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Posts Tagged ‘Islamophobia.

March Against Islamophobia in France – some divisions on the French left.

with 3 comments

Image result for marche contre l'islamophobie novembre paris affiche

This Sunday there is going to be a large demonstration against Islamophobia in Paris.

This is bound to have international resonance.

Protesting against hatred shown towards Muslims takes place after the attack on a Mosque  in Bayonne at the end of October and polls which show up to  44% of French people backing laws against wearing the veil in public spaces. (LES FRANÇAIS ET L’INTERDICTION DU PORT DU VOILE ISLAMIQUE DANS LES LIEUX PUBLICS.)

An appeal, signed initially by 50 prominent figures of the political left, trade unionists, anti-racist activists and intellectuals  was published in Liberation on the 1st of November calling for a response to the rise in hatred.

The dignity and integrity of millions of our fellow citizens are at stake. It is a question of unity against racism, which, in all its forms, which today again threatens France.

Le 10 novembre, à Paris, nous dirons STOP à l’islamophobie !

The racist atmosphere has reached a new level after what has been called an appeal to civil war against Muslims and immigrants from the writer Éric Zemmour at the  Convention de la Droite, held at the end of September,  which also starred the rising figure of the French far right Marion Maréchal. (Les propos d’Eric Zemmour, comme une incitation à la guerre civile)

Anybody wishing to be informed on the climate could do well to begin by reading Zemmour’s Le Suicide français (2014).

He begins by lamenting French decline, blaming an alliance of 68 libertarian leftist ideology, feminism, gay rights, and unrestrained free market capitalism for undermining the family and French national sovereignty. The left, by denigrating the Nation, the land, and its dead, has paved the way for globalism. The destruction of France is furthered by the European Union’s super-national project and the ‘elites’ running it against the rooted people of the countries they rule over.

Immigration plays a role in undermining French nation. In place of the ‘integrationist’ process of assimilation – he himself is from a North African Jewish background – today capitalists and leftists have allowed separate communities to develop. The “cult of mixing” and diversity has replaced the republican model of equality (, le culte du métissage )

Le Suicide français Zemmour described Paris as surrounded by a banlieue  studded with Islamic and drug dealing fortress.

His more recent diatribes continue in this vein,

“one must choose between living and together” [a play on words on the slogan “vivre ensemble”]. The question today is thus that of the people. The people can remake a nation. The French people against the universalisms, whether market or Islamic. The French people against the cosmopolitan citizens of the world who feel closer to the inhabitants of New York or London than to their compatriots in Montélimar or Béziers and the French people against the Islamic universalism that is transforming Bobigny, Roubaix and Marseille into so many Islamic Republics and which waves the Algerian or Palestinian flags when its football team wins – I mean the team it loves, the team of their parents’ country, not the team of their ID or health insurance card.

Speech here.

In these conditions it is valid to make some comparisons between Zemmour and the 19th century  author of the best known French anti-Jewish hated, Edouard Drumont  (De Drumont à Zemmour, les résonances de la France rance).

It is less clear that we can draw exact parallels with the organised anti-Semitism, which included ‘leagues’ that promoted Jew baiting,  of that period.

The attempt to do so and make explicit reference to the Dreyfus Affair in Pour les musulmans by Edwy Plenel (2015) whose title echoes Pour les Juifs  by Emile Zola is devoid of all geopolitical context, beginning with the rise of extreme right Islamism.

Yet there are clearly mechanisms of exclusion against Muslim voices. During public debates on the veil, the Hidjab, this has happened:

La semaine du racisme antimusulmans a commencé le 11 octobre 2019 : depuis cette date, 85 débats sur le hijab ont été organisés, 286 personnes ont été invitées sur vos écrans mais PAS UNE SEULE femme portant le hijab n’a été invitée dans le cadre de ces débats

 (The week of anti-Muslim racism began on October 11, 2019: since then, 85 debates on the hijab have been organized, 286 people have been invited to your screens but NOT ONE ONLY woman wearing the hijab has been invited as part of these debates)

These indicate some of the reasons why the Sunday protest may have problems in balancing a universalist stand against the racist wave and the need to avoid becoming trapped in an incircle defence of religious-political  ideas.

So far most of the debate has centred on these aspects of the difficulties involved.

To begin with the word Islamophobia, as if a religion rather than Muslims as people, are the target of hatred, is a difficulty for many.

This is much less of an issue than the fact that the demonstration is backed by people whose own anti-racism is far from clear.

Marcher le 10 novembre avec les islamistes et décoloniaux : une erreur politique majeure pour la gauche. Manuel Boucher.

There is equally  a strident tone against existing secularist  laws in the appeal for the march.

Few people are eager to take lessons on secularism from anybody associated with Islamism. (1)

This had led the Parti Socialiste and others to withdraw their support. A gauche, défections en série avant la «marche contre l’islamophobie»

Despite these criticisms Jean-Luc Mélenchon has maintained his backing (Marche contre l’islamophobie : Mélenchon défend sa signature «au nom du texte réel et du contexte cruel»)

Even from a distance it is hard not to deny the scale of the problems Muslims, from very diverse communities, forms of Islam, politics,  and origins, from the Maghreb onwards,  face in France.

********

(1) Une ombre islamiste plane sur la marche contre l’islamophobie

La Croix.

D’autres signaux permettent de déceler l’engagement de l’islamisme, parfois radical, dans la manifestation « Nous dirons STOP à l’islamophobie ! » du 10 novembre. Ainsi, une source policière note le relais de l’Appel à cet événement par plusieurs imams lyonnais, très investis dans l’UOIF. Mohamed Louizi relève, lui, les mêmes attitudes chez l’imam francilien Noureddine Aoussat, « frériste » reconnu ou chez l’imam nordiste Abdelmonaim Boussenna (Roubaix), très proche, longtemps, de Tariq Ramadan, et dont les profils YouTube et Facebook comptent des centaines de milliers d’abonnés.

Scrutant la liste des signataires de l’appel à manifester « contre l’islamophobie », Mohamed Louizi estime que « plusieurs d’entre eux posent problème ». Ainsi, la « Plateforme L.E.S. Musulmans », un « réseau collaboratif » qui entend exprimer l’opinion des « bases musulmanes », a été fondée par Marwan Muhammad, un « proche des Frères musulmans » qui fut aussi porte-parole et directeur exécutif du Collectif contre l’islamophobie en France (CCIF). Cette plateforme activiste vient d’ailleurs de lancer une Union des imams qui inquiète certains observateurs. Ses adhérents pourront être de toutes sensibilités et tous courants de pensée, y compris salafistes.

Plus largement, poursuit Mohamed Louizi, « tous les initiateurs de cette manifestation dénoncent, depuis le début, la loi du 15 mars 2004 qui interdit de porter à l’école les signes manifestant ostensiblement son appartenance à une religion… » A ce propos, une phrase de la tribune publiée par Libération, le 1er novembre, a particulièrement attiré l’attention : « Depuis des années, les actes qui visent (les musulmans) s’intensifient : qu’il s’agisse de discriminations (…) ou de lois liberticides… »

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He begins,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In this noxious mixture there are anti-Muslim strands.

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

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

The Left and ‘Islamophobia’.

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

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

Mahamdallie works with this central premise,

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

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

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

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

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

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

But, (we learn)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clearly not.

Multiculturalism. 

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

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

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

This asserts,

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

He states,

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

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

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

Anti-Semitism.

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

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

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

We wonder where this particular journey will end.

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

As the comrade says,

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, they like Jews those French leftists……

How awful.

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

Written by Andrew Coates

April 17, 2015 at 12:11 pm

French Left: Parti de Gauche Refuses to Back Problematic Meeting against “Islamophobia”

with 23 comments

https://i1.wp.com/www.lejdc.fr/photoSRC/W1ZTJ1FdUTgIBhVOGwYSHgYNQDUVGFdfVV9FWkM-/un-meeting-contre-l-islamophobie-fait-salle-comble-a-saint-d_1979110.jpeg

Rally against Islamophobia divides the left.

On Friday at the Bourse du Travail Saint-Denis a rally “against Islamophobia” was held with the backing of some left organisations, notably the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste and the French Communist Party.

Muslim and Islamist associations were prominent amongst its supporters. These included the Union des organisations islamiques de France (UOIF, close to the Muslim Brotherhood), le Parti des Indigènes de la République, (often described as the militant wing of post-colonial studies and associated with homophobia)  les Indivisibles, Présence musulmane (close to Islamist Tariq Ramadan) and  le Collectif enseignant pour l’abrogation de la loi de 2004 (CEAL) – that is the group which wants to abolish the secular rules on ostentatious religious signs in schools).

 Other groups, above all from the human rights and anti-racist movements, refused to take part.

 These were notably, the main French anti-racist body, the Mrap, la LDH (The League for the Rights of Man, France’s oldest anti-racist human rights group), SOS Racisme and  the Licra (The International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism).

The Left Party (Parti de Gauche) of Jean-Luc Mélenchon also  refused to join. Its general coordinator, Eric Coquerel said. “The term Islamophobia has posed a problem for us for several years. It makes it difficult to distinguish between  freedom to criticise religion and racism  The text also does not cite any other form of racism. In the present context – after the terrorist atrocities – it should have had a broader appeal”.  “At the same time”, he  continued “we have problems with those signing this document. They include communitarian groups and bodies that represent Political Islam. “

Inside the same bloc, the Front de Gauche, the grouping Ensemble backed the appeal and meeting, while the Parti Communist Français maintained its support for the declaration by sent nobody to the meeting.

At the rally itself Ismahane Chouder denounced the fact that people always ask Muslims to be irreproachable on ‘antisemitism’ ‘sexism’ and ‘homophobia”. She called this demand for anti-sexism, opposition to hatred of Jews and of gays,  “Islamophobic”.

Alexander Sulzer L’Express.

For a defence of this meeting see: Grand succès du meeting contre l’islamophobie et les dérives sécuritaires (Laurent Lévy.  Ensemble).

Laurent Lévy ignores the main point of the Parti de Gauche: the questionable term “Islamophobia”. Indeed he continues with the dangerous reactionary confusion between racism and dislike/criticism of a religion.

In Libération today the radical left atheist Michel Onfray comments favourably on the Parti de Gauche’s decision and clarifies this point,

What a joy it is, finally, on the left, and in particular on the anti-liberal (economics) left, my own political side, we have begun to fight this ‘amalgam”. That is, is to lump together criticism of religion with Islamophobia” when it’s a matter of Islam, Christianophobia,  when it’s Christianity, anti-Semitism when it concerns Judaism, to the point where atheism itself becomes blasphemous. “

The writer wishes that this approach will continue, and that it will clarify the debate about religion.

“It  would distinguish those who oppose religion in the name of reason, not racism (in my case, and that of many people who do not even adopt the ‘catechism’ of the left), and those who hide their racism and xenophobia behind the rejection of religion.  One could imagine that once this distinction in the realm of ideas is made, those who do not want religion to govern our law, will be able to clearly distinguish those who dislike the Muslim religion and those who dislike those who practice it. “

Exactly.

Oppose racism against Muslims.

Criticise Islam as a religion.

Independent investigation sparked by ‘Trojan horse’ letter finds officials failed to act for fear of being accused of Islamophobia.

with 6 comments

SWP Placards, No Answer to Real Problems. 

Is the Guardian finally seeing sense?

This report has just appeared.

Birmingham council a ‘disastrous failure’ over Islamism in schools

Independent investigation sparked by ‘Trojan horse’ letter finds officials failed to act for fear of being accused of Islamophobia.

Birmingham council “disastrously” failed to act when a group of Muslim men began to promote, sometimes illegally, a fundamentalist version of Islam in some schools, because officials were afraid of being accused of racism or Islamophobia, a report has found.

The investigation, carried out by the independent adviser Ian Kershaw, was commissioned by Birmingham City council (BCC) as a result of concerns raised in a letter dated 27 November 2013, known as the “Trojan horse” letter, which suggested a number of schools in the city had been “taken over” to ensure they were run on strict Islamic principles.

The Birmingham report, compiled by Kershaw and overseen by a review group that included senior Home Office official Stephen Rimmer and representatives of the West Midlands police, interviewed many of the same witnesses and reviewed the same documents as the former counterterrorism police chief Peter Clarke, who was commissioned by the then education secretary Michael Gove to address extremism in Birmingham schools.

The article continues and states this,

The report found that a small group of governors had:

• placed unreasonable demands on head teachers to “modify curriculum provision, which denies students their right to access a broad and balanced curriculum, including the right to understand other world religions and the right to sex and relationship education”.

• placed “inappropriate demands on head teachers by repeatedly requesting information”.

• been “overly challenging and sometimes aggressive in the management of head teachers”.

• inappropriately appointed friends and relatives to the school staff.

• undermined head teachers during Ofsted inspections.

Kershaw found that elements of the five steps referred to in the Trojan Horse letter for taking over schools were present in a “large number of the schools considered as part of the investigation”.

These five steps were to: target poorly performing schools in Muslim areas; select parents to turn against schools; install governors to encourage Islamic ideals; identify key staff to disrupt from within; and to instigate a campaign of pressure.

Kershaw found evidence of all five steps at Golden Hillock School, Moseley school, Nansen primary school and Saltley school. All of those schools, with the exception of Moseley, were recently put into special measures after emergency Ofsted inspections downgraded them to “inadequate”.

There was no evidence of all five at Park View Academy, which has been at the centre of the controversy.

Kershaw concluded that the evidence collated to date “does not support a conclusion that there was a systematic plot to take over schools”.

He added: “There are concerns which require immediate attention, but the evidence is not sufficient to lead me to construe the behaviour to be a coordinated plan to improperly influence the direction and management of schools (or academies) serving schools of predominantly Islamic faith or Muslim background.”

More here.

Has the Guardian changed? Have all their writers  now dropped the automatic resort to charges about ‘Islamophobia’ when these problems were reaised.

Not really.

It remains trapped in religious multi-culturalism, as this accompanying article by  illustrates.

The Trojan horse plot shows we must clarify religion’s place in state schools

Isolationist and xenophobic tendencies must be challenged robustly and not accepted as part of faith or cultural practice

….we need to clarify the place of religion in state schools. For example, is it reasonable to expect a school with a majority Muslim population to hold Christian prayers during assembly, daily worship apparently being a legal requirement? Should it offer Islamic prayer instead or different assemblies for pupils of different religious and non-religious backgrounds? Does modern religious diversity mean we do away with collective worship at school or adopt a multi-faith approach? Schools around the country regularly grapple with such issues.

And,

As a result of this unfortunate episode, we need to put measures in place to ensure that the teaching of religion in schools is objective, balanced and non-discriminatory, while all school activities and practices are inclusive and devoid of narrow religious or political influences. While state schools must remain sensitive to the cultural needs of all pupils, isolationist and xenophobic tendencies must be challenged robustly and not accepted as part of faith or cultural practice. Governance structures also need to be improved so that schools are more careful about whom they appoint. Extremists, even if they are non-violent, should not be allowed to work in schools or be governors, and attempts to impose puritanical agendas on schools in the public sector must not be allowed to happen again.

How about simply removing religion from “school activities and practices”, and teaching about it within the context of philosophy and cultural anthropology  in schools?

Written by Andrew Coates

July 18, 2014 at 5:59 pm

Islamophobia and Australian ‘Honour Killings’ Talk Cancellation.

with 5 comments

 

After the above talk is cancelled the Guardian publishes an article by  (Hat-tip JB)

Uthman Badar: both Islamophobia’s victim and unwilling accomplice

In the last two days we have seen an eruption of Australia’s public and moral outrage, regarding Hizb ut-Tahrir’s media spokesman, Uthman Badar, and his planned talk on morally justifying “honour” killings at Sydney’s Festival of Dangerous Ideas. In response to the planned event, which was cancelled after a massive backlash, we have yet again heard the typical Islamophobes scream the usual condemnation all over our televisions, our radios, our Twitter feeds and in The Daily Telegraph: “Kick Hizbut Outta Here.”

Mossi asserts that the subject of Honour killings was not the speaker’s own. In fact, “Badar wanted to give a talk at the Opera House on how Muslims are always represented as the “Other”.

“Without uttering a single word in defence of “honour” killings – not that he was ever planning to – Badar had his face plastered all over the nation’s imagination as a bigot, misogynist, and an extremist Muslim.”

Morsi concludes,

Islamophobia is better understood as a sort of unchecked energy that drives a frenzy of media scrutiny. It is marked by rituals, a sense of a story, an element of sensationalism, loaded language, to explain what is wrong with those Muslims who aren’t integrated. It is a set of questions, and a conversation with shallow answers about what it means to be us by talking about them; a ritual to purify the social space that is premised on a suspicion about the danger of those on society’s edges, on fringes defiling us; a danger that manifests itself into the face of a red-tinted Badar who is told to get out. Islamophobia is the exploiting of the Muslim for one’s own fantasies. In that sense Badar was both its victim and its unwitting accomplice.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports,

On Wednesday, Mr Badar would not tell reporters whether he believed ”honour killings” – the murder of women deemed to have brought shame or dishonour on their family – were justified.

He also declined to outline the contents of his cancelled talk, but said he was disappointed the festival had bowed to public pressure.

”I would hope they had more courage, more backbone,” he said. ”This issue has nothing to do with honour killings. Islam does not condone any form of abuse or violence towards women.”

In a speech to reporters that sometimes sounded like a sermon, Mr Badar said the ”hysterical” response to the talk’s title was a clear example of Islamophobia. If honour killings were defended by a ”white man”, the response would have been much more muted, he said. Mr Badar hinted at the issues he would have covered in the talk by saying the Western world wanted a ”monopoly on violence” through wars, invasions and puppet governments it justified with its own ideology.

The Australian newspaper also notes,

Hizb ut-Tahrir released a statement on Monday defending the actions of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) – also known as ISIS – in Iraq, where extremist militants have seized large areas of the country. ”ISIS is being portrayed, in fantastical Hollywood style, as evil incarnate on Earth, having seemingly taken over from al-Qaeda who previously fulfilled this bogeyman role,” the statement said.

”An uprising against the systematically oppressive US-installed and backed Maliki regime is being painted as a takeover by ‘terrorists’ to justify political, and if needed military intervention whereby the interests of Western powers will be protected and furthered.”

It is not at all clear if this means support for ISIL or ISIS. Hizb have a history of essentially supporting their own affiliates – not these groups.

But some degree of sympathy would fit with the  general line of Hizb ut-Tahrir (as on their official site)

Besides, fighting to expel the enemy from the Muslims’ lands is part of the established thoughts in the Party culture. It is even one of the important rules of Islam. The party has made the obligation to fight the Kuffar, even with the collaborating rulers as long as it is a fighting against the Kuffar, thus deeming it as part of the Jihad for the sake of Allah, as part of the thoughts related to the Shari’ah rules which entail the regulating of the Ummah’s behaviour in relation to the progress of the state; it has even deemed it as one of the greatest concepts of discipline in existence. It is mentioned in the 6th concept of the “concepts of discipline” in the Party Dossier

What is the best way to react to organisations and individuals with such opinions?

Certainly not by denying their right to free speech  (an important principle for many, from socialists to liberals), even if this particular event has all the hall-marks of a stunt.

The St James Ethics Centre (behind the Festival of Dangerous Ideas) is a group promoting  debate , “broader than simply business & professional ethics..” This ,”involves the hands on examination of virtually every kind of ethical issue arising in society. Operating both in Australia and abroad, the Ethics Centre remains unique in the world for its support to the general community on ethical issues, creation and management of public debates and application of ethical principles to specific issues in public institutions, not-for-profits and companies.”

It would seem to be appropriate forum to subject the Hizbt to public exposure.

That this has not happened is obviously due the topic: honour killings are not ideas but acts of violence.

A detailed consideration of the issue of honour killings and the problematic arguments by Badar (relativising honour killings, though not condoning them) is given by Sarah AB.

There is room for analysis of the reasons why the talk has been cancelled.

But Morsi however seems have already entered this subject with the ready-made view that any criticism of Islamists of the stripe of the Hizb is “Islamophobia’.

He works himself up into paroxysms of rage describing the Australian reaction.

The Problem with Islamophobia.

There is an extremely sensitive and thoughtful piece by Shaif Rahmen on Islamophobia on Harry’s Place this morning,.

It begins by noting how the term is full of dangers, and

  • It is also unhelpful, because if left unchecked it;
  • blurs acceptable boundaries and culls debate
  • treats all criticism of Islam with equal disdain
  • equates Islamophobia with racism
  • gives a free ride to exponents of Islamism, magnifying their voices whilst countering narratives are hushed inhibits free speech which often acts as a catalyst for positive change.

Rahmen concludes,

So when does criticism of Islam become Islamophobia?

When the criticism prejudices and stigmatises Muslims rather than their beliefs.

Hizb ut-Tahrir is rightly attacked for its beliefs.

It is accused, with ample justification, of being an extreme-right wing party which aims to establish a religious dictatorship.

Its social policies are utterly reactionary.

Cod philosophy about the Muslim Other (1), melodrama and histrionics cannot deflect these criticisms.

Or silence them.

But perhaps this is Morsi’s aim?

(1) This is a brilliant unravelling  of the pretentious gibberish used by Badar  (like Morsi an adept of the Woody Allen school of Sartre and Derrida studies): The accused is the oriental other. Ophelia Benson.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 26, 2014 at 12:45 pm

Boko Haram: The Bankruptcy of ‘Islamophobia’

with 34 comments

 

The World is Concerned at Fate of Nigerian Schoolgirls. But is the British left? 

Seamus Milne has a  simple explanation for Islamist violence.

On the 23rd of April he wrote (Guardian – extracts) ,

It’s the result of ” support for tyranny and military intervention in the Middle East over a century. That record has been the central factor in the rise of Islamist movements and the jihadist backlash since 2001. This week’s US missile attacks in Yemen, which left dozens dead, will generate more of it.”

This ‘backlash’ fuels “a toxic blend of messianic warmongering abroad and McCarthyite witch-hunting at home.

“Meanwhile, in Britain and other countries preparing for next month’s Euro elections, denunciations of Islamic “extremism” and non-existent plots, along with dog-whistle talk about Christianity, are the small change of the contest with rightwing populists. But the fear and hatred they feed will be with us for many years to come.”

John Rees is equally concerned about what he calls a “New Wave of Islamophobia” (StWC 24th of April).

His explanation tallies with Milne’s.

“Islamophobia remains very closely related to the war on terror and the ideologies developed to justify it. It is state and establishment driven to an unusual degree. ”

” The Stop the War movement has forged lasting ties with this community. It has correctly identified the cause of Islamophobia and integrated campaigning against it into the wider campaign to eradicate the war on terror from which it arose. It is time to renew that resistance.”

They are so concerned about Islamophobia that this pair have yet to comment on a story about Islamism that is dominating the world media’s headlines: Boko Haram.

The leader of Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram has said that more than 270 schoolgirls snatched from their dormitories were “slaves” whom he planned to sell in the market.

“I abducted your girls,” a man claiming to be Abubakar Shekau, the group’s leader, said in a video seen by the Guardian. “I will sell them in the market, by Allah. I will sell them off and marry them off. There is a market for selling humans.

“Women are slaves. I want to reassure my Muslim brothers that Allah says slaves are permitted in Islam,” he added, in an apparent reference to an ancient tradition of enslaving women captured during jihad, or holy war.

Speaking in northern Nigeria‘s Hausa language during a rambling hour-long speech, he threatened further attacks on schools and warned the international community not to get involved in Nigeria. Shekau has previously called western education “a plot against Islam” and urged his fighters to kill students and teachers.

“I will marry off a woman at the age of 12. I will marry off a girl at the age of nine,” he said at another point in the video.

Guardian.

This raises two questions about those crying about ‘Islamophiobia’.

Firstly, Boko Haram are Islamists. They are far from the Middle East. What evidence is that they are  “blow-back” against the ‘war on terror’?

Secondly, since they clearly are terror what is to be done against them except waging a “war”?

Some people may try to ‘explain” Boko Haram.

The most important thing is to condemn and fight against them.

On the 15th of April the Socialist Party of Nigeria (aligned to the Socialist Party in England and Wales) issued this declaration about bomb attacks (by the same Islamists) in Abuja.

What the outpouring of agitation and protests against the attack urgently demands is an accurate leadership from the working people’s organisations including the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress with the Joint Action Front (JAF) to spearhead an immediate mass movement nationwide against the growing terrorist activities and killings as well as the palpable incompetence and incapacitation of the government to rein in the terror. While the NLC has issued a press statement to condemn the attack, it must join forces with other pro-working people’s political organisations to name a DAY OF NATIONAL MOURNING AND MASS PROTESTS. The National Day of mourning and mass protests against terror must also include the demands against the anti-poor policies like education attacks, mass unemployment and poverty wages.

SPN.

What protests are the British left mounting in solidarity?

Written by Andrew Coates

May 6, 2014 at 10:37 am

Important Article in Taz Today about Islamist Manipulation of ‘Islamophobia’.

with 3 comments

Necla Kelek: Doughty Fighter for Secular Freedom.

There’s a very important article today  in the German centre-left daily, Die Tageszeitung, by Necla Kelek, (who’s of Turkish origin), taking apart, root and branch, the campaign against  ‘Islamophobia’ by various kinds of Islamists (here). The piece,  a solid essay, goes into the whole misuse of the concept of ‘racism’ in this context. She points out the racist ideas of Islamicists: that one is ‘born’ a Muslim and can never stop being one. There is a promiennt place given to  the manipulation in Turkey by pro-AKP conservative Islamicists of the alleged anti-Islam atmosphere in Germany. In short, it paints a sad picture of the ideology of Islamicism: rather than fight for equality and act against real racialist politics, it serves as a counter-banner of prejudice around an Islam beyond criticism. That is, a closed ideology constantly under ‘threat’.

I observe that it seems a common religious trope. It could be extended very widely (put in other faiths for the one cited above)  to those who continually see their religions ‘menaced’.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 16, 2009 at 12:52 pm

Posted in Islamism, Racism, Religion, Secularism

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