[Marxism] Open letter to Stopwar.ca on Darfur and Islamophobia in the anti-war movement
Ivan D. Drury
ivanddrury at yahoo.ca
Tue Dec 5 20:21:57 MST 2006
This letter was written from Mobilization Against War and Occupation (MAWO), an anti-war coalition in the Vancouver area, to another anti-war coalition here as well, about an incident at the Canada-wide action on October 28th. I think it's of significance to all activists and organizers, so I'm forwarding it FYI.
- Ivan (Vancouver, BC, Canada)
An Open Letter to Stopwar.ca
Nov 29, 2006.
Dear Members, Coordinating Committee and Co-chairs of Stopwar.ca,
On October 28th 2006 I attended the rally in Vancouver organized by Stopwar.ca. During the march and rally I
observed something with I consider very dangerous and which caused me grave concern. I witnessed
indifference and a lack of sensitivity from Stopwar.ca organizers towards serious attempts to thoroughly
undermined the goal and cause of the Oct 28 action.
During the march a group called “Third Camp” had a large banner which stated “NO TO US MILITARISM – NO TO ISLAMIC TERRORISM”. This banner also was displayed prominently on the stage at the rally. While I understand that it is difficult to remove banners or signs from the march, I do not understand why this
banner was allowed on stage. In addition, a very large banner was displayed at the top of the stage which
stated “JOIN US TO STOP DARFUR GENOCIDE”.This is basically US propaganda in order to justify a military
intervention in Sudan either through the UN or through the US directly. Again, I found this confusing.
Neither of these slogans are anti-war, they are in fact pro-war, and likely very confusing to those
attending the march and rally.
This confusion was compounded for me when I was approached by a Stopwar.ca organizer who asked me to
remove a banner I was holding on the stage which said “Mobilization Against War & Occupation”. I asked
“Why?”, because I know that Stopwar.ca and MAWO share many common demands and I could not see a political problem with this banner remaining where it was. I received no answer to this question. Stopwar.ca
co-chair Mable Elmore approached me and repeated that I must remove the banner from the stairs. She insisted
that as organizers of the rally, the stairs were part of their stage and they had jurisdiction over them. We
responded positively to the request and moved off of the stairs beside the stage at that point.
Within minutes of moving off of the stairs, “Third Camp” took the place that MAWO had been occupying.
This group “Third Camp” set up their banner with the demands: “NO TO US MILITARISM – NO TO ISLAMIC
Our banner against war and occupation had just been forced out, and welcomed in its place? A reactionary,
Islamophobic, war-mongering banner. I was shocked.
In another circumstance, I may have accepted that this was a tragic oversight by the organizers. However, it
was clear that the Stopwar.ca organizers were hyper-sensitive to the set up of the stage on Oct 28th, which was reflected in their asking the MAWO banner to move. Why was Stopwar.ca indifferent to these banners? Is it
acceptable to Stopwar.ca that “Third Camp” can set up an Islamophobic banner? Was the “JOIN US TO STOP
DARFUR GENOCIDE” banner acceptable to Stopwar.ca? Does Stopwar.ca support intervention in Darfur?
I believe that both of these slogans are against the principle of the antiwar and peace movement.
The “NO TO ISLAMIC TERRORISM” banner was a direct, clear attack on the Muslim community, spouting the
same racist, intolerant, reactionary rhetoric as the Bush Administration itself. How can we build a broad,
united antiwar movement while allowing this Islamophobic attack? How can we unite with the Muslim community if such hate is permitted? Would the Canadian Islamic Congress, one of the initiators of the Oct 28th call-out in Canada, have appreciated such a banner being present at this rally?
Islamophobia is a tool of division between people in imperialist countries like Canada and people in the “Muslim-world” and it has no place in the anti-war movement. The anti-war movement, and all progressive
people and their organizations must stand for the unity of the oppressed people of the world against the
oppressor. In Canada it is especially important that working, poor and all progressive organizations take a
clear stand against Islamophobia. We need to take a clear and strong stand in defense of all people under
imperialist assault, Muslim or non-Muslim.
The second issue that arose, on the question of Darfur, is also important for the antiwar movement to
address. The UN Security Council adopted resolution 1706 on Aug. 31 calling for the deployment of more
than 20,000 UN troops to Sudan. Such intervention has been supported by the imperialist governments of the
US and Canada, among others.
However, mass demonstrations in Sudan have opposed such intervention, including a protest in Khartoum on
Sept 20th against UN resolution 1706.
Why have so many people opposed the intervention? Well, just as the protests against invasion in Iraq,
in Afghanistan, in Haiti, the people of Sudan protest because they do not believe that the gunships of the
US, or the boots of UN troops are working in their interest. Hundreds of years of colonial genocide has
proven that the people of Sudan will not receive benevolent aid from imperialist forces, or their organization - the UN.
The antiwar movement cannot be confused by the crocodile tears of George W Bush and imperialist
leaders. The so-called “humanitarian mission” proposed for Darfur is but a door to a new era of intervention
in Africa. We need only look at the “humanitarian mission” into Iraq, to bring “liberation and freedom”
to Iraqis, to see the future results of a mission into Sudan. I urge Stopwar.ca to take a position on
intervention in Sudan, to approach the threats to Sudan critically and to not get swept away by this
clever imperialist campaign.
Now, if what I witnessed at the October 28th demonstration was a result of a lackadasial attitude,
then it shows that Stopwar.ca is not taking these interventions seriously. As a result this sloppiness
allowed for a dangerous and divisive political intervention by the reactionary “Third Camp”. They were able to come onto the stage of an anti-war rally with a pro-war message. On top of this, confusion was further stirred up with the decidedly pro-war demand displayed at the top of the stage “JOIN US TO STOP DARFUR GENOCIDE”. These two pro-war interventions were allowed to be present – and prominient – throughout the entire program of the Stopwar.ca rally. This sloppiness will no doubt put into question the seriousness of the leadership and organizers of Stopwar.ca about building an effective antiwar movement.
I don’t agree with the ongoing factionalism of Stopwar.ca towards MAWO, but for the sake of unity of the antiwar movement I have tolerated it. However, there is no justification that the Stopwar.ca organizers were so sensitive to MAWO on Oct 28th and so tolerant and conciliatory towards these two reactionary and dangerous tendencies in the progressive movement.
I must also explain why I decided to write this as an open letter, it is because this is not the first time that I have witnessed this type of political problem at a Stopwar.ca event. On March 18, 2006, Stopwar.ca organized a rally in Vancouver for the anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq, which MAWO endorsed and built. On the stage at this rally were signs that said “No to War, No to Terror” written beside large image of the racist, Islamophobic Danish cartoon of Prophet Mohammed with a bomb on his head. This cartoon was condemned by the Muslim world and peace-loving people internationally. On top of this no major newspaper in Canada or Britain would print these cartoons. Even Jack Straw, Britain’s Foreign Secretary at the time stated that the publication of these cartoons was “unnecessary, it has been insensitive, it has been disrespectful and it has been wrong”. I was utterly shocked to see these offensive, divisive and humiliating images displayed so prominently at, of all
things, an anti-war rally. I believe that the banners of October 28th are a continuation of this very misguided and dangerous pattern.
I urge Stopwar.ca to take a more serious and principled approach. We must work to build an antiwar movement in Vancouver and in Canada, that has a clear message against war and occupation. We must unite all peace-loving people against the horrors of the era of war and occupation.
I hope that you are able to take this letter to heart and consider the points raised as friendly advice for building a stronger, broader, more effective antiwar movement.
Co-Chair, Mobilization Against War & Occupation
*Photographs of the banners and signs mentioned above can be viewed at:
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