Socialist Worker

There is resistance to this frenzy of Islamophobia

by Hassan Mahamdallie, co-director of the Muslim Institute
Issue No. 2418

The media have tried to whip up panic about British Muslims

The media have tried to whip up panic about British Muslims


The beheading of US journalist James Foley by the Islamic State, formerly known as Isis, was horrific. But is the Nigerian military slitting the throats of 16 young men and boys any less horrific?

Or last week’s Israeli air strike that blew to smithereens the wife and seven month old son of Hamas military leader Mohammed Deif? Surely that was horrific and disturbing too? 

One atrocity was carried out by a murderer who calls himself Muslim. The second was sanctioned by a head of state who calls himself Christian. And the last was executed by an entity that defines itself as an exclusively Jewish state. 

Yet only one triggered convulsions of outrage, with calls from the establishment in Britain and the US to take action. Madness descended yet again.

I woke up on Friday of last week to hear the unfortunately distinctive tones of former Labour foreign minister Kim Howells. He droned on about Muslims’ “self-segregation” in Britain, and implicitly their blame for James Foley’s death. 

This must be what Howells meant in 2006 when he said, “Iraq is a mess that can’t launch an attack now on Iran; a mess that won’t be able to march into Kuwait; it’s a mess that can’t develop nuclear weapons. So yes it’s a mess but it’s starting to look like the sort of mess that most of us live in”. 

This is the same Howells who was proud to have been raised as a Communist in South Wales.

In the 1930s radicalised young men from the same mining communities illegally made their way into Spain to take up arms against general Franco’s fascist army. 

It must have been the fault of their Welsh Methodist upbringing.

But Howells’ drivel was modest fare compared to the truly millennial frenzy that was gathering pace. 

In authentic End of Days tones, US secretary of defence Chuck Hagel said Isis represents “an imminent threat to every interest we have, whether it’s in Iraq or anywhere else.

“They’re beyond just a terrorist group. This is beyond anything we’ve seen, so we must prepare for everything.”

Discredited

In Britain home secretary Theresa May dusted off discredited Prevent schemes targeting Muslims. Her Labour shadow Yvette Cooper attacked her from the right, demanding more incursions into our civil liberties in defence of “British values”. 

The usual columnists were rolled out. The Daily Express’s Leo McKinstry was probably the most rabid, citing what he saw as “a chilling statistic that reflects the murderous disdain for patriotism among followers of radical Islam, there are thought to be more British Muslims in the Islamic State terror network than in our Armed Forces”. 

Who would have thought it?

McKinstry went on to blame mass immigration, multiculturalism and cultural diversity for Foley’s death.

London’s sometime cycling Tsar Andrew Gilligan, who likes to see Islamic extremist plots everywhere, warned that “Iraq and Syria are separated from us by a road journey and a short EasyJet flight”. 

His boss Boris Johnson called for British law to be turned on its head with Muslims travelling to Iraq or Syria to be presumed “guilty until proven innocent”. 

It has been disheartening to watch establishment Muslim leaders apologetically rushing out with condemnations. They have pointlessly distanced themselves from “John the Jihadi”—who is alleged to have killed Foley—and declared that Isis is “un-Islamic”.

I much preferred the response of the spokesperson from south east London’s Lewisham Mosque.

The press asked him to condemn a tweet from a woman “Jihadi” in Syria who might have once attended the mosque.

He retorted, “The young woman’s desire to travel to Syria has nothing to do with the Centre. Unfortunately, the Muslim community are being subjected to a burden of proof based on a ‘guilty by association’ standard”. 

He rightly attacked the press’s demand, as “loaded with an Islamophobic assumption that Muslims by default condone such brutality”. 

It was good to see someone refusing to bow to the frenzy, a spark of resistance in a very dark week.

 


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