[Marxism] A reply on British Muslims

mike pearn neprimerimye at yahoo.co.uk
Tue Jun 22 08:07:35 MDT 2004

Cde Perez in his reply to me makes a number of
unwarranted assumptions concerning my position on
British Muslims. In my reply I hope to correct those
points he has misinterpreted and to clarify those
areas where real differences exist between us. My
remarks are indicated by my initials.

I had asked simply if he was aware of how *white* it
sounded to say things like that some groups attempting
to link up "'with the so-called Muslim community is
openly communalist in nature." Quite clearly his
answer to my question was no.

MP Quite clearly linking up with a grouping, that has
little material reality, on the basis of it’s
religious identity is communalist. It is an attempt to
relate to them not on the basis of class, not on the
basis that they are an oppressed group but an attempt
to make links on the basis of their status as a
religious and ethnic community. Moreover this link has
been developed not with groups of british Muslims
struggling against their oppression but with the
communla leaders who are clerics and petty bourgeois
to a man - they nearly are all male in point of fact.
If it “sounds white” well that is your silly notion.

It seems to me undeniable even knowing very little
about this that communities associated with Islam in
Great Britain are non-white; and that they have been
facing stepped-up attacks from the white Anglo
imperialist ruling class and state. And it seems that
there are proposals to forge greater links between
these communities; proposals to which Pearn objects,
deriding them as "communalism," whatever that means.

MP I’m glad you agree with me that you know very
little about the “communities associated with Islam”.
But your statement that there are proposals to forge
greater links between these communities is not in fact
the case. What we have seen is an attempt on the part
of the small MAB to broker it’s way to leadership of
the Muslim communities on the back of the anti-war
movement. Certainly it has emerged from that movement
with increased prestige but it remains tiny and
isolated. The traditional leaders of each of the
various Muslim communities remain in position and the
youth are, in general, ever more assimilated into the
wider society. Which in part is why groups like the
MAB raise noise over the issue of the scarf whenever
they can and promote 'faith' schools in order to
segregate Muslim youth. An effort that is supported by
the state and our Christian PM regardless of the low
levels of relgious observance in this country. Such
terrible discrimination that Islamist bodies sufffer
when the state throws monies at them to constructe
Mosques. But no monies are avaiable to develop
anti-racist strategies it seems. Curious that the MAB
do not campaign on this, do not campaign on racism at
all in fact only on Islamophobia and then never on the

Pearn insists that "no British Muslim Community
exists." Kind of reminds me of what the Zionists use
to argue about the Palestinians. If it were
*literally* true that no such community exists, then
Pearn would not be inveighing against the attempts to
organize it not attempts by other British leftists to
link up with it.

MP The analogy between the Palestinian nation and
British Muslims is daft. As I’ve indicated in another
post the only institutional expression of the British
Muslim Community is to be found in bodies such as the
Muslim Council of Great Britain and the relatively new
fraternal bodies that have been developed in the last
few years. If the former constitute evidence of a
British Muslim Community then the general Synod of the
Anglican sect constitutes evidence of the existence of
a British Christian community! Which is, of course,
true but this is not a ‘community’ from which all
Anglicans, leaving aside all Christians, derive their
cultural political consciousness. it is a remote elite
body and nothing more.

Pearn writes: "This is simply the idea of the Umma,
the community of all Muslims, translated into English.
No wonder really as the project of political Islam in
britain is hardly the creation of an Islamic state but
is the creation of such a community. A community which
they will be the leaders of. A community that will be
domnated by the clergy and the petty bourgeoisie. And
many of the leadership of the Muslim Association of
Britain - the british wing of the Muslim Brotherhood
but a small grouping despite appearances - are drawn
from the petty bourgeoisie." It is my contention that,
whatever else may be said about it, opposing the
organization of people suffering oppression within the
British State on this basis constitutes a denial of
the basic democratic rights of the Muslim community.

MP Perez states that opposition to the right of an
oppressed group “denial of the basic democratic rights
of the Muslim community”. Here’s the news no one is
denying British Muslims the right to organise. No one
is denying the mythical British Muslim community the
right to organise as such. What I’m saying is that
organising the widely varied Muslim communities in
Britain on the basis of religion is an attempt to
create a community where at present no such beast
actually exists. What I’m saying is that by allying
with the forces attempting this foredoomed effort
socialists are playing a reactionary role. Moreover I
note that the MAB does not organise Muslims to fight
back against racist attacks and does not organise
within the communities to resist state racism. It
actual role is the development of a cadre committed to
a variant of the Political Islam ideology and it seeks
then to work through other bodies to win influence for
it’s idea. The bodies it works through are the
fraternal bodies I’ve already mentioned and through
those Mosques in which it has gained a hearing
specifically through the Birmingham Central Mosque.

The dominant (anglo) people have their state, their
ruling class, all their institutions down to the crown
and the Church of England. Nor was this merely poor
terminological choices on Pearn's part: "As I say no
British Muslim community exists. What do exist are a
series of Muslim communities which share in little but
their religion and the racism of british society." He
denies the Muslims as a meaningful group exists in
Britain, and then goes on to specify precisely what
DOES make them a group: common elements of culture
("their religion") and a common oppression ("the
racism of british society.")

MP All Muslims do not share a common culture in their
religion. Unless you wish to argue that all Christians
share a common culture in their religion. Do followers
of Pentacostalist sects in Nigeria and Anglicans in
Bedfordshire share a common culture? Hardly the
differences between a Black church in Africa or South
London and an Episcopalian Church in Connecticut are
dramatic. So too are the differences between a Somali
Mosque in Cardiff and a Bangladeshi Mosque in East
London. Certainly all are Christians or Muslims but
they do not constitute any kind of a meaningful

And notice then how he describes the political tasks
of British Marxists in relation to this community:
"The question is how to break them from the domination
of the petty bourgeois dominated Mosques and I would
suggest that by appealing to them as Muslims we
actually reinforce that domination." Notice that Pearn
admits implicitly here they *are* a group. He's just
*against* their right to organize, that's all.

MP It’s always a sign that a person is attempting to
fit facts into preconceived abstract schemas when they
resort to inventing positions for their
co-controversialists to defend. It becomes even more
pitiful when one party has already admitted to lacking
any knowledge of the groups he is discussing.

So this is just the same, old, primitive Black and
white unite and fight, Black people organizing
themselves is racist line dressed up in anti-religious

MP Do you know how *white* the above sounds? British
Muslims, who are mostly ‘Asian’ in origin (perhaps the
next most sizeable grouping having their origin in
Somalia) whatever label you pin upon them would object
and object strongly to being called Black. Really you
need to be more sensitive to communities of color when
discussing them! Obviously you have no knowledge of or
understanding of the deeply ingrained racist attitudes
of many British Asians towards Black (meaning
Afro-Carribean or African) people in this country.

And like all such anarchist campaigns against a
religion which form part of the culture of an
oppressed people, it serves as a transmission belt for
the racism and oppression of the "great," "civilized"
nature against the "backward" oppressed peoples. There
is not a word here about the DUTY of those who would
aspire to be communists in Britain to oppose British
white racism, including and especially their DUTY to
defend the right of the oppressed communities to
organize themselves as they see fit to fight that
oppression. At the very best, what could be said for
Pearn's position is that it conditions defense of the
right of the oppressed to their abandoning being
Muslim as a significant form of self-identification.
In this way it is clearly a chauvinist position. It is
*not enough* to label it sectarian and so on as Adam
does; it is also *necessary* to understand and explain
how and why such positions fail to defend the right of
self-determination of oppressed peoples (not as a
promissory note redeemable upon the withering away of
commodity production, but in the HERE and NOW), and
are therefore "white," in other words, chauvinist
positions. For they deny to oppressed peoples the
rights the English already have, thereby preserving
the domination of the English over the oppressed

MP All of which is total tripe and bears no relation
to anything I wrote. Perez attributes positions to me
which I do not hold. May I ask when he stopped he
beating his wife in return. Really this ‘argument’ is
that thin. My initial post concerned Respect and did
not centre on British Muslims and Perez has
systematically distorted my expressed views in an
extremely crude manner. I’m most amused that at the
end of his post he mentions the English! For someone
who has been concerned to defend the right of British
Muslims to self organisation - a right no one
challenged but never mind that - he is insensitive
enough to conflate British with English. I am no more
English than you are from Mars.

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