Tendance Coatesy

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Posts Tagged ‘Islam

Leading Bangladesh Gay Activist Xulhaz Mannan Hacked to Death as Islamists’ Rampage Continues.

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Murdered Bangladeshi gay activist Xulhaz Mannan (From Paul C).

Homage to the Martyrs!

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The Hindu reports,

Two people were hacked to death Monday at an apartment in the Bangladesh capital Dhaka, police said, with a local television channel identifying one of them as a leading gay rights activist.

“Unidentified attackers entered an apartment at Kalabagan and hacked two people to death. Another person was injured,” Dhaka Metropolitan Police spokesperson Maruf Hossain Sorder told AFP.

He did not identify the dead, but private television Channel 24 said one of them was the editor of Roopbaan, the country’s only magazine for the LGBT community.

The BBC  continues.

A leading gay rights activist and editor at Bangladesh’s only LGBT magazine has been hacked to death, media reports and officials say.

Another person was also killed and one person injured when attackers entered an apartment in Dhaka, police said.

Julhas Mannan was an editor at LGBT magazine Roopbaan and previously worked at the US embassy, friends said.

The killing comes two days after a university teacher was hacked to death by suspected Islamist militants.

Since February last year suspected militants have killed several secular or atheist writers and members of religious minority groups.

BBC Bengali Service editor Sabir Mustafa said staff at Roopbaan, which had not been condemned by the government and received some support from foreign embassies, had been careful to protect their identities but had not believed their lives were at risk.

Suspected extremists in Bangladesh are gaining a sense of security that they can carry out killings with impunity, he says.

Meanwhile Bangladesh’s best known blogger said he had received a death threat on Sunday.

Imran Sarker, who led major protests by secular activists in 2013 against Islamist leaders, said he had received a phone call warning that he would be killed “very soon”.

Earlier this month, a Bangladeshi law student who had expressed secular views online died when he was hacked with machetes and then shot in Dhaka.

Last year, four prominent secular bloggers were also killed with machetes.

The four bloggers had all appeared on a list of 84 “atheist bloggers” drawn up by Islamic groups in 2013 and widely circulated.

There have also been attacks on members of religious minorities including Shia, Sufi and Ahmadi Muslims, Christians and Hindus.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

April 25, 2016 at 4:26 pm

Saudi religious police now to be ‘kind and gentle’ to encourage “virtue”.

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Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Viceهيئة الأمر بالمعروف و النهي عن المنكر

There has been much talk of ‘conservative’ Islamic values.

Here’s somewhere where one version of them are  put into practice by a special politice force.

The BBC reports.

The Saudi authorities have moved to curb the powers of the notorious religious police, or “mutawa”.

Members of the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice will no longer be permitted to chase suspects or arrest them.

They must instead report observations to security forces personnel.

Religious police officers, who roam the streets enforcing strict standards of social behaviour, are frequently accused of abusing their powers.

Several were reportedly arrested in February for allegedly assaulting (YouTube video) a young woman outside a shopping centre in the capital, Riyadh.

In 2013, four officers were accused of causing a fatal car crash when they pursued two brothers who had refused to turn the radio down in their vehicle. However, a court subsequently acquitted them.

‘Gentle and humane’

The new law governing the religious police was approved by the cabinet on Monday, but was not published by the official Saudi Press Agency until Tuesday.

Officers will continue to help enforce strict segregation of the sexes, an absolute prohibition of the sale and consumption of alcohol, a ban on women driving and many other social restrictions.

But the new law stipulates that their mission has been amended to “carrying out the duty of promoting virtue and preventing vice in a gentle and humane way, after the model set in this regard by the Prophet [Muhammad] and his rightful successors”.

They will also be obliged to display clear identification, showing their names, posts, jurisdictions and official working hours.

The law stipulates that officers will no longer be permitted to pursue suspects, arrest them or ask for identification – only report suspicious behaviour to regular police and anti-drug units, who will decide whether to take the matter further.

 

Gulf News:

Riyadh: The powers of the powerful Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, the religious police in Saudi Arabia have been limited and they have been banned from chasing, arresting or asking for the identity papers of anyone.

As per a new structure and set of regulations endorsed by the cabinet at its weekly meeting, the commission will not move into action themselves and will report suspicious cases to the police or the anti-drugs squads who will be fully in charge of all the measures including chasing, arresting, detaining and questioning suspects.

The role of the commission will be limited to promoting Islamic values and supporting the specialized anti-drugs agencies in the fight against drugs by explaining their negative effects on families and the community.

Commission members will carry out their tasks in markets and public places and will work within specific times scheduled by their centres.

According to the new regulations, every member must display prominently a badge that carries his name, position, centre, and official working hours.

Conditions for recruiting new members include a high education degree, competence to promote virtue and prevent vice, a good reputation and satisfactory behaviour.

The commission has often waded into controversy over its specific role and immense powers, following incidents, clashes and standoffs with Saudi citizens that triggered calls to reduce its prerogatives and hand them over to the police.

In February, a video clip that showed a girl being beaten up in front of the Nakheel Mall in the capital Riyadh sparked outrage in Saudi Arabia. The girl and her friend were reportedly walking near the mall when they had a ‘bitter standoff’ with members of the commission.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

April 13, 2016 at 12:39 pm

‘Kill Ahmadis’ Leaflets Found In South London Mosque and Facebook Page Issues Hate Call.

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This Islamist Facebook Page is still up (735 Likes, mid-day Monday),

“Ghazi Tanveer Ahmed Qadri killed A False Prophet Asad Shah Kazzab IN Scotland 25 march 2016 Thursday.” ” Father of Asad Shah Kazzab Curse on him.”

https://www.facebook.com/ghazitanveer786/.

This is his declaration on Haq Bat

Another Blasphemer sent to Hell by Ghazi Tanveer Attari (English+Urdu)

English:
Ghazi Tanveer Attari from MirPur Azad Kashmir currently residing in Scotland has killed Liar Asad Qadiani and send him to hell who claimed to be a Prophet. Asad Qadiani was a News agent and also owned a General Store and many people were attached with him. Asad Qadiani also used to accept and declare Kufria – Non Islamic beliefs of christians to be right. That is why british establishment gave him high protocol. Ghazi Tanveer Attari entered his shop and got on him and stabbed him 30 times in his chest and sent him to hell. European Media is publishing wrong name of Ghazi Tanveer as Muhammad Faisal. He is arrested at the moment and his martial status is married and also has a son. May Allah Protect him. Aameen.
The blasphemer was killed on 24th march.

 

‘Kill’ Leaflets Found In Stockwell Green Mosque In South London.

Huffington Post.

Leaflets calling for the killing of a sect of Muslims have been found in a south London mosque, days after the Muslim Council of Britain issued a statement sayingMuslims should not be forced to accept Ahmadis.

Flyers saying Ahmadis should face death if they refuse to convert to mainstream Islam were displayed in Stockwell Green mosque, the BBC reported.

The broadcaster said the leaflet was authored by an ex-head of Khatme Nabuwwat, a group which lists the mosque as its “overseas office”.

The Metropolitan Police are yet to state whether or not they will investigate the matter.

A mosque trustee was reported as saying he had never seen the leaflets and suggested they were fakes or left there maliciously. However, on Friday it was reported that similar leaflets were being distributed in universities, mosques and shopping centres across London.

Leaflets calling for the killing of Admadhi have been found at the Stockwell Green Mosque in south London 

Police are yet to respond to a request for comment on the leaflets which say those who refuse to convert to mainstream Islam within three days should face a “capital sentence” – or death penalty.

On Thursday the Huffington Post UK revealed how tensions had been reignited between Muslims and the Ahmadiyya community following the murder of Asad Shah in Glasgow on March 24.

The Ahmadi shopkeeper was killed after wishing Christians a happy Easter and the man accused of his murder later issued a statement saying “if I had not done this others would”.

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) issued a statement last week saying it wanted to clarify its position on Ahmadis, and that Muslims should not be “forced” to regard them as belonging to their religion.

A spokesperson for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community UK responded by saying there were “a few positives” in MCB’s statement but criticised the timing of it given an “Ahmadiyya person had just been killed for his faith”.

Love and solidarity to all our Ahmadi sisters and brothers: #Ahmadiyya

Written by Andrew Coates

April 11, 2016 at 12:12 pm

Secular Critic of Islamism, Nazimuddin Samad, Hacked to Death in Bangladesh.

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Nazimuddin Samad, from his Facebook page

Nazimuddin Samad: Murdered for Criticising Islam. 

The Dhaka Tribune reports.

Student on hitlist killed by militants Mohammad Jamil Khan

Killers were chanting ‘Allahu Akbar’ while hacking the Gonojagoron Moncho activist

A masters student of Jagannath University was killed by suspected Islamist militants in Old Dhaka’s Sutrapur area last night.

Nazimuddin Samad, 28, was a student of the law department’s evening batch.

He was attacked at Ekrampur intersection around 8:30pm by three assailants while walking to his home in Gendaria with another youth after completing classes at the university near Bahadur Shah Park.

The youth accompanying the victim has remained traceless since the incident, police said.

Nazim is the son of Shamshul Haque from Bianibazar area of Sylhet. He was the information and research secretary of Sylhet district unit Bangabandhu Jatiya Jubo Parishad. He was also an activist of Gonojagoron Moncho’s Sylhet wing.

His friends said that Nazim used to campaign for secularism on Facebook and was critical of radical Islamists. A day before the murder, he expressed concerns over the country’s law and order in a Facebook post.

Police said that the killers who came on a motorcycle first intercepted them and then attacked Nazim with machetes. At one point, he fell on the street and then the attackers shot him to confirm death before leaving the place.

Businessmen of the area closed the shops immediately after hearing the gunshots.

During the murder, the killers were chanting “Allahu Akbar,” police said quoting locals.

Visiting the spot, the Dhaka Tribune reporter found the crime scene cordoned by the law enforcers and all the shops closed. Police recovered a bullet shell from the spot.

Nurul Amin, assistant commissioner of Sutrapur division, told the Dhaka Tribune that police went to the spot on information and found the body in a pool of blood. They were confirmed about his identity by the ID found in his pocket. Later, the police informed the university authorities and sent the body to hospital.

Doctors at Sir Salimullah Medical College Hospital declared him dead at 9pm.

AC Nurul further said that it is clear that the assailants kept an eye on Nazim’s activities for long and were aware of his way back home. “We are investigating the case sincerely to know the motive of the murder,” he added.

JnU Proctor Nur Mohammad said that Nazim got admitted to the university two months ago. “We have informed his family about the murder and are taking detail information about him,” he said.

Shamir Chandra Sutradhar, inspector (investigation) of Sutrapur police station, told the Dhaka Tribune: “Even though the spot was crowded at the time of the murder, they are not sharing any information with the police.

“However, we are trying to identify the assailants by talking to the shopkeepers and residents of the area.”

Comrade Samad’s background is described here:

Samad, a student of Jagannath University, used to write frequently against religious extremism. He had written “I have no religion” on his Facebook profile under religious views. In some of his recent posts, Samad had supported a petition to remove Islam as Bangladesh’s state religion, according to the New York Times.

“Evolution is a scientific truth. Religion and race are invention of the savage and uncivil people,” he reportedly wrote on Facebook. However, about a month back, Samad deactivated his Facebook account at the request of his family.

According to the Times, Samad’s Facebook page identified him as a member of the Shahbag movement, which seeks punishment for Bangladeshis who fought for Pakistan during the 1971 war for independence.

International Business Times. 

The International Humanist and Ethical Union has published these moving reflections,

Nazimuddin’s writing

Tributes and alarmed messages are flooding in on Nazimuddin’s personal Facebook page, where he regularly posted atheist and feminist criticism of Islam. He was critical both of the Islamist political parties, and against the failings of the current government. Shortly before he was killed, he wrote a post implying that the ruling Awami League party would fall if it did not make swift changes, writing (in Bengali): “The situation of the country, deterioration of law and order in the country, speak that maybe you cannot stay long in power.”

In earlier posts, Nazimuddin responded to a cleric’s violent speech against women which referenced the Quran, contrasting the speech with the claim that “Islam is the highest honor given to women!” He asked for justice for a girl known as Tonu, who had been raped and killed in the military area of ‘Cantoment’, Comilla.

Nazimuddin recently criticised Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s support for madrassa (Islamic schools), which are increasingly associated with Islamist radicalism and militancy in the country. Nazimuddin had also shared posts from Washiqur Rahman Babu who was killed last year in a similar attack, carried out by two madrassa students who claimed they were acting on orders from someone associated with their Islamic schools.

In another post, he proposed a satirical strategy to overcome the aggressive push toward Islamism in the country, writing: “Please let’s have Sharia Law for just five years in Bangladesh. Rule the country with Medina Law. I guarantee you, after this 5 years, no Muslim of Bangladesh will ask for Islamic law! The loss and damage we will have after five years, it will take 1400 years to restore us to a modern country.”

Nurul Amin, assistant commissioner of Sutrapur division police, is reported as saying that the assailants must have kept an eye on Nazim’s activities ahead of the attack, and were aware of his route home. “We are investigating the case sincerely to know the motive of the murder,” he said.

Reaction

President of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), Andrew Copson, commented tonight:

“It is clear from Nazimuddin’s Facebook posts and protest activity that he was a politically and socially engaged young man. He offered criticisms of certain radical religious figures and doctrines, thoughts of a kind that many people, not just atheists and humanists but also many religious people, express all over the world, every day.

“Every time a thoughtful and honest person like Nazimuddin is hacked or gunned down, apparently for doing nothing more than speaking their minds on secularist, political and religious topics, we and others will make a point of finding out what he said, what he did, what he wrote about, and sharing it. It will be seen by more people than ever would have seen it before. And we will remember his name and the growing list of names of those who were singled out and killed, by small-minded, hateful extremists who appear to think that words can be killed. They cannot.”

We mourn deeply this death, and extend love to all Nazimuddin’s family and friends. 

Written by Andrew Coates

April 7, 2016 at 11:39 am

Guardian Smears Charlie Hebdo – again.

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Guardian and its like have never pardoned French secularist satire.

After the Charlie Hebdo/hypercacher slaughter The Guardian could just not wait to spit on the corpses of the dead.

Seamus Milne, former Comments Editor at the paper, (now something to do with the Labour Party) stated of its cartoons, “This wasn’t just “depictions” of the prophet, but repeated pornographic humiliation.” Milne put the blame for the attacks down to Western policy in the Middle East and the ‘war on terror’.

This is their angle during the present week:

How did Charlie Hebdo get it so wrong?

In blaming all followers of Islam for terrorism, the French magazine is finding its catharsis in bigotry.

The editorial then laid the blame squarely on two factors – the complicity of the average, unaffiliated Muslim, and the erosion of secularism by a conspiracy of silence. Terrorism was fomented, it said, and people died because society could not voice discomfort at the many little “iceberg tips” of religious expression that had cumulatively eroded laïcité – the secularism written into the French constitution. Terrorism happened, in short, because freedom of speech was curbed.

The editorial gives credence and sanction to the view that there is no such thing as an innocent Muslim. That even those who do not themselves commit terrorism, somehow by just existing and practising, are part of a continuum that climaxes with two men blowing themselves up in Brussels airport.

I assume Malik is not a French speaker, or she would have read that the  Editorial – in the original – was signed by Riss, somebody not held in universally high regard in secularist left quarters.

That is to say, it’s more what English speaking journalists  would call an “Op-Ed”, an opinion piece,  than an authoritative statement of the weekly’s views.

It is also translated into what one can only call an “approximate” English; a task in any case facing difficulties for Riss’s highly colloquial style. (1)

The English title reads, How did we end up here?

The French reads: Qu’est-ce que je fous là ? – which most would agree is somewhat different to the former.

Riss asks, after the Brussels attacks,

In reality, the attacks are merely the visible part of a very large iceberg indeed. They are the last phase of a process of cowing and silencing long in motion and on the widest possible scale. Our noses are endlessly rubbed in the rubble of Brussels airport and in the flickering candles amongst the bouquets of flowers on the pavements. All the while, no one notices what’s going on in Saint-German-en-Laye. Last week, Sciences-Po* welcomed Tariq Ramadan. He’s a teacher, so it’s not inappropriate. He came to speak of his specialist subject, Islam, which is also his religion. Rather like lecture by a Professor of Pies who is also a pie-maker. Thus judge and contestant both.

I assume the Guardian has no French speaking journalists, or at least those that follow French politics.

Ramadan, who “puts himself forward as a man of dialogue, someone open to a debate” has hit the French news recently (19th of March) because of this:

Tariq Ramadan reconnait avoir rejoint l’Union mondiale des savants musulmans (UMSM)*.  Une organisation sur la liste des organisations terroristes des Emirats Arabes Unis. L’Union mondiale des savants musulmans est dirigé par le sulfureux théologien des Frères Musulmans : Youssef Al Qaradawi.

L’homme, recherché par Interpol, est un « savant » antisémite, homophobe, auteur d’une fatwa autorisant à mener des attentats suicide. Une fatwa que l’on retrouve sur plusieurs sites du Hamas. Youssef Al Qaradawi a aussi réclamé la destruction de mausolées chiites et  justifié l’assassinat de personnalités comme Mouammar Kadhafi  et Saïd Ramadan Al Boutih.

Tariq Ramadan has admitted having joined the International Union of Muslim Scholars. This organisation is on the Arab Emirates List of terrorist organisations. It is run by the Muslim Brotherhood theologian Youssef Al Qaradawi.

This man, wanted by Interpol, is a ‘scholar’, who is anti semitic and homophobic. Qaradawi is the author of a Fatwa authorising suicide bombings – found on many Hamas sites. He has also called for the destruction of Shiite Mausoleums and justified the killings of Gadafi and Saïd Ramadan Al Boutih.

Tariq Ramadan fait enfin son « coming out ».

The controversy over whether one should debate with this figure – in view of the above facts about his racist far-right links, has been stormy.

This appeared a couple of days ago:

Le Monde: « Accepter le débat avec Tariq Ramadan ne signifie pas être d’accord avec lui »

As for blaming the ‘average Muslim’ for genocidal terrorism I find no evidence in Riss’ article.

What he does do, and in a highly questionable way, is to place the spread of cultural Islam – with all its intolerance and attempts to impose its ‘law’ on everyday life, alongside the fact of the killings.

“From the bakery that forbids you to eat what you like, to the woman who forbids you to admit that you are troubled by her veil, we are submerged in guilt for permitting ourselves such thoughts. ”

The device of citing anecdotes about bakeries and the Burka in the context of murder is more than doubtful:.

It is precisely the kind of ranting which prevents secularist opposition to the religious imposition of veiling  (a declaration of ‘purity’ against the ‘impure’) getting a hearing.

But that is Riss, and a good reason why his thoughts are not treated with seriousness that the Guardian and like-minded mates  claim for it.

Another Guardian article by their ‘religious correspondent Harriet Sherwood (Charlie Hebdo criticised for linking all Muslims to Brussels bombings) lists their manufactured outrage.

As Sarah Brown  says,

I was looking again at the possibilities I started out with and thought I should make clear that I don’t think this is ‘an attack on all Muslims as potential fifth columnists’. Some have been saying it as good as paints all Muslims as terrorists and that’s clearly not the case.

To repeat, Riss puts alongside these observations, he does not link them in a causal chain.

Mailk concludes,

The magazine characterises its mission as war with a “silencing” establishment, and sees only one way to prevail: more freedom of expression, more secularism. But its thesis needs to be challenged. Is this silenced, hesitant, subdued France that Hebdo describes the country in which a minister called women in hijab “negroes who accept slavery”? If that is too timid, what would it propose: banning hijabs, banning beards?

To employ Hebdo’s own concluding rhetorical device, let us ask “the world’s oldest and most important question”: how the hell did we end up here? Imagine being that liberal, energised by the moral certainty of your secularism, sustained by belief in the supremacy of your values and righteous indignation. Mightn’t you ask yourself: how the hell did I end up here, advocating bigotry and prejudice?

Perhaps Malik might care to make some observations about the bigotry and prejudice of the scholarly  organisation the eminent Oxford Professor, Tariq Ramadan has recently joined?

But, no, silence.

The Guardian one notes does not exactly open its pages to defenders of Charlie Hebdo either.

 (1) This is today’s example of the ‘English’ version of the Editorial:

This week’s big debate was about the reality of Salah Abdeslam’s perpetuity. About his eventual sentence. Whether ‘life’ was going to mean life. A wind of panic swept over some of us when we realised that the possibility of a life sentence (that most perpetual of perpetuities) was not quite ‘real’ because, in the normal course of things, after a few decades of imprisonment, there was a chance that he might be released.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 6, 2016 at 12:12 pm

Un Silence Religieux. La Gauche Face au Djihadisme. Jean Birnbaum. Review Article.

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Un Silence Religieux. La Gauche Face au Djihadisme. Jean Birnbaum. Seuil 2015.

 
“Quand on voudra s’occuper utilement du bonheur des hommes, c’est par les dieux du Ciel que la réforme doit commencer.”

When we wish to carry out some useful work for human happiness, reform will have to begin with the gods in the heavens.

D’ Holbach. Système de la nature. 1777. (1)

The Brussels killings, have “nothing to do with Islam” said the Belgian Muslim on Sky News on Saturday. Amongst the disarray that follows each atrocity, the dignified quiet of mourning, there is this statement, “It has nothing to do with Islam” – Jean Birnbaum cites the official, the specialist, the columnist, and the academic in France, as across the world. Charlie Hebdo, the Hyper-Cacher, the Bataclan, and now Brussels; the slaughters in the Middle East, North Africa, Nigeria, and so many elsewheres, have nothing to do with Islam. These are, we are informed, acts of terrorism, with ‘causes’, about which the interested will find a very long, very weighty, list. But one is stubbed out: religion, left in silence. Rien-à-voirisme, that is, “nothing to with-ism” is the response. Jihadism has nothing to do with Jihad.

The massacre in Lahore leaves us enveloped in the deepest of silences, the most profound sadness. But we have to listen. Jean Birnbaum asks, by what right does anybody have to deny the religious claims of the Jihadists? If members of Daesh are ever brought to the Hague Tribunal and judged for Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity will the religious doctrines that order their lives and by which they destroy those of others, be ruled inadmissible evidence?

Birnbaum’s Un Silence Religieux is not an essay on the failings of politicians grappling with the need to avoid scapegoating religious minorities. It is not about the generous feelings of people who wish to show respect for the beliefs of Muslims. It is not against those who point out the faulty syllogisms of the hate mongers who assert that ‘all’ Muslims are Islamist Jihadist sympathisers because…they too are Muslims. It is not, to cite a daily reiteration of his point, about the BBC’s official “rien-à-voirisme” labelling the Islamic State “so-called”.

Un Silence Religieux, the Gauche Face au Djihadisme is a dissection of the French left’s failure to tackle the fact of the irruption of Islamic belief in politics and war. His charge is that the majority fail to deal with the power of religious faith, its “autonomous force” in the lives of the Jihadists, reinforced in rituals and in murder. That Islam far from being consigned to the past, is a “universalism” with its own political impact – Islamism – is hard to accept, he argues, for a French left that is incapable to taking religion seriously.

If French left-wingers, intellectuals and activists, are more likely to dismiss faith as reactionary than, say, the English-speaking left, there remain those who take the that there is a form of “rebellion” at work in Islamism, a – distorted – projection of social causes. For every reflection on the Middle East and Islamism itself, another immediately jumps out: on Europe’s Islamists, on Europe’s states, on the French Republic, and the Salafism of the housing estates. That is to follow Olivier Roy, an “Islamisation of radicalisation”, (l’islamisation de la radicalité) a ‘nihilist’ and ‘generational revolt by those uninterested in written doctrine. (Le Monde. 30.11.15). To look for the sources in the failings of the French Republic, Western foreign policy, to look everywhere but in religion, In short, to explain away the fact of faith, that “day after day” by prayer and ceremonies guides the Jihadists, animated by the “récits mythiques et les formes symboliques” that “orientent leur esprit” (Page 31).

For Birnbaum this “community of fate” is the only ideal in the world for which young people by tens of thousands are willing to risk their lives, “le combat en faveur du rétablissement du ‘califat.” (Page 186) That claim, for all the elegance, clarity and passions he puts into this landmark essay, as they say, se discute – that is, it is very very debatable.

Un Silence Religieux traces the French left’s refusal to come to terms with the force of religion in the anti-colonialist history of North Africa. The minority of the country that stood in support of the struggle for Algerian independence and against the vicious repression of the French state was also marked by a tendency to remain silent about problems posed by the nationalist movement. Above all they treated the central role of Islam as “folklore”, the result of colonial underdevelopment that would disappear in the universalism and third-world socialism of the new society.

Four years after independence, in 1966, Pierre Maillot, closely involved in the conflict and its aftermath, sent an article criticising the Algerian programme of Arabisation and Islamisation to the ‘personalist’ left journal, Esprit. They accepted its truth, but judged it “inopportune” to publish.

Readers of the (colonial) Algerian raised Camus’ condemnation of all forms of blind terrorism, and those familiar with the section of the French left that backed the FLN’s opponents, led by Messali Hadj, and the small circulation writings of those who quickly denounced the new regime’s bureaucratic and repressive turn are familiar with some of the issues. But, as Claude Lanzmann recalls, having been overwhelmed by the necessity to defend the fight for independence against French repression and torture, the majority of the anti-colonial left was not about to denounce the efforts of the independent nation to create a new society.

One result, as Birnbaum states, was that nobody singled out the project that Maillot and a few others tried in vain to signal, the “arabo-islamisme” of the majority of those fighting against the occupiers, and the FLN’s determination to make Islam the centre of national life. Those critical of the new government concentrated their fire on these issues, and the emerging bureaucracy In Socialisme ou Barbarie, Jean François Lyotard warned in 1963 immediately after independence of the economic difficulties facing an underdeveloped country and a regime empty of democratic political life which began with populist slogans, including Ben Bella’s simultaneous railing against “cosmopolitanism” and calls for an Islam freed from “superstition”. Even the anti-totalitarian Claude Lefort, warning in the same year of the dangers of One-Party rule, considered the issue of secularism and Islamism to be a diversion from the economic – agricultural – and social problems of the country. (2)

Birnbaum argues that the legacy of this stand has indelibly marked the French left. The view that Islam is a religion of the “dominated” served to explain away the dominance of religious themes in the anti-imperialist Algerian struggle, to make it seem as if it was vehicle of revolt, and to conceal the autonomous importance of religious fervour. This had a long afterlife. In the 1980s Ahmed Ben Bella, the emblematic figure of the revolution deposed by the 1965 Boumédienne coup, was inspired by the Iranian example and became a fervent Islamist. An Arab nationalist (with all the problems that creates in a country with a strong Berber minority) he came to pronounce that Islamism was the “only authentic revolt against the economic and cultural domination of the West.” (Page 96) Freed from Maghreb detention he put his ideas into action, and, within a few years, founded an Islamist party opposed to the Algerian one-party state. Bella’s former comrades on the French left – and here I am speaking from direct experience – excused the turn. Asked if there was room for atheists in his version of the Islamic society when his template theocracy murdered non-believers it was said that a follower of Das Kapital could be considered one of the People of the Book.

It is hard, however, not to consider that the attitude of the French left towards Islam, like other European lefts, has been influenced by much wider considerations. The Bolsheviks, we learn from the Socialist Workers Party, tried in their early years to win Muslims to socialism. The early Comintern responded favourably to Pan-Islamism, as an anti-imperialist force. No less an authority than J.V. Stalin, supported the fight of the Emir of Afghanistan for independence, since his struggle “weakens, disintegrates and undermines imperialism.” If Trotsky’s assertion that, “the rule of Islam, of the old prejudices, beliefs and customs ……these will more and more turn to dust and ashes” was not fulfilled the tradition of supporting any movement which saps imperialist power was established. It has endured. If the principle that undergirded the strategy, that all these movements were part of the era of revolutions which would produce, sooner or later, the “transition” to socialism and a communist mode of production, has become threadbare there are still many on the left, in France and across the world, who remain trapped within its premises. (3)

From Foucault to Harman.

In this respect Birnbaum offers two contrasting accounts of the relation between Islam and revolution. The first is a sympathetic (some would say, unduly so) account of Michael Foucault’s writings on the late seventies Iranian Revolution. Foucault, we learn, was struck both by the originality of this revolt, a people united in a “ collective will” without – apparently – a vanguard – and by its originality, that is, its ‘political spirituality”. He remained, Birnbaum assures us, suspicious of “power”.

At the time Maxime Rodinson discerned the potential in the clerics for the totalitarian exercise of that power in the Iranian movement. If he charged Foucault with ignorance about the ambitions already apparent in Islamism, from the Moslem Brotherhood onwards, others have questioned the ‘anti-modernist’ project itself. In a comprehensive study of these writings, Janet Afray and Kevin Anderson (Foucault and the Iranian Revolution. 2005) ask ““Did not a post-structuralist, leftist discourse, which spent all of its energy opposing the secular liberal or authoritarian modem state and its institutions, leave the door wide open to an uncritical stance toward Islamism and other socially retrogressive movements, especially when, as in Iran, they formed a pole of opposition to an authoritarian state and the global political and economic order?” (4)

Foucault was no doubt right about the importance of the Iranian Revolution and its long-lasting effects. The evidence for that legacy is there to read on the left. Alistair Crooke’s claim that “The key event that emerge from the Islamist revolution has been the freeing of thinking from its long tutelage to the tyranny of instrumentalism” may be more muted today. Judith Butler’s claim that the Burka represents a form of oppositional spirituality to the Western gaze, follows Foucault in ignoring the struggle of Iranian feminists against the veil. For Butler the March 1979 enforcement of the Muslim dress code to cries of “You will cover yourselves or be beaten” is invisible as well. Such indeed is the autonomous power of Islamist spiritual ideology. (5)

Birnbaum then delves into Chris Harman’s The Prophet and the Proletariat (1994) for a less exalted view of Islamic revolution. Harman, a leader of the “puissant” (powerful – yes….see Page 148) Socialist Workers Party recognised the importance of the Iranian revolution. A polemic against those who considered the Islamists ‘fascists’., and those who were prepared to directly align themselves with Iran against imperialism, Harman’ account, notably of the Algerian government’s own role in encouraging ‘moderate’ Islamism in the 1970s and early 1980s, indicates the realism of the text. To Harman the class character of diverse Islamist movements, in the petty bourgeoisie, amongst ‘new exploiters’, went without any fascist ambitions to attack the workers’ movement. He noted (see J.V. Stalin, above), “the destabilising effect of the movements on capital’s interests right across the Middle East.” Their main fault in this respect was not being anti-imperialist enough; their petty bourgeois utopia envisaged justice without challenging capitalism.

Harman stated, that this, “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 that 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.“ (6)

In fact what Harman advocated was not a formal alliance with the Islamists ‘against the state’ but – sometimes – being on the “same side” against racism and against (see J.V. Stalin again) against imperialism. Always naturally involving discussion, and exposing the ‘contradictions” of the Islamists’ utopian ideas and trying to win them to “revolutionary socialism.” As Birnbaum observes, this was not only an “optimistic” belief, it also rests on the assumption that the “objective” course of history, the working out of economic laws, favours the socialist left. Given the SWP’s own self-belief in the creation of its party as a “tribune of the people”, is equally, Birnbaum accurately gauges, is tied to the much shakier claim that they would emerge as the principle voice and vehicle for the oppressed.

This is not the place to more than outline the collapse of this attempt to embrace the same constituency as the Islamists. Birnbaum does not cover the grotesque alliance that brought forth the shambles and shame of Respect, a party that claimed to represent ‘Muslims’, and the SWP’s work with its leader, George Galloway, now puttering around on Russia Today, railing against Europe. Nor does he cover the miasma that came from these quarters following the Charlie Hebdo massacre, the British Je ne Suis pas Charlie, workshop organised by the ‘anti-racist’ movement, Unite Against Racism, from those who had barely heard of the Hebdo who knew, just knew, that they (and the Hypercacher victims?) had it coming to them. But Un Silence Religieux, well informed as ever, does cover the more limited attempts on the French left, in the shape of the Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste (NPA) to reach out to Islam. The admirable Pierre Rousset’s comment that the NPA’s acceptance of a veiled candidate in Avignon that this was (see J.V.Stalin above) an alliance against the “main enemy” and an inability to take religion seriously. And yet, as Rousset has more recently remarked, for the veiled candidate, Ilham Moussaïd, the « le voile incarnait ce projet politique » (7)

These examples would appear to show that anything but the most transient and punctual joint-action between those engaged in politics on the basis of Islam and those engaged in politics as socialists – that is those who derive their principles from the supra-human and those who base them on the world – is bound to run aground. If the British left could oppose the invasion of Iraq in alliance with a variety of forces, including the Liberal Democrats, it is hard to see how this can endure into the Syrian conflict where even the most moderate Islamists have sympathies for …Islamists who wish to create an Islamic – moderate – state. And that is without confronting the issue of secularism in its broadest and weakest sense. No Islamist, by definition, can back the principle of freedom from religion in the running of the public sphere.

Marxism and Religion.

Are there deeper fault-lines within Marxism that have contributed to this failure to come to terms with the religious reality of Islamism? Birnbaum discusses Marx’s conjecture that faith, as an imaginary projection of social relations, will evaporate once a fully transparent, communist society is created. He spends some time on the equally speculative writings on the origin of the religious imaginary in human alienation, despair and hope for the future. The feeling that somehow, at is origin, that Christianity, and – once whispered – Islam was a form of ‘primitive communism’, or at least socialistic, views expressed with some verve by Karl Kautsky and repeated by many, from Rosa Luxemburg, to, Birnbaum discovers, Gramsci, may yet encourage a renewal of that famous “dialogue” between the left and the believers that clearly some hanker after. Knowledge of the exclusive nature of these early communities, not to mention the reign of Mohammed, do not encourage imitation amongst more than small circles. The history of utopian communities is riddled with factionalism and failure. Medieval and other apocalyptic revolts with their mass killings, and hysteria, may also be important moments of early class – peasant – class conflict – but they do not inspire modern supporters of the right not to believe.

But for Islamism that time has long passed. Birnbaum contrasts the hopes for a fully human world that animated the Spanish Internal Volunteers with the Jihadist refrain of Viva la muertre! (Page 213) The social relations that are turned upside down and projected in the visions of death that appear in the jihadist wish for the “end of the world” and a “good death” are perhaps the affair of specialists, who might trace them in Olivier Roy’s nihilism. They do not fit easily into the explanations of those who wish to uncover a Universalist society of equality – a religious utopia in Ernst Bloch’s sense – amongst those attracted to violent Islamism. What we see bears a strong resemblance to another of Foucault’s visions, a disciplinary society based on obsessive regulation of every gesture by the learned interpreters of the Qur’an, or their home-made improvised pretenders. A world in which every form of behaviour, every belief we hold in our hearts under surveillance – by the vice-regents of god – and corrected. Which is ruled by punishment, always punishment. And mortal cruelty. (8)

Birnbaum asks why the enthusiasm for Islam, which has led in the form of Daesh, to a “cruel violence” a hatred of modern Reason, in its different shapes, philosophical, Marxist, bourgeois or proletarian, inspires. The left, after the Fall of Official Communism, the triumph of capitalist economics and the predatory wars of the West, briefly came to life in the anti-, or ‘other-‘globalisation movements, which have faded. We are, in sum, confronted with not the end of the ‘grand narratives’ of the left, progress, emancipation, but at an impasse.

Shoulder to Shoulder.

In these conditions what remains? If we recognise “la force autonome de l’élan spirituel” we have made a step forward: ideology is a material practice. But is that all? The rationalist strain in Marxism, which owes something to d’Holbach, has tried to concentrate on exposing the ‘error’ of religion. Yet science, atheism, or simply rational explanation, has so far fared badly faced with ideology. Translating Reason into lived experience has always looked a formidable task. But now when a world-view so all-encompassing, enforced by a web of publishers, of ‘educational’ bodies, and Courts, state backed or not, and financed so generously by the twin arms of Islamic intolerance, Riyadh and Tehran exists how can this be confronted but by open political struggle? (9)

They are already engaged in inter-Muslim warfare. But outside, from the institutions down to the jihadist micro-powers, right up to the Islamic State itself in Syria and Iraq, another battle, ideological, and ultimately, physical, is taking place. New fault-lines are emerging. It is clear, and Birnbaum admirably contributes to the literature, that there are many in the Islamic world, including those who consider themselves good Muslims, who for love of the world and its people, promote democracy, human rights, and free-thought about religion. We are less sanguine than Birnbaum’s former teacher, and one-times supporter of the Gauche Prolétarienne, Christian Jambert, on the resources available inside Islamic philosophy that can continue to the spirit of liberty. Will they, as d’Holbach suggested, be able to reform the idea of god? Will we be able to attract widely for the secular cause of freedom? For the moment it is for us to stand shoulder to shoulder with these democrats. (10)

*******************

(1) Page 67. D’Holbach. Premières oeuvres. Les Classiques du people. 1971.
(2) Albert Camus. Chroniques algériennes. 1939 – 1958. Gallimard. 2012. Pages 498 – 591 Claude Lanzmann. Le lièvre de Patagonie. Gallimard. 2009. Page. 56. Jean-François Lyotard: L’Algérie évacuée Socialisme our Barbarie. No 34. 1963. La Politique et la Pensée de la Politique. (Les letters nouvelles. 1963) Reprinted in: Sur un colonne absente. Claude Lefort. Gallimard. 1978.
(3) Page 75. J.V. Stalin. The Foundations of Leninism. Peking. 1970. Also available here, The Foundations of Leninism  THE NATIONAL QUESTIONLeon Trotsky: Perspectives and Tasks
in the East. 1924. C:\Documents and Settings\Compaq_Owner\Desktop\Temporary\Leon Trotsky Perspectives and Tasks in the East (1924).htm.
(4) Page 136. Foucault and the Iranian Revolution.. Gender and seduction. Janet Afray and Kevin B. Anderson University of Chicago. 2005.
(5) Resistance. The Essence of the Islamist Revolution. Alastair Crooke. Pluto Press.2009. For Judith Butler the Burka, “signifies belong-ness to a community and religion, a family, an extended history of kin relations, an exercise of modesty and pride, a protection against shame, and operates as well as a veil behind which, and through which, feminine agency can and does work.”(Page 142) It is related to the fear of “decimation of Islamic culture and the extension of US cultural assumptions about how sexuality and agency ought to be organised and represented,”(Page 142). The Precarious life. The Powers of Mourning and Violence, Judith Butler. Verso 2006
(6)  Chris Harman. The Prophet and the Proletariat.
(7) Pierre Rousset. Le NPA, sept ans après : projet, réalités, interrogations. January 2016. K:\Le NPA, sept ans après _ projet, réalités, interrogations – Europe Solidaire Sans Frontières.html
(8) Michael Foucault, Discipline and Punish. Penguin, 1991.
(9) Marx et la baron d’Holbach. Denis Lecompte. PUF. 1983.
(10) On the forces sustaining and dividing the power of Islamism see: Riddles of the Book. Suleiman Mourad. New Left Review. No 86. Second series. 2014. Christian Jambert. Q’est que la philosophie islamique. Folio. 2011.

Pakistan Slaughter: Infinite Sadness.

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Child's funeral - 28 March

Dozens of Children were amongst the dead.

A Taliban splinter group says it carried out a suicide attack on a park in Lahore, Pakistan, which killed more than 70 people, including children.

Jamaat-ul-Ahrar said it had targeted Christians celebrating Easter, though police have said they are still investigating the claim.

There were scenes of carnage as parents searched for children amid the debris.

Pakistan’s president condemned the attack, and the regional government has announced three days of mourning.

At least 300 people were injured, with officials saying they expected the death toll to rise.

All major hospitals in the area were put on an emergency footing after the blast, early on Sunday evening.

BBC

A faction of the Pakistani Taliban, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, claimed responsibility for the explosion, saying it was targeted at Christians celebrating Easter. A spokesman for the group, Ehsanullah Ehsan, told the Guardian: “We have carried out this attack to target the Christians who were celebrating Easter. Also this is a message to the Pakistani prime minister that we have arrived in Punjab [the ruling party’s home province].”

Guardian.

2013.

Pakistan church bomb: Christians mourn 85 killed in Peshawar suicide attack

Pakistan’s worst-ever attack on beleaguered Christians prompts warning by bishop for future of minority in Muslim countries.

In Pakistan, 1.5% of the population are Christian. Pakistani law mandates that “blasphemies” of the Qur’an are to be met with punishment. At least a dozen Christians have been given death sentences,[198] and half a dozen murdered after being accused of violating blasphemy laws. In 2005, 80 Christians were behind bars due to these laws.[199]

Ayub Masih, a Christian, was convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death in 1998. He was accused by a neighbor of stating that he supported British writer Salman Rushdie, author of The Satanic Verses. Lower appeals courts upheld the conviction. However, before the Pakistan Supreme Court, his lawyer was able to prove that the accuser had used the conviction to force Masih’s family off their land and then acquired control of the property. Masih has been released.[200]

In October 2001, gunmen on motorcycles opened fire on a Protestant congregation in the Punjab, killing 18 people. The identities of the gunmen are unknown. Officials think it might be a banned Islamic group.[201]

In March 2002, five people were killed in an attack on a church in Islamabad, including an American schoolgirl and her mother.[202]

In August 2002, masked gunmen stormed a Christian missionary school for foreigners in Islamabad; six people were killed and three injured. None of those killed were children of foreign missionaries.[203]

In August 2002, grenades were thrown at a church in the grounds of a Christian hospital in north-west Pakistan, near Islamabad, killing three nurses.[204]

On 25 September 2002, two terrorists entered the “Peace and Justice Institute”, Karachi, where they separated Muslims from the Christians, and then murdered seven Christians by shooting them in the head.[205][206] All of the victims were Pakistani Christians. Karachi police chief Tariq Jamil said the victims had their hands tied and their mouths had been covered with tape.

In December 2002, three young girls were killed when a hand grenade was thrown into a church near Lahore on Christmas Day.[207]

In November 2005, 3,000 militant Islamists attacked Christians in Sangla Hill in Pakistan and destroyed Roman Catholic, Salvation Army and United Presbyterian churches. The attack was over allegations of violation of blasphemy laws by a Pakistani Christian named Yousaf Masih. The attacks were widely condemned by some political parties in Pakistan.[208]

On 5 June 2006, a Pakistani Christian, Nasir Ashraf, was assaulted for the “sin” of using public drinking water facilities near Lahore.[209]

One year later, in August 2007, a Christian missionary couple, Rev. Arif and Kathleen Khan, were gunned down by militant Islamists in Islamabad. Pakistani police believed that the murders was committed by a member of Khan’s parish over alleged sexual harassment by Khan. This assertion is widely doubted by Khan’s family as well as by Pakistani Christians.[210][211]

In August 2009, six Christians, including four women and a child, were burnt alive by Muslim militants and a church set ablaze in Gojra, Pakistan when violence broke out after alleged desecration of a Qur’an in a wedding ceremony by Christians.[212][213]

On 8 November 2010, a Christian woman from Punjab Province, Asia Noreen Bibi, was sentenced to death by hanging for violating Pakistan’s blasphemy law. The accusation stemmed from a 2009 incident in which Bibi became involved in a religious argument after offering water to thirsty Muslim farm workers. The workers later claimed that she had blasphemed the Muhammed. As of 8 April 2011, Bibi is in solitary confinement. Her family has fled. No one in Pakistan convicted of blasphemy has ever been executed. A cleric has offered $5,800 to anyone who kills her.[214][215]

On 2 March 2011, the only Christian minister in the Pakistan government was shot dead. Shahbaz Bhatti, Minister for Minorities, was in his car along with his niece. Around 50 bullets struck the car. Over 10 bullets hit Bhatti. Before his death, he had publicly stated that he was not afraid of the Taliban’s threats and was willing to die for his faith and beliefs. He was targeted for opposing the anti-free speech “blasphemy” law, which punishes insulting Islam or its Prophet.[216] A fundamentalist Muslim group claimed responsibility.[217]

On 27 March 2016, a suicide bomber from a Pakistani Taliban faction killed at least 60 people and injured 300 others in an attack at Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park in Lahore, Pakistan, and the group claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it intentionally targeted Christians celebrating Easter Sunday.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 28, 2016 at 11:44 am