Sunday, 6 November 2011

Islamists plan November 11 demonstration

On Armistice Day, the Islamist group Muslims Against Crusades is holding a demonstration under the banner of "Hell for Heroes." They claim that this is to "highlight the atrocities which have been committed and continue to be committed against the Muslims ... by the US, UK and their allies." But it is also a deliberate act of provocation aimed at stirring up hatred and resentment.

That this has worked well can be seen not only in the media reaction but the fact that it has led the British National Party to call a counter-demonstration. The English Defence League will no doubt follow suit and at a time when most people are silent in remembrance of those who fell in war, the area around the Royal Albert Hall will see a repeat of last year when "one small group of nutters burned a giant poppy and had a shouting match with another small gang of morons."

There is an equivalence between the fascists and the Islamists in that both groups hold to reactionary ideologies which inspire hatred and violence and offer nothing to the working class. However, MAC are not likely to ever be in a position where they could win a base of support in the most disenfranchised areas of the country and push for political representation to realise their goals. Nor are they likely to ever tap into a significant enough portion of the population to be able to hold huge demonstrations which cause huge disruption and give them the opportunity to run the streets. The BNP and the EDL respectively pose a threat in these ways, necessitating an anti-fascist movement willing to both counter their propaganda and physically oppose them.

By contrast, it appears as though MAC's main objective is to live up to every stereotype that the Daily Mail and the far-right have ever held about Muslims. If theirs is a deliberate tactic to stir up as much hatred and enmity towards Muslims as possible, then they are success is immeasurable.

This, in turn feeds into their narrative of the West's "war on Muslims." We know that the object of wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere is no more about "preventing the Shari'ah of Allah" than it is about spreading freedom and democracy. The aim is, simply, to secure strategic markets and resources and defend the interests of capital - if this is best done by promoting social democracy, fine, but if it means allowing Islamists to take power - as in Libya - then that's also acceptable.

But this inconvenient fact can be easily sidestepped by rhetoric about "usurping of the precious resources of Muslims for the greed of those Western nations whose economies are so miserably failing." As with all appealing reactionary ideologies, it touches on the truth, but is twisted enough to suit a racial or religious "us and them" line. By which logic, the only acceptable response is to stand up against "the enemies of Islam and Muslims." Given that Muslims Against Crusades is essentially a rebranding of Al Muhajiroun, which was banned for its links to terrorist groups, it isn't hard to guess what the end result of such reasoning would be.

There are a number of things which can be done to challenge this. This includes measures from organising within Muslim communities to challenge the propaganda of Islamists to actively building an alternative to the status quo based in class and solidarity rather than bigotry and sectarianism.

What it does not include, as I've said before both in reference to Islamists and to fascists, is that state bans accomplish nothing. The proscription of Al Mujahiroun merely saw the rise of Islam 4 UK, and MAC appeared on the scene when that group was banned. Moreover, such action merely sets a precedent under which the state can decide to outlaw any organisation it doesn't like the look of - of which the first victims wouldn't be the far-right (Islamic or otherwise) but the organised working class.

No, when Islamists march on the street, the principles of militant, working class antifascism apply. If they speak, challenge them. If they protest, drown them out with your own demo. If they cause violence, physically resist them. As the fascists face off against the Islamists on Armistice Day, we must refuse to take sides so that we can send the same message to both - ¡No PasarĂ¡n!