Thursday, 11 November 2010

Clash of civilisations? Hardly

At 11am today, most people marked the 92nd anniversary of the end of World War I with silence. They remembered the countless lives lost to war with solemnity. In West London, however, one small group of nutters burned a giant poppy and had a shouting match with another small gang of morons.

The first group are the relatively new Muslims Against Crusades (MAC). Taking over where the now-banned Islam4UK left off, their modus operandi is to turn up at events and places where their mesage can cause the most outrage - from protesting at regimental homecoming marches and burning US flags on 9/11 to today's poppy arson. In short, they are deliberately controversial and inflammatory.

That said, spokesperson Asad Ullah was fairly articulate whon offering the aim of today's debacle;
We are demonstrating because this day is a day of remembrance to remember every single fallen soldier, including those killed in Afghanistan and Iraq. We find it disgusting that innocent people, innocent children, have been killed in an illegal and unjust war and we are demonstrating against that.

We want the Government to pull the troops out from these countries and to stop interfering in our affairs. We would like to have a protest closer to the memorial but it is difficult to get access. We want to break the silence and say: 'what about the silence for others that have died?'
The problem with this statement is that it utterly misses the point.

Yes, the official purpose of Armistice Day and the two minutes' silence is to commemorate fallen soldiers. But there is no bar or proscription against also remembering civilians who have died in war, or even the futility of war itself and all the victims it has claimed. If you want silence for the others that have died, you need only direct your thoughts that way.

Whilst their website claims that "these crimes [Afghanistan and Iraq] were exposed and their perpetrators condemned," the fact is that the message people take from this event will not be one of peace or opposition to war. It will be a message of religious zealotry, and the kind of vicious bile that politicians can use to justify illegal wars and crackdowns on civil liberties. Being deliberately offensive as others try to commemorate the loved ones they have lost achieves nothing except getting peoples' backs up.

But then, one suspects that this is the real aim of MAC. After all, Islamism - like fascism - thrives by being able to play on feelings of anger, alienation, and persecution. Thus, it behoves them to help exacerbate these conditions in order to radicalise and recruit more effectively.

Helping them in that goal, unfortunately, are the second group who were present today - the English Defence League. Or, as it was today, a rabble of angry twats led by a fat bloke shouting "Muhammad was a paedophile, Allah is a liar, Islam is a lie." Truly inspiring stuff, I'm sure, but you'll have to forgive me for not embracing them with open arms.

The EDL, of course, is a fascist organisation. They feed off the actions of groups such as MAC in order to play up a threat that isn't there. Islam isn't taking over, and even its most extreme adherents are in no position to credibly attempt such a thing. But that doesn't mean it can't be used in order to divide the working class and lead peoples' anger up a nationalist blind alley, at a time when we face the much more credible threat of the government's heightened class war in favour of the rich.

Proof of this can be found in the EDL's recent threat to shut down towns which banned Christmas. They have played into the hysteria drummed up by the tabloids and are fighting a culture war that simply isn't being waged.

But even if it was, in what way would the EDL possibly "defend" us? Even under the baseless assumption that everything they claimed was true, how would this organisation possibly combat the threat of militant Islam or Islamisation? The answer, in short, is that it couldn't. Its actions are purely reactionary and, more than that, concerned with feeding right-wing anger rather than challenging the radicalisation of Muslims.

They don't organise within Muslim communities. They don't counteract the religious arguments of the Islamists with a class argument to address the real issues that affect and concern Muslims and non-Muslims alike. They don't stand in solidarity with those who oppose the extremists in their own midst. And they don't distinguish issues of religious bigotry from those of religious freedom in order to distance themselves from the far-right and racism.

Instead, they remain a resolutely single-issue group, refusing to acknowledge that there may be any subject more important than what the Muslims are up to. They consistently blur the distinction between ordinary Muslims and militant Islam. They take every half-baked fear-mongering piece of trash in the tabloids as the gospel truth (even whilst claiming that the media is a left-wing propaganda machine). And they fail miserably at disguising the bigotry and xenophobia that underpins their ideology.

Thus, rather than being the last, best hopeto save Britain from Islam, the EDL are actually feeding the sentiments which help the Islamists recruit. And vice-versa. Both, after all, are trying to convince a particular element of the working class that another element is the enemy and that they should define themselves on the basis of divisive identity politics rather than striving for class unity.

Hence today's farcical and offensive scenes. This was far from the clash of civilisations that both sides believe they're in the midst of. But it does show why the working class should not only reject but also actively oppose the message of both groups when they take it to the streets.