Tendance Coatesy

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Posts Tagged ‘Secularism

Solidarity and Love to Salman Rushdie – stabbed onstage.

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Author Salman Rushdie has been attacked onstage at an event in New York state and stabbed in the neck, police have confirmed. (Guardian)

Rushdie, the author whose writing led to death threats from Iran in the 1980s, was attacked on Friday morning as he was about to give a lecture in western New York.

An Associated Press reporter witnessed a man storm the stage at the Chautauqua Institution and begin assaulting Rushdie as he was being introduced. The author was taken or fell to the floor, and the man was restrained and taken into custody.

A statement from New York state police released about an hour after the incident said that Rushdie suffered “an apparent stab wound to the neck”. He was immediately transported by helicopter to a hospital in the area, though his condition was “not yet known”.

The attack on the Indian author Salman Rushdie is already being talked of as an assault by a racist Islamist…

But some Muslims reject the bigotry of the Fatwa.

This is what some of us said at the time of the Rushdie Affair – Interlink the Journal of the Socialist Society.

Responses:

Review, Tendance Coatesy:

From Fatwa to Jihad. Kenan Malik. Melville House. 2009.

It is twenty years since Ayatollah Khomeini, Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, pronounced his Fatwa against Salman Rushdie. On 14th of February 1999 he sentenced to death all involved in its publication. The Cleric offered a reward of $3 million (or $1 million to a non-Muslim) for anyone who carried out the murder. The effects of this ‘judgement’ still reverberate.

In this finely layered book, From Fatwa to Jihad, Kenan Malik describes the campaign against the Satanic Verses. Its unfolding left a significant legacy in the United Kingdom. He concentrates on two important areas. How the Rushdie affair provided an opportunity for Islamists of various stripes to assert themselves on the national scene. Behind fronts, the latest being the Muslim Council of Britain, they have laid claim to being the true representatives of British Muslims. The other is an account of the way in which the British state’s accommodation to such groups has shaped multiculturalism. How the Rushdie Affair brought to the fore fundamental principles  of freedom of speech. That is, how these liberties have been eroded by the defence of the sacred in the name of difference.

Malik reminds us that the Satanic Versesis a complex and densely textured piece of literature. It was initially considered as a playful ‘post-modernist’ kaleidoscope with pronounced anti-racist traits. Most today, however, remember the episodes involving ‘Mahound’ (an amusing caricature of Mohamed). These were loosely anchored on the ‘Satanic verses’. That is, revelations that did not fit with doctrine (accepting a compromise over traditional deities) that were later excluded from the Qur’an.

The novel’s parody of Islam’s founder’s years of rule and, notably, of his wives – such as the (historically real) decision to execute poets critical of the Prophet immediately raised a few hackles. They were gleefully seized on. In recounting the less picturesque tale of the organised outbidding by Saudi Arabian inspired outrage, and Iran’s, Malik details the Muslim protests.

These began on the Indian subcontinent, reached the streets of the UK and culminated in atrocities: the attack on William Nygaard, Rushdie’s Norwegian translator, the knifing to death of his Japanese confrĂšre, Hitoshi Igarashi. In Turkey, a Hotel meeting at Sivas, of the liberal Alevi religious current, at which the Rushdie translator, Aziz Nesin attended was surround by a mob. It was razed to the ground. 37 people were killed. The killers were prosecuted but the Turkish state initially attempted to try Nesin. I had occasion to talk to a Kurdish Alevi (now an atheist)  a few days ago and she still seethed with rage at the inferno and the Islamist pogrom in the town that followed. These events, as much as the book itself and the furore in Britain, left their mark.

At the time many people, liberals and leftists, including his publishers, Penguin, defended Rushdie. Yet a few empathised with the ‘hurt’ caused to Islam by the ‘West’. Or considered that Rushdie was a foreign chap out to make trouble. The most notable case was the British Government. Its spokespeople expressed ‘understanding’ for the anti-Rushdie anger, and apologised for the publication of the Satanic Verses.

Meanwhile the British Islamists who marched, attracted a wider audience. They discovered pride and identity in Islam. Former leftists from a Muslim background began to join them. He does not delve deeply into this, but it was also a key moment not just in the state’s policy of co-option, but in leftist accommodation to Islamism.

The process has been encouraged by those who consider this a repeat of assertions of anti-racist Black identity. Why these are not considered traitors to the left on a par with ex-Trotskyist neo-conservatives is but one of many shameful aspects of the affair. Their contribution to reaction, should, all proportions kept, never be excused. Malik takes great pains, bolstered by on-the-spot investigation, to prove how wrong this approach is. What has happened is a proliferation of religious and ethnic fragmentation – hardly a left-wing objective. A world in which the most rigorous forms of Political Islam have flourished.

Talking to former members of the Bradford based Asian Youth Movement, Malik explores how this has occurred on the ground. In place of this 1970s anti-racist movement, with its class based and inclusive agenda, we have “plural monoculturalism”, with competing ‘communities’ fighting it out for public resources. After the initial Black (political) identity of anti-racism, we were faced with a process of endless redefinition, frequently on religious grounds (Islam first, rapidly imitated by other faiths). This finished by “imposing identities on people”.

Nor was this a matter of purely cultural politics. A crude power struggle for community grants was been encouraged by challenging funding through religious and ethnic ‘community leaders’ – from the Greater London Council’s policy during the Livingstone 1980s period (reintroduced by the new GLA in the second millennium) to Birmingham’s Umbrella Group. The scene is set by the process, of doling out cash on what Malik calls a ‘tribal’ basis. In this way “multiculturalism has helped create new divisions and more intractable conflicts which made for a less openly racist but a more insidiously tribal Britain.”

Many cases of ethnic and religious jostling, from Hindus, Sikhs, and Christians, to the opens sore between South Asians and those of black descent, follow. The complicity of some of the left in this spoils-system, and the bullying shown by those who wield the term Islamophobia to shout down their critics, is well known. Thus it is a shame the author of From Fatwa to Jihad did not interview at greater length leftist activists who have long expressed opposition to this kind of multiculturalism – communalism in all but name. Such opinions are shared beyond the stalwart anti-racists of Southall Black Sisters– rightly cited out by Malik for their persistence to fight fundamentalism of any ilk. It is becoming a key issue for grass-roots left politics in fighting the rise of another ‘community’ ethnic politics. That is the one Malik notes, parading under the label of ‘British identity’ – the BNP.

Malik does not follow the self-lacerating route of explaining Islamism through the ‘humiliation’ of Muslims. He covers the spectrum of Islamic social and theological doctrines. From Fatwa to Jihad centres on Islamism, that is, the political-religious forces  often called fundamentalists or intĂšgrists. Getting to grips with the political and cultural roots of the phenomenon he draws on recent writings by Olivier Roy and others he detects a response to globalisation in the diverse tans-national movements. They are fixated on rules, and literal interpretations of the Qur’an.

Yet many enthusiasts are strangely contemporary, with tinges of New Age individualism. Islamism “is very much a child of modern plural societies, with its celebration of ‘difference’ and ‘authenticity.” The screams of hate against any perceived insult of Islam are more about blaspheming their ‘feelings’ than serious theology. This is less clear. No doubt there are some forms of Islam that fit this mould. Locally there is the mysteriously wealthy Origo â€˜community’ centre and cafĂ© which acts as a cover for an Islamic version of the Alpha Course*.

But what of more directly Political Islam?  If it is anything, it is organised. They have finance, they have class origins, not just the educated jihadis that Malik cites, but leaders in the pious Islamist bourgeoisie. Al-Qaeda may be dispersed around the world; other networks are rigidly structured, as Hizb ut-Tahrir indicates. The way these bodies operate offers an entry into religious revelation. The objectives may be the fantastic Cockaigne of an Islamic Republic in which only the pure may walk. But the effects are manifold. This inspires people’s whole lives, and cuts them off (when politically translated) from the rest of society. So both streams of Islam exist – alongside all the multiple forms of traditionalism and modernism.

A recent case, the Danish caricatures, is an indication of both individualism and organisation, Malik has not rouble showing that the very act of representing Mohamed is not against traditional Islam. It is rather considered a personal attack on puffed up individualists. But it was the ‘Muslim community’ with its all-too eager offence seekers that arranged the protests, to which the British liberals and government so cravenly capitulated. They might not achieve their utopia but the Islamists search for political influence and power continues. Over the bodies of the impure.  

What impulse, detached from the realities of  human needs, and based on religious delirium, encourages these forces? How do they recruit? Their propaganda is telling. Fear plays a big part. The height of this trend, Malik demonstrates, can be found in warning about an immanent Endlösung for European Muslims, as if the whiff of the gas chambers had crept into our streets. Malik shows that this is “hysterical to the point of delusional.

While restrictions on civil liberties in the ‘war against terrorism’ (a very real terror, as 7/7 indicates domestically), infringe human rights, and there are some bouts of aggression against Moslems, there is little evidence of systematic attacks on British Muslims. Still less the kind of religious  discrimination against, say, Copts in Egypt. On stop-and search alone it is youths of an Afro-Caribbean background who are overwhelmingly targeted. The BNP rails against foreigners en bloc,  and are equal opportunity racistsMalik indeed argues, “If Muslims are singled out in Britain, and it is often for privileged treatment.” That is, public figures from Prince Charles to Tony Blair, go out of their way to praise its contribution to the world, and there are constant arrangements made to accommodate believers – subsidies, provisions for observance of ritual, and even efforts to incorporate Sharia ‘law’ into British jurisprudence. Nevertheless the effect of this rhetoric may be, he observes, to legitimate slaughtering the ‘kufer’, as acts of resistance.

The upshot is a poisonous legacy. Today Malik remarks, there is “widespread acceptance that it had been wrong to publish, and even more wrong to republish. Writers and artists, political leaders insisted, had a responsibility to desist from giving offence and upsetting religious sensibilities.” The law of blasphemy has been repealed but the first steps towards prosecuting criticism of religion have been taken through other legislation. Against this the wholly misguided view has been expressed that this is a battle between the ‘West’ and Islam.

Even the Enlightenment has been conscripted to this distorted cause. Destroying the very universalism which is its mark. The upshot? The failure to advance genuine Enlightenment canons of freedom of speech, and universalistic anti-racism, has “helped build a culture of grievance, in which being offended is a badge of identity, cleared a space for radical Islamists to flourish and made secular and progressive arguments less sayable, particularly within Muslim communities.” 

This book cannot be recommended too much. The dilemma of how to promote real equality, and universalism, in the face of the demands of anti-democratic religious groups, remains a key political issue. This is not a problem just of the ‘unrepresentative’ nature of bodies like the Muslim Council of Britain. It’s deeper. There can be absolutely no compromise or flexibility on the core principles of the Enlightenment, freedom of thought, enquiry and expression, at their head. In the meantime I wish that all those attending the meeting I went to last night at a Council for Racial Equality, would read From Fatwa to Jihad.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 12, 2022 at 6:56 pm

Islam and Free Speech: Steven Greer, Bristol University, “cleared over Islamophobia claims.”

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Another Free Speech in University Issue.

Peter Tatchell tweets this today,

  • Human rights academic Steven Greer was cleared over Islamophobia claims
  • Bristol University chiefs rejected complaints that he expressed ‘bigoted views’
  • But Bristol University statement has now said ‘we recognise BRISOC’s concerns’
  • After a five-month investigation, Mr Greer’s module was still pulled from syllabus
  • Critics said his lecture slide about 2015 Paris terror attack was ‘Islamophobic’ 
  • Students called for the module at Bristol University’s law school to be scrapped
  • Mr Greer accused senior academics of ‘capitulating’ to the threats of students 

The story a few days before:

The Muslim Association of Britain, which has links to the hard-right Muslim Brotherhood, got involved.

One of the groups encouraging the witch-hunt, 5Pillars, an Islamist organisation,

The Website 5 Pillars has long been accused of extremism,,

5 Pillars UK: Dangers of Extremist Muslim Media

And,

5Pillars publishes Hizb ut-Tahrir leader advocating military force and a Caliphate to “liberate Palestine and Kashmir” (2021) Policy Exchange.

The UK Islamist news website 5Pillars has published an opinion piece by Abdul Wahid—chairman of the extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain—arguing that Muslim majority countries, and to a lesser degree some Muslims in the UK, are betraying the Palestinian and Kashmiri causes. Titled, Only a united Ummah can liberate Palestine and Kashmir, Wahid advocates the use of military force and the establishment of the Khilafah, or Caliphate, as the only means for achieving this.

Subtitled “Dr Abdul Wahid, chairman of Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain, asks when will Muslim states step up to their responsibilities and liberate Palestine and Kashmir,” this piece is primarily an attack on Muslim countries, although it also denounces the United States and Israel—which is referred to by the derogatory term “the Zionist entity”.

In the above, 5 Months ago, 5 Pillars carried the version given by Greer’s accusers: Bristol University Islamic Society demands swift action over ‘Islamophobic’ remarks.

Greer stands accused of this:

A different view is offered by on New Age Islam,

Controversy over Bristol University Professor Steven Greer’s ‘Islamophobia’: Why Critical Discussion of Islamic Tradition Should Not Be Snubbed

By Arshad Alam, New Age Islam

The complaint against Professor Greer was made by the Muslim student body called the University of Bristol Islamic Society (BRISOC). The group encourages God consciousness, facilitates Muslim students by advising them on appropriate places to eat, find accommodation, etc. It educates Muslims about the necessity of being ‘Islamic’ at all times and one of the ways of doing so, it argues, is through gender segregation. Although it claims to represent the diversity of Muslim experience, it appears that the group is closer to a particular interpretation of Islam which can safely be called fundamentalist.

The campaign against Professor Greer has also been led by the Federation of Students Islamic Societies (FOSIS), an umbrella organization of Muslim student groups in the United Kingdom. Started in 1963, FOSIS is perhaps the first Muslim support group to become operative in that part of the world. The group’s philosophy is about faith-based activism which it defines as a ‘transformative journey of progression in faith, skills and habits to become comprehensive Muslims, living to further the cause of Allah’. One of the prominent faces in this forum was Ahmed Deedat, the South African writer and speaker of Indian descent, and who made a name for himself by entering into ceaseless polemics with the Christians.

Indians who are familiar with the work of Zakir Naik will recognise Deedat for the immense harm that such people have caused to inter-religious understanding. Rather than entering into a dialogue with one another, Deedat repeatedly trashed Christianity as a religion which was now superseded by Islam; the implication being that all of them should now become Muslims. Similarly, he has written against Hindu religious beliefs, denigrating them, without in fact understanding much of its philosophy.

Deedat supported the fatwa against Salman Rushdie and was sympathetic to the views of Osama bin Laden. In fact, his dawah centre was funded by the bin Laden family. It’s not surprising, therefore, that he was awarded the King Faisal International Prize for his missionary work. In calling people like Deedat to their forum, the ideological orientation of groups like FOSIS becomes clear. And this orientation seems to come from a Wahabi-inspired ideology which wants Islam to become the ruling idea of the world.

The conclusion.

The criticism and censure of Professor Greer is, therefore, not from all Muslims but from Muslim groups which have a distinct political agenda. Most Muslims will not have a problem if a professor, in the wake of a discussion on polygamy and human rights, gives examples from the Islamic society.

Five Pillars have found time to back academics when it suits their cause.

The irony of reproducing this statement about Bristol seems to have escaped them,

In a letter sent to the university today, they accuse the university of caving in to the demands of the pro-Israel lobby and violating the freedom of speech that is necessary for intellectual enquiry.

The boycotters have mastered the jargon of hurt and safety.

In doing so, they say, the university is no longer a safe space for students and staff.

Perhaps they could also call for the sacking of Steven Greer to ensure student safety.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 11, 2021 at 12:30 pm

150 Years Ago the Paris Commune Adopted Secularism.

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Vive La Commune! DĂ©cret, datant du 3 avril 1871.

“150 years ago today, the Paris Commune decreed the separation of Church and State and established secularism as one of the fundamentals of the workers’ movement.”

The Paris Commune, Considering that the first of the principle of the French Republic is Liberty; Considering that freedom of conscience is the first of freedoms; Considering that the budget of the religious bodies is contrary to the principle, since it is an imposition on citizens against their own faith; Considering, in fact, that the clergy were complicit in the crimes of the monarchy against freedom,

Article I: The Church is separate from the State.

Article II: The religious budget is abolished.

Article III: The so-called mortmain property, belonging to religious congregations, movable and immovable, are declared national property.

Article IV: An investigation will be made immediately on these goods, to ascertain their nature and put them at the disposal of the nation.

From Lucien’s Blog:

“Our secularism, the permanent protest of a class on the move against all the forces that tend to paralyze it, really deserves to concentrate all the fury of the social conservatives. (
) Our secularism is however sure to win, because it expresses the instinctive tendency of a class towards its economic liberation. ” (Marceau Pivert, 1932)

“One day or another, the vast majority of the international proletariat will agree with Rosa Luxembourg to appreciate exactly the religious phenomenon and to adopt a tactic of proletarian anticlericalism in accordance with the demands of the class struggle”

(Marceau Pivert, 1937)

From Lucien.

Pour une laïcité prolétarienne

Solidarité avec les luttes sociales et féministes contre les cléricalismes, les intégrismes religieux, le capitalisme et le patriarcat rétrograde.

See also:

VAILLANT ET LA LAÏCITÉ

Written by Andrew Coates

April 3, 2021 at 11:55 am