Saturday, 27 July 2013

Time for progressives to stand up to Islamism

This mornings news is very much dominated by the latest clashes between the Muslim  Brotherhood and their more secularist and liberal opponents in Egypt. This conflict is not unique in the Muslim world either. Only a couple of days ago another leftist secular politician, Mohamed Bahari was assassinated in Tunisia by Islamist gunmen which led to a general strike by the largest trade union the UGTT yesterday.

We should also not forget the recent clashes between secularists and the state in Turkey as Prime Minister Erdogan continues his implementation of conservative "Islamic" values by stealth in the most modernised of all the Muslim states around the world.

This is not a conflict that can be ignored. The outcome will affect much of the Muslim worlds political development and direction for the foreseeable future. It is also a battle in which it is absolutely necessary to take sides. The core fight is over basic issues such as democracy, freedom of speech, workers rights, women's rights and more.

Such basic rights are taken for granted in the West. We can all sit down and put our thoughts on-line or in paper without the fear of being dragged off to some Iranian prison and having the shit kicked out of us or worse just because we criticise our rulers.

In this country we have fascists in the form of the BNP, they are easy to recognise and obvious to oppose, but when it comes to the clerical fascism of the Islamists many people on the left and some "liberals" to seem to either "turn a blind eye" or worse act as "appeasers" their reasoning being that any such criticism is "Islamophobia".

One of the targets of these types has been Anne Marie Waters of the One Law for All campaign which in particular dares to criticise "Sharia Law" as discriminatory against women. An unsavoury witch hunt was launched by the rather bizarre Andy Newman of the Socialist Unity website. Whilst I have covered that extensively both here and on Harry's Place, there was also some debate on Left Futures, which states it exists to "promote forward thinking for the left", yet promotes some very backward thinking from Newman.

However there is hope as a debate is now ensuing around the latest piece by James Bloodworth at The Spectator. It's only a short commentary, but well worth reading. James says:

Perhaps it isn’t surprising to learn, then, that there has been something of a backlash of late against the so-called ‘new’ atheists. In some respects this is justified. Richard Dawkins, the late Christopher Hitchens together with Sam Harris have at times come across as aggressive curmudgeons demanding complete ‘rationality’ from all – in the process turning off many would-be allies.
What’s interesting, however, is that the backlash is increasingly coming from the non-religious left, which traditionally has been rather fond of rationalist politics.
This has of course got the tongues wagging. Phil BC takes up the cudgel at A Very Public Sociologist, a website worth dipping into from time to time even if you won't agree with some of the things Phil says. He argues that:

Muslims are the scapegoat and hate figures for the Tory press and far right. Take, for example, the recent controversy over Anne Marie Waters' shortlisting for the Brighton Pavillion seat and her endorsement of Catriona Ogilvy in Croydon Central. Naturally, Waters has every right to claim Islam is "new to Europe" and argue "it is not a peaceful religion". But in so doing, she absolutely deserves to be called out for it. After all, what kind of leftist sets themselves up as the atheist scourge of Islam when Mosques are getting bombed, fascist thugs are on the streets "protesting" against Muslims, and that for large swathes of the population 'Muslim' is just another word for 'Paki'. That to me is a "leftist" who needs to re-examine their politics........

As an atheist, I find some of this problematical. I see no racism in criticising what is essentially just a set of man-made ideas just like all religions which originate in "mans" desire to explain the world and his place in it. A man (or woman) can be a fascist regardless of their own ethnic or other background and I find it absurd that anyone can conflate atheism ("new" or otherwise) with the far-right and other prejudicial tendencies.

Religion is at best an irrationality, and at worst a very dangerous path for many people to take. It is very difficult to have a rational dialogue with some one who thinks they are being guided by the "hand of God". Their beliefs are all "God-given" and not open to challenge and as a result we see not only discrimination against "non-believers" in many Muslim societies, we also see violence expressed against any form of heresy.

Islam is at the centre of much atheist debate at the moment because of the growing conflicts initiated by its' more extreme elements and although many claim these people are a minority, that is clearly not the case in places like Egypt, Turkey and Tunisia where their societies appear to be equally divided.

The central demand of atheists, progressives and I would have thought of those who call themselves socialists is to ensure equality before the law for all regardless of gender, sexual orientation, religion or even class. Part of this has to necessarily be achieved by the separation of "church and the state". It seems to me that is what the secularists are fighting for across swathes of the Muslim world and all of us should be supporting their cause.

Those that don't, like Galloway, Socialist Unity and the SWP are allowing the growth of reaction and oppression and must be opposed.

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