The New Worker
The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 20th October 2006
Muslim women - the new target?
Welcome To Our Weekly Digest Edition
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by Daphne Liddle
THE DEPARTMENT of Education last week produced to series of
proposals to be distributed to universities and colleges throughout
Britain, which include a call for lecturers to spy on “Asian-looking”
and Muslim students, if they suspect them of supporting terrorist
The Government has asked them to inform on students to the
special branch because it believes that college campuses have become
“fertile recruiting ground” for extremists.
This has provoked outrage among students and teaching staff alike
and comes at a time when Britain’s Muslim community is increasingly
under attack on many fronts.
National Union of Students president Gemma Tumelty said: “They
are going to treat everyone Muslim with suspicion on the basis of their
faith. It’s bordering on the side of McCarthyism.”
Right-wing tabloid newspapers day after day are running crude
anti-Muslim scare stories along with anti-Muslim opinion polls. And the
great veil controversy continues – a national crisis over a small item
of clothing worn by a few Muslim women!
Since Jack Straw made his remarks two weeks ago that he found the
veil a barrier to understanding and asked constituents visiting his
MP’s surgery to remove it, a Muslim women teaching assistant, Aishah
Azmi from Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, has been suspended from her job for
wearing a veil in class.
Communities Minister Phil Woolas weighed in and called for the
woman to be sacked. Since then Prime Minister Tony Blair has also added
his bit, saying “it is a very difficult question” but that he fully
backs the demand for Azmi to remove her veil at work.
And he added the patronising advice to Muslims: “All the evidence is
that when people do integrate more, they achieve more as well.”
Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly has also lectured Britain’s Muslim
community about refusing to defend “core British values”, demanding
that they take a “pro-active role against extremism” and calling for a
“fundamental rebalancing” of relations with Muslim organisations.
These demands for Muslims to police their own community against
extremists and terrorists might not sound so hypocritical if they did
not come from the individuals who sanctioned the “shock and awe”
bombing of Iraq in March 2003 and the subsequent bloody invasion and
occupation of that country – an extremist act in the name of their
great gods oil and profit.
Furthermore other religious communities are not expected to
police their own ranks against fringe groups like the Christian White
A number of Labour MPs have raised alarm bells at this prolonged
assault on the Muslim community. John Denham, who chairs the Commons
Home Affairs Select Committee, said: “I’m worried there has been a
series of pronouncements by Government ministers, each one of which is
individually unexceptional but put them together and it does look like
a barrage of general criticism.”
Dagenham MP John Cruddas said: “The solution does not lie in an
ever more muscular bidding war among politicians to demonstrate who can
be tougher on migrants, asylum seekers and minorities.”
Khalid Mahmood MP said: “The debate has turned Islamophobic. It is Jack
Straw’s fault for raising it. He knows what offence would be caused and
what issues would be attached on the back of it. It plays into the
hands of extremists on the far right such as the BNP, and on the Muslim
And indeed there has been a sharp rise in attacks on Muslims
since Straw’s remarks. There have been several incidents of women
having veils snatched from their faces; bricks have been thrown at the
cars of people attending Mosques and an Islamic centre in Falkirk has
been set on fire.
Writing in the Guardian last week Jonathan Freedland said: “Right
now we’re getting it badly wrong – bombarding Muslims with pressure and
prejudice, laying one social problem after another at their door.
“I try to imagine how I would feel if this rainstorm of headlines
substituted the word ‘Jew’ for ‘Muslim’: Jews creating apartheid, Jews
whose strange customs and costume should be banned. I wouldn’t just
feel frightened. I would be looking for my passport.”
A General speaks
If anyone had any doubts about
the deep divisions within the ruling class over the Iraq war then
General Sir Richard Dannatt’s remarks last week should have surely
dispelled them. The Chief of the General Staff more or less told the
Daily Mail and the BBC last week that the invasion was a mistake;
that the British Army’s presence in Iraq was making matters worse and
that the Army should get out.
It is remarkable to hear the head of the armed forces publicly air
disagreements with the elected government. In any other circumstances
the general would have been asked to resign and two unnamed
senior ministers, including a member of the Cabinet, have reportedly
called for General Dannatt’s dismissal. Discredited former Blairite
Home Secretary David Blunkett has openly accused the army chief of
“interfering” in politics, saying it was a “constitutional” issue,
though this does come from a man who apparently told the prison service
to call in the army and “machine gun” inmates in order to regain
control of a riot-torn prison in October 2002.
What is more remarkable is the Prime Minister’s subsequent claim that
the general was essentially agreeing with the Government’s position. In
fact Tony Blair had no other option. General Dannatt is clearly
speaking on behalf of the General Staff and voicing the concern of
senior officers over the British mission in Iraq. If Blair had sacked
him the resignation of the rest of the General Staff would
have plunged the Government into the biggest constitutional conflict
since the Abdication crisis of 1936.
Blair tied himself to the most venal and aggressive sections of the
British ruling class when he signed up for Bush’s “new world order”. He
betrayed those who wanted and expected Blair to pave the way for the
Euro and the EU superstate. He also enraged another section of the
ruling class – those who still hanker for an independent British
imperialist role in partnership with the Europeans and Americans but
cannot stomach the sight of the British Army being used as sepoys in
Iraq and Afghanistan.
Sir Richard’s comments clearly reflect that position. They were timed
for the maximum impact on the eve of the American Congressional
elections. It clearly also sends a message to Brown and the others who
hope to fill Blair’s shoes that the army expects a change of direction
Jack Straw has deliberated fanned anti-Islamic hysteria with his latest
comments on the wearing of the veil by some Muslim women.
Lecturers are being asked to act as secret police informers and report
any Muslim student acting “suspiciously”. Muslims are branded as
intolerant bigots and potential terrorists and not a day passes without
some ill-informed or racist comment in the reactionary press which is
plainly designed to create a climate of fear amongst the Muslim
community in Britain.
The Blairites and reactionaries talk about “womens’ rights” and
our supposed way of life that they allege is being fundamentally
challenged by the Muslim community. What they don’t ask is why more and
more British Muslims are turning to traditional dress and why their
community is retreating to the shelter of the mosque.
British imperialists have always supported reactionary Muslim religious
and political leaders when it served their interests. The feudal Arab
princes and the reactionary Afghan war-lords were all armed to the
teeth during the Cold War while progressive governments like those of
Iraq and Syria that strived for womens’ emancipation were isolated and
When veiled emirs’ wives went on spending sprees in Oxford Street no
one said a thing. When an ordinary Muslim woman enters Jack Straw’s
surgery in traditional garb we are led to believe that the whole fabric
of British society is at risk.
The Muslim community is under attack because it is almost
entirely opposed to Anglo-American imperialism’s “war against terror”
which is no more than a war against Muslims. The reactionaries are
trying to use the Muslims as a scapegoat for their own failure in Iraq
and Afghanistan while, at the same time, urging other religious
minorities such as fundamentalist Christian sects to join in the
Islamophobia, like anti-semitism and other forms of racism, is part of
the ruling class’ arsenal to divide and rule the working class. It must
be stamped out of the labour movement.
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