Something HUGE happened on Monday. A multiple bombing, resulting in fatalities and many injuries, which received saturation-level media coverage. The bombs in Nasariyah, Kirkuk and Baghdad killed at least 31 people and injured over 200.
Only joking. Monday was, of course, the date of the biggest bomb attack on US soil since 9/11. Some moron (or morons) planted home-made bombs, killing three innocent people and causing many serious injuries to others who were simply taking part in a marathon for charity. On Twitter, I was accused of a “lack of empathy” for even daring to raise deaths in Iraq or Pakistan, on the day that Americans were killed. Americans! Somebody doesn’t know the meaning of empathy, obviously.
We learned, again, that three is greater than 31. Or than 300. Or than 3000. There is huge empathy around the world for the people who were killed and injured on Monday in Boston, but also huge frustration at the total lack of empathy for the deaths occurring around the world – deaths for which Americans have blood on their hands. While Pakistanis have to suck up the fact that 50 civilians die for every “terrorist” killed in drone strikes – perhaps over 4,000 deaths so far.
Because Americans are real people, and Pakistanis… well, they’re not really, are they? Except they are. You have our empathy, America. Where is yours?
Now, of course, the predictable Muslim-baiting begins. The hate dollar is big, and Americans are the world’s greatest entrepreneurs. Hate sells in America. You may have killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people in the last decade, but playing the victim is way more fun than feeling, somewhere deep down, a little bit guilty. The usual suspects – those people and businesses who know how to play morons for the hate dollar – are out in force; and morons are buying.
But who bombed Boston? Fascists on both sides of the Atlantic think they know, and have wasted no time in telling us “it was Muslims”. Never mind that they have repeatedly called it wrong; they know that morons will forgive them getting it wrong repeatedly, if they only get right once. Who remembers now all the morons that blamed the Oslo bombing on Muslims? It was done, of course, by a right-wing “patriot”. Was there a witch-hunt of blond, right-wing patriots? No – acts of individuals are only blamed on groups when they’re brown-skinned.
I don’t know who bombed Boston, but I’ll stick my neck out – and unlike the fascists, I’ll use facts to make my best guess.
We know that from 1980 to 2005, 6% of terror attacks in America were carried out by Islamic extremists. We also know that extremism among far-right Christians is on the rise. The Oklahoma bombing was not a one-off: the Southern Poverty Law Center provides a long list of far-right and Christian plots that have taken place since. It’s easier to be scared of brown-skinned, Arabic- or Urdu-speaking foreigners than it is of the white “loner” who lives down the road, but statistically, the Boston bombing is far more likely to be the work of a Christian than a Muslim.
There’s a good chance that I’m wrong; there are Islamic terror groups that would no doubt like to target Americans (in fact, there are a lot more such groups than there were when the “war on terror” began in 2001). We’ll have to wait and see.
[UPDATE: as you probably noticed, the bombs were not planted by far-right Americans. I called it wrong. However, I called it less wrong than many media pundits are calling it, even now. The two Chechen murderers are variously described as anything from a “cell” to a full-blown Islamic plot to destroy humanity. The reaction has been breathtakingly moronic, even to a seasoned moron watcher. More to come shortly.]
One prediction that I’m sure of: morons always win from violence. Fear will grow; Obama will get more support for his attacks on US civil liberties; the military machine will thrive on the fear, get increased funding, and kill more brown people; the NRA will sell more guns; Glenn Beck and Pamela Geller will sell more of whatever they sell to morons. This cycle will keep on turning until Americans finally spot the pattern, and decide enough is enough. That’s all it needs.
With the upcoming Thatcher burial (or firing her out of a cannon, or whatever they’ll do with her), some people have been taken by surprise by suggestions that activists may be pre-emptively arrested to prevent them from disrupting the funeral.
If you’re one of those surprised people, you haven’t been paying attention. The police have increasingly arrested people – including those with no history of violence – in the run-up to major events.
This is just one more example of thought crime, which has been increasingly prevalent since 9/11. But, you may say, in a democracy, how can political speech be criminalised? It can’t – democracy is meaningless without the right to protest.
Arrests were made in the run-up to the Royal Wedding in 2011, and 97 people were arrested in the run-up to Notting Hill Carnival that year.
Here’s a video of the political arrest of Charlie Veitch, in 2011, in the run up to the Royal Wedding. He was held for 24 hours to prevent him from making any kind of protest, however peaceful or humour-based. This is what a police state looks like in Britain: polite police officers enforcing undemocratic edicts from above to prevent speech that upsets “the establishment” – whatever and whoever that may be.
It’s been one of those weeks when I fall out with some of my, usually friendly, followers. When you’re a leftish political blogger, there are safe things to write about, and things you shouldn’t mention. Social equality, fairness, child poverty, saving the NHS, racism against non-whites, attacks on women’s rights, climate change, corporate power; these are all things that I know I can tackle without dissent from others on the left. There will be, of course, attacks from the right, but those are bread-and-butter. We can all unite and enjoy rebutting those. Career tip: if you want to become a Labour parliamentary candidate, and you write the occasional column, but don’t want to ruffle feathers? Stick to these subjects (no names mentioned).
Then, there are the subjects that confuse many on the left – so they generally don’t mention them, for example: racism by non-whites, domestic violence against men, use of the word “cunt”. And of perhaps most of all, sex. Sex, being the subject that raises the most primal feelings in us – whether negative or positive – divides all parts of the political spectrum. The left has a series of simple check-boxes to guide it through this minefield: Gay rights? Approved. Abortion rights? OK. Rights for sexual fetishists? Erm… Union rights for sex workers? Sounds of left-wing heads exploding.
Now let’s turn things around for a moment. If you were a social conservative ideologue, in Britain, in 2013, how would you go about popularising your ideas? This would be easy enough in America: you say that public nudity is immoral. Because the Bible says so. You say that Muslims are bad because… well, they’re not Christians are they? But things aren’t so easy for the British reactionary. The British have largely abandoned religion – at least, the type you actively believe in. So what would you do? You’d do what clever reactionaries do: adopt progressive camouflage.
Both sexual morality groups and racist bigots have successfully adopted this approach, and in doing so, have blended into the liberal mainstream. The last well-known sexual morality group was Mary Whitehouse‘s National Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association (now known as Mediawatch UK). This made some headway in the 80s, before being laughed off-stage in the more relaxed 90s. Taking note of this, the new moralists took a leaf from an American lawyer called Catharine MacKinnon. MacKinnon came from impeccable right-wing stock – her father was a right-wing Republican Senator. In the 1980s, MacKinnon (with her sidekick Andrea Dworkin) took a sexual conservative message, wrapped it in superficially feminist language, and succeeded in fundamentally splitting the feminist movement in two – a divide that has existed ever since. The MacDworkinites did more damage to feminism than any misogynistic man ever could.
The MacDworkinites are going from strength to strength. MacKinnon’s natural successors are Gail Dines – a deeply reactionary anti-sex activist who campaigns for media censorship and a ban on sex work using feminist and Marxist language, and a number of conservative groups, self-labelling as “feminist”. The best known MacDworkinite groups in the UK are Object and UK Feminista – who will be familiar to regular readers of this blog. The latest to appear on the scene is the current campaign against the topless photo on Page 3 of the Sun.
It’s amazing what a small shift in vocabulary can do. Because the MacDworkinites refer to themselves as “feminist”, then anyone who opposes them must be against feminism, right? It’s sad that sections of the left are so easily fooled, but indeed, the strategy has worked impeccably. Are these groups actually a conservative offshoot of feminism, or conservatives who have infiltrated feminism from the outside? It doesn’t matter – that’s a simple matter of classification. You can call them anti-sex feminists or anti-sex “feminists” – either way, they are reactionary. The early second-wave feminists implored women to abandon their bras. These new groups beg women to put their bras back on.
The same methodology has worked wonders in demonising Muslims in secular Europe. Far-right pundits like Pat Condell attack Muslims – not from a religious perspective, but from an atheist one. Muslims are, (they say) “less civilised” than we, secular European are. They chop off heads and run kebab shops in London (of course, the Muslims cutting off heads aren’t the same ones selling kebabs to drunk Brits – but who’s counting?)
Such gullibility on the left saddens me. Both left and right have become riddled with conservatism, and well-meaning people have swallowed this reactionary propaganda. Meanwhile, Object’s attacks on women sex workers continue – supported blindly by middle-class women who think sex work is common and icky. And atheist fascists like Condell convince atheists that attacking minorities is OK – if it’s done in the name of Enlightenment.
The alternative is what I’ve labelled Social Libertarianism: social democracy combined with an unshakeable commitment to free expression, free speech, freedom of religion and sexual freedom, and an equally tenacious opposition to all forms of censorship. It’s not new – it’s what the left used to stand for.
As a dedicated numbers geek, I have a special love for statistics. Stats are what separate truth from myth, rumour and lies: in these interconnected times, it’s easy to spot a liar by their refusal to back “facts” with solid statistical evidence (or providing dead-end references to blogs that in turn don’t reference any verifiable evidence).
One of the highlights of the stats-geek’s calendar is the publication of census results. Censuses provide the biggest, most in-depth statistics, on a scale that only governments can afford to commission. The 2001 England & Wales census provided a fascinating insight into British life and culture; and having digested it, I spent much of the following decade waiting impatiently for the next chapter. The 2011 census results were finally published in late-2012, and made for fascinating reading.
There are two particularly interesting sections in the census results, covering religious belief and racial origin. On the religious front, this census showed what had long been suspected: a collapse in religious belief. Those declaring themselves to have no religion had leapt from 15% to 25% over the ten year period between censuses.
The headline figures on race were also interesting: the white population is now reported to be 86% across the country, and in London, 60%. 6.8% of the nation originates in the Indian subcontinent, and 3.4% identifies as black.
But the most significant change relates to the people declaring themselves as mixed race. This group has increased more than any other, almost doubling in the past decade to 2.2% – meaning that, for the first time, the mixed race population numbers over a million. The mixed race – or “none of the above” – population will continue to grow faster than any other, for simple mathematical reasons. Any person can (theoretically) produce a mixed-race child; and, as racial divides continue to weaken, many more people will.
Racial definition is in part a political decision: in Britain, a person with parents of different racial origins will probably self-describe as mixed-race. In the US, because of the legacy of racist slavery and segregation laws, many mixed-race people identify as black – witness the “black” President himself, the offspring of a European and an African, and Tiger Woods, the “black” golfer, who is in fact more Asian than he is African.
This “one-drop” definition of blackness was designed to hold back the black population; yet perversely, it is black Americans who now most fiercely cling to this racist definition of blackness.
In Britain, without a history of legal segregation to overcome, people are more free to choose a label that most fits their choice of identity, and the mixed race label is thus the fastest growing one of all.
But there are people who dislike the rise of “none of the above”; the far-right’s political pitch has always been based around the “they’re not like us” strategy. In the 1930s the Jews were too alien (they said) to fit in with “British culture”. Then, black West Indians were too different from us, and black immigration was prophesied to cause irreparable social harm in the 1970s. Then, Indians and Pakistanis were again too different; and then Poles and many other groups. Racists hate the rise of “none of the above”, because it proves them wrong. The existence of a growing mixed race population is testament to the fact that immigration doesn’t cause social meltdown (in fact, an analysis of crime figures in recent decades suggests that immigration has helped create a more, rather than less stable society).
Desperate to disrupt the rising racial integration, the most moronic sections of the far-right refer to the rise of racial mixing as “white genocide” (here’s a link to a far-right “white genocide” site – not for the faint-hearted). The idea that interracial coupling is “genocide” is, of course laughable. As globalisation proceeds, all people will become increasingly mixed; and in fact, we already are. DNA analysis demonstrates that the true mixed race population of the UK is far higher than 2.2%; it’s just that most mixed-race people are unaware of their origins.
But the most vocal opponents to black/white racial couplings aren’t only niche groups of far-right white nationalists, but also parts of the black population. I’ve often heard (and seen on Facebook) open discussions advocating against racial mixing, and calling on black men and women to select black partners; such discussions, if conducted among white people, would be (rightly) described as racist. In my personal observation and experience, mixed couples in London are more likely to receive negative comments and attitudes from black people than from whites. Many black people – backed by middle-class whites with little direct experience of multiracial urban life – try to excuse such attitudes; but I see no difference between those morons fearing the dilution of “white identity” and those fearing the dilution of “black identity”. A bigot who has a problem with the racial blend of a couple he has never met is a bigot, whatever his race.
The recent biopic Marley outlined how Bob Marley, as a mixed race child in rural Jamaica, had to contend with teasing and prejudice from his peers (naturally, once he became a global “black” superstar, his black fans were quick to forget his mixed background – but Marley himself never did). Those who are fastest to identify racism in others are slowest to see it in themselves.
Those who feel a gut dislike at the sight of a black man with a white woman, or a white man with a black woman, are racists – whether or not they choose to accept or admit this. Certainly, the afro-centric tradition has become more adept at masking racist ideology behind intellectual-sounding justifications than their white racist cousins. It’s easier for many to mock British and American fascists than it is to criticise black people who oppose racial mixing – but strip away the differences in presentation, and there is no underlying difference in ideology – the dislike of mixing comes from the gut, not from the mind.
The rise of the mixed race is unstoppable; it began with the great Persian, Greek and Roman empires, and went into overdrive when the European empires began their global rise and fall. It will accelerate until the time when we have forgotten what “race” once meant. Some people – white, black, Asian – feel uncomfortable about this. That’s their problem.
Regular readers of this blog will remember the day last April when much of Britain finally got bored with the far-right English Defence League and its anti-Muslim propaganda, and dealt with it in the only way we Britons know how: in the absence of legal guns and a trigger-happy mentality (as demonstrated by our wonderful, freedom-loving American cousins), we instead take the piss.
That day may have subdued the EDL a little, but American morons are harder to tame. Right-wing propagandists in the US have succeeded in persuading many lesser-educated Americans that “Sharia” is sweeping across Europe. This is, of course, the oldest fear-mongering tactic of them all: since people can see with their own eyes that their own town or state isn’t being Islamified, you convince them that it’s happening somewhere else; somewhere far away that they have no experience of. Thus, I often encounter Americans on Twitter who will tell me that London (a city that I’ve lived in my whole life) is being terrorised by “Muslim gangs”, or that British law is being subverted by Sharia. London isn’t (of course) being taken over by radical Islam; but try to convince a right-wing Texan Fox News viewer who has never held a passport of that fact – you can’t.
Here is a typical recent tweet from a typical right-wing American (@kmita3) to illustrate how easily fear and ignorance spreads among frightened and ignorant people:
I found it particularly ironic that this announcement came in the same week that the British House of Commons decided to fully legalise gay marriage in the UK, by a margin of 400 votes to 175, thus casting some doubt over how quickly Sharia law is actually taking over British society.
Apparently (I learned this morning via a useful blog post) there are eight Muslim MPs in the House of Commons (around 1% of the total, which again challenges the idea that Muslims are “taking over”). Of the eight, four voted for gay marriage, one opposed and three abstained or didn’t show up. So a full 50% of Muslim MPs voted in favour of gay marriage, beating the 43% of Conservative MPs who supported the change. Of the eight Tory MPs in Wales, 100% voted against gay marriage. In other words, Welsh Tories are far stronger supporters of fundamentalist Islamic principles than British Muslims are.
Clearly the Conservative party has been afflicted by Creeping Sharia! Furthermore, the US Republicans seem to have been even more Islamified!! I find it unlikely that even 43% of Republican congressmen would vote for gay marriage (or perhaps even 4.3%).
So, in a bizarre way, the “Islamification” pundits are right. But it’s not British society, London or Paris that have been Islamified, but the white, Christian, European and American right-wing. Fundamentalist Islamic values – such as opposition to abortion, contraception and homosexuality – have crept into our societies. We must stop these crazed lunatics from destroying our values… before it’s too late.
I’ve known S for over 20 years. When I first met her, she was 17, but pretended to be a decade older – and she could easily have passed for 27. Faking her age made it easier to explain the fact that she had two children of school age. The children’s father, she said, had left, but visited regularly. As I got to know her over the years, the truth slowly emerged. Growing up in a Hindu home, she had been raped at age 11 by an “Uncle” (note, every older person in Indian culture is an Uncle or Auntie), and became pregnant. Refusing to bring “shame” on the family, her parents kept the situation quiet, and if any blame was cast, it was at S, not the abuser.
Having established her status as a “slut”, S became the regular sex toy for her older brother. Age 13, she allowed her original abuser to impregnate her a second time, in the hope that he might take her as a wife, or at least mistress, and end her pariah status – but he was married, and did not. Within her home, S had to endure the growing wrath and hatred of her mother, who blamed her for damaging the family name. She was eventually, with her children, cast out, and ended up as a single parent in a council flat.
She avoided Indian men as much as she could; whenever she befriended one who learned of her lonely and vulnerable status, she again fell pray to abuse. Westerners who idealise “traditional” societies, where respect is always due to elders, fail to understand that this power in the hands of “uncles” is a recipe for sexual abuse. The formula that states the elder must never be challenged by the younger is one that creates countless victims of rape.
India’s dirty little secret had largely been overlooked in the wider world until the recent horrific gang rape and murder of a Delhi student that shocked the world. The fact that a gang of young men could repeatedly rape and beat a woman on a bus for an hour, before throwing her into the street, indicates that they expected to get away with their crime – but they failed to realise that the world has changed in a fundamental way. The Internet, and social media, put their actions under a national and global spotlight, and India, and the world, recoiled in disgust, embarrassing Indian authorities into taking action. Indians demonstrated against corrupt and incompetent officials who have always allowed such crimes to be dealt with quietly, or not at all. They were met with the standard Indian state response: water cannon and batons.
Amidst all the noise, there is a notable silence: there is a loud, organised online community of Islamophobes that revels in reporting every horror that takes place at the hands of Muslims. These people form a broad alliance of propagandists who know that by amplifying some events, and ignoring others, a picture of “Muslim barbarity” can be painted. These people range from European and American fascists and Zionists to – yes – Hindu nationalists in India. I watch many of these people on Twitter, and their network is always ready to mention a rape in Pakistan, a stoning in Saudi Arabia, a stabbing in France, if the perpetrator is of Muslim background. But in my observation, none of these commentators, whether English Defence League supporters in the UK, Pamela Geller’s American hate network, or Israeli Arab-haters, have had anything to say about the Indian case.
Many of the Muslim-haters pose as secularists and human-rights advocates; yet their silence on “non-Muslim” events, from the Delhi rape to the rape and bloodshed in the Congo, to the mass slaughter and rapes of Tamils in Sri Lanka gives the lie to these labels. In their campaign to paint Muslims as Untermench, fascists, Zionists and Hindu nationalists provide shelter for barbarity. In pretending that Hindus are somehow more human than Muslims, they give cover for Hindu rape and violence. According to their narrative, a rape victim in Kabul is more worthy than one in Delhi. The British victim of sexual abuse by a Pakistani immigrant deserves a mention, but the victim of a white British person does not. An “honour killing” in Yemen must be endlessly mentioned on Twitter, but one in India must be ignored.
In their careful selection of victims, the Islamophobes are apologists for the sexual violence that they ignore. By deeming most rapes as unworthy of mention, these people become apologists for rape. It is heartening that India has recently taken a tentative step towards accepting the huge scale of sexual abuse in that country. And it’s shameful that many people have declined to talk about it, for fear of weakening their crusade against Muslims.
As the global corporatocracy forces Greece into implementing austerity measures that are guaranteed to destroy the country’s economy, the inevitable outcome is a widespread collapse into poverty, a breakdown of society, and the rise of nationalism. Organised fascism has appeared, in the shape of Golden Dawn. Unsurprisingly, the police have been accused of turning a blind eye to anti-immigrant violence – indeed, it’s been reported that 50% of Athens police voted for Golden Dawn in recent elections.
In one of many recent attacks, an Iraqi man is reported to have been stabbed to death on Sunday morning by five individuals. A Golden Dawn supporter, Andreas Asimakopoulos, appears to have admitted involvement in the murder on Facebook – another user took a screenshot of the admission; a translated version is shown above, and the original image (in Greek) can be seen here.
Activists have informed Athens police.
In the mean time, the centre-right Greek government has chosen to launch a huge round-up of immigrants in an attempt to attract votes away from Golden Dawn: a cowardly and dangerous strategy. The original cause of Greece’s ongoing collapse – austerity designed to force the country into selling its assets to private bidders – continues unchanged.
Update: the following is a translation of a Greek newspaper article I’ve been provided: The Facebook user in question has contacted TVXSand claimed that his Facebook posts were just “jokes between him and his friends”. He has also removed all mention of Golden Dawn from his Facebook page.
Generally, sparring with morons online can be fun. Being told that I’m a pawn of the devil, or a self-hating Jew often makes me smile. But there are more disturbing moments. The ongoing fascist-style campaign to paint all people of Muslim descent as an evil threat to the Western World becomes ever-more reminiscent of what was done to the Jews across Europe and America in the 1930s. Usually, the offenders are semi-literate Bible-bashers, but increasingly, just as in the 30s, secular “liberals” can be found in the melee, swinging a punch or a kick.
Recently, for no apparent reason I could identify, I was accused by some fellow Atheists of “defending Islam”. Now, I’m not aware that I’ve ever “defended Islam”. In fact, that term itself has an Orwellian ring to it, like “supporting terror” or “promoting homosexuality”. It seems “defending Islam” is something that good, secular liberals everywhere must avoid, or face public condemnation. In response, I pointed out that defending Muslims from attack isn’t “defending Islam” – to which I was told: yes it is: because all Muslims uphold Islam, which (as any moron knows) is an evil ideology. I pointed out that I know people who identify as Muslim, but who don’t practise, or in some cases don’t even believe. But these Atheist defenders of rationality told me I was wrong: anybody who claims Muslim identity is bad by definition, I was told.
Fascist stuff indeed: identity, I’ve always believed, is for the individual to choose for himself, and nobody else to force upon him. In my own experience, I tend to feel most Jewish when I encounter anti-Semites (and least Jewish in the company of other Jews). And certainly, a similar transformation is taking place among European and American Muslims: hatred towards Muslims is growing at breakneck speed, and the more times someone has MUSLIM screamed at them, the more Muslim they will feel. Like Judaism, Islam is a deep culture, with its book, traditions and routines. I remember childhood Friday evenings lighting sabbath candles and being allowed a sip of red wine; the prayers and tastes of the Passover dinner; the unique smell of a room decked in fruit and leaves during Sukkot, the harvest festival. My nostalgia over those memories, and my feeling that I was enacting an ancient ritual, are still there, despite my Atheism – the Jewish religion still forms a part of my experience, memories and identity, although I reject its superstitious beliefs. Muslims likewise, both secular and religious, will remember the rituals, the tastes and smells, of their childhoods, and feel Muslim, however little they practise their religion.
The Nazi propaganda campaign against Jews was subtle and sophisticated. How do you persuade Europeans that a tiny minority could be a threat? Some conditions are required: first and foremost, the population must be ready and willing to believe. And indeed, hatred of Jews (and Muslims) is an old European (and Catholic) tradition, dating back many centuries. Next, you take some grains of truth. And then you build up layer after layer of lies.
Post-9/11, the far-right leaped into action and repeated Nazi methodology to the letter. The far-right British National Party didn’t mention Muslims at all prior to 9/11. Their target was “Asians”, but this hate campaign failed to gain much traction. Within days of 9/11, their leaflets were rewritten, and Muslims had replaced Asians as the threat. Those people attacking Muslims today use the Islamophobe’s favourite phrase: I’m not racist; Islam isn’t a race. But to attack Muslims in the UK means to attack Pakistanis, who have been the target of race hate since at least the 1970s. And French fascists now label North and West Africans (who they’ve always attacked) as Muslims. And Dutch or Spanish fascists now label Moroccans (who they’ve always attacked) as Muslims. Bit by bit, European and American fascists have clicked into gear with each other. The anti-Muslim messages have been standardised, strengthened and amplified.
Secular fascism has returned. The Muslim-hating Atheist spreads similar stories of hate to the Christian crusader. Of course, the secular fascist tends to be more intelligent, and more persuasive. Unlike the Christian fascist, the secular fascist can uphold gay rights and women’s rights without hypocrisy, and hence sound more compelling. Secular fascists can sound liberal, and then use their “liberalism” against Islam – or more accurately, against their definition of Islam. Or more accurately still, against Muslims, whatever they believe, and wherever they live. Because the target of European fascism isn’t a religion or ideology, but minority groups: fascism gains strength by demonising minorities. Pre-9/11, there was no coherent “threat” for fascists to unite around. 9/11 gave them a common narrative.
A favourite way to “confront Islam” (or bait Muslims) is to cherry-pick.
“Islam oppresses women”.
“Look at Saudi Arabia, Iran and Afghanistan.”
Note how these three countries are repeatedly chosen as examples, ignoring most of the other 50 Muslim countries. Never mind that Saudi Arabia is home to a fundamentalist cult, Wahhabism; or that war-torn Afghanistan is home to the ultra-conservative group, the Taliban; or that Iran is a theocracy. Never mind that these three countries have totally different cultures to each other. Never mind that the modern state of all three societies has nothing to do with Islam, and everything to do with 20th century Western and Russian foreign policy, with oil, and the American imperial war. In the mind of the moron, this argument is enough. Of course, anything can be “proved” this way: Christian countries have the world’s highest rates of rape. Therefore Christianity is the rapist religion – easy! But of course, fascism is doesn’t target Christians. It targets Muslims, Jews, Roma, blacks… any group that forms a distinct minority in the West.
This was the Nazi method by which the Jewish Problem was invented. The corruption of a Jewish financier, or the explosion of a Zionist bomb, or the “backwardness” of fundamentalist Judaism were unrelated issues. But a combination of clever propaganda and a moronic public turned them into the same thing. Never mind that most Jews who were eventually dragged into concentration camps were neither Zionists nor fundamentalists nor financiers. The Jewish Problem came to mean everything Jewish.
The modern equivalent of the Jewish Problem is Radical Islam. It is equally meaningless, equally misleading, and equally capable of persuading morons that a real threat exists. It is a term that can be stretched to include any group or event. The 9/11 attacks were by Radical Islam, not Saudi dissidents protesting against US occupation of Arab states. Radical Islam (not the conservative Taliban) stopped women from being educated in Afghanistan, and stops women from driving in Saudi Arabia. Al Qaida, a terrorist organistion, and Hizbollah, which exists to defend against terrorism, are both Radical Islam. It’s enough that both groups are Muslim (although in fact, Hizbollah also has Christian members – details always spoil a simple story). The peace-loving Muslim who prays 5 times a day and the loud-mouthed protester who burns poppies in protest at British involvement in Afghanistan, are both Radical Islam. Support for Iraqi insurgents (and why shouldn’t anyone support those fighting against invasion of their own land?) is Radical Islam, and so is a group of teenagers throwing stones at Israeli soldiers who are helping to destroy their village’s crops. Palestinian activists who belong to the secular Fatah movement are Radical Islam. British Muslims who come out to defend their streets against EDL street thugs are Radical Islam. Women in burqas or hijabs are Radical Islam. The conservative, Islamist government of Turkey is Radical Islam. The conservative Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt are Radical Islam.
Fascism has risen again in Europe, and real people are being hurt today in real attacks – that is the real result of fascists, both religious and secular, “confronting Islam”. When street thugs target Muslim homes and businesses, they don’t care whether the owners are religious or not, political or not. While we’re easily distracted by the moronic antics of street thugs like the EDL, the most dangerous fascism now, as in the 1930s, lives among the middle classes. Generally, fascism is most prevalent among religious conservatives, but secular liberals can be the most persuasive and dangerous advocates of fascism. Seeing some of my fellow Atheists joining the bullying campaign against ordinary people (whether religious or secular) saddens me, but doesn’t surprise me. After all, Atheism isn’t a movement – it’s simple a lack of belief in a god. I find the religious beliefs of Muslims (and Jews, Hindus, Christians, Buddhists) to be ludicrous – but that debate must be one that accepts the right to believe. Using religious intolerance as a proxy for a race war isn’t a new trick – but apparently it’s one that is as powerful today as it always was.
Fascism was highly fashionable throughout Europe and North America in the 1930s, and Britain too was affected. Antisemitism and a desire to keep the “lower orders” in check were widespread beliefs among the British aristocracy, the media, the police, the Conservative Party and large sections of the population. My Jewish grandfather and his family, living in the ghetto in the East End of London, faced discrimination and the threat of violence on a frequent basis. The far-right was strong and confident, and the British Union of Fascists (BUF), led by Oswald Mosley, commanded a membership of up to 50,000, and the support of the ever-moronic Daily Mail.
On Sunday 4th October, 1936, Mosley decided to flex the BUF’s muscles by marching his “blackshirt” street thugs through the East End, the most Jewish area of England. The local Jewish population, including my grandfather, came into their streets to stop the blackshirts marching. They battled the fascists, and the London police who joined the blackshirts in fighting the Jews. But that’s not the full picture: the Jews alone couldn’t have stopped the blackshirts (and their police friends) from marching. The Jews were joined by other immigrants – largely Irish – along with socialists, communists, trade unionists and ordinary Londoners. Local women leaned out of their windows and dropped pots and pans on the blackshirts. The fascists were beaten off London’s streets.
The Battle of Cable Street was a turning point in British history. The BUF never recovered from their physical beating and humiliation. The British people had given their verdict on fascism – unlike in much of mainland Europe or the USA, British fascism was in retreat by the start of the Second World War in 1939. Mosley attempted a come-back in the 1950s and 60s, this time choosing black immigrants instead of Jews as his target, but he was largely irrelevant by then. His fascist mantle was picked up in the 1970s by a new group, the National Front, which targeted blacks, Jews and the latest arrivals: Asians (meaning primarily Indians and Pakistanis). The growth of the NF coincided with the Skinhead cultural movement among young working class whites, and the skinheads were (often unfairly) labelled as fascists and racists.
When I reached my teens, the NF was at its peak, and my black friends would run on sight of a skinhead. But then, in the early-80s, support for the NF collapsed. But why? It wasn’t through official state action: the British police were incredibly racist, and often took the side of the NF in street confrontations. The Thatcher government was riddled with racists who had little understanding of the situation on the streets, and showed no interest in clamping down on street racism.
The answer was culture; or specifically working class culture as expressed through music. In the 60s, while middle class Brits were joining the hippie movement, the young, white working class had discovered Soul music, imported from the US. In the 1970s, the young black British population, with close links to the West Indies, was listening to reggae, the huge new trend from Jamaica. Young white people in the cities, who already had a taste for black music, were discovering reggae, which required going to black concerts and mixing with black people. In the late-1970s, the two-tone movement appeared, blending white skinhead and punk music with reggae and ska from the West Indies. The two-tone movement (including groups like The Specials, The Beat and The Selecter) saw concerts bringing enemy gangs together in the same venues. Rastas and skinheads shared music, danced together and smoked weed together. The National Front lost its constituency of angry, white, racist young men. This didn’t happen because government wanted it to – it happened largely without the knowledge of Britain’s rulers. It happened because of some X-factor in the British population; a natural ability to accept, integrate and mix with immigrant cultures that seems lacking elsewhere in Europe or in the United States.
If two-tone was the first, crude blend of white and black music, it was just the beginning. By the 1990s, mixed couples and mixed music scenes were becoming more frequent. Mixed-race children were becoming a common sight. The Jamaican Dub sound was adopted by musical pioneers in Bristol, who created a new set of genres such as Trip Hop. Jungle music, a London creation, took Jamaican ragga and European dance music and blended them. From this emerged Drum and Bass, and in the late-90s, UK Garage. UK Hip Hop began as a copy of the American version, but was quickly adapted to British styles, from which emerged a truly British poetry form, Grime. Asian sounds joined the mix of Jamaican and European influences. The blender ran ever faster, creating new musical styles that were ever more intertwined, and ever more British.
Outside the cities, most people were oblivious to this. As always, British urban youth were decades ahead of the establishment and the middle class mainstream in integrating their cultures together. The only time the urban scene ever made mainstream news was if a gun was waved at a Garage concert or a stabbing occurred at a Hip Hop rave.
By 2000, it seemed the far-right could never re-establish itself in such a mixed society, so at peace with itself, but 9/11 changed that. The new kid on the fascist block, the British National Party (BNP) quickly rewrote its literature, replacing the word Asian with the word Muslim. Anti-Muslim ideas began to gain traction, especially after 52 people died in the London bombings of 2005. Then the English Defence League (EDL) was born; while the BNP had tried to create a respectable, suited version of fascism, the EDL went back to NF ways, building a street army of angry young white men. The EDL grew fast, but then in the past year or so seemed to have peaked. The EDL’s apparent association with far-right Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik doesn’t seem to have helped them.
If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll have seen regular tweets about the EDL and its idiot supporters, and especially its moronic leader, Tommy Robinson. EDL supporters on Twitter output a regular drip-feed of hateful misinformation about Muslims, which has been hard to tackle. Until yesterday, that is. Tommy Robinson had tweeted one of his standard pieces of anti-Muslim nonsense. Seeing a picture of a “mosque” on the Twitter home page (it was, in fact, the Taj Mahal), Robinson sent the following tweet:
Welcome to twitter homepage has a picture of a mosque What a joke #creepingsharia
The idea being, of course, to convince the British public that Islam is encroaching on every aspect of our daily lives. There have been many such tweets from Robinson and his supporters. But this time, some Twitter users decided to respond, and take the piss out of (to use a British expression) the #CreepingSharia hashtag. By yesterday afternoon, the trickle of tweets was growing into a flood, and by evening it was a tsunami. The British people, in their many thousands, had finally been given their chance to react, in a truly British fashion, to the cancer of the EDL. The response wasn’t anger, threats or hatred. It was a flood of laughter. The EDL was turned within a few hours into a national and international laughing-stock. It was more than a chance to let off steam – it was a turning point. It was a chance for the majority to demonstrate to British Muslims that the EDL is a small, unrepresentative and unliked group of people. The atmosphere on Twitter yesterday can be described as a carnival. I don’t think my grandfather, or other veterans of the Battle of Cable Street, would mind me comparing the two events. Yesterday, 16th April 2012, the British people hounded and humiliated the EDL just as they had the BUF on 4th October 1936.
Here’s a small selection of #creepingsharia tweets (sorry if they’re wrongly attributed – many were retweeted many times):
@DestinyofL: ‘Star Wars’ makes a ‘hero’ of a youth who is radicalised by a bearded old man who lives in the desert wearing robes #creepingsharia
@amna_kaleem: The weather in Britain is always Sunni or Shi’ite. #CreepingSharia
@lacatchat: If you look really carefully, a packet of iced gems looks like lots & lots of little Mosques. #creepingsharia
@stanyalplatford: All the fantastic and clever #creepingsharia tweets utterly nailed @EDLTrobinson . What a fucking prick.
@BristolAF: Fell asleep on the sofa again last night. My lovely Muslim housemate tried not to wake me when she got back from work. #creepingsharia
@ZiaQureshi11: I once had a go at my housemate for cooking bacon in my frying pan and not cleaning it properly #creepingsharia
@KarmaUnc: Marvelous to see the Twittersphere overwhelmingly handing @EDLTrobinson his #creepingsharia arse back to him on a plate today #EDL
@ammaarrahim: RT if the #creepingsharia trend made your day today… certainly made mine 🙂
It was a reminder to me that, whatever the downside of living on this cold, wet island among a people who enjoy moaning about most things on most days, there’s a huge reason to be proud of this country. As race hate strengthens in Hungary, The Netherlands and the USA, the British can again be an example to the rest of the western world. While patriotism grows in popularity elsewhere, the British don’t do patriotism. We don’t fly flags on our homes or on public buildings. It’s our contempt for those who label themselves British or English Patriots that is quintessentially British or English.
As for my great love, British urban music, this has continued to evolve over the past decade. For those of you who can’t be here in London to experience our mixture first-hand, here’s a taste of what young white, black and brown Londoners are dancing to, together, in 2012. It contains flavours of Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe and the USA, but it’s uniquely British, and it unites young people from all backgrounds. The far-right doesn’t stand a chance.
75 years ago this October, my grandfather, the son of Jewish immigrants to London’s poor East End, took to the streets with thousands of others to stop the ultra-nationalist British Union of Fascists from marching through a largely Jewish area. The event turned into a pitched battle, with Oswald Mosley’s fascists and the Metropolitan Police on one side, and locals, Jews, Irish, socialists and communists on the other. The fight (which became known as the Battle of Cable Street) ended with victory for the anti-fascist side, with the fascists and police beaten off the streets.
Following the Holocaust, Fascism became a dirty word, but Nationalists have continually tried to detoxify their brand and reinstate themselves into the mainstream. Mosley returned in the 1950s, this time labelling black immigrants, rather than Jews and Irish, as the main “threat” to the “British way of life”. In the late-60s, Conservative MP Enoch Powell became famous for predicting that mass immigration would lead to “rivers of blood“. Through the 70s, right-wing nationalism and street-thuggery rose in the form of the National Front, but the movement was resisted on the streets, and finally dissolved in the early-80s as a new, multicultural music scene brought young black and white people together socially. By the 90s, nationalism seemed to be a thing of the past, but the 9/11 attacks gave the racist right a chance to re-brand as an anti-Islam force. Nearly ten years on, and we can see that the “Islam is a threat” message has worked its way from fascist meeting rooms into the political mainstream-right in Europe and the US.
Gradually, the anti-Islam message has morphed back into a more traditional anti-immigration message, being amplified by the right-wing tabloid press here (and Fox News in the US). The nationalist, anti-immigration message isn’t easy to sell; it relies on persuading people that the past (or rather, an imaginary, idyllic past) is being replaced by a more dangerous future as immigrants join their society. Prior to 9/11 it seemed that the Western World had moved beyond irrational fear of foreigners, and that society’s liberal tendencies had prevailed; but we soon learned that race hate and xenophobia weren’t far beneath the surface; that US and European society had changed less since the 1940s than we’d convinced ourselves.
When the drum of fear and hate is being pounded consistently, the infection will naturally spread. For most fear-infected morons, the outlet of Twitter or a blog is enough. But it’s inevitable that angry or mentally-disturbed individuals like Anders Behring Breivik will become infected too, and violence will follow, as it did last Friday in Norway. Breivik’s choice of target, the mainstream, liberal Norwegian Labour Party, was a natural one for anyone understanding the history of European nationalism. He chose a multicultural youth camp, something designed to ease racial tensions in Norway, but also proof (in Breivik’s confused world view) that evil forces were trying to dilute Norway’s racial and cultural past into something new and alien.
Whether Breivik acted alone, it can be stated with certainty that he was influenced by master-manipulators of the nationalist movement. It’s already been established from his own blog (English translation provided by @Dilmunite) that he admired the far-right English Defence League; according to many EDL Facebook posts, Breivik had many EDL Facebook friends, and attended an EDL rally in the UK in 2010. I’d recommend following @BanTheEDL and @EverythingEDL on Twitter for a collection of evidence linking group members with Breivik.
Another key Breivik influencer was someone I’ve often mentioned: Pamela Geller, a self-appointed “defender” of America against “creeping Islamification”. Pamela spent the weekend tweeting new myths distancing herself from the terrorist, for her army of moron followers to disseminate.
In my Twitter feed, I’ve long watched morons large and small disseminate misinformation about Islam, Muslims and immigration. Their purpose was to spread enough hatred widely enough that sooner or later someone would take action, and set a chain of violence underway. It looks as though they found a new disciple (though not their first – right-wing terror plots have long been of concern, especially in the US), and no doubt other “white heroes” are watching and contemplating whether to follow Breivik’s example (as was clearly his intention).
Western governments now need to decide whether Islamaphobic lies and smears equate to hate speech, and whether to prosecute the most virulent of these liars. The shock following the Norway attacks will quickly pass, and lack of action against armchair-nationalist morons by governments will result in more confidence in the nationalist movements, and inevitably more violence.