The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 20th October 2006

Muslim women - the new target?

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by Daphne Liddle

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 violence.

 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 Power groups.

 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.”
Straw’s fault

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 side.”

 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 in Iraq.

And so does Straw

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 attacked.

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 attack.

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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