Left must not hush up Islamist violence

Submitted by Matthew on 1 June, 2011 - 2:48

On 26 May four young men from East London were jailed for at least four or five years each for an attack in July 2010 on a local school teacher.

Gary Smith, a religious education teacher at Central Foundation Girls’ School in Tower Hamlets, east London, was beaten unconscious with a metal rod and a brick as he walked to work. He is still unable to work full hours.

The men, who pleaded guilty, attacked him solely on the grounds that he was teaching Muslim girls about religions without being a Muslim himself.

The attack and the trial went unreported in the Guardian, for example (though Nick Cohen mentioned them in his column in the Observer). They went undiscussed in the local labour movement. In the school itself, staff were strictly instructed to keep quiet about them.

The thought, presumably, was that any publicity for the affair would encourage BNP and EDL-type racists who target Muslims.

In fact it gave a quasi-monopoly on coverage of the affair to papers like the Daily Mail, which gave it EDL-type coverage. The silence of the labour movement must also have discouraged local non-fundamentalist Muslims who were shocked by the assault from speaking out to condemn it.

One Islamic-fundamentalist group, the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, has commented. MPAC condemns the attack, and blames it on the claimed fact that: “the only religion being taught at the mosques is a pacified version of Islam... the four men didn’t find this appealing enough”. Conclusion: mosques should push a more strident and political version of Islam.

To keep quiet about the misdeeds of Islamic clerical-fascism, on the grounds that any fuss will encourage the racists, only leaves the field open for the racists and Islamists.


Submitted by martin on Thu, 02/06/2011 - 12:28

Whether inadvertently or not, a critic seems to suggest that our article said that "the Muslim community" had a "responsibility to condemn" the attack.

The article deliberately does not use the term "the Muslim community".

It says that the labour movement had a responsibility to condemn the attack, because the labour movement should stand up for all workers against such violence.

It comments that the failure of the labour movement to do that "must... have discouraged local non-fundamentalist Muslims who were shocked by the assault from speaking out to condemn it".

Actually, when other left groups - maybe not the Spartacist League, but the SWP, say - do things in the name of "the left" which discredit the left, AWL does feel a responsibility to condemn those things and point out that they are not really "left-wing" at all.

The article did not demand that local non-fundamentalist Muslims who were shocked by the assault (surely, as MA suggests, the big majority) speak out to condemn it. It is not our place to demand that. But it does imply that it would have been a good thing if they had, and that the labour movement had a responsibility to make that as easy as possible for them.

Submitted by AWL on Fri, 03/06/2011 - 12:00

In no way does the article suggest that the attack is "the tip of an Islamo-fascist iceberg". Nor does it moralistically exhort "non-fundamentalist Muslims" to speak out or condemn them for not doing so. It makes a very simple point - a worker was attacked by religious reactionaries, on an entirely reactionary basis, and the left/labour movement has said nothing. This is bad. End of.

The religious right is a very significant force in the politics of Tower Hamlets; for sure, the people who carried out this attack are not representatives of the "official" religious right or of any mosque leadership or anything similar. But the labour movement's failure to comment on the incident helps contribute to a situation where the hegemony of right-wing religious politics over "the Muslim community" (which I agree does not really exist in the sense that either the Daily Mail right-wing or indeed the mosque leaderships want it to) is never challenged.

The East End of London has seen this all before; in the early 20th century, the revolutionary left was absolute clear in taking on and challenging the hegemony of the conservative synagogue leaderships over the Jewish working class. Presumably you wouldn't have accused Rudolph Rocker or the ILP of implicitly chiming in with anti-Semitism?

I think you're manufacturing controversy/disagreement where there is none.


Daniel Randall

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