Against all forms of Authoritarianism! No to islamism, No to nationalism!
Just read an excellent post on an upcoming “march for Shariah law” which will be happening on the 31st of October in London organised by Anjem Choudary who was criticised in the British press for holding an anti-war demonstration at a military parade in Luton in March.
As the author rightly points out this provides an opportunity for the left to argue against both forms of extremism and move beyond the simple EDL/anti-EDL binary the media seem to be placing us in. At the Manchester counter-demo against the EDL, when a placard was raised by the EDL proclaiming “Sharia Law oppresses women” an awkward silence seemed to descend on many of the counter-demonstrators. The way in which we relate to Islam in relation to the emergence of a far right explicitly targeting Islam is a key question that needs answering if we are to stay relevant to the debate. Answers to this question may prove awkward for large sections of the Left that have sought, often uncritical, engagements with Islamic sections of society (e.g. the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and perhaps more noticeably with regards to the crisis in Gaza earlier this year). However this demonstration in London gives us the opportunity, perhaps, to make clear a rejection of both of these forms of authoritarianism. This opportunity has been lacking in mobilisations against the EDL in which a variety of complex and nuanced positions were lumped into a homogenous anti-EDL camp.
In the recent edition of Shift magazine an interview with autonomous anticapitalist group TOP Berlin describes how German groups are engaging with the shift within the European far right towards a focus on Islam. As well as in Britain and Germany this is embodied by the populist campaign of Geert Wilders in Holland and this horrifying, yet popular, viral video on You Tube. Some groups in Germany have responded with a combination of actively opposing far right demonstrations combined with holding demonstrations in the days before articulating a clear rejection of both islamism and fascism.
There are many ways in which the left can respond to this demonstration on the 31st. Avoiding the demonstration would, in my opinion, provide an opportunity for the EDL and other groups to appear as the voice of reason against the Sharia law. The left must have a presence and must attempt to argue against both forms of authoritarianism if we wish to stay relevant in this debate. How we do will, hopefully, emerge through discussions like these. I’m particularly interested in seeing the response of UAF and similar groups inspired by an often unquestioning, simplified anti-imperialist position which has led to the support of authoritarian regimes such as Hamas and Iran.