Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Religion

Islamic State: Fascism, Totalitarianism and Evil.

with 92 comments

 

Islamic State, Fascism, Totalitarianism and Evil.

The decision of the British Parliament to back Prime Minister David Cameron and join an alliance of forces to fight the Islamic State (Daesh) in Syria has aroused great emotion. Hilary Benn and others have described these Islamists as fascists. They are therefore in the class of the wicked against whom we can all unite.

Others notably supporters of the Stop the War Coalition, assert versions of Terry Eagleton’s different view in On Evil (2010) While the “lethal fantasises” of Islamic fundamentalists (his term) may be “vicious” and “benighted” Jihadist acts of mass murder, like the destruction of the Twin Towers, arise from the “Arab world’s sense of anger and humiliation at the long history of its political abuse by the West.” Terrorism, the cultural thinker opined, has its “own momentum”. – to meet it with violence is to “breed more terror”. (1)

The traction of the ‘anger and humiliation” motor was much used in these quarters in the wake of the slaughter at Charlie Hebdo and the Hyper-Cacher last January. Rules for the correct and authorised use of satire were drawn up, excluding being rude about the humiliated. Little power in this ready-made explanation was left over for the Paris massacre last month. That was simply to be condemned. Much liberal reaction, while often shy of the fascist label, tends to agree that Daesh is uniquely evil. We “all” denounce this barbarity – including within this all, Muslim voices underlining their profound horror at ISIL.

So Daesh is both exceptional, and fascist. Or not, as those keen to proclaim, from an anti-imperialist and Marxist standpoint, that the West has committed worse crimes, not least in the Middle East, and the difference that this “state” “created” by Western intervention in Iraq shows from European fascism and Nazism. Daesh is not, they have discovered, on scholastic authority, a “battering ram” against the workers’ movement; it does not mobilise the “petty bourgeoisie” behind Monopoly Capital, to destroy bourgeois democracy. It is not a response to a crisis of capital accumulation and a strong labour movement challenge to capitalism. It is has little beyond fringe support in the imperialist nations. The priority is the fight against the imperialists, to work together for their defeat. There is no need for a united front in the “struggle against Islamist fascism”. (2)

Fascism and Islamism.

Comparisons with the 1930s, not to mention contemporary far-right populism in Europe, are self-evidently hard to make. The differences between Daesh and European fascism are perhaps better illuminated by Michael Mann in Fascists (2004) tired to draw out common features of these far-right movements and states. In doctrine, he observed, they are marked by: 1) Thus, nationalism, the “organic, integral unity of the nation”, rebirth, 2) Statism, “Fascists worshiped state power”. 3) Transcendence: they attacked both capital and labour, with the objective of the “supposed creation of a new man”. The nation and state comprised their centre of gravity: they hoped to subordinate capital to their goals. 4) Cleansing, “because opponents were seen as ‘enemies’, they were to be removed, and the nation cleansed of them.”5) Paramilitarism, a key value and organisation form, popular, vanguard of the nation. “Violence was the key to the ‘radicalisation’ of fascism.”(3)

Mann argued that Islamism has many common features with European fascism, “The new jihadis (popularly called ‘fundamentalists’) do seek to create a monocratic, authoritarian regime that will enforce a utopian Koranic ideal. This regime will create a new form of state and a new man (and woman), Its predominant organisation is the paramilitary taking various but always dominant forms – guerrilla international brigades in the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan, armed bands of terrorising enforcers under the Taliban and Iranian Islamists (rather like the SA or SS), and clandestine terrorist networks elsewhere, All this is decidedly fascist.”(4)

Nevertheless they are not nationalist and the state is not an end in itself: its role is to enforce the Sharia. Mann concluded, “Unlike fascism, they really are political religions. They offer a sacred, but not a secular ideology. They most resemble fascism in deploying the means of moral murder but the transcendence, the state, the nation, and the new man they seek are not this-worldly. We might call this sacred fascism; of course though perhaps it is better to recognise that they human capacity for ferocious violence, cleansing, and totalitarian gaols can have diverse sources and forms, to which we should give different labels – fascist communist, imperialist, religious, ethno-nationalist, and so on.”(4)

Mann did not anticipate the more recent argument that Daesh and other jihadist groups such as Al-Qaeda, recruiting from dislocated social layers, in war-torn Syria and Iraq, have created a “religion de rupture” based on a cultural and generational break. The Islamic State, from this standpoint, is, the specialist in Islamism, Olivier Roy argues, “nihilist”. (Le djihadisme est une révolte nihilste. Le Monde 25.11.15) they are “more Muslim than the Muslims”. The ideology, their ‘imaginary’, of Daesh dwells on death and war, the extermination or enslavement of the non-Muslim Kufur, and the killing of Muslim heretics (in Takfir terms, all non-Sunnis, and all Sunnis who do not accept their doctrine). Their objective is less a utopian society, the recreation of an ancient Caliphate, than the Nothingness that Terry Eagleton identified with the Death Drive – a desire hinted in Nazi extermination. (5)

Genociders.

Richard Rechtman traces Daesh’s practice, from the creation of disciplinary machine that enforces the Sharia in all aspects of life, to genocide. He calls them simply, “génocidaires” (genociders), who mark a line between the “pure” and the “impure” – eliminating all who are unclean. (La Violence de l’organisation Etat islamique est génocidaire. Le Monde. 28.11.15) Daesh has “deterritorialised” its genocide. The Charlie Hebdo journalists, the Jewish customers of the Hyper-Cacher, the tens of thousands of martyrs in Iraq, Syria and Africa, are murdered for what they “are”.

Daesh, may have grown as a ‘state’ in the wake of the conditions of the Iraqi invasion and the Syrian civil war and the failure of the democratic aspirations on the Arab spring in that region and elsewhere. It may be marked by its genocidal ambitions. But it is clearly part of a much broader current of political Islam. Gilles Kepel has described the search for divine sovereignty in the aftermath of the First World War and the break up of the Ottoman Caliphate. He states that the central Islamist belief is that sovereignty belongs to Allah only. As developed in what are widely considered the founding writings of modern Islamism by the Egyptian Sayyid Qutb during the 1950s, ““The Muslim umma is a collectivity (Jama’a) of people whose entire lives – in their intellectual, social, existential, political, moral and practical aspects – are based on Islamic ethics (mihaj). Thus characterised, this umma ceases to exist if no part of the earth is governed according to the law of God any longer…”(6) The task of Islamists is to restore this society.

Four Horsemen.

Some commentators assert that Daesh is a new millennialist movement, evoking images of a final battle with the forces ranged against Islam. In this it is clearly not alone. Kepel noted a widely shared Islamist list of enemies, signs of the end times: the “ four horsemen of the apocalypse (who) were: ‘Jewry’, the ‘crusade’, ‘communism’ and ‘secularism’.” He continues, “’Jewry’ is the ultimate abomination. The word ‘Jew’ (yahud) is used in indifferently to apply to both Israeli citizens and other Jews. Israeli citizenship, in fact, is seen as merely an attribute of the Jew, defined ontologically on the basis of racial, historical and religious criteria.” As we have just seen, Daesh has found it easy to move from identifying these ‘attributes’ to calls for genocide. (7)

From the 1928 foundation of the Muslim Brotherhood by Hassan-Al-Banna, already stamped with hostility to democratic “division”, to Qubt’s ideas, and to the present-day forms of Salafism, Al-Qaeda and Daesh, Islamism is no longer “one” politics or ideology. The Muslim Brotherhood is said to have developed an Islamist ‘constitutionalism’, which incorporates a degree of popular consultation underneath of the rule of religious experts. The Islamic State of Iran is totalitarian in some respects (no political freedom for parties that are not Islamic, interference in private lives, mass political killings) but has a degree of “pluralism” within its oligarchy.  Saudi Arabia is totalitarian but traditional, a ‘kingdom’. Boko Haram is genocidal in way that parallels movements of ethnic extermination. Somalian Islamists are war-lords – a pattern repeated on a smaller scale amongst the smaller Syrian movements. Al Qaeda has attempted to wage a global war to defend the “umma” from Western aggression, although its affiliate in Syria, Al-Nusra, appears fixed on creating something not dissimilar to Daesh, the reign of men working in the Shadow of god over the country. Daesh may be said to be “glocal” – global and local – fighting across the world, and restoring the Caliphate in Iraq and Syria (Genèse du dijhadisme. Nabil Mouline. Le Monde Diplomatique. December 2015).

These are only some indications that Daesh is not cut off from the mainstream of Islamism. Perhaps, if we wish to clarify the nature of these forms of actually existing Islamism, it would be better to use the broad expression “totalitarian” to describe them. We have seen how ‘fascism’ is not a useful term in itself – only to help highlight some common features and to make differences stand out. Specifically no form of Islamism is organised around what Claude Lefort called an “Egocrat” – a Fascist or Nazi ruler who lays down the interests of the Volk or Nation, or the Stalinist ‘Marxist-Leninist’ line. Lefort, abstractly and probably too generally, cited the breaking of a division between civil and political society, and mechanisms to make world ‘transparent’ to the Eye of the Egocrat’s rule. There is no protection against terror; ‘law’ is a constantly shifting game of paranoia and factional dispute. (8)

Islamism has led to new forms of totalitarianism. Worship of state power, and the organic unity of the community have different sources. They could be said to try to restore a pre-modern unity of unquestioned belief and society. But if their sights are set on ‘otherworldly’ goals, they have the presence of scripture, the Qur’an, to rule intermundane existence; they have a ‘law’, the Sharia, which binds the “umma” together without class or other division. This is, as Mann states, a political religion, reliant on modern mechanisms of power to achieve its aims. All wish to encourage virtue, and punish vice, not only by preaching but also by physical coercion. Not only the divine state but god is said to peer into the private lives and minds of their subjects. It can be considered, in its materialised shape, as a political religion wrapped in totalitarian mechanisms.

Contradictions.

The contradictions within the forms of Islamist totalitarianism are marked. How far can they restore the Golden Age of Islam? Maxime Rodinson signaled the problems any form of political Islam faces in trying to reconcile ‘justice’ with the recreation of the mercantile capitalism idealised in their portrait of the early years of the Prophet’s rule (Islam and Capitalism. 1973). This ideal looks even more absurd, amongst the oil, contraband and extortion revenues of the Islamic State.  And what of their ‘moral’ regulation. Islamists insist on the subordinate but cherished place of women, but only some wish to recreate the benign forms of slavery practiced in early Islam. They show degrees of intolerance towards non-believers, the ‘impure’, from accepting the rights of lesser faiths to exist, to Daesh’s programme of all out war. And who indeed has the right to make the rules of the state, from commerce to administration. Is this to be decided by their own reading or by the studies of learned scholars, skilled in deciphering ancient manuscripts?

Is Islamism related to a crisis of capitalist development, its ‘uneven’ growth and the failure of democratic or nationalist regimes to govern in countries with a majority Muslim population? If this is so, it is the case for all political movements in, to start with, the contemporary Middle East. Efforts to claim that it some kind of “diverted” form of class struggle tend to rely on the notion that an ideal ‘revolutionary’ movement is just waiiting there, ready to leap forward when the time is right.

But what is Islamism’s class basis? From the pious bourgeoisie that backs the various wings of the Muslim Brotherhood, or the Turkish AKP, the ‘popular’ masses who see in them a rampart against the destructive effects of the modern world and globalisation, to those fearing rival Muslim – Shiite – bands in Iraq to the ‘dislocated’ individuals prepared to martyr others for their own glory – about the only clear thing we can say is that it is not the working class in the traditional or “globalised” sense of neo-liberalism.  If it is opposed to class struggle and its ‘anti-capitalism’ goes with capitalist economics – with Islamic ‘justice’ – these are not salient points in its politics.The key issue remains ‘divine’ sovereignty against secular authority, either democratic or authoritarian.

Islamism, as we have stated, is not ‘one’ movement. There are major and irreconcilable rivalries between those pursing a ‘Gramscian’ strategy of winning ideological hegemony on the road to power, and those who use terror. Above all, there are fights within material organisations, the Islamic State, the ‘micro-powers’ within communities – ‘radical’ Mosques, Islamist and Salafist associations, Islamic courts, official or unofficial, and the Einsatzgruppen prepared to kill across the planet. These are all part of the wider Islamist ‘mouvance’. To claim that there are sharp distinctions between the distinct elements is to ignore the areas of convergence, notably the practice of violently enforcing a code personal mores – which extends to these small-scale centres across the world, including Europe.

Islamist totalitarianism is a real political threat, not an ‘ontological’ evil, a rent in the world, the tragic side of history. Nor is the problem limited to  nihilistic warriors. These forms of totalitarianism have material weight. They are a major political challenge. They are deeply opposed to the notion of ‘human’ rights, the bedrock ideology of most sections of the left, from liberalism to the defenders of workers’ democracy.

Fight Against Islamism.

Those who make alliances with the ‘moderate’ wings of Islamism align with the enemies of socialism and liberal freedoms.  Those who state that they stand with the Islamists ‘against’ the State or ‘against’ imperialism’ are collaborating with our worst enemies. But there are not only attempts at compromise and accommodation, or leftist manipulation in the belief that the experience of the ‘struggle’ will win their new friends over to their side. A fight is developing, from the fighters of the Kurdish led groups in Syria, to the democrats, leftists and secularists combating Islamism on the ground across the world. Our objective is free societies, in which the democratic movement for socialism can organise, develop and win power. In this battle there is one force we cannot rely on: the Western powers, locked into an alliance with totalitarian Islamist Saudi Arabia and with the authoritarian Islamists of Turkey.

Human rights are universal: they are not subordinate to political calculation in the conflicts unfolding in the Middle East. The popular struggle against Islamism is only beginning.

*****
(1) Pages 157 – 159. On Evil. Terry Eagleton. Yale University Press. 2010.
(2) See: The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany. Leon Trotsky. Pathfinder Press. 1972.
(3) Page 16. Fascists. Michael Mann. Cambridge University Press. 2004.
(4) Page 373. Mann Op cit.
(5) Page 374. Mann Op cit.
(6) Page 112. Eagleton Op cit.
(7) Page 43. The Roots of Radical Islam. Gilles Kepel. Saqi. 2005
(8) Page 113. Gilles Kepel Op cit.
(9) Essais sur le (yes it is ‘le’) politique. Claude Lefort. Seuil 1986. Un Homme en trop. Réflexions sur l’Archipel du Goulag. Claude Lefort. Belin. 2015 (1976).

“Hard Edged Secularism” in UK to Blame for Support for Islamic State, Says Top Tory.

with one comment

Crabb: Standing up to Hard-Edged Secularists. 

The Guardian reports.

A Tory cabinet minister has said that Britain’s increasingly secular society risks “pushing more young Muslims into the arms of Isis”.

Stephen Crabb, the Welsh secretary, used a speech to claim that a “hard-edged” secularism in Britain was partly to blame for “aiding and abetting” extremism, as mainstream religion is marginalised in public life.

Crabb is a committed Christian who voted against gay marriage and is one of at least two prominent members of the Conservative Christian Fellowship in the cabinet, alongside the education secretary, Nicky Morgan.

He made the intervention on Tuesday, the day after the commission on religion and belief in British public life proposed that schools should no longer face a legal requirement to provide daily acts of worship of a Christian character. It also suggested the teaching of religious belief should be overhauled to make it more relevant in a diverse and increasingly secular country.

Although extremism is not part of his usual brief, Crabb spoke about the issue as he gave the annual Wilberforce address for the Conservative Christian Fellowship.

Apparently religious liberty is menaced.

The minister, who has been tipped as a possible outside candidate for the next Tory leadership race, said he thought freedom of religion was now under threat, citing the case of the advertising company that refused a Church of England cinema commercial promoting the Lord’s Prayer.

In the speech, he claimed the current mood meant “faith gets squeezed further into the margins of public life and religion becomes delegitimised through suspicion, fear or ridicule”. This could have implications for the fight against Islamic extremism, Crabb suggested.

“The answer to the seduction of Isil [Isis] is not a greater dose of secularism that delegitimises their faith in the public space,” he said. “I believe the marginalisation of religion in our national life risks pushing more young Muslims into the arms of Isil.”

On the Spectator Blog  comments,

He also admitted finding it easier not to talk about his own faith at all as a politician, and worrying that ‘I doubt whether we will ever see again a British Prime Minister who can talk openly about the times when they might pray to God’. He said:

‘So here we are in 2015, in an age when it is easier for a politician to admit to smoking weed or watching porn, than it is to admit that they might take prayer seriously in their daily life.’

She continues,

Crabb pointed to the open ridicule that politicians such as Tim Farron and Tony Blair invited for saying that they prayed. He also said the decision by major cinema chains to refuse to screen a Church of England advert about the Lord’s Prayer was ‘an act of enormous ignorance and intolerance’.

Crabb’s call has already had a wide echo in progressive circles.

Reports indicate that Goldsmiths College plans to offer a new MA on the intersecting social identities and related systems of secularist oppression, domination or discrimination and marginalisation of faith communities, provisionally entitled Interfaithality.

It is said that Matt Carr, an expert on Jihadism and the Spanish International Brigades (StWC) will be one of the course tutors.

Socialist Workers Party Denounces Feminism in London Debate on Fundamentalism for “Islamophobic Stereotypes.”

with 7 comments

 https://tendancecoatesy.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/cc61a-slogan_revolution_tunisie_22_janvier_2011_tlt.jpg?w=281&h=187

Not for Feminists says SWP.

Last weekend this was a panel held during the Feminism in London Conference.

Unlikely Allies: Religious Fundamentalism and the British State.

This session will overturn many long held perceptions about the British state. In its fight against extremism too many institutions have got into bed with fundamentalists and actively promote their narratives. A growing coalition of  secular, left and minority women’s organisations has successfully challenged them Two cases to be discussed are successful campaigns against Universities UK policies permitting gender segregation and the Law Society’s attempt to promote ‘sharia -compliant wills’. These campaigns are part of a global solidarity movement to defend free speech against fundamentalists of all stripes and are seldom reported in the left and liberal press. This session is your chance to hear the left, feminist case for a solidarity movement against fundamentalism and for secularism.  Organised by One Law for All, Southall Black Sisters and the Centre for Secular Space.

With Maryam Namazie, Pragna Patel, Gita Sahgal and Houzan Mahmoud, chaired by Yasmin Rehman.

This is what Socialist Worker had to say on the event – Judith Orr.

Unfortunately the panel and discussion in a session on “fundamentalism” was dominated by Islamophobic stereotypes of Muslims with only a minority of dissenting voices.

There is no mystery why the SWP would dislike a panel featuring comrade Maryam Namazie, whose right to speak at Warwick University as an Iranian humanist and Marxist on a left-wing and secularist critique of Islam and Islamism, was not conspicuously defended by the group.

Nor that comrades Pragna Patel, Gita Saghal, some of the most widely admired grass-roots feminists in the land, who have spent several decades (since 1979) defending women’s rights in Southall Black Sisters, and, (founded 1989), have been part of the inspiring Women Against Fundamentalism (WAF), would raise their hackles.

Here is WAF’s statement,

Women Against Fundamentalism (WAF) was formed in 1989 to challenge the rise of fundamentalism in all religions. Our members include women from many backgrounds and from across the world.

In Britain in recent years fundamentalism has increased its influence in all religions. This has been encouraged by government moves to define complex and diverse communities solely according to ‘faith’, with public funds increasingly being handed out to religious bodies to provide services to ‘their’ communities on behalf of local and central government. WAF believes that this increases the power of religious leaders to discriminate against women and other groups and to exclude or silence dissidents within their own communities.

We believe that public funds should be administered by accountable, democratically elected representatives and not by religious leaders. Only secular institutions with no religious agenda can begin to bring about equality for people of all religions or none.

Houzan Mahmoud would have not found favour either. She is a Kurdish women rights and anti-war activist born in Iraq. She was  the Co-founder of Iraqi Women’s Rights Coalition. She has led an international campaign against Sharia Law and oppression of women in Iraq

 Yasmin Rehman is a secularist Muslim, associated with the Muslim Institute.

For me the Muslim Institute is a beacon of light in what can only be described as a rather depressing landscape for many of us. It is that increasingly rare space for its members to debate, be critical, explore and learn in an open, respectful and most importantly safe space to discuss issues relating to Islam, Muslims and the world at large. It is also a testament to the Institute that it shares its work openly with Muslims and non-Muslims alike. I am deeply grateful to all at the Institute for allowing me to be a part of this work and to share in their work.

It must have been deeply galling for the SWP to have to listen to Iranian women, Kurdish women, women with a heritage from the Sub-continent, and critical – free-thinking –  Muslim women.

True secularism is an alliance of these disparate voices – including believers –  for a free public domain.

The contributions of these admirable women to introducing to British public life  – often parochial and inclined to deference to religious figures of all kinds, particularly the part of the left the SWP, and groups originating in their tradition, such as Counterfire,  represents –  are to be welcomed.

Do we need to be reminded that all societies in which the Sharia ‘law’ and Islamism have an influence, let alone are principles of the state, and  political power, are riddled with oppression? That women are amongst the chief victims?

Women’s rights in Iran: Exiled activist reveals how her fight for equality is attracting male support

Heretic, whore, CIA operative – Masih Alinejad has been called all these things, and worse, by the Iranian authorities. What is her crime? Campaigning for equal rights for women in her home country.

Now Ms Alinejad, 39, who was born in the small village of Ghomikola in the north of Iran but was forced into exile and lives in New York, has launched a campaign to get Iranian men to take up the fight in solidarity with their wives.

Growing up, Ms Alinejad would quietly question why she didn’t enjoy the same rights as her brother; but when she began to speak out and criticise her country’s MPs, she was thrown into prison, aged 19 and pregnant.

Upon her release she continued to aggravate the authorities through her work as an investigative journalist before moving to the UK in 2009, and then to the US where she lives with her son, 18, and husband. There, she presents a weekly programme, Tablet, on Voice of America’s Persian language channel which examines issues affecting young Iranians.

Affectionately referred to by her supporters as “Ghomikola Eagle” – a nickname supplied by her husband – the activist has inspired thousands of women to remove their hijabs, thanks to her “My Stealthy Freedom” campaign which she launched last year. The project encourages women to take “stealthy” photographs of themselves without their head covering and send them to Ms Alinejad to post on her Facebook page, which has almost a million followers.

No doubt Masih Alinejad is also full of “Islamophobic stereotypes.”

Written by Andrew Coates

October 31, 2015 at 11:45 am

Raif Badawi, Saudi Blogger, may receive second Whipping on Friday

with 3 comments

“Secularism respects everyone and does not offend anyone … Secularism … is the practical solution to lift countries (including ours) out of the third world and into the first world.”  Raif Badawi.

Saudi blogger Raif Badawi may receive second set of lashes on Friday reports Human Rights Watch.

Beirut) – Saudi authorities could resume lashing liberal activist and blogger Raif Badawi on June 12, 2015. On June 7, Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Court upheld a sentence of 10 years and 1,000 lashes against him. Badawi, convicted in 2013 for setting up a liberal website and allegedly insulting religious authorities, has no more appeals. Prior to the Supreme Court review Saudi authorities lashed him 50 times on January 9.

On May 29, the Saudi embassy in Brussels sent an official statement about the case by the Saudi Foreign Affairs Ministry to members of the European parliament. The statement condemned any “interference in its internal affairs,” saying that “some international parties and media … drifted into an attempt to infringe and attack on the sovereign right of states.”

“Saudi authorities believe they are the ones under attack while Raif Badawi waits to be publicly flogged merely for expressing his peaceful opinions,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director. “All Saudi efforts to improve the country’s image internationally cannot overcome this ugly message of intolerance.”

The charges against Badawi are based solely on his peaceful exercise of his right to free expression, Human Rights Watch said. Badawi established his online platform in 2008 to encourage debate on religious and political matters in Saudi Arabia. Saudi authorities have detained Badawi in Jeddah’s Buraiman prison since his arrest on June 17, 2012.

More here.

Facebook: Free Raif (France) Free Raif (English Language).

Amnesty International UK SAUDI ARABIA, FREE RAIF BADAWI

This happened a few days ago, (7th of June)

Saudi Arabia hosts UN-backed human rights summit ‘on combating religious discrimination’

Saudi Arabia has hosted an international conference on human rights, attended by the president of the UN Human Rights Council, and resolved to combat intolerance and violence based on religious belief.

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) – which has its headquarters in Jeddah – convened the fifth annual meeting of the Istanbul Process as the kingdom’s Supreme Court preparedto rule on the case of blogger Raif Badawi, sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for “insulting Islam through religious channels”. It later upheld the sentence.

The UN HRC recently faced criticism over Saudi plans to head up the council from 2016, in what critics said would be the “final nail in the coffin” for the international body.

 And the Geneva-based human rights campaign group UN Watch accused HRC president Joachim Rücker of giving “false international legitimacy” to the two-day conference on religious freedoms held in Jeddah on 3 and 4 June.

According to a report in the Saudi Gazette, the participants in the conference “began with an agreement to put [HRC] resolution 16/18 into effect” – a pledge by all member states to combat “intolerance and discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against persons based on religion or belief”.

In addition, participants agreed on the importance on providing human rights education and encouraging religious and cultural diversity in communities.”

Invited to make the opening statement at the conference, Mr Rücker told the summit: “Religious intolerance and violence committed in the name of religion rank among the most significant human rights challenges of our times.”

But Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, said: “It’s bad enough that the oppressive and fundamentalist Saudi monarchy was elected to sit on the UN Human Rights Council.

“But for top UN human rights officials to now visit Jeddah and smile while human rights activist Raif Badawi languishes in prison for the crime of religious dissent, still under threat of further flogging, is to pour salt in the wounds. It’s astonishing

Independent.

Raif Badawi commented in 2010.

As soon as a thinker starts to reveal his ideas, you will find hundreds of fatwas that accused him of being an infidel just because he had the courage to discuss some sacred topics. I’m really worried that Arab thinkers will migrate in search of fresh air and to escape the sword of the religious authorities.

For more see Writings of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi

Update:

DAY OF ACTION: 17 JUNE 2015

From 1.30pm – Delivery at Downing Street

Organisations and individuals actively campaigning for Raif Badawi’s release will be holding a rally opposite Downing Street from 1.30pm. At 2pm, comedian Kate Smurthwaite and activist Peter Tatchell will join Jo Glanville (Director, English PEN), Maryam Namazie (International Front for Secularism), Pete Radcliff (Free Raif UK) and Melody Patry (Index on Censorship) to deliver our letter to the Prime Minister. MPs and peers including Baroness Glenys Kinnock, Lord Hylton, Caroline Lucas MP, Jim Fitzpatrick MP, Natalie McGarry MP, Stewart McDonald MP, and John McDonnell MP will also join the delegation.

You can read the full text of the letter and add your name here

From 6.30pm – Public meeting at Portcullis House

Representatives of campaigning organisations will come together with MPs to discuss and consider how best to secure the release of Raif Badawi and Waleed Abulkhair. Speakers include:

  • Natalie Bennett, Leader, Green Party
  • Ann Feltham, Parliamentary Co-ordinator , Campaign Against Arms Trade
  • Jo Glanville, Director, English PEN
  • Stewart McDonald, Scottish National Party
  • John McDonnell, Labour Party, Hayes and Harlington
  • Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson, One Law for All
  • Peter Tatchell, Director, Peter Tatchell Foundation

The meeting will take place in the Boothroyd Room on the first floor of Portcullis House. The entrance to Portcullis House is on the Victoria Embankment. Please be aware that there will be standard security searches as with many other government buildings.

Please let us know if you plan to attend either or both of these events

TAKE ACTION

Written by Andrew Coates

June 11, 2015 at 12:02 pm

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

with 33 comments

Guilty of ‘Corrupt and Illegal Practices”. 

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

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

Reports the BBC.

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

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

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

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

‘Evasive and discursive’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guardian:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where are they now?

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

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

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

And John Rees:

And how could we forget?

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

 

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

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

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

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

Note this:

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

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

 

More:

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

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

Written by Andrew Coates

April 23, 2015 at 12:58 pm

Charlie Hebdo: Religious Authority and Political Power. Chahla Chafiq.

with one comment

Nassreddin: The Laughter of the Good will bring Low the Power of Divine Authority. 

Religious Authority and Political Power. Chahla Chafiq (1) 

Charlie Hebdo. 25th February 2015 (Translated and adapted).

“One of the tales of Nasreddin Hodja, the hero and 13th century author of many works – extremely popular in the Persian, Turkish, Armenian and Arab worlds – touches on the relationship between earthly power and religious authorities.

“Nasreddin, whilst still young, had just been dignified with the title of Mullah. He was thus able to be a teacher at the Madrassa. One morning he wanted to take down a volume, high up in the bookcase. He climbed on a pile of Qur’ans. One of his colleagues was outraged. “By Allah, Nasreddin! You are impudent! Aren’t you frightened of dirtying the Sacred Scriptures?” “I used to be afraid of that.” Nasreddin replied, “But now I’m a Mollah, the Qur’an should be afraid of me.”

The message of  Nasreddin is that, in the name of the divine, humanity can take such a degree of authority that it would scare even all-powerful God.

Behind the ironical smile in the story a great fear is hidden. We have directly experienced this dread, during the murders of the 7th of January, the result of a plan to exterminate the staff of Charlie Hebdo. Half a century before, on the 14th of February 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini pronounced his Fatwa against Salman Rushdie. The ruling unleashed a Holy War against disobedient writers. The actions of this religious leader, a head of state, and the Jihadist enterprise of the Kouachis and Coulibaly, have both the same basis: the Islamist will to institute the Sacred Order on Earth.

In this project terror is an indispensable tool. The Inquisition, the persecution of heretics, the Wars of Religion, have taught us that no religion is immune from such a turn. It happens the moment religion become the source of law that dictates the rules of life, of governance, and political authority.

Today’s Islamists have not ceased making plain to the world the dire results of the fusion between religion and politics. Their transformation of the concepts of the Umma (the Community of all Believers), of Harem, Halal and Jihad into ideological codes, have allowed to them to treat any refusal to bow to their Diktat as hatred of God, and to consider this a Satanic deed to be fought.

From Fatwa to Massacre.

A few months after the Fatwa against Rushdie several thousand political prisoners in Iran were “liquidated” following the same kind of ruling. These crimes, which remain unregistered internationally, were justified inside Iran as a means to cleanse the body of the Umma of impure elements. The same logic is used to maintain the Islamist order: assigning women and homosexuals to inferiority, anti-Semitism, privileging one religion or doctrine over another, and forbidding freedoms. This world-view gives the agents of Islamism an unlimited and unconstrained power. Injustice and immortality have become “duties” in the name of “divine justice” and the “moral order”.

In this fashion Islamism has joined the same outlook of “identity” movements of Christianity, Judaism and those from other religions. All of them recycle old conservative ideas – bringing them close to the far right. The domination of the market, which erodes the sense of belonging, an economic crisis that has created a social, cultural and political vacuum, at a time when humanist ideas are in retreat, have created a context within which these movements offer an appealing sense of “meaning”. Rivals, these competing identity movements have nevertheless been allies in order to stem advances in human rights. This has happened in France, over gay marriage and equality education in schools. It can be seen internationally every time there are moves to promote gender equality, sexual rights, and freedom of belief, of expression and creation.

The present development of these identity movements is a political phenomenon that cannot be grasped without taking account the context and the actors involved. Looking into the processes that have led to the rise and expansion of Islamism one can see straight away the impact of dictatorships that call themselves Muslim, including those who accept modernisation, but refuse democratic values in the name of protecting their cultural and confessional (culturel – see note 2) identity.

In the same picture we can see that these dictatorships have received the backing, past and present, of the most powerful states in the world, acting out of their own interests. Only yesterday the Western powers helped the growth of Islamism with their strategy of encircling the Soviet Union with a “green” cordon. Today, in the Arab-Israeli conflict, the manipulation of religious figures, Islamist and Jewish fundamentalist, has benefited pro-War supporters on every side.

Yet, we cannot reduce society to these elements. Where are the other people on the scene? What role do those who do not share these ideologies and interests play? What, in their own fields, are they doing with their resources to reflect, to act and to create?

Democracy and Secularism.

We have to admit that faced with the offensive of political-religious identity movements, many of these actors are paralysed by a series of confusions: between the cultural and the confessional (culturel), between Islamism and Islam, between democracy and imperialism. These confusions, whatever the intentions of those they originate with, have strengthened the vision of the Neoconservative supporters of a “war of civilisations”.

To escape from this there is only one-way out: to demolish the fantasy of a “Muslim World” and the “West” and to return to the reality of social, cultural and political struggles. From there we can raise the problem of “religion and politics” in relation to democratic ideals.

Founded on the recognition of the autonomy of individuals, free and equal, creators and subjects of laws, democracy, far from being just an affair of the ballot box, is a political project whose deepening means freedom from all intangible sacred power. Now, more than ever, secularism (laïcité) is a vital stake in advancing human rights and liberty.”

(1) Chahla Chafiq-Beski is an Iranian left-wing exile, writer and novelist who lives in France. Her latest book is Islam, politique, sexe et genre. PUF.  2011. “L’écriture est devenue mon lieu d’existence, hors frontières, pour vivre la liberté.” Writing has become my home, beyond frontiers, to be able to  live in freedom.”

Portrait de Chahla Chafiq

(2) Culturel – from Cult, same word as English, but primarily retaining the original sense of religious practice, confession.

Protest Against Charlie Hebdo’s “uncivilised expressionists” as Police take “an interest” in those who buy our Weekly.

with 6 comments

The rally was organised by the Muslim Action Forum, which expressed 'deep regret' at the Paris terror attacks

“Insult Mum and I will Punch You” (Pope Francis…)

1000s of Muslims including Scholars and Spiritual Leaders shall protest outside Downing Street to denounce the uncivilised expressionists reprinting of the cartoon image of the Holy Prophet Muhammad peace be upon Him. MAF once again invites the world to the Declaration of Global Civility. The global Muslim community shall not be hijacked by coldblooded killers or uncivilised expressionists.

Muslim Action Forum. (MAF)

Hat-Tip JB.

Apparently this all part of a campaign for “global civility”.

Petition:

  • I believe that through mutual consideration and the revival of civility as a shared medium of dialogue we are better equipped to reconstructing a more enlightened society.
  •  I endorse emphatically the Declaration of Global Civility drafted by the campaigners of Global Civility
  • I call upon the British Parliament to table a debate in both Houses of Parliament to discuss the endorsement of the Declaration of Global Civility.
  •  I call upon all civilised people and institutions globally to disassociate themselves from any actions that are an affront to global civility. I denounce the actions of all those people who are connected with the production of the cartoons of the Holy Prophet Muhammad peace be upon Him and believe that these actions are an affront to the norms of civilised society.

Number of signatures: 106893

One of the key points on the Declaration of ‘global civility’ is a call to curb what people say, or ” Reckless and malicious expressions will lead to vilification and demonisation of each other and our communities. “

In other words, say something we don’t like, “an affront to the norms of civilised society”and…….

This is  one of  their ‘civil responses’ (from Facebook Page).

Be careful, be very careful, or…….

Some of Sunday’s marchers take inspiration from a (cinema advertisement) by the Prophet Alan Partridge.

Newspaper report on protest.

Thousands of British Muslims gathered near Downing Street to protest against cartoons showing the prophet Muhammad and voice opposition to “insulting” depictions.

A leaflet issued by the Muslim Action forum (MAF), who organised the rally, said recent republishing of cartoons, caricatures and depictions of Muhammad by satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and other publishers is a “stark reminder” that freedom of speech is “regularly utilised to insult personalities that others consider sacred”.

The group also expressed “deep regret” at the Paris terror attacks, which included a massacre at Charlie Hebdo, saying they were a “violation of Islamic law”.

The words “Charlie and the abuse factory” and “learn some manners” were written on signs held by demonstrators. A number of speakers addressed the crowd while there were communal prayers before a delegation took a petition signed by more than 100,000 British Muslims to 10 Downing Street.

It calls for “global civility” and says the production of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad are “an affront to the norms of civilised society”.

Shaykh Tauqir Ishaq, a senior spokesman for MAF, said: “Perpetual mistakes by extremists, either by cold-blooded killers or uncivilised expressionists, cannot be the way forward for a civilised society. The peace-loving majority of people must become vociferous in promoting global civility and responsible debate. At this time of heightened tension and emotion, it is crucial that both sides show restraint to prevent further incidents of this nature occurring.”

Shaykh Noor Siddiqi, another MAF representative, said: “The actions of the UK media in not publishing the cartoons is highly appreciated by British Muslims and we hope that this kind of self-restraint and mutual respect will ultimately lead to a harmonious society.”

Across the street on Whitehall a handful of counter demonstrators holding a Britain First banner gathered.

Scotland Yard said it was not aware of any arrests during the protest.

Guardian.

More reporting in the Telegraph.

The MAF site cites ‘blasphemy law’ as a restriction on free speech.

Blasphemy Laws – seeks to restrict hateful literature being published that is “reviling”, “scurrilous” or even “ludicrous matter” relating to Christian concepts. The specifically relate to the Christian God, Jesus Christ, the Christian Bible or the Christian Book of Common Prayer.

It fails to mention this: “On May 8, 2008, the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 abolished the common-law offences of blasphemy and blasphemous libel in England and Wales, with effect from 8 July 2008.”

We have further questions: 

It’s strange march for “civility” that includes people who cite the Pope’s notorious statement that nobody should be allowed to “insult” the faith of others.

Religions routinely  insult other people by their claim that only one set of believers are ‘saved’.

Hitting people for saying things, “a punch in the nose” – even about our mothers – is not normally called civilised.

Even if we believe that a religion is talking about real people.

But then the MAF carries images of people carrying placards saying, “We love the prophet Muhammed more than our lives.”

Some unkind people might call that blind fanaticism.….

And…….

It would be interesting to have a full list of the “scholars” and “spiritual leaders” on this threatening demonstration.

The MAF site states that it’s backed by the “major Muslim organisations in the UK” .

Which ones?

Meanwhile the Police in Wiltshire are doing their best to keep on eye on “uncivilised expressionists” by drawing up a list of people who buy Charlie Hebdo.

Your offer of commemorative badges in support of journalistic freedom highlighting “Je suis Charlie”, prompts me to suggest a degree of caution following my experience. Tongue in cheek, I asked my helpful newsagents to obtain a copy of the edition of Charlie Hebdo issued after the dreadful massacre in Paris, if indeed a copy was ever available in north Wiltshire. To my surprise, a copy arrived last Wednesday week and although the standard of content in no way matches that of the Guardian I will cherish it. However, two days later a member of Her Majesty’s police service visited said newsagent, requesting the names of the four customers who had purchased Charlie Hebdo. So beware, your badges may attract police interest in your customers.
Anne Keat
Corsham, Wiltshire

Guardian.

Update: Police Apology.

Wiltshire police issue apology for seeking details of Charlie Hebdo readers after Paris attacks. Full story soon.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 9, 2015 at 12:04 pm