By Sacha Ismail
When it’s not busy attacking public sector workers’ miserable pensions as overly generous and telling us how easy life is for asylum-seekers, the favourite pastime of the foul Daily Express is bashing Britain’s Muslim population.
In November 2006, the Workers’ Liberty website covered a ludicrous front page story about one school in Rotherham deciding to serve halal chicken for Christmas dinner — which apparently amounted to "banning Christmas". Now the Express has trumped itself with a personal-best for anti-Muslim incitement.
"Now Muslims get their own laws in Britain”, shrieks the 30 April front page, over a lengthy article claiming that informal sharia courts are now operating in Muslim communities in many British cities.
Some of the facts which the Express cites in this piece are, if true, certainly worrying. Plausible too, is the idea that elements in the New Labour establishment might flirt with the institutionalisation of sharia structures as part of their official “anti-racism” and “multiculturalism” — as did some in the Canadian state of Ontario until a campaign forced the governor to come out against it in November 2005. (The Canadian section of the SWP, incidentally, condemned opposition to sharia law as racist.) But as uncompromising secularists, we deny the right of the Daily Express to pose a a champion of secularism.
The article is not pro-secularist, but a disgusting piece of anti-Muslim incitement. It is a classic piece of trash journalism. The headline is clearly intended to give the impression that the law is being changed to give special rights to Muslims — when in fact what is being discussed is a (thankfully) marginal phenomenon on the edges of a few communities.
And more fundamentally — when, ever, has the Express criticised Christian fundamentalism? When has it ever criticised the Christian churches (except, in some cases, for being too liberal) or the encroachment of Christianity into political life? Why is aggressive, assertive, politicised religion acceptable when it is associated with the mainly-white skinned “majority, “indigenous” population of Britain, but a threat when it is associated with dark-skinned recent immigrants and their descendants? I believe that question answers itself.
It is clear that the issue here is not the threat sharia law poses to human rights, but the threat it poses to “Britishness”. The real character of the Express’s concern is reinforced by those it chooses to quote in its support — including Mark Wallace of the Freedom Association, the far-right British nationalist group created to strike-break during the Grunwick dispute in 1976-8.
Real secularists, among whom we in Workers’ Liberty are proud to count ourselves, have nothing in common with this rubbish.