[Marxism] Re: Marxism Digest, Vol 8, Issue 62

mike pearn neprimerimye at yahoo.co.uk
Wed Jun 23 20:25:39 MDT 2004

Tom's remarks are interesting and I believe that they
go a considerable way towards supporting my position
that there is no British Muslim Community. In addition
his post also allows me to clarify my position with
regard to MAB and Respect.

Tom poses the question as to whether it is reactionary
to link up with a grouping that is communalist and
lacks any substantial base. In my view it is only
sensble to ally with such groups as long as no
concessions are made to develop that alliance. And
here is the problem I have with the MAB involvement in
the anti-war movement. That problem is not with the
involvement of the MAB but with the concessions which
the SWP made to keep them on board. hence Lindsey
germans now notorious remark that womens rights are a
shibboleth. Hence the undemocratic rigging of meetings
in Birmingham that led to leading SWPers quiting that
group in protest (I would recommend background reading
on this from one of these comrades but her sites are
at present unavailable due to censorhip by Brum Uni
under pressure from Zionists).

There have also been attempts to segregate meeting by
gender and to do the same regarding transport to
demos. note I'm not discussing transport organised by
Mosques but that arranged by the Stop the War
Coalition. Ditto in Respect. These have generally
failed but not by reason of opposition from the SWP or
their tails. In addition th SWP has carried article
after article on the wonders of Islam and nothing
discussing it's reactionary role.

Certainly the SWP is right to draw attention to
Ummayad Andalus and to the achievments of Muslim
scientists but imagine if the same attitude was
displayed tooward Christianity. We would be told all
about Liberation theology and the Missiones of
Paraguay. The revolts of the Hussites would be retold
and the wonders of Gothic Cathedrals endlessly
described. All very true and so one sided as to
distort historical truth which I submit is not an
historical materialist methodology.

But to get back to the anti-war movement I'm pleased
that MAB was a part of that effort. Why not have
people who identify by their religious affiliation on
board? After all earlier anti-war movements have been
graced by sundry Christian figures. So I have no
problem at all with the laymembers of the MAB being on
anti-war platforms. i do object to tactics being
geared to the politics such figures are willing to
support however just as i object to tactics being
dictated by Christian figures. And locally this
happened quite a bit. So demonstrations became
toothless vigils and similarly pious rot.

Tom also asks if it is different in principle allying
with the MAB in an electoral pact? Well yes it is. Now
I'm convinced that it is permissable to make electoral
pacts - for candidates to stand down to allow a clear
run and such like tactics - with many forces, even
those who stand outside the workers movement. Mind
I've taken a long time to be persuaded of this but the
electoral system in Britain makes such tactics hard to
operate. But I very much doubt that an MAB electoral
campaign would be high on my list to make a deal wioth
given their politics on many issues. I would afr
rather ally with the Greens or the Nashies and I
loathe these parties!

Hoiwever Respect is not an electoral pact but an
electoral party. it is registered as a political party
and has adopted a platform of sorts and has members,
stands in elections and so forth. The SWP and a
hadnfull of other socialists work within it insofar as
Respect has any organisation to work within on the
ground. In the eyes of the general public Respect is
George Galloways party and his name even appeared on
the ballot papers. And it s a matter of act that
Respects politics are those of galloway and those few
Muslims involved in the party. But to a person these
Muslims are not working class (certainly not
socialist) but represent and are drawn from the petty
bourgeois layers who run the Mosques and are the self
appointed leaders of the various Muslim communities.
More accurately they are the sons, Salma Yaqoob being
pretty much uniquely the only leading woman Muslim
involved hence her regular platform appearences, of
the community leaders. I would suggest that a party
cannot represent the interests of two hostile classes.

Tom also discusses how Muslims in Autralia were
mobilised for demonstrations via the local Mosque. He
points out how despite coming from varied ethinic
groups all the Muslims present felt that they belonged
to the same community. Well yes they do just as all
Roman Catholics belong to the community of the Church.
So too do all Muslims belong to the Umma the community
of the Muslims those who surrender to Allah. But this
community is a religious community and is only one
aspect of the identity of those who belong to it. It
is a community that is supra-national not national in
character and it is a community that does not accept
national borders. Therefore the Umma cannot be divided
into an Australian Umma or a British Umma (British
Muslim Community) but is worldwide in scope limited
only by the failure of the non-believers to accept

The conception of a British Muslim Community on the
part of the MAB is then not a relgious but a political
concept. It is an attempt to construct a politically
cohesive bloc from the disparate Muslim commmunities
living in Britain. And it is a slight of hand on the
part of the MAB when they portray themselves as
already being leaders of this community. Firstly they
ar not secondly it does not exist! And when the SWP
take their claims seriously they act in such a manner
as to increase the prestige of the MAB among Muslims
thereby increasing the isolation of young people from
Muslim backgrounds from the wider society. Given that
of all ethno-religious groups in Britian those
adhering to Islam are to be found both among the rich
- which is not the case with Afro-Carribeans - and
amongst the poorest. Generally these groups are far
less intetgrated into wider society and tend to be
more dominated by a petty bourgeoisie from their own
ethno-religious group. It is then far harder for young
people to break free from traditional Muslim families
than is the case for black youth.

Most Mosques and community leaders are of course very
traditional in their Islam and tend not to be involved
in politics. However there was a tradition of Muslims
voting for the labour party and many community leaders
became members of the Labour Party and delivered the
community vote. This tradition is now breaking down as
community leaders bargain with other parties usually,
but not always, the LibDems but also the Tories, SNP
and Plaid. But the point is that votes are delivered
due to the loyalty of the community to its leaders.
The MAB project is to develop a Muslim Community that
is led not by such traditional leaders but by educated
graduate Muslims. It is a project that cannot succeed
as the internal integrity of many such Muslim
communities is broken down as the population gradually
assimilates - American comrades will note that
intermarriage between ethnic groups in Britain is far
higher than is the case in the USA with your de facto
apartheid in the residential districts. But it is a
project that will trap a layer of Muslim youth
repelled by racism and conned by the MAB cadre. It is
a project which the SWP by financing and supplying the
majority of activists for Respect encourage and this
in turn repells secular youth escaping from the
restrictions of the traditional communities.

To be hinest if Respect had achieved a real
breakthrough at the recent elections and if the SWP
were recruiting as a result I might reconsider my
position. but Respect did no better or worse than
earlier 'left of labour' electoral campaigns in 1997
and 2001. And the SWP is not recruiting but losing
members. So despite my feelings of antipathy to the
SWP leadership I share in this self imposed defeat for
the socialist movement in Britain as irreplacable
activists are lost to us. It is then my duty to tell
the truth as to what is happening when questions are
asked on this list and if you don't like the answers
comrades well it's a tuff world.

From: "Tom O'Lincoln" <suarsos at alphalink.com.au>
Subject: [Marxism] Muslims (Jose & Mike)

I have little concrete knowledge of Muslims in Britain
but will make some brief comments based on my modest
knowledge of other places.

On the other hand, Mike’s facts (which I’m in no
position to dispute) don’t entirely convince me of his
position. Even if a group has little base and is
“communalist”, does that really make it *reactionary*
to “link up” with them? Does this mean we shouldn’t
have the MAB on the platform at an anti-war
demonstration? We certain had religious figures
speaking in Australia. And how is an electoral pact
different in principle?

It’s true that there’s little sign of a “Muslim
community” in Australia (though I still use the
expression for want of a better one). People I met
at the Islamic Council here (supposedly representing
all Muslims) did not seem to have deep roots of any
kind. They were quite “assimilated” and indeed some of
them were intellectual white converts to Islam. They
volunteered the information that their “community”
base was really a disparate set of ethnic communities.

All true, but on the other hand a few years back at
the height of the second Intifada I went to a
Palestine demonstration. They are seldom large in
Melbourne, but this one was an exception, and the
reason was a general mobilisation of Muslims. Other
demos had been Arabs and whites; this one had many
ethnic groups including Somalis. I spoke to an
Indonesian who told me he had heard about it through
the Mosque. There was some sense of “community” there
and I didn’t have a problem linking up with it.

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