Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2111

Don’t fall for Hazel Blears’s plan to co-opt Muslims

The government last week set out new high profile proposals to deal with “extremism” in the Muslim community.

Communities secretary Hazel Blears is going to set up a board of Islamic theologians, which will be hosted by the Oxford and Cambridge universities, that will lead debates among Muslims focusing on issues such as Islam’s place in Britain and citizens’ loyalty to Britain.

Blears said that this will “bolster the majority, mainstream, moderate Muslim people in this country” against the fundamentalists.

She also has plans for Muslim children to be taught citizenship lessons in mosques around the country.

Blears says that this “will help young people understand how their faith is compatible with wider shared values and that being a good Muslim is also compatible with being a good citizen in Britain”.

She wants “sensible debate around issues that extremists can seek to exploit and make sure that young British Muslims recognise that their faith teaches shared citizenship values”.

Blears’s has let slip her strategy of “carrot and stick”.

It wants to ignore any links between its support for the US’s rotten wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the anger it has created among young Muslims.

In its eyes, this anger is being artificially fostered by a minority who are perverting the faith.

To combat this it wants to build up a section of people in the community, who will accept government support and status in return for promoting its arguments with other people.

Anyone who opposes this, or does not accept these people’s leadership, will be denounced as a supporter of “extremism”.

They will then be subjected to the “stick” – with allegations of terrorism, stop and searches, and victimisation.

This, and the right wing media, have all helped to produce the tide of Islamophobia we have seen in Britain since the 9/11 and 7/7 terror attacks.

Instead of trying to create division among Muslims, and between Muslim and wider society, Blears and Gordon Brown should look at the political reasons behind the anger.

But as is the case with all their policies, whether over public sector pay, privatisation or war, they seem to be incapable of doing that – which is why New Labour is in such crisis.

Ayesha Akhtar, East London

Fees for murder?

The government submitted plans last week to grant free education to all military personnel. Previously the government would pay the fees of students as a way of keeping them in the military, but now it will be paying tuition fees for soldiers even after they have left the army.

This shows that the money exists to have free education for all. But this relies on joining the army and heading off to Iraq or Afghanistan to kill innocent people or end up dying ourselves. This is quite a price. I would rather pay the £3,000 fees (and rising) a year.

But many young people can’t afford the price of education and so joining the army becomes an enticing prospect. We have to show the reality of joining the armed forces and say that the price isn’t worth it.

We have to ask the government why can it afford to pay the education of those who go to fight its wars but not our education?

The government has made these proposals because the general opposition to the war has also increased dissent in the army.

Many military personnel have become aware that they are pawns in a game and are doing the dirty work of people who couldn’t care less what happens to them.

Morale is low and people are refusing to join up. The government is dangling the hope of free education above the heads of young working class students.

The crisis in the Middle East has created problems for the government leading to these measures. The student movement needs to create a crisis at home for our government that forces it to grant free education to all.

Dominic Kavakeb, Colchester

The crew in parliament stole higher education from us and now they want to use it as bait to get our children to sign up as cannon fodder. This is a choice their own children will never have to make.

Capitalism lives on stealing from us what should be ours and then selling it back to us – distorted and cheapened – and here we have all that education has to offer wrapped up in wars.

Heather Kay, Swansea

False consultation on future of the NHS

My local MP Kali Mountford’s office has sent out a local health survey recently.

I have gained enormous benefit from the NHS as a leukaemia patient, and without it I could not have survived. Therefore I have a great deal of experience, positive and negative, from which I can suggest improvements to the NHS.

Mountford’s survey gives no opportunity to explore any of this. The first four questions, relating to health policy, mention a hypothetical policy decision with which, other things being equal, no one could disagree.

The answers to these questions could be used to compile statistics which are then used as “evidence” of support for policies, without the real issues being mentioned or discussed.

This would help the undermining of established GP practices and the extension of corporate medical provision in the NHS. This kind of “research” is manipulative and cynical.

The local health trusts, following Labour’s policy, shifted specialist and emergency maternity services from Huddersfield to the Halifax Private Finance Initiative hospital against people’s wishes. This was a lesson about the genuineness of “consultations” under Labour.

This kind of approach will not save us from a Tory government.

An MP should be the means by which we, the people, shape the NHS in the interests of all.

Roger Keely, Huddersfield

Poor are priced out on food

So Gordon Brown thinks that people should be more careful when they shop and waste less food in order to keep their bills down.

How dare he.

The 2006 National Consumer Council report on supermarkets said, “Low income consumers are being short changed on health.

“Many economy range foods contain more salt, fat and sugar than their standard equivalents.”

The survey also revealed that there were fewer low price promotions on healthy products in supermarket outlets most likely to be used by low income shoppers.

Low income households already spend 28 percent of their gross income on food, as opposed to only 10 percent by more affluent households.

Health inequalities have increased, shamefully, under New Labour.

Low income earners are forced to buy cheaper foods at the expense of their health.

Gordon Brown’s comments show yet again how far removed he and the rest of New Labour are from the lives of ordinary working people.

It is time for them to go.

Jackie Turner, East London

Halt money to New Labour

Every trade union should be demanding that this “Labour” government shows that it is working with them.

This means implementing the Warwick Agreement in full, cutting back on wasting our money on wars and weapons, giving hard working men and women decent pay rises, fairness and respect.

Until this happens, the unions should stop the donations and force the hypocrites in the government to recognise the views of the labour movement, instead of the bosses’ CBI group and the fat cats of industry.

Dave Trubshaw, Runcorn, Cheshire

Which bill to promote?

The Ross Pritchard Memorial Fund was established to commemorate the life of one of the print unions’ best known rank and file members.

The trustees of the fund invite entries to the annual essay competition on a subject dear to Ross’s heart.

The subject this year is:

“You are an MP and you have won the ballot for a private member’s bill. What bill would you be promoting and why?”

Young trade union members in particular are invited to submit essays (not more than 1,000 words), but submissions from other trade union members will be welcomed.

The winning essay will be awarded a prize of £750.

Essays should be submitted by 17 September 2008 by post to RPMF, 1 Camden Hill Road, London SE19 1 NX or by email to [email protected]

Megan Dobney, Ross Pritchard Memorial Fund

Work not just making things

Amy Leather gave an excellent account of Karl Marx’s theory of exploitation (» What is exploitation?, 19 July).

But there is one problem with it.

Everyone I know (except students, pensioners and unemployed people) is a worker – they sell their ability to labour and would starve if they didn’t.

But very few of them make “things”. Yet Amy’s account suggests work is about making things.

We have to make clear that education, healthcare, cleaning etc are commodities, just as much as cars or pencils.

Otherwise we will fail to connect to the people we need to reach.

Ian Birchall, North London

Don’t mourn, celebrate

Why will former Tory prime minister Margaret Thatcher be given a state funeral?

This will cost £3 million. Who would turn up to pay their respects?

There would be more people inside the hearse than outside.

Thatcher should be cremated as soon as possible and then her ashes should be scattered in the urinal of a northern working mens’ club.

Shaun Shute, Gloucester

Workers must stand united

Trade union activists, such as sacked nurse Karen Reissmann (» Trust boss who sacked Karen Reissmann quits, 19 July) are facing hard times.

The old slogan an injury to one is an injury to all needs to be acted on.

The bosses of the world are standing shoulder to shoulder and only the unity of workers can challenge this.

This was recognised in the 1970s labour laws which were used to regulate disputes.

Most people’s experiences of employment tribunals are unfortunate.

Nothing can compensate for damage done to the individual and indeed union organisation.

We need to learn the lessons of this sooner rather than latter.

Patrick Cooper-Duffy, Southampton

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Article information

Tue 22 Jul 2008, 19:22 BST
Issue No. 2111
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