The rise of Islamophobia

As the crises of capitalism continue to deepen internationally, so does the movement spread for scapegoating of others. This is not surprising nor is it new. In the 1930’s it was the great lie of the world Jewish conspiracy that was used to stir up hatred and anti-Semitism and today it is xenophobic hatred and irrational fear of Muslims. This is the same method used by the Nazis but now on a different group of innocent victims.

Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch far right Freedom party, having stirred up racism across Europe, is now turning his attention to America, Canada, France and Germany with his message of racial hatred under the banner of “stop Islam, defend freedom”, in order to supposedly free the western world in some modern day crusade.

According to his party’s latest announcement, the aim is to outlaw immigration into Europe from Muslim countries and banning of sharia law. Supposedly, this will safeguard all our freedoms but not the freedom from racism, bigotry and the effects of the recession!

A spokesperson for Dutch Muslims, Ayhan Tonca, called on “well-meaning people in Europe to oppose this”. In the mean time, Geert Wilders attempted to distance himself from sections of the far right, such as the BNP, “ the BNP is a party that what ever you think of it, its not my party I think it’s a racist party”, ( Guardian 16/7/10). However he is aiming to construct an alliance “between traditional conservative parties and far right wing groups”.

In his first attempt to gain a foothold in Britain, the united communities of Harrow came out in force last September, in defence of the new mosque, and showed him and his fascist friends of the EDL that they were not welcomed. Their pathetic attempt to return in December was also met with a similar mass mobilisation. Since then, we have seen the EDL attempt violent pogroms, static demonstrations and marches leading to violence across the towns and cities of Britain. Mass counter mobilisations in Tower Hamlets was only the latest example of this race hate message being rejected. They subsequently failed to turn up in Wembley when presented with another promised mass mobilisation on the streets by local anti-fascists.

Although the BNP have faced heavy electoral defeats in Barking, Stoke and elsewhere, thanks to the efforts of many thousands of anti-fascists in the UAF, Hope Not Hate and other anti-racist organisations, their vote, along with that of the NF has reached half a million, approx. We can not afford to be complacent.

The banning of minarets in Switzerland and the moves to pass laws heavily penalising Muslim women for wearing the veil or burqa in France and elsewhere, is the latest sign of the spread of Islamophobia. It does not stop there. Racist assaults are on the increase, along with the rise of homophobia. Once an innocent group are identified as a scapegoat, then others feel it is legitimate to carry out physical attacks on people because of their colour, ethnicity or religion.

This is not about defending secularism in some abstract battle against religion. This is about defending democratic rights. Such erosion, if achieved, will then lead to a further attack on workers rights generally. The cry should go out- “We are all Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, gay, straight, black and white, young and old . We are all workers and we are all anti-racists and anti-fascists.”

The UAF needs to extend the role it has played by urgently convening its postponed AGM to take up this international challenge. The anti-fascist movement internationally needs to co-ordinate its response to such a rising threat and draw on the lessons of both the past and the present in order to ensure that the future remains anti-racist and anti-fascist. The international crisis of capitalism requires an international and united response.

Do not let Geert Wilders and his ilk determine what happens. The anti-fascist movement must do internationally what was done at Cable Street, Harrow and Tower Hamlets to ensure that they will not pass.

Alf Filer

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1 Comment on The rise of Islamophobia

  1. Open Letter to the UAF

    Following the defeat of the BNP electorally in Barking, Stoke and in many other areas across Britain at the General Election, we note that the vote for the far right has now reached half a million. In many areas they received 7% of the vote, (approx), with the NF also emerging as a challenge to the BNP.

    The EDL continues to organise provocative demos and acting in a more agressive and threatening manner, inspite of their set backs in Tower Hamlets and failure to appear in Wembley last month.

    Islamaphobia, homophobia and racism remains a serious issue and the deepening of the economic crises is seeing scapegoating on the increase. Immigration controls, deportations and further attacks on the rights of assylum seekers is being encouraged by the media and politicians alike.

    The successes of the anti-fascist and anti-racist movement in many areas is something we can all be proud of, with the work carried out by the UAF, Hope Not Hate, Love Music Hate Racism and many local based committees .

    The challenges we face over the next period, both here and internationally require a sustained response. Now is the time to convene the AGM of the UAF to bring together all the anti-fascist movements that have emerged and learn from these experiences.

    A resolution was passed by Brent Trades Council, the Jewish Socialist Group, Cambridge Teachers Association, Sothwark Respect and others last year and presented to the UAF. It was indicated that this would be discussed and agreed in principle by the organisers of the UAF. We understand that due to all the activity taking place, such an AGM would be convened in the near futture.

    We feel that now is the time to arrange such an AGM and bring together the widest possible forces to democratically discuss, plan and agree the next stages of the campaign. It was further included in the resolution a need for an international anti-fascist conference. Given the developments on the rise of the far right in Europe, the bans on mosques, minarets and the wearing of the veil, it is even more urgent.

    We look forward to your response.

    In solidarity

    Alf Filer

    This resolution for the Unite Against Fascism national conference offers proposals for discussion by the anti-fascist movement as a whole.
    ‘We note that the rise of various fascist and racist groups in the UK over the past few years has become an increasingly growing concern, especially given the electoral wins of the BNP in the Euro and council elections.
    The increase in racist, Islamophobic and homophobic attacks, along with the attempts by groups such as the EDL, SIOE and others to demonstrate on the streets has raised new challenges to the anti-fascist movement.
    The impact of the worsening economic crises, rising unemployment and cuts in public services has provided a breeding ground for the racists and fascists to use scapegoats to blame the crises on. We put the blame squarely on those who pursue profits at the expense of working people.
    We further note that over the past year, thousands of anti-fascists have been mobilised across the country to successfully oppose the BNP and their allies. The support of the organised labour movement, trade union branches, student organisations, women’s organisations, faith based organisations, ethnic based groups, gay groups and many others have come together to say, “they shall not pass”. We remember Cable Street and Lewisham, where the fascists were sent packing. There is no place for these Nazis.
    The UAF has played a key role in providing support, resources and leadership in the various anti-fascist campaigns. In ensuring that the BNP and others are defeated in the General Election and challenged effectively where ever they raise their message of hatred, we call on the UAF to:
    a. To continue to mobilise mass action on the streets and elsewhere in denying the fascists and racists any opportunity to spread their message of hatred and division.
    b. b Organise a representative delegate based conference open to all who are actively supporting the struggle against fascism and racism.
    c. Adopt a democratic national and regional structure which is made up of elected delegates and representatives from the whole of the movement.
    d. Encourage UAF groups to be established within unions, workplaces, campuses and community groups.
    e. To arrange regional and national conferences with workshops to discuss wider issues related to the fight against fascism and racism.
    f. To jointly sponsor an international conference uniting the wider international struggles against fascism both in the UK and elsewhere.

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