Dead Men Left

Monday, April 11, 2005

How political Islamists are helping New Labour's election campaign

Of the many stupidities of the pro-war "left" is the strange idea that by working with Muslims angered by the war on Iraq, organising protests, meetings and campaigns, the anti-war movement has encouraged the growth of political Islam. (It’s not an ideal term, but in the Western context it seems the one that is most broadly acceptable and appropriate to describe the phenomenon.) I's not hard to trace the Islamophobic content of such thinking, dependent on the false equation politicised Muslim=political Islamist.

The belief, however, is a good marker of just how far removed from political reality the whole Nick Cohen tendency is. By working with both individual Muslims and Muslim organisations in a fraternal fashion, the anti-war movement as a whole was greatly strengthened – whilst the political Islamists were undermined. Hizb'ut-Tahrir (H-T), the largest such organisation in the UK – this isn't saying much – were left infuriated but impotent by the Stop the War Coalition's policy, H-T's sectarianism proving a poor counter-argument to the demonstrably successful unity of the anti-war movement.

H-T's furious efforts against the Stop the War Coalition met with very little response, quite contrary to the pro-war "left's" paranoiac imaginings. The argument the Islamists presented - that the secular anti-war movement were "soft" imperialists, seeking to undermine "Islamic culture" - made little sense when set against the Coalition’s clear efforts to work with Muslims as equal partners in the anti-war movement. H-T’s "Don’t Stop the War – Except Through Islamic Politics" slogan, as plastered on bright orange lamp-post stickers throughout London’s East End, led to open derision.

H-T are by no means dormant, however. Their edition of political Islam holds that voting and democracy are kufr, un-Islamic, a symptom of decadent Western society that Muslims should abhor. Their attentions have turned towards Respect, an organisation they see as a profound threat. H-T have taken to an active campaign of disruption against the party, attempting – as far as they are able – to undermine its activities.

For example, at a Respect meeting in south London on Saturday evening, addressed by Abdul Kahlik Mian and attended by around 80 people, mostly Muslims, H-T turned out in (relative) force. Their sole aim was disruption, shouting and hollering in defiance of the chair; their principal accusation was that Respect supported gay rights, and that therefore Muslims should not support it. The first half is true, with Respect holding an exceptionally progressive policy on gay rights, unmatched by Labour or Liberals; the second half is inconsistent: just as Respect supports individual Muslims' right to self-determination, so too do we support the autonomy of LGBTI individuals. This is anathema to dedicated Islamists, naturally, but I reckon most Muslims would be happy with it. Fortunately, whilst angry exchanges took place, it did not prevent the comrades at the meeting organising support for the election campaign.

(There is a glorious irony in simultaneously being attacked, ignorantly, by Johann Hari for our homophobia whilst the - rather better-informed - political Islamists accuse us of precisely the opposite. The combination of attacks suggests Respect is doing something right.)

Similarly, stalls in East London have been confronted by irate H-T supporters who have attempted to harass people taking our leaflets and create such a commotion that Respect is prevented from campaigning effectively. Again, they are too small and marginal an organisation for it to make much difference, but it is hardly beneficial.

The "Islamic revolution" H-T want in the UK isn’t going to happen any time soon. The policy of abstention in East London can have only one beneficiary: Labour. If a stall promoting George Galloway is disrupted, only Oona King will benefit. Given the wild accusations made by the pro-war "lef"”, it’s time for a few of our own, following the same logic and using the same mangled language: H-T is "objectively" aiding New Labour. New Labour are "objectively" pro-"Islamofascist".