Posts Tagged ‘Islam’
Islamic State: John Tummon wanted Left Unity to “distance itself” from use of “intemperate, inaccurate and moralist language such as ‘terrorism’, ‘evil’, ‘fundamentalist’, ‘viciously reactionary’, ‘murderous’, genocidal’
One of the delights of Britain’s left is the ongoing squabbles. In the deepest recesses, or the bowels of the left, trying to emerge.
The Weekly Worker is rightly prized as significant hebdomadal (a quotidian word daily on Richard Seymour’s lips) reading in this respect.
On the elections for the leadership of Left Unity it is, we can safely say, without competitors.
The latest issue contains this ‘questionnaire’ to candidates.
Amongst them is this:
2. Do you oppose the idea of forming some kind of bloc within Left Unity that includes the social-imperialist Alliance for Workers’ Liberty? Should those who support the pro-Nato government of Petro Poroshenko, who refuse to condemn the 2003 invasion of Iraq or the possibility of an Israeli nuclear strike against Iran, be considered legitimate bloc partners?
Readers of the august journal might ask about the Weekly Worker/CPGB (Provisional Committee) and its own lengthy unity negotiation with said ‘social-imperialist’ Alliance for Workers’ Liberty – an episode sadly neglected in the present pages of the paper.
This began around 2000 with the declaration, “The AWL is a small organisation of serious revolutionaries.” “what distinguishes the AWL from that which often falsely passes itself off as Trotskyism is its culture of comparative openness and a willingness to think.” (9.3.2000)
Such as this, on the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty’s annual weekend school, Ideas for Freedom (17.7.2002)
The school was an excellent event and CPGB comrades learned a great deal from participation in both its formal sessions and in more off-the-cuff exchanges. Given our common commitment to open educational events such as this and the forthcoming Communist University, we should explore more imaginatively the possibilities of further joint schools and forums. Mark Fischer.
The honeymoon did not last. A few weeks later we see this:
“In more recent times, we have been able to collaborate with the CPGB/WW on many issues in and around the Socialist Alliance. Lately problems have arisen in AWL-CPGB relations.” AWL October 2002.
Future historians will no doubt unravel what happened in those fraught times, so crucial to the development of the international left.
But what interests the Tendance now is the bid by ‘Caliphate’ John Tummon for leadership of Left Unity.
John Tummon (NC, North-West) replies to two of the Weekly Worker’s exam questions as follows (Weekly Worker):
5. Do you disassociate yourself from those who resort to violence or threats of violence within the left? Will you insist that anyone found guilty of making such threats issue a public apology, no matter how belatedly?
6. Do you think Left Unity should draw a clear red line between the socialist politics of the working class and the petty bourgeois politics of the Green Party?
5. No – some behaviour is so bad that it provokes violence either of the word or deed and everything must be assessed by its context. I am not for absolute rules and detest the concept of zero tolerance.
6. No – the Greens have very similar policies to LU; both are broad parties, but LU is far smaller. The Greens are progressive.
This is from Tummon’s (defeated) Caliphate motion, at Left Unity’s last year Conference.
To show solidarity with the people of the Middle East by supporting the end of the structure of the divided nation states imposed by the Versailles settlement and their replacement by a Caliphate type polity in which diversity and autonomy are protected and nurtured and the mass of people can effectively control executive authority’. Left Unity distances itself specifically from the use of intemperate, inaccurate and moralist language such as ‘terrorism’, ‘evil’, ‘fundamentalist’, ‘viciously reactionary’, ‘murderous’, genocidal’, etc in discussion about the Middle East; these terms are deployed by people and forces seeking not to understand or analyse, but to demonise in order to dominate, and they have no place within socialist discourse. ft Unity Resolution.
“We also distance ourselves from the Eurocentric brand of secularism that believes that the peoples of the Middle East must accept western terms of reference by consigning their religious faith to a separate part of their lives from their political aspirations, if they are to develop progressive societies.”
They certainly ‘ave ’em in Left Unity…
This election will be by Single Transferable Vote – just like the do in god’s Caliphate.
Hate-Filled Philosophy Inspired Killer Craig Hicks.
The Morning Star today (Hat-tip Jim D).
Somebody called Ramzay Baroud writes,
The murder of three US Muslims at a University of North Carolina condominium last week was no ordinary murder, nor is the criminal who killed them an ordinary thug.
The Daily explains,
Hicks, the terrorist who killed the three young Muslims, subscribes to a school of thought known as New Atheism — what (sic) religious scholar Reza Aslan refers to as the school of “anti-theism.”
It is, in part, another hate-filled platform, and despite its supposed disdain for all religions, its malicious energy mostly targets Muslims.
New Atheists are of course different from the majority of atheists, who don’t use that designation to foment hate against a specific religious group.
The anti-theist idols include the likes of Richard Dawkins and US author Sam Harris, who, according to Aslan, respond “to religion with the same venomous ire with which religious fundamentalists respond to atheism.”
Hicks too hated the three Muslim kids based on that same foolish, murderous logic.
But hating Muslims is not your everyday racism and prejudice, which has been “as American as apple pie and napalm” (a funny, sad line from the US comedy, M*A*S*H).
(Note: very funny, ha, ha.)
It is a readily available fodder for the ongoing war and future war in Muslim countries. It is the required amount of dehumanisation needed to wage war.
The ‘author’ then splurges in another direction,
Hicks is of the Fox News demographic, a gun-toting, unreasonably and immeasurably angry white US citizen. Self-proclaimed atheist or otherwise, it matters little (sic).
So Hicks, we are told, killed the students “execution-style” because of a dispute over parking spaces.
The same way that Chris Kyle — “the American Sniper” — made 164 confirmed “kills” in Iraq, targeting “savages” because that’s what national heroes do.
(Note ‘in the same way’….)
He concludes, spluttering,
It is time for Muslims to demand that Obama issue more than a statement but call the US government and hate-filled media to account. These outrageous double standards must end, before more innocent lives are taken.
And why not call the ‘New Atheists’ to account?
Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins beware: be afraid, be very afraid..
Further notes on Baroud’s politics (from here, January 8th 2015)
He thinks this: “Islam has set in motion a system to abolish slavery over 1,200 years before the slave trade reached its peak in the western world. ” (no Arab slave trade…..), “gender equality in Islam has been enshrined in the language of the Koran and the legacy of the Prophet Mohammed.”
I can’t be bothered with most of this history-as-fairy-story but I notice this in the same article
Baroud rails at the “the pornographic satire of Charlie Hebdo and its targeting of Prophet Mohammed…” and then remarks of those condemning the attack:
Did any of these “intellectuals” pause to think that maybe, just maybe, the violent responses to demeaning Islamic symbols reflect a real political sentiment, say for example, a collective feeling of humiliation, hurt, pain and racism that extend to every corner of the globe?
Charlie had it coming to them…
As no doubt did the Jewish customers at the Porte de Vincennes Hyper Cacher.
Protest Against Charlie Hebdo’s “uncivilised expressionists” as Police take “an interest” in those who buy our Weekly.
“Insult Mum and I will Punch You” (Pope Francis…)
1000s of Muslims including Scholars and Spiritual Leaders shall protest outside Downing Street to denounce the uncivilised expressionists reprinting of the cartoon image of the Holy Prophet Muhammad peace be upon Him. MAF once again invites the world to the Declaration of Global Civility. The global Muslim community shall not be hijacked by coldblooded killers or uncivilised expressionists.
Muslim Action Forum. (MAF)
Apparently this all part of a campaign for “global civility”.
- I believe that through mutual consideration and the revival of civility as a shared medium of dialogue we are better equipped to reconstructing a more enlightened society.
- I endorse emphatically the Declaration of Global Civility drafted by the campaigners of Global Civility
- I call upon the British Parliament to table a debate in both Houses of Parliament to discuss the endorsement of the Declaration of Global Civility.
- I call upon all civilised people and institutions globally to disassociate themselves from any actions that are an affront to global civility. I denounce the actions of all those people who are connected with the production of the cartoons of the Holy Prophet Muhammad peace be upon Him and believe that these actions are an affront to the norms of civilised society.
Number of signatures: 106893
One of the key points on the Declaration of ‘global civility’ is a call to curb what people say, or ” Reckless and malicious expressions will lead to vilification and demonisation of each other and our communities. “
In other words, say something we don’t like, “an affront to the norms of civilised society”and…….
This is one of their ‘civil responses’ (from Facebook Page).
Be careful, be very careful, or…….
Some of Sunday’s marchers take inspiration from a (cinema advertisement) by the Prophet Alan Partridge.
Newspaper report on protest.
Thousands of British Muslims gathered near Downing Street to protest against cartoons showing the prophet Muhammad and voice opposition to “insulting” depictions.
A leaflet issued by the Muslim Action forum (MAF), who organised the rally, said recent republishing of cartoons, caricatures and depictions of Muhammad by satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and other publishers is a “stark reminder” that freedom of speech is “regularly utilised to insult personalities that others consider sacred”.
The group also expressed “deep regret” at the Paris terror attacks, which included a massacre at Charlie Hebdo, saying they were a “violation of Islamic law”.
The words “Charlie and the abuse factory” and “learn some manners” were written on signs held by demonstrators. A number of speakers addressed the crowd while there were communal prayers before a delegation took a petition signed by more than 100,000 British Muslims to 10 Downing Street.
It calls for “global civility” and says the production of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad are “an affront to the norms of civilised society”.
Shaykh Tauqir Ishaq, a senior spokesman for MAF, said: “Perpetual mistakes by extremists, either by cold-blooded killers or uncivilised expressionists, cannot be the way forward for a civilised society. The peace-loving majority of people must become vociferous in promoting global civility and responsible debate. At this time of heightened tension and emotion, it is crucial that both sides show restraint to prevent further incidents of this nature occurring.”
Shaykh Noor Siddiqi, another MAF representative, said: “The actions of the UK media in not publishing the cartoons is highly appreciated by British Muslims and we hope that this kind of self-restraint and mutual respect will ultimately lead to a harmonious society.”
Across the street on Whitehall a handful of counter demonstrators holding a Britain First banner gathered.
Scotland Yard said it was not aware of any arrests during the protest.
More reporting in the Telegraph.
The MAF site cites ‘blasphemy law’ as a restriction on free speech.
Blasphemy Laws – seeks to restrict hateful literature being published that is “reviling”, “scurrilous” or even “ludicrous matter” relating to Christian concepts. The specifically relate to the Christian God, Jesus Christ, the Christian Bible or the Christian Book of Common Prayer.
It fails to mention this: “On May 8, 2008, the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 abolished the common-law offences of blasphemy and blasphemous libel in England and Wales, with effect from 8 July 2008.”
We have further questions:
It’s strange march for “civility” that includes people who cite the Pope’s notorious statement that nobody should be allowed to “insult” the faith of others.
Religions routinely insult other people by their claim that only one set of believers are ‘saved’.
Hitting people for saying things, “a punch in the nose” – even about our mothers – is not normally called civilised.
Even if we believe that a religion is talking about real people.
But then the MAF carries images of people carrying placards saying, “We love the prophet Muhammed more than our lives.”
Some unkind people might call that blind fanaticism.….
It would be interesting to have a full list of the “scholars” and “spiritual leaders” on this threatening demonstration.
The MAF site states that it’s backed by the “major Muslim organisations in the UK” .
Meanwhile the Police in Wiltshire are doing their best to keep on eye on “uncivilised expressionists” by drawing up a list of people who buy Charlie Hebdo.
Your offer of commemorative badges in support of journalistic freedom highlighting “Je suis Charlie”, prompts me to suggest a degree of caution following my experience. Tongue in cheek, I asked my helpful newsagents to obtain a copy of the edition of Charlie Hebdo issued after the dreadful massacre in Paris, if indeed a copy was ever available in north Wiltshire. To my surprise, a copy arrived last Wednesday week and although the standard of content in no way matches that of the Guardian I will cherish it. However, two days later a member of Her Majesty’s police service visited said newsagent, requesting the names of the four customers who had purchased Charlie Hebdo. So beware, your badges may attract police interest in your customers.
Update: Police Apology.
Wiltshire police issue apology for seeking details of Charlie Hebdo readers after Paris attacks. Full story soon.
Disparition (disappearance). Bushra Almutawake.
Global Voices comments (from Eloïse Lagrenée):
“Disparition” by Yemeni photographer Bushra Almutawakel, illustrating how women could vanish into darkness and invisibility, step by step, under fundamentalist pressure and the full niqab.”
From Slate: Bushra Almutawakel says,
“I want to be careful not to fuel the stereotypical, widespread negative images most commonly portrayed about the hijab/veil in the Western media. Especially the notion that most, or all women who wear the hijab/veil, are weak, oppressed, ignorant, and backwards,” Almutawakel explained. Her photographs question the place of gender in a more subtle, often playful, way by challenging people’s expectations.
Yet Almutawakel’s way of pushing boundaries doesn’t amuse everyone. “Some men—even some Western-educated men—could not find the humour in What If, ” Almutawakel said in an email. “Some of them asked me if I was supporting the idea that men wear the veil instead of women.”
Almutawakel’s latest project for the hijab series shows how men’s traditional clothing can be similar to women’s in the Middle East. Her pictures show a woman dressed in long, loose masculine outfits that include a head covering.
By offering different ways of looking at the hijab, Almutawakel conveys a bigger picture—a picture that is far from being just black and white.”
About the Artist
Boushra Y. Almutawakel studied in the USA and Yemen and was a founding member of the Al-Halaqa in Sana’a, an artists’ group which created a space for discourse and exhibitions and forged links with international artists. Boushra has worked as a photographer for the United Nations, CARE International, the Royal Netherlands Embassy, the Social Organisation for Family Development, the National Institute for Health Education, The British Council, The French Embassy,and many others, while pursuing her own personal photographic projects. In 1999, she was honoured as the first Yemeni Woman Photographer, with a number of other Yemeni women pioneers by the Empirical Research and Women’s Studies Centre at Sana’a University.
In 2001 Boushra won a World Studio Foundation Scholarship toward her study for a Diploma in Advertising Photography at the Portfolio Centre, Atlanta, USA, completing the program in 2002. As a photo student, she won Mac on Campus (1st place),Show South (gold), among others and her work was published in CMYK magazine (2001-2) and GraphisNew Talent Design Annual (2002).
Boushra worked as a consultant on cultural affairs for the Yemeni Embassy in Washington (2002-3) and organised a series of events in the DC area, as part of the ‘Windows on the Cultural Heritage of Yemen”, a symposium at the Smithsonian, as well as exhibits, lectures, concerts and film screenings on Yemen. From 2005-2006 she worked at the Ministry of Human Rights in Sana’a, focusing on women’s issues, while also pursuing her photography.
Her work has been acquired by the British Museum in London, The Museum of Fine Arts of Boston, the Barjeel Foundation, as well as by other well known collectors. Boushra Almutawakel currently works and lives in Sana’a, with her husband and their four lovely daughters. “
In the images of ‘disparition’ (disappearing) it’s hard not to see the critique of enforced religious dress codes indicated on Global Voices.
Aesthetically one can say that this photo series has both ‘significant form’ and ‘significant content’ – indicating, through everyday images, the political and gendered significance of a developing, ever more enveloping, Islamic dress codes.
Or, more simply: Disparition is sharp and right to the point.
LAHORE, Pakistan — The Lahore High Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld the death sentence of a Pakistani Christian woman in a high-profile blasphemy case and dismissed her appeal for acquittal.
The defendant, Asia Bibi, 47, a farmworker, was sentenced to death in 2010 after being convicted of blasphemy. She has denied the accusations, which she said stemmed from a dispute with Muslim co-workers.
Ms. Bibi now plans to appeal the decision in the country’s Supreme Court, said her lawyer, Naeem Shakir. But given huge backlogs at the court, analysts said it would probably be at least three years before the appeal would be taken up.
The ruling was the latest chapter in a long ordeal for Ms. Bibi, whose case has focused international attention on how Pakistan’s blasphemy laws have become a weapon against religious minorities.
It was also a factor in the 2011 assassination of Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab Province who vociferously campaigned for Ms. Bibi’s release and for overhaul of the blasphemy codes. Religious conservatives were outraged by Mr. Taseer’s advocacy, and he was shot dead by his police security guard in Islamabad. Months later, his son Shahbaz Ali Taseer was kidnapped by Taliban militants and his whereabouts is still unknown.
Meanwhile, Ms. Bibi has languished in prison, and successive governments have been reluctant to touch the issue.
The Lahore courtroom was packed with clerics and members of extremist groups who supported the prosecution, and they erupted in celebration upon hearing the two-judge panel’s decision to dismiss Ms. Bibi’s appeal. “Let us celebrate by distributing sweets!” said one cleric who was reciting verses from the Quran throughout the almost two-and-a-half-hour court proceeding.
“I am very happy,” said Qari Salaam, a co-worker of Ms. Bibi’s and the main complainant in the case. “The judges have given a verdict on merit, and Asia deserved it.”
The ‘dispute’ arose in this way,
In June 2009, Noreen was harvesting falsa berries with a group of other farmhands in a field in Sheikhupura. She was asked at one point to fetch water from a nearby well; she complied but stopped to take a drink with an old metal cup she had found lying next to the well. A neighbor of Noreen, who had been involved in a running feud with Noreen’s family about some property damage, saw her and angrily told her that it was forbidden for a Christian to drink the same water as a Muslim, and some of the other workers considered her to be unclean because she was a Christian. Some arguments ensued. Noreen recounts that when they made derogatory statements about her religion, she responded, “I believe in my religion and in Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for the sins of mankind. What did your Prophet Mohammed ever do to save mankind?” Wikipedia.
Later, some of the workers complained to a cleric that Noreen insulted Muhammad. A mob came to her house, beating her and members of her family before she was rescued by the police. The police initiated an investigation about her remarks, resulting in her arrest under Section 295 C of the Pakistan Penal Code. She subsequently was imprisoned for over a year before being formally charged.
As reaction pours in from around the world to yesterday’s Lahore High Court ruling upholding the death sentence for Asia Bibi in her wrongful blasphemy suit, a Christian human rights watchdog group is calling on the Supreme Court of Pakistan to expedite a hearing in the case, and a London-based music band that is “disgusted” with the decision has launched a music video supporting the imprisoned mother of five children.
In an audible and visual show of its disgust at the high court decision, ooberfuse, an electronica band from Woolwich, London today released FREE, a music video crying out for an end to the persecution of non-Muslim religious minorities in Pakistan and around the world. They join a British Pakistani Christian Association protest this Saturday from 11:00 a.m.- 1:00 p.m. at 10 Downing Street, the London residence of British Prime Minister David Cameron.
You can hear the radio play edit by clicking here: http://tinyurl.com/k3zeg3g
Cherrie Anderson, frontwoman of the band, explained: “We have been calling out for Asia’s release ever since we translated Asia’s autobiography into English. Asia’s own words inspired our defiant anthem FREE. We will carry on our campaign until religious minorities around the world enjoy the freedoms people of all faiths and none enjoy here in the UK.”
ASSIST news. Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
The London Free Thinker (October the 18th) reports on the protest.
London protest over blasphemy sentence.
Bibi has since released a memoir from prison called Blasphemy, detailing her ordeal:
I’m a prisoner because I used the same cup as those Muslim women, because water served by a Christian woman was regarded as unclean by my stupid fellow fruit-pickers.
I can no longer bear the sight of people full of hatred, applauding the killing of a poor farm worker. I no longer see them, but I still hear them, the crowd who gave the judge a standing ovation, saying: ‘Kill her, kill her! Allahu Akbar!’
Bibi’s case drew global criticism in 2011 when Pakistan’s minister for minorities Shahbaz Bhatti and eastern Punjab governor Salman Taseer were killed for supporting her and opposing blasphemy laws. Taseer was killed in the capital Islamabad by one of his police guards after visiting Bibi in jail.
Bhati was killed months later by the Pakistani Taliban, who called him an “infidel Christian”.
Bibi has since released a memoir from prison called Blasphemy, detailing her ordeal.
I’m a prisoner because I used the same cup as those Muslim women, because water served by a Christian woman was regarded as unclean by my stupid fellow fruit-pickers.
Bibi’s lawyer Sardar Mushtaq said:
We have the right to appeal in 30 days, and we will continue this legal battle by approaching the Supreme Court of Pakistan. We have a strong case, and we will try our best to save her life.
Kate Allen, UK Director of Amnesty International, said:
This is the latest blasphemy outrage to come out of Pakistan. It seems obvious that this is a case of religious persecution, and it’s very likely the result of a squabble which escalated out of all proportion.
Blasphemy accusations in Pakistan are often used to settle petty vendettas and persecute minority groups. It’s a complete disgrace that the courts are complicit in these vendettas.
There has also been an alarming spate of killings of people who have spoken out against Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Mohammad Asghar, a Scottish man, is also on death row in Pakistan after being sentenced to death for blasphemy.
Asghar, 70, who has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, was sentenced to death earlier this year after writing a series of letters claiming to be the “Prophet” Mohammed. Last month Asghar was shot and wounded by a police officer at the Rawalpindi prison where he is held.
Free, Free the Beloved Asia Bibi!
“It has been a mistake on the part of socialists to see Islamist movements either as automatically reactionary and “fascist” or as automatically “anti imperialist” and “progressive”. Radical Islamism, with its project of reconstituting society on the model established by Mohammed in 7th century Arabia, is, in fact, a “utopia” emanating from an impoverished section of the new middle class. As with any “petty bourgeois utopia”, its supporters are, in practice, faced with a choice between heroic but futile attempts to impose it in opposition to those who run existing society, or compromising with them, providing an ideological veneer to continuing oppression and exploitation.
It is this which leads inevitably to splits between a radical, terrorist wing of Islamism on the one hand, and a reformist wing on the others. It is also this which leads some of the radicals to switch from using arms to try to bring about a society without “oppressors” to using them to impose “Islamic” forms of behaviour on individuals.”
“On some issues we will find ourselves on the same side as the Islamists against imperialism and the state. This was true, for instance, in many countries during the second Gulf War. It should be true in countries like France or Britain when it comes to combating racism. Where the Islamists are in opposition, our rule should be, “with the Islamists sometimes, with the state never”.
Chris Harman (SWP) The Prophet and the Proletariat. 1994. As John Rees (former SWP) from Counterfire and the Stop the War Coalition spoke in support for arming the Kurds at a demonstration for Kobane on Saturday a Kurd stood on his left hand side.
The Kurdish comrade was carrying a placard that read, “Kurds are heroes of fight against Islamist Fascism“.
Nick Cohen is spot on when he commented in his Observer column this Sunday that “Without knowing or caring, Kurds protesting against the world’s willingness to let Kobani fall to Islamic State have inflamed two acute causes of western discomfort. They had no hesitation in describing radical Islam as “fascism” and seeing Kobani as our generation’s Guernica.”
I personally am reminded of the first time I came face to face with Islamist reaction, in 1983, at the annual May Day Demonstration in Paris.
Iranians are all too aware that their Islamic regime has May the First as a holiday as well, one of those “progressive” gestures that seduced, for a time, their own and Europe’s left.
On this occasion a group of die-hard Khomeini supporters, knotted in a tight bunch and carrying posters of the Guide of the Revolution, tried to join the trade union march.
Almost instantly a mixed bunch of Iranian exiles, French leftists, Turkish and Kurdish left-wingers, stood in front of them.
As I joined we shouted “le fascisme ne passera pas!” Fascism will not pass!
The Khomeinists were pelted with bottles, stones and (in my case) a beer can. The followers of the Imman’s Line backed off, and then returned throwing tear gas directly in our faces. As the police began to intervene they disappeared. A report in Libération the following day asserted that the Islamists had been caught by the police assembling some heavier weaponry. The blood-stained tyranny that Khomeini and his followers built was vastly more important in turning many European leftists against Islamism ,
Amongst many other events (above all the Algerian civil war of 1990s) this profoundly marked my own attitude towards Islamism. In Algeria the Islamists began – well before the cancellation of elections in 1991 which the Front Islamique du Salut was predicted to win and which let loose the decade’s fighting between a vicious military and murderous armed Islamists – to target leftists, feminists, intellectuals and democrats. They murdered and tortured throughout that war. They have not stopped trying since.
Since then most leftists, certainly in continental Europe, have has a visceral hostility to Islamism, certainly those who’ve had contact with the tens of thousands of exiles from countries where it’s had an impact – Chris Harman, the SWP, their splinters, and the British Respect Party excepted.
The idea of standing on the “same side” has been ridiculous for a long-long time, well before Al Qu’eada – not to mention the rise of Isis/Islamic state and its international supporters (in Algeria) of Soldats du califat (Jound al-Khilafa).
With this in mind, like many of my fellow leftists I have followed the tragedy in Kobane closely. Not just because it’s a tragedy – that counts enormously – but because we are politically implicated.
Cohen writes, “Flow in waves to Kobani,” demonstrators chanted as they mounted vain protests against Turkish inaction that amounts to collaboration. “Stop Isis fascism.”
This deeply echoes in our hearts. With even John Rees on board he is right to mention that, “there are heartening stirrings of camaraderie on the European left. Cohen observes that the plight of the Kurds and others attacked by Isis/Islamic State, raises broader issues,
To me, it seems obvious that militant religion is a radical reactionary force. In whatever form it comes, it grinds down on women’s rights and denies the basic freedoms of liberal society. It is equally clear that its Islamist variant relies to an extraordinary degree on fascist Europe’s Jewish conspiracy theories. If you doubt me, look at the declaration in Hamas’s founding covenants that Jews “were behind the French Revolution [and] the communist revolution”. It might have come from Hitler. (Although even Adolf would have hesitated to repeat Hamas’s claim that Jews also created “the Rotary Clubs [and] the Lions” to achieve “Zionist interests”.)
Radical Islam, like fascism before it, wallows in the cult of death: “Death to intelligence! Long live death!” cried Franco’s general José Millán Astray in 1936. “We love death more than you love life,” cry today’s Islamists fighters. There is the same support from the financiers and businessmen, from what we old leftists used to call the capitalist bourgeoisie, and the same shared belief that women can never aspire to be anything other than dutiful wives.
In one respect, radical Islam trumps the fascists and, indeed, the communists. The old totalitarianisms could promise their followers that death would lead only to the greater glory of the Fatherland or the inevitable triumph of the working class. An Islamist can tell his willing executioners that death will not only further Islam’s global triumph but take the martyr to paradise too.
Why do people in Europe, at least on the left, not describe these groups as ‘fascist’? Cohen suggests two reasons.
Firstly, “Many liberals fear that condemning radical Islam in clear leftwing language will allow the white far right to paint all Muslims as extremists.”
Secondly, that Islamism had no state so it can hardly be a ‘real’ fascist movement. He notes, that this no longer holds: The ‘Caliphate’ has been declared, “the Islamic State, with its own supreme caliph, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, and all the modern weaponry the Iraqi army left behind when it fled.”
The first argument is really an argument at all, but a description of the way some liberal-minded people find it hard to be ‘judgemental’ about anything, above all about different ‘cultures’.
It’s the second point that’s the principal one.
It may well be that to analyse Islamism in terms of classical fascism is not always helpful.
As political concepts ‘fascism’ or ‘Nazism’ (terms the European left has had no problem in using loosely for the domestic far-right, as the name Anti-Nazi League and Unite Against Fascism indicate) are only ‘ideal types’. That is, lists of very broad features. Features such as a dictatorship based on ultra-nationalism, ‘total’ control, repression of dissent, and the imposition of ‘class harmony’, and genocidal racism, are just that ‘features’ not structures that get stamped into history that pop up in the same form whenever there is a social crisis. All of these elements shift and change.
Some theorists have suggested that the way the radical right can take up ‘left’ radical themes, the “popular”, even “democratic” side of the ideology, is key (Laclau, Ernesto. 1977. Politics and Ideology in Marxist Theory: Capitalism, Fascism, Populism). One can see this in the way radical right-wing ‘anti-system’ parties attack ‘rotten’ and ‘elite’ Parliamentary institutions today, in the name of the People. Populist ‘Anti-imperialism’ also had its 1930s parallel in the far-right’s hatred of the ‘plutocratic’ nations (the US and the UK), controlled by the Jews.
Such a ‘democratic’ element – in the sense of ‘popular’, appealing to the “people”, even if it’s only to follow the Leader, is not always present. The NSPD’s ‘race’ doctrine, many be grounded on the Volk, but other far-right groups, notably the ‘first’ fascist movement, Action Française, agitated before the First World War against the ‘Jacobin’ idea of the People and advocated a restored French Monarchy freed from the ‘anti-France of Jews, Freemasons, socialists and Protestants.
So fascist ideas are fluid – we might consider how people tried to gauge them when they first appeared, before Mussolini and Hitler, not to mention other authoritarian regimes in 1930s Europe. Perhaps only hostility to Marxism, or rather ‘class struggle’ (which divides the ‘nation’), the left-wing labour movement are constant (European) themes. A deeper link to the ‘anti-Enlightenment’ and hatred of the doctrine of human rights is possibly another.
Comparisons with Islamism tend to halt at the point where Harman begins: the Quranic ‘utopian ideal“. Comparisons only go so far: if the Islamists loath the Enlightenment it’s because it brings the secular world forward, and gives humans, not god (and the ‘Book’ he apparently dictated), rights – a more diffuse reaction than the European far-right’s fight against the Left.
A, book, and speech bound, ideology, a religion, can be infused with a vast variety of visions. Time, class, culture, and individuals inflect it, or rather them – Islamisms. The political result however is fairly clear: a striving for a state, a regime, a power to bring it about. This, for all its various forms, tends towards “monocratic, authoritarian” and “enforced” rule (as Michael Mann has described Islamism). This is only a tendency, as Turkey’s Islamists only drift towards this, and retain a strong democratic, if populist and Turkish nationalist, and increasingly corrupt, authoritarian element.
Yet, as Mann indicated, when it comes to the radicals, Islamists are not nationalists. They do not adopt extreme blood and soil nationalism (although there are racist strains in their belief in the superiority of Arabic and the ‘original’ Muslims, underlined by the belief in the importance of descent from the Prophet and his companions).The state exists for them for a purpose, to impose and regulate the Sharia which is for ‘everybody’. Ideally Islam would embrace the world, not just a country. (Fascists. Michael Mann 2004)
There are other important differences.
Today’s radical Islamism is clearly not the product of a political crisis in which the bourgeoisie tries to head of a militant labour movement (one classical way of looking at fascism). Some claim that it is the ‘product’ of the failure of Arab nationalism and Arab socialism. This fails to explain its growth in countries like Nigeria or Indonesia, or indeed Pakistan. What then is it? Nobody has a definitive answer and this is certainly not one.
Harman was suggestive when he talked of Islamism as a ““utopia” emanating from an impoverished section of the new middle class” – except that,as Cohen notes, many of the backers of Isis/Islamic State are extremely wealthy.
From this pious bourgeoisie to an Islamic state we have to go through some important stages. ‘Islamic Behaviour’ – Harman’s words – is not so much a slogan as the key to an Islamist “transitional programme“. Radical Islamism (a continuum with other forms of political Islam) has the following features – worked through with the class and political aspects already mentioned.
- The importance of the Sharia as the basis for ‘micro-powers’ (the equivalent of leftist ‘liberated territory’) Islamists have begun (Algeria is the paradigm, repeated in many countries, such as Egypt, recently efforts were made to create this in Tunisia) by imposing their ‘law’ on areas where they establish their initial control. Sharia ‘patrols’ treated as relatively harmless in London, are set up to impose Islamic norms on public life (no alcohol. women forced to war ‘modest’ dress, ‘unclean’ behaviour repressed). From small groups of the ‘pure’ (Salafists) to radicalised Mosques as centres of this ‘power’, we then turn towards creating a ‘mini-state’.
- The Sharia state: some Islamist movements (as in Somalia, Al-Shabaab – Islamic Courts Union) centre their strategy on this ‘law’.
- All forms of Sharia law are discriminatory and barely merit the term ‘law’ in the modern sense: there is no equality before the Sharia, no equal rights for women or for non-Muslims.
- This legal-political apparatus can be best be looked at in terms of the coercive categories Michael Foucault described in Discipline and Punish and Nietzsche’s history of the violent ‘training’ of people to accept legal norms in The Genealogy of Morals.
- Radical Islamist ‘morality’ has exceptional importance in that it is potentially more intimately imposed than even the most brutal of previous totalitarianisms; it is intended to regulate not just the heart by every single human gesture (for a comparison amongst orthopraxic religions, the list of taboos followed by ultra-orthodox Jews, that are purely intended for believers, is about the nearest example).
- Radical Islamism, whether Shia or Sunnite, has shown itself to be radically sectarian: always splitting internally, and only uniting against other Muslims tendencies (Shia and Sunnite).
- It is only ‘anti-imperialist’ in the sense that it is ‘anti’ any movement but its own.
- It becomes genocidal when these norms are imposed on those who refuse to accept them, for religious, anti-religious, or national reasons.
One conclusion is clear: these movements are not and can never be the allies of the left against anybody. Cohen rightly sounds, nevertheless, a note of caution,
If you live in Iraqi Kurdistan, the fine distinctions between fascist state-based totalitarianism and religious totalitarianism have vanished. All you know is that for decades, mass murderers have marched towards your homeland wanting to slaughter you because you are from the wrong race or worship your god in the wrong way.