Opposition to war, Islamophobia and attacks on civil liberties are all connected, says Lindsey German, and we have to campaign against all three
UK government ministers Eric Pickles and Theresa May couldn’t really make it clearer who they think is to blame for Islamic terrorism. It is the whole of the Muslim community.
Pickles, along with fellow Tory minister Lord Ahmad, has written to Muslim organisations telling them that they are not doing enough to stop extremism.
The letter has produced a surprisingly strong response from the Muslim Council of Britain, saying that Pickles is treating the community as if it is separate from mainstream British society, something they compare to far right attitudes.
In the heightened atmosphere following the terrible events in Paris with the Charlie Hebdo and kosher supermarket shootings, on the grounds of rooting out terrorism, the British government is making sure that Muslims have to constantly denounce extremists within their own midst, something that, for example, the far right never has to do when one of its number commits terrorist crimes.
Muslim communities are under threat from Islamophobia, taking the form of verbal abuse and physical attacks. The general secretary of the Finsbury Park mosque, Mohammed Kozbar, told Sky News that his mosque has seen increased attacks. ‘Most of them are nasty drawings about our prophet and our books. Some of them make death threats against our community, so it's quite frightening for our community and our mosque’.
The monitoring group Tell Mama also reports increases in attacks on Muslims.
Little of this is reported, let alone commented on, in the media. Whereas the government has announced police protection for synagogues and Jewish schools, claiming that there is a heightened threat of anti Semitic attacks, it has made no such claims about anti Muslim attacks, even though these have become increasingly common.
The contrast between the approach of Pickles and May at a memorial service for the Paris victims -- organised by the Jewish community -- and that towards the Muslim community, could not be starker.
While the Tory ministers pledged their support and solidarity to the Jewish community, holding up ‘Je suis juif’ placards and saying quite rightly that they should not feel under threat because of their culture or religion, they have not extended the same support to Muslims. It is hard to imagine Pickles holding up a placard which says ‘je suis musulman’ any time soon.
The news that the Islamophobic Pegida organisation, which has organised demonstrations in Dresden and other German cities, is planning to bring its hateful message to Britain is chilling but perhaps not such surprising news. No wonder its organisers feel confident to do so.
Missing from all this is any sense that Islamic terrorism is linked to wider events, many of them connected to the government’s calamitous war on terror. Indeed the Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland has explicitly rejected any connection, regarding it as a ‘coping mechanism’ for those living in fear at terrorism.
The fact remains however that this terrorism has grown out of all proportion since the war on terror began, and has spread from Afghanistan through to Africa and the Middle East. There are many signs that its latest stages, especially in Iraq, Syria and Libya, are promoting Islamic terror, not diminishing it.
Another fact needs spelling out: that the major racism in Europe today is against Muslims. All racism is abhorrent, and every group has the right to stand up against it. But the racist demonstrations are against Muslims, the majority of attacks are against Muslims, the clamp down on civil liberties is primarily against Muslims.
Opposition to war, Islamophobia and attacks on civil liberties was the basis on which the Stop the War Coalition was founded. None will be ended until we understand the connection, and campaign against all three.
As national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, Lindsey was a key organiser of the largest demonstration, and one of the largest mass movements, in British history.
Her books include ‘Material Girls: Women, Men and Work’, ‘Sex, Class and Socialism’, ‘A People’s History of London’ (with John Rees) and ‘How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women’.
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