Thursday, 15 October 2009

The "March for Shariah" must be opposed

On the 31st October Islam for the UK, an organisation of ultra-conservative Islamists led by Anjem Choudary, is holding a "March for Shariah." This march, according to their website, is "a spectacular procession" that will "call for a complete upheaval of the British ruling system its members and legislature, and demand the full implementation of Shari'ah in Britain." Those who take part in the march will be declaring that "we have had enough of democracy and man-made law and the depravity of the British culture."

Such an announcement has already pushed all the buttons of the reactionaries of the British far-right. The Daily Express was quick to announce that "Muslims" have demanded full Shariah law, with the majority of readers who don't stray too far past the headlines losing the fact that it is "a radical Muslim group" hardly representative of the entire religion. No doubt statements from the British national Party (BNP) and the English Defence League (EDL) sourced directly from such right-wing tabloids will follow. This only shows that Choudary and his people know exactly which buttons to push in order to gain maximum exposure and infamy. It also offers them, by pointing at the fascists, a way to say that only racists oppose them.

It must be stated, unequivocally, that this is not true. The number of those opposed to Islamism goes far beyond the British and Western right. As a conservative, right-wing, and reactionary ideology itself, Islamism is the enemy of anti-fascist and radical left movements as much as fascism and neo-liberal imperialism are. As the Anarchist Federation (A-Fed) put it;
We are the enemies of what gets termed ‘radical’ or ‘extremist’ Islamic groups. Their doctrine holds the revolution back. Whilst we are aware that Muslims too have been the victims of media vilification, some Islamists do indeed seek to justify indiscriminate terror. Whilst we know that support for these ideas has been the result of the actions of the state, not least its wars, we oppose disaffected Muslims who take up these ideas. The beliefs of the likes of al-Qaeda and the groups they support are revolting, and reactionary, and hold back a culture of genuine resistance. Our enemy’s enemy is NOT our friend. We have nothing in common with these people and their authoritarian, misogynist and anti-Semitic ideals.
With the fascist thugs of the EDL in Leeds that day, the time has come to put that principle into practice. When the EDL march, they do so against mosques and ordinary Muslims, their ranks filled with football hooligans and BNP activists, despite each group publicly disowning the other. With an active, reactionary, and highly visible extremist presence on the streets of London that day, the left cannot be silent.

The march commences at the House of Commons, and will make its way to Trafalgar Square via 10 Downing Street. It must be met with opposition, not from the fascists of the far-right, but from those whose resistance is grounded in working-class unity, anti-fascism, and anti-capitalism. Moreover, that opposition must be one which transcends race and religion.

There are Muslim groups - such as British Muslims for Secular Democracy (BMSD), Muslims Against Sharia, and al-Fatiha - who would readily oppose Choudary and his march. No doubt there are far more individual Muslims, Asians, and Arabs who would also stand together against him. What we must avoid is the practice of authoritarian leftists such as George Galloway or the Socialist Workers' Party. To oppose Choudary's march is not simply to oppose the implementation of Sharia law but also to oppose the authoritarianism, patriarchy, and heterosexism that groups such as his offer. As such, even if they oppose this march, we cannot ally ourselves with those who would promote values so antithetical to our own. There should be no racial or religious borders beyond which bigotry is immune to resistance.

What this is, then, is a call to arms. If there is no opposition to this march from the radical left, in the same vein as we would and should oppose a march by the BNP, the EDL, or the old National Front, then it will be a massive failure on our part. More people than ever before are dissatisfied with the status quo and opening their eyes to the injustices of capitalism. Groups such as Islam for the UK, as readily as the BNP and EDL, are turning that dissatisfaction away from revolution and towards reaction.

If we are ever to see a radical transformation of society, that trend must be resisted at all cost.