Siding with the oppressor: the pro-Islamist left - Maryam Namazie

Maryam Namazie from the Council of Ex-Muslims on uncritical attitudes to Islamism and Islamists from parts of the left.

The politics of the pro-Islamist Left is a politics of betrayal.

It’s a betrayal of the dissenters and victims of Islamism but also of the very principles that the Left has historically defended (from social justice, egalitarianism, secularism, universalism, and human liberation, including from religion).

This Left uses multiculturalism, charges of racism and Islamophobia, and anti-imperialism, amongst others to defend the far-Right political Islamic movement.

Multiculturalism and Cultural Relativism

The Pro-Islamist Left relies on multiculturalism (not as a positive lived experience but as a social policy and political point of view) to deny the existence of dissent by pigeonholing innumerable individuals with innumerable characteristics into one imagined homogeneous grouping: ‘the Muslim community’ or ‘the Muslim world’. And since it is those in power that determine the dominant culture, this point of view sees Islamist values and sensibilities as that of ‘authentic Muslims’.

In fact, ‘Muslims’ or those labelled as such include secularists, ex-Muslims, atheists, free thinkers, women’s rights activists, LGBT campaigners and socialists.

Conflating Islamism with Muslim is a narrative peddled by Islamists in an attempt to feign representation.

Contrary to how it’s viewed, regressive Islamists are given authority as ‘community leaders’ not because they actually represent the ‘Muslim Community’ but because of their access to the state, political power and their links with the political Islamic movement. Multiculturalism is a cheap way for the state to outsource social control.

Clearly, the ‘Muslim community’ is not synonymous with Islamism any more than English is synonymous with the English Defence League or Christian with the Christian-Right.

Ironically, like the far-Right which ‘despises’ multiculturalism yet benefits from its idea of difference to scapegoat the ‘other’ and promote its own form of white identity politics, the post-modernist Left also uses multiculturalism to defend cultural and moral relativism and side with the oppressor.

To accept the Islamist narrative that Muslim equates Islamist is to hand over countless individuals to the political Islamic movement and to ignore the dissent, political, social and civil struggles and class politics.

This conflation means that those who challenge Islamism are accused of cultural imperialism and orientalism because the pro-Islamist Left has bought into the culturally-relativist notion that societies in the Middle East and North Africa (and the ‘Muslim community’ in the west) are ‘Islamic’ and ‘conservative’. Whilst those in power determine the dominant culture, there is no one homogeneous culture anywhere. Those who consider opposition to the veil or Sharia law as ‘foreign’ and ‘culturally inappropriate’ are only considering Islamism’s sensibilities and values, not that of the many who resist.

Only those who see their rights and lives as separate and different from those deemed ‘other’ and who have bought into (or are selling) Islamism’s narrative can see solidarity and the demand for equality in this warped way.

In fact, this politics doesn’t merely ignore dissent, in many ways it forbids it. The likes of StWC, Socialist Workers Party, Unite against Fascism, Islamophobia Watch, and Respect Party or Ken Livingstone and George Galloway are there as prefects to silence dissenters and defend Islamism as a defence of ‘Muslims’. There are many examples to show that they equate Muslim with Islamist.

In responding to those opposing its alliance with the Muslim Association of Britain (which is understood to be a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood), the StWC’s leadership Andrew Murray and Lindsey German have written:

Quote:
Anyone remotely acquainted with the British trade union movement will be aware that neither sexism nor homophobia are uncommon in its ranks. […] woman can be subjected to more crude sexist behaviour than they might be likely to encounter within the Muslim Association of Britain. No one would suggest that an anti-war movement should have no truck with trade unionism until its ranks are 100 percent cleansed of such behaviour. Yet this is good enough as a stick to beat Muslims. Such attitudes indicate a form of racism, a desire to hold their organisations at arm’s length for the flaws which are, in some measure, tolerable in ours.

The comparison is absurd. The difference of course is that the ethos of the trade union is not anti-woman, its ethos does not say that apostates should be killed or as the head of the MAB said recently at a debate with One Law for All that women should be stoned to death. StWC’s alliance with the MAB is akin to aligning with the EDL and then saying that racism exists in the ranks of the trade unions too so why single out the English!?

Racism and Islamophobia

This pro-Islamist Left deems any criticism of Islam or Islamism as racism or Islamophobia. However, criticising a religion, ideology or political movement – far-Right or otherwise – has nothing to do with racism. In fact, Islamophobia is a political term used to scaremonger people into silence.

In some ways, these bogus accusations serve Islamism in the same way that Sharia law serves them where they are in power. It helps to threaten, intimidate and silence criticism and dissent. Charges of offence and Islamophobia are the equivalent of ‘secular’ fatwas. It is a warning by the powers that be of what is acceptable and what is not; of what is sacred and cannot and must not be challenged.

This is of course not to ignore that racism exists. Of course it does. But racism cannot be stopped by silencing much needed criticism of Islam and Islamism. Also as campaigner Rahila Gupta says: ‘Recent anti-racist alliances… reveal the capitulation of the left to the fascists within while organising against the fascists without. We should be sophisticated enough by now to construct a politics that is simultaneously anti-racist and anti-fundamentalist so that vulnerable groups like women, lesbians and gays and religious minorities do not get hung out to dry. As feminists we have been abandoned by those who should have been supporting our right to make ‘legitimate criticism’. They feel now, during the War on Terror, is not the right time. In a racist society, it is never the right time. When we expose the underbelly of our communities we are told that we are providing ammunition for racists. For us it isn’t a choice. We can’t hide one evil to fight another.’

Anti-imperialism and force of resistance

Fundamentally, this Left’s support of Islamism comes down to its affinity with Islamism, which it sees as a force of resistance against imperialism. If racism was its real concern, it wouldn’t support the blatantly racist notion of different and lesser standards and rights for those deemed ‘different’.

This Left is part of an anti-colonial movement whose perspectives coincide with that of the ruling classes in the so-called Third World. It is on the side of the ‘colonies’ no matter what goes on there. And their understanding of the ‘colonies’ is Eurocentric, patronising and even racist. To them the people in these countries (and the ‘Muslim minority in the West’) are one and the same with the Islamists they are struggling against. This is why StWC manhandles and expels anti-Iranian regime activists from its demonstrations and rejects resolutions that simultaneously opposes a war on Iran and the regime’s attacks on the working class and population at large. It sees Islamism as a force for resistance whilst it is nothing more than a regressive force for repression. But an enemy’s enemy is not necessarily an ally.

As Women Living Under Muslim Laws says:

Quote:
Fundamentalist terror is by no means a tool of the poor against the rich, of the Third World against the West, of people against capitalism. It is not a legitimate response that can be supported by the progressive forces of the world. Its main target is the internal democratic opposition to their theocratic project and to their project of controlling all aspects of society in the name of religion, including education, the legal system, youth services, etc. When fundamentalists come to power, they silence the people, they physically eliminate dissidents, writers, journalists, poets, musicians, painters – like fascists do. Like fascists, they physically eliminate the ‘untermensch’ – the subhumans –, among them ‘inferior races’, gays, mentally or physically disabled people. And they lock women ‘in their place’, which as we know from experience ends up being a straight jacket…

What’s most ironic is that Islamism is a force that came into existence as a far-Right, anti-Left movement, supported by Western powers. It’s only after 9/11 that their relationship has changed and only to some extent. It’s still a close ally in helping to manage revolutions and rebellions in the Middle East and North Africa.

This politics of betrayal supports a far-Right movement that has slaughtered an entire generation in a place like Iran, that just recently assassinated socialist leader Chokri Belaid in Tunisia, and that shot 15 year old Malala Yousefzai in Pakistan for wanting education for girls…

Clearly, the Pro-Islamist Left’s politics of betrayal is just as inhuman as that of the far-Right. It’s particularly dangerous given that unlike the far-Right it has managed to gain portrayal in mainstream discourse as ‘progressive politics’.

Any principled position must oppose the far-Right of all varieties but also this pro-Islamist Left and rather side with universalism, equality for all, secularism as well as citizens and human beings, irrespective of beliefs.

Originally posted on Maryam Namazie's blog

Posted By

Mark.
Aug 17 2013 23:44

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Mark.
Dec 4 2015 18:23

Maryam Namazie speaking at Goldsmiths

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=-1ZiZdz5nao&feature=youtu.be

Mr. Jolly
Dec 5 2015 10:43

And the support by Goldsmiths Feminist Society and Goldsmiths LGBT society posting in solidarity not with maryam namazie but these arrogant dicks, speaks volumes for the state of student politics, tbh.

Serge Forward
Dec 5 2015 14:35

How depressing. A shower of islamist wankers in the meeting, a shower of trendy lefty wankers boycotting it. I take my hat off to Namazie for standing her ground with them nobheads in attendance.

Steven.
Dec 5 2015 14:46

Just read this now: good article, although worth bearing ocelot's comments in mind

. Mark could you please post this to the library? In future please feel free to use your discretion to post stuff which would be of interest to libcom readers: we trust your taste.

FYI, the racist has been banned.

Rachel
Dec 5 2015 16:07

Steven, it's worth watching the video if you haven't. It's v long but useful to see.

One of the many disturbing things is that after the femsoc and lgbtsoc put out their statements in solidarity with the Isoc, they have been deleting critical comments from their FB including those by queer and feminist Muslim and ex Muslim people.

I never wanted to join in the 'aren't students reactionary' chorus but...it is worrying how comfortable they seem with the idea that you can just make opinions you disagree with go away.

Students are very active in campaigning against the new Prevent duty. How do these students think they are they going to fight controls on pro jihadists and Islamist speakers if they try to block freethinkers and apostates from speaking?

Sleeper
Dec 5 2015 18:22

Will Maryam Namazie be talking and discussing this in any working class venues, pubs, clubs, trade union centres etc?

Mark.
Dec 6 2015 11:40

I suspect she hasn't been invited and would be more than happy to speak to different audiences if asked.

Edit: I should probably add that there may be security issues for her speaking at open public meetings that wouldn't be there giving a talk to students.

Mark.
Dec 5 2015 21:55
Steven wrote:

Just read this now: good article, although worth bearing ocelot's comments in mind

Mark could you please post this to the library? In future please feel free to use your discretion to post stuff which would be of interest to libcom readers: we trust your taste.

Yes, I'll do this at some point.

Mark.
Dec 5 2015 22:00
Rachel wrote:

One of the many disturbing things is that after the femsoc and lgbtsoc put out their statements in solidarity with the Isoc, they have been deleting critical comments from their FB including those by queer and feminist Muslim and ex Muslim people.

I never wanted to join in the 'aren't students reactionary' chorus but...it is worrying how comfortable they seem with the idea that you can just make opinions you disagree with go away.

Students are very active in campaigning against the new Prevent duty. How do these students think they are they going to fight controls on pro jihadists and Islamist speakers if they try to block freethinkers and apostates from speaking?

A blog post about this: The student left's broken moral compass

Sleeper
Dec 5 2015 22:13

I suspect she would be well out out of her comfort zone and I'm not convinced that she's not just selling Islam by another method. As a WPI member she's certainly an authoritarian.

Mark. wrote:
I suspect she hasn't been invited and would be more than happy to speak to different audiences if asked.

Mark.
Dec 5 2015 22:17

She's an atheist and a refugee from the Islamic regime in Iran. What makes you think she's 'selling Islam by another method'?

Lbcom
Dec 5 2015 22:26

Perhaps there needs to be a definition of "pro-Islamist Left" right in the beginning because right off the bat I'm thinking "I'm not inclined to stop supporting Muslims even if I'm an anarchist". But soon enough I'm realizing that this post is referring to a very specific thing relating to "Islamist law", and the differentiation between "Islam" and "Islamism".

Sleeper
Dec 5 2015 22:27

Tell you what Mark let's see how this whole CEMB - Council of Ex- Muslims of Britain thing pans out. It just stinks to me but we'll see eh.

Mark. wrote:
She's an atheist and a refugee from the Islamic regime in Iran. What makes you think she's 'selling Islam by another method'?

Mark.
Dec 5 2015 23:34
Lbcom wrote:
Perhaps there needs to be a definition of "pro-Islamist Left" right in the beginning because right off the bat I'm thinking "I'm not inclined to stop supporting Muslims even if I'm an anarchist". But soon enough I'm realizing that this post is referring to a very specific thing relating to "Islamist law", and the differentiation between "Islam" and "Islamism".

Looking back at the original post on her blog I see that in the OP I cut out the intro as it was dealing mainly with the publication of a specific report. I think I cut out some of the context as well though including this:

Quote:
Any principled point of view must oppose all forms of fascism, including Islamic fascism, and instead side with the countless people, including Muslims, who are fighting and challenging Islamism here in Europe as well as the Middle East, North Africa and the world.

So maybe it's my fault rather than Maryam Namazie's if the start of the OP doesn't really work.

Steven.
Dec 6 2015 00:00
Mark. wrote:
Steven wrote:

Just read this now: good article, although worth bearing ocelot's comments in mind

Mark could you please post this to the library? In future please feel free to use your discretion to post stuff which would be of interest to libcom readers: we trust your taste.

Yes, I'll do this at some point.

Easiest thing would be to edit the OP and change the content type to "library"

Mark.
Dec 6 2015 00:29

^It doesn't give me the option of changing it to a non-forum post so I guess I don't have the right permissions to do this.

Khawaga
Dec 6 2015 01:14

i changed it to library. try to edit now

Mark.
Dec 6 2015 11:10

Thanks Khawaga. I've edited it to add an introduction.

Rachel
Sep 21 2016 22:29

A very good new - and short - contribution on the topic of the 'Pro-Islamist left', discussing a particularly vile panel at the 2015 Historical Materialism Conference.

https://journals.warwick.ac.uk/index.php/feministdissent/article/view/13

Khawaga
Sep 21 2016 22:23

Yeah, that was a decent article. A short read too. Not surprised to read that the pro-islamist left refer to SWP and their compatriots and front groups (although I am sure these views run deeper among the left than just the swappies). It's sort of a version of the "anti-imperialism of fools" argument.

Mark.
Oct 23 2016 16:13

Deeyah Khan's documentary on ex-Muslims

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=bupBgmtsNWU

Mark.
Feb 5 2017 17:45

Ongoing twitter thread which is more or less related:

https://mobile.twitter.com/libcomorg/status/828184171675865089

Rachel
Feb 6 2017 07:41

Really great job by Libcom Twitter in standing up for SBS on that thread.

This thread is an offshoot of an argument about the call from Owen Jones and others not to work with Stand up to Racism (organisers of yesterday’s anti Trump rally) over the SWP rape scandal. Someone gets involved to attack one of the groups - Southall Black Sisters - who signed an open letter saying they wouldn’t work with the SWP. This tweeter makes dishonest claims about SBS that may be worth unpicking.

SBS is an advocacy group working on domestic violence, forced marriage, and other issues affecting Black and migrant women in the UK. They have an amazing history in the anti racist and migrant rights struggle. Their work led them to criticise the growing power of religious leaders, who work sometimes with and sometimes against the state to define and manage minority communities and the place of women within them. They don’t single out Islam, and have been active in campaigns confronting the religious right in Hindu, Sikh, Jewish, Christian and Catholic communities, but they also don’t make an exemption for Islam, as some Muslims and some leftists demand.

They have recently supported the campaign started by Maryam Namazie against normalising Sharia and other religious arbitration courts in the UK. SBS service users are mostly Muslim women and SBS has seen the growing power of these councils or courts and the poor outcomes they offer women and children. The government under Theresa May, far from opposing Sharia councils as some on the left might suppose, is seeking to regulate them. This may be part of the state’s ‘multi-faith’ agenda which seeks to define minority groups along religious lines then outsources some government responsibilities to religious community groups, either as a money saving measure or for ideological reasons.

In all religions there are some women who want to live under God’s law (as interpreted by men) and others who don’t. Many of us think that, while we have to live under a state, one secular law for all provides better protection for women. The Sharia debate is a controversial thing to be involved in right now, for obvious reasons, but SBS and others working with them haven’t stopped. Perhaps they feel that now more than ever it’s important to stand up to the religious right.

The attack on secularists (especially secular feminists) from the left is now much broader than it was when Namazie wrote the article that started this thread. It’s unfortunately found in both academic and activist scenes.

Here is a recent article by SBS about the Sharia campaign, and there are other articles on the same website about it
https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/pragna-patel/sharia-debate-who-will-l...