southern Poverty Law Center.