Socialist Worker

Islamophobia is part of the 'war on terror'

Issue No. 2022

Every day Jack Straw dresses in a corporate uniform. The only choice is between a grey, black or dark blue suit.

The same Straw attacked Muslim women who wear the veil as demonstrating “a visible statement of separation and difference”.

Leave aside that this might apply to Rastafarians, Sikhs, Orthodox Jews or many teenagers hanging around the town centre of his Blackburn constituency, it shows Straw’s image of “common identity” is one that could target anyone who chooses to challenge a narrow dress code and outlook.

For many Muslim women in Britain and Europe, the decision to wear a veil is not about “internalising oppression”. It is a statement of identity adopted in the face of rising Islamophobia and government demands to step through yet one more hoop to prove you are a “good Muslim”.

Muslim women have been to the fore in the anti-war movement - something that has truly brought people together in common cause and given confidence to Muslim women to speak out.

It ill behoves middle class Westerners, whether Jack Straw or supposed feminists, to dictate what women should wear.

What’s at issue is not women’s rights, but an Islamophobic agenda which is the battle cry of the US led global “war on terror”.

Economic consensus

Meet Mr Camerown

In the 1950s an economic consensus formed among Tory and Labour parties. It was dubbed “Butskellism” - after Tory chancellor Rab Butler and his Labour shadow Hugh Gaitskell.

This consensus called for partnership with the unions and state intervention in the economy.

The current “debates” around health policy are the clearest sign of the emergence of a new consensus between Gordon Brown and David Cameron - Camerownism.

Cameron is pushing an “independence bill” for the NHS, which would enshrine the growing divide between purchaser and provider, entrench the internal market and create an independent board to run the health service.

If all this sounds familiar, it should. Brown announced an almost identical plan for an independent board to run the NHS. The concept of freestanding health providers competing on a health market is simply the completion of plans already set in motion by New Labour.

Rich and poor

The real divisions

New Labour turns a blind eye to the most rampant examples of “separation and difference” in our society - the increasing divide between the rich and the poor.

They talk of “community cohesion” and “integration” but preside over a society where yuppie developments, gated communities and conspicuous consumption have spread like a rash across our city centres. In rural areas too, ordinary people find their rents and property prices spiralling out of control thanks to the rich elite snapping up second homes.

This minority is never criticised for “separating” from the rest of society. On the contrary, its exclusivity is held up as a model for us all to aspire to. As Peter Mandelson put it back in 1998, New Labour is “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich”.

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Article information

What We Think
Sat 14 Oct 2006, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 2022
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