Dead Men Left

Friday, June 25, 2004

Apologies, again, for a delay in posting: either Blogger, or my internet connection, has been playing up.

But no apologies for merely reprinting a chunk of John Rees' article on Respect from Socialist Worker. He makes what ought to be a simple and obvious point, but one which those "socialists" too enamoured of Samuel Huntington seem unable to grasp:

Muslims have been on the receiving end of an ideological offensive since 11 September 2001. Hundreds have been arrested. They have been abused and scapegoated by a spectrum of political figures that runs from New Labour ministers to the leaders of the BNP. Respect is proud that many Muslims stood as Respect candidates, worked for the campaign and voted for Respect.

"Labour used to be proud of the support it got from Asians in the inner cities," said one Respect supporter in Birmingham recently. "But now Asians are voting for other parties Labour calls it a 'Muslim vote'."

The truth is that there is no "Muslim communalist vote", as one Green Party candidate suggested at an election hustings in Birmingham. Muslims voted for Respect in equal numbers whether our candidate was a white socialist, an Asian trade unionist, a Jewish radical, an Afro-Caribbean campaigner or a white or Asian Muslim. Muslims are politically divided. Most still voted either Labour or Liberal Democrat at these elections. There is now a battle on to secure and extend the vote that Muslims gave to Respect in the inner cities.

Muslims cannot only be seen in their religious dimension. This perspective is one forced on us by the "clash of civilisations" view of the world that pro-war politicians have adopted. It is vitally necessary that Respect defends Muslims from these attacks. But this is not the whole story.

Most Muslims are working people with exactly the same fears and concerns as every other working person-over education for their children, pensions, job security, the NHS or student tuition fees.

Muslims are also, crucially, trade unionists. Oliur Rahman, our candidate in the City & East constituency in London, is both a Muslim and a PCS civil servants' union branch secretary.

Among the 400 Asian Euro Packaging strikers in Birmingham there were some people who Respect first met at the mosque. They are also now the victorious members of a recognised GPMU union branch.

The man who got Respect to speak at a local mosque in the West Midlands is a lifelong worker at the GKN engineering factory. The people who run the Islamic centre in Coventry are former postal workers who still have close CWU union connections.