Sunday, 4 December 2011

The state and the "extremists"

On Friday, the police arrested twenty two people who were protesting outside the US Embassy. The group were protesting under the banner "United Ummah," but were arrested on suspicion of being part of the banned Muslims Against Crusades.

The demonstration was against the use of US drones in Pakistan. However it is clear that United Ummah are a re-branding of Muslims Against Crusades, itself a re-branding of Islam 4 UK and Al-Muhajiroun before it. The people at the demonstration were Islamists, whose views on non-Muslims, women and homosexuals are truly abbhorrent, and the group has served as an apologist for terrorism. However, this does not mean that it is right or good that they have been banned by the state.

For a start, as has been demonstrated more than once, banning one organisation doesn't stop its members reforming in another. But that is not all - the views these people hold, and their presence on the streets, must be challenged. Not by the state, which is not intrinsically opposed to bigotry or repressive ideologies, but by working class people - the same logic of militant anti-fascism applies, whilst giving the state a mandate to ban an organisation because it represents "extremism" only serves to set a dangerous precedent. After all, "extremist" only means someone whose views are far away from the narrow mainstream consensus.

I just wish that the British authorities would take an equally robust position against the English Defence League. While EDL supporters might not have been involved in same types of terrorist attacks like those who have been involved in Al Muharjiroun, they do pose a more serious threat to local communities up and down the country and have been involved in appalling racism and violence.
As we saw over their planned demonstration at Tower Hamlets, "banning" the EDL merely allowed for a blanket ban on protest in five boroughs. It also didn't stop the group from holding a demonstration - ultimately only a mass anti-fascist mobilisation offered any guarantee that the people in Tower Hamlets would be safe.

We also know from experience that the state will far more readily use repressive powers against the left and the organised working class than against the far-right or Islamists.

Not that you'd expect an organisation with a long history of state collaboration to get this point. But we should never forget that the state is not anti-fascist. Calling for bans will not beat the fascists or the Islamists, only direct action by those who feel its effects in their communities will.