In little under two weeks reactionary, neo-fascist, religiously sectarian jihadists have launched murderous attacks against two French churches beheading female worshippers. They have decapitated a teacher, murdered twenty-two students at a university in Kabul and have killed several people in an area of Vienna known for its synagogue and nightlife writes Andy Stowe.
They have been encouraged to do this by groups like Hefazat-e-Islam in Bangladesh which organised protests outside the French embassy in Dhaka. This organisation’s programme calls for the death penalty for anyone accused of defaming Islam and is opposed to men and women mixing.
In Pakistan Tehreek-e-Labbaik’s supporters were on the streets screeching that the penalty for blasphemy is beheading
Turkey’s elected dictator, hard right populist Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is egging them on too, saying that European states want to “relaunch the Crusades”, a religious interpretation of imperialist foreign policy which resonates with sectarian jihadists and legitimises their campaign of murder directed against working class people in Europe.
The anti-democratic religious right has no real interest in what happens in classrooms in France or anywhere else. They see them as opportunities to appeal to religious conservatives and sections of their society which seek authoritarian solutions.
Trump makes similar appeals to religious fundamentalists and anti-democrats who want to suppress all dissenting world views. Bolsanaro relies on the votes of evangelical Christians. In India, Modi laid the foundation stone for a new Hindu temple on the site of a former mosque as a direct insult to Muslims and a crumb to the religious bigots among his voters.
Erdogan the jailer
Erdogan’s regime has allowed political prisoners like the lawyer Ebru Timtik to die on hunger strike; it has locked up mayors and prominent members of Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) for protesting against the siege of Kobani; it has imprisoned at least 120 journalists and virtually abolished freedom of expression in the media and universities. He would like to impose similar shackles on the press everywhere and is using some ill-judged cartoons and gratuitously offensive and Islamophobic published by Charlie Hebdo as a pretext to bluster “we assure our people that necessary legal and diplomatic actions will be taken against this cartoon.” Though it does seem that he was more offended by an unflattering drawing of him which would have earned a Turkish cartoonist a life sentence and several severe beatings.
What the jihadis seek to do with knives and guns Erdogan does with the power of the Turkish state and Hefazat-e-Islam aspires to do in Bangladesh. They are the enemies of the working class, socialists trade unionists and women. Their theatrical indignation at what Samuel Paty was teaching his students is only the theocratic cover for local versions of the politics of Duterte or Putin directed against progressives, secularists and feminists.
Inevitably the far right has used these atrocities to say that the real problem is Muslims and Islam. The secular far right of Le Pen and Farage and the jihadists are mutually dependent on each other. And just as the far right produces its incels, Proud Boys or anti-vax conspiracists so the fringes of Islam spew up small numbers of individuals who think they can redress their grievances by beheading Simone Barreto-Silva while she prayed.
As socialists, we stand alongside the Muslim community as it becomes the target of Islamophobia. Equally we squarely denounce these reactionary butchers as enemies of our class.