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The EDL almost felt ignored.
June 18, 2013 5:22 AM   Subscribe

"I’m not saying the Left embraces or even excuses away these clerics, but this strange reticence across the Left not only allows them to fester, but has other consequences."
posted by marienbad (42 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Is it because white people freaking out about evil Muslims tends to involve a lot of racism, and they don't want to get involved in it?
posted by edheil at 5:48 AM on June 18, 2013 [12 favorites]


Focusing a lot of vocal objection on a tiny radical minority of a much larger otherwise-innocuous minority is how racism works. That's why racists do it.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:48 AM on June 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


Why?

Because there is a huge difference between an internal critic and an external critic. The right-wing and left-wing participate in the same political arena and are in conversation with each other. Which is why the left protests the right.

They are banned from almost every mosque in the country and ostracized by almost every British Muslim community group.

Which, again, is much more important than whatever an external critic says.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 5:48 AM on June 18, 2013 [13 favorites]


Why? The Left, as the faction that's not in power tends to support marginal groups who want to destabilize the established power structure. Even fringe groups of the faction that is in power (eg the EDL), attempt to bash down these marginal groups.

When the Left is firmly in power, history shows that it certainly does its best to remove religion as a source of opposition. "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" always seems to bite people in the ass, but it appears that few can resist it.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:02 AM on June 18, 2013


It seems important for leftist groups to ally themselves with Muslim groups who share (broadly) the same ideals, and work for a political scene where those groups felt secure enough to direct their energies toward criticizing the extremist groups rather than, say, maintaining their own precarious political position. Surely working with Muslim groups on issues of immigration, worker's rights, social justice, etc would free those groups to push back against rightest elements in their own communities.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:07 AM on June 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


This article is about a specific UK situation, right?

Here is a thing that I think folks outside of long-term radical activist circles don't tend to realize (and, because I tend to hang around with cultural anarchists and do much more ad hoc stuff, I didn't realize either initially): folks who see themselves as long-term anti-racist or anti-imperialist organizers (or really any kind of long term organizer) tend to think both strategically and ideologically.

Folks outside of long-term organizing tend to think of it as "there is this behavior we find repugnant, let's go protest it right now", and that's a good impulse that has yielded all kinds of important results. If you're a long-term organizer and you're thinking "my primary work is about [immigrants' rights/access to culturally appropriate health care/defending disability benefits/etc] you have a different set of concerns. You're thinking "how can I spend my time strategically to forward the things I think are most important? Who are my best allies? Who are the people who basically don't matter to the work I do? Who are the people I can never win over so I won't waste my time on them?"

Folks outside of long-term organizing tend to assume that everyone within it is driven solely by ideological concerns, good or bad as they may be, and that their concern with the every day fabric of life is only as filtered through ideology. I suspect that this is because while a marxist or anarchist community organizer working over years on serious concerns isn't very exciting, it's pretty funny (I mean, it's really funny, even though the media coverage is always right wing) to talk about some 20-something froth-at-the-mouth ultra-marxist who actually doesn't do any kind of organizing work. (I mean, I have froth-at-the-mouth ultra-left friends who I love dearly, but they are not long-term organizers.)

So folks assume that if someone isn't protesting some fundamentalist Muslim with unappealing views, it is because they have decided that hey, the fundie Muslim also serves to destabilize the state! Or because they've decided that There Is Only One Kind Of Oppression So Fundamentalist Islam Is Totally Okay. Now, there certainly are marxists or anarchists or whomever who do think those things, but as a broad generality at this historical moment, those people are not the ones organizing protests or doing long-term work.

In general, the type of people who organize protests and do long-term work have sustained and reality-based goals in the community. Some of those goals are useless or foolish or just aren't going to happen, you can disagree with some of them, etc. But in general, if leftists aren't protesting fundie muslims with the force that they're protesting the EDL, it's probably because folks figure that the EDL is a much more meaningful threat.

~~~

I am not a big fan of the whole "but if you don't protest the fundie Muslims as much as you protest the EDL, you will lose the white working class!!!" routine that a lot of non-working-class white people tend to trot out. In my experience as a white person and organizer, the kind of white working class people who go for neo-nazi organizations are not going to be won over by "but we're critical of fundie Muslims too!!" Either they're getting a lot of happiness, community and sense of power from having consciously racist views or they feel materially at sea (broke, few jobs, no future) in a way that a few words about "but we also criticize Islam!!!" won't put right.

Also, "the white working class" both in the UK and the US is repeatedly invoked to justify right-wing policy, as if there are no white working class people who support social programs and no white working class people who have friends or family who are people of color.

~~~

I think there's also some very legitimate concerns within the non-Muslim left about protesting Muslim organizations. A lot of folks feel like that stuff should 1. Be led by other Muslims, not a bunch of people who don't know anything much about Islam or the lived experience of Muslims in a given situation; 2. Be led by folks who are not themselves really dodgy - like, I have no real interest in protesting a conservative Muslim organization if the protest is organized by some neo-liberal think-tank buddy of the corporate elite, even if he or she is also Muslim, because I don't trust his or her motives; 3. Not play into existing racist narratives about immigration, Islam, etc, because that just makes the problem worse.

~~~
I think there's also some real contradictions in left organizing, but I think those are just a fact of life. Like, if I want to support immigrants' rights, some of those immigrants may be people whose beliefs are repulsive to me, but it's not acceptable to me to say "we can let immigrants in, but only those who pass a political purity test", because we've been in that situation before. And there is a real contradiction about fundamentalist organizations - just as with Christianity, there are horrible misogynist formations within Islam (and within Judaism, and I have not always been impressed by Hinduism either in this regard, and probably every religion is the same.) So yeah, people on the left do get into situations where it's hard to know what to do. When you read of someone getting acid thrown on her, or being shot at for wanting to go to school, or any of the various unappealing things one hears - particularly if you hear about these from Muslim activists, particularly from Muslim women activists! - it's hard to know what to think or do.

However, this is where I turn to my own reading of and experience of history. I've seen a lot of anti-immigrant and anti-Eastern (whether it's E. Europe, Asia or the Middle East) moral panics in my time, and I've seen those panics used to drum up support for repressive legislation and military intervention, and back in my young day sometimes I used to fall for it. What I've learned over time is that US/Western-led interventions and repressive legislation never go anywhere good, no matter what the justification is, and no matter how unattractive some of the practices they oppose are. Interventions and repressive laws are always about racism and imperialism, and moral panics are always about building a constituency for racism and imperialism, not about anything that really matters. They're about tugging on regular people's heartstrings so that they'll support the unspeakable.

Which is why, honestly, I'm always a little sketched-out about all this "let's protest the conservative clerics" business. I tend to suspect that most of the people who are behind that kind of thing don't really give a good goddamn about working people - whether Muslim or not - or non-elite women, or anything but their own academic, publishing or political careers.
posted by Frowner at 6:29 AM on June 18, 2013 [51 favorites]


I think this is the same problem with the critics of comics who mock christianity but "would never mock Islam". Often this is because those comics have grown up in a society which is massively influenced and determined by christianity. They may not be christians themselves, but they are familiar with the tropes and ideas associated with christianity, and feel confident that they can make informed jokes. Any joke they make about Islam is bound to be less informed because they are less informed.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 6:47 AM on June 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Which is why, honestly, I'm always a little sketched-out about all this "let's protest the conservative clerics" business. I tend to suspect that most of the people who are behind that kind of thing don't really give a good goddamn about working people - whether Muslim or not - or non-elite women, or anything but their own academic, publishing or political careers.

This whole comment is the "reverse side" of what I was trying to say, and much more eloquently. Essentially, because of all the reasons Frowner lists, it's really hard for traditional leftist groups to navigate the political minefield that in the huge confusion surrounding Islam in the West (and I don't think that the confusion is accidental at all). So, leftist groups can get more traction in these areas by working together on shared issues, leaving allied Muslim groups free to address the religious issues more effectively when necessary.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:51 AM on June 18, 2013


critics of comics who mock christianity but "would never mock Islam"

The whole 'you can't mock Islam' factoid is, I suspect, often played up in significance by those for whom it can be held up as self-evident proof that Islam is a uniquely evil form of organised religion, rather than one that is subject to all the same cultural forces as the others.

Recently I saw comedian Peter Kay do an extended sketch on the BBC in which his screen wife followed him around silently in a full burka, for no apparent reason other than it looked pretty funny in the context of him being overweight and acting stupid in his tracksuit and shouting nonsense while having a doting wife next to him. No Muslims started rioting or complaining after this broadcast. Perhaps because he managed to incorporate a clear reference to Islam without the thrust of his joke being about terrorism. Maybe 20 years ago he would have had a woman in a nun's outfit instead.

On the other hand, anyone taking a look at the Danish cartoons would have to concede that most of them were similar to 30s Nazi cartoons about Jews. The difference seems clear to me, and to most Muslims I'd guess.
posted by colie at 7:03 AM on June 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


folks who see themselves as long-term anti-racist or anti-imperialist organizers (or really any kind of long term organizer) tend to think both strategically and ideologically.

I think it is good that everyone has a high opinion of themselves.

Folks who see themselves as anti-fascist and anti-imperialist lost what they stood FOR when the Berlin Wall went down. Being anti-fascist is all that's left in the bag. (Which is ironic considering that fascism was a reaction to bolshevism.) If the "fascists" are against it, then they are for it, or in this case awkwardly silent.
posted by three blind mice at 7:23 AM on June 18, 2013


The tea & biscuits & union jacks response to the EDL is brilliant. I heard an interview on the radio the other day with a gentleman from a mosque which greeted their local EDL protestors with tea & biscuits. They out-Englished the EDL, while still being proudly Muslim.

Tea & Biscuits against extremism (of all kinds) could be a wonderful grassroots campaign in the UK.
posted by jb at 7:25 AM on June 18, 2013 [11 favorites]


Tea & Biscuits against extremism (of all kinds) could be a wonderful grassroots campaign in the UK.

Although it can lead to a sort of "Cake or Death" extremism.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:38 AM on June 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Unless everyone chooses cake. Even I would choose cake, though I prefer pie.
posted by jb at 8:27 AM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Anti-fascists who happily march against the BNP or EDL rarely show that level of commitment against Anjem Choudhary’s group. Why?
1. Because the EDL can mobilize up to 2,000 to 3,000 people at their demos, while Anjem Choudhary can barely gather a couple of dozen. He's a much smaller threat.

2. Far right groups from the original Fascists and Nazis to the Golden Dawn today like to use public mass rallies as a show of strength and to intimidate minority groups. It seems like a useful strategy to oppose these rallies with counter-demonstrations: to prevent this intimidation, to show that they do not control the streets, and do not represent a majority. Because Anjem Choudhary represents a tiny minority (extremist Wahabis) of a minority (Muslims) his group is never going to be able to use public mass rallies to intimidate the majority. It's irrelevant to oppose him with counter-demonstrations.

3. Mainstream media and mainstream politics are already putting a huge amount of noise and effort into oppose extremist Islam (and often, normal non-extremists muslims too). They don't put much effort into opposing extreme nationalist/xenophobic groups like the EDL. Therefore, grassroots activists need to fill the gap and oppose the EDL. There's no gap to fill when it comes to opposing Anjem Choudhary.

4. When fighting a terrorist threat that makes its home within a particular minority, it helps if that minority cooperates. When the IRA was the threat, it was helpful if Irish Catholics would report suspected terrorists and cooperate with the police. Now Al-Qaeda is the threat, it is helpful if Muslims will report suspected terrorists and cooperate with the police. The minority is likely to be more cooperative if they believe they will be treated fairly. You're less likely to report odd behaviour from a family member if you worry they'll be locked up on spurious charges. I suspect that the level of Islamophobia and paranoia in Britain has now reached levels where it's actually counterproductive in fighting terrorism. The "clash of civilizations" crowd risk alienating mainstream Muslims with hostility to Islam itself. Adding more fuel to the already blazing Islamophobic fire therefore seems to me likely to increase the terrorist threat in the UK, and should be avoided.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 8:28 AM on June 18, 2013 [17 favorites]


I think the tea and biscuits approach has its place, but I think it's easy to overestimate its value. In this particular case, it seems like very few EDL members turned up. He mentions "between 150 and 200" people attending the event, of whom "the overwhelming majority were non-EDL members". So the total number of EDL members must have been small.

I've been on a dozen or so anti-fascist demos, and it's been very clear that the EDL are peaceful... when outnumbered. When there's a handful of them, they stay calm and offer no violence. When there's a few hundred, they charge police, tear up barricades, hurl bombardments of beer bottles.

If you look at the EDL forums you'll see constant references to the "Casuals", which is what hardcore football hooligans call themselves. "Casuals" make up a large part of the EDL. They enjoy fighting, they deliberately organize violence.

Tea and biscuits will work absolutely fine when you meet a small handful of EDL members who are massively outnumbered. When you meet three hundred EDL Casuals who've spent all day chugging lager, it's likely to be a different story.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 8:39 AM on June 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I love it when the New Statesman celebrates its democratic credentials by telling me what I should be thinking. I also enjoy this greatly when the Guardian does it.
posted by fingerbang at 8:54 AM on June 18, 2013


fingerbang, I'm pretty sure that the role of opinion pieces is to persuade you what to think. And reasoned debate is a cornerstone of democracy.
posted by ambrosen at 9:30 AM on June 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Aah, it's Muppet Hundal. Ignore. The dude is one of those leftists whose sole purpose in life seems to scold actual leftists for not being rightwing enough and not caring about whatever the Sun is exercised about today. It's no different from when Nick "glug glug" Cohen used to scold us for not being enthusiastic about the War on Iraq.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:31 AM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Folks outside of long-term organizing tend to think of it as "there is this behavior we find repugnant, let's go protest it right now", and that's a good impulse that has yielded all kinds of important results. If you're a long-term organizer and you're thinking "my primary work is about [immigrants' rights/access to culturally appropriate health care/defending disability benefits/etc] you have a different set of concerns.

A lot of liberal and conservative critics of leftism default to this strange idea that fairness consists in treating every repugnant statement or action as if it occurred ex vacuo and is entirely a matter of some individual or group of individuals making an illiberal or wicked moral choice. There are no larger cultural forces, no economic or political contexts beyond a kind of commonly assumed national tradition or liberal principles, and thus all repugnant acts are equally repugnant and their perpetrators equally deserving of protest.

To protest selectively, with regard to differences of political power and cultural dominance, is "unfair" and wrong, and the assumption is that everyone sees fairness in this impoverished way. The "white working class" will see that you protest their bad actors and not bad actors who are nonwhite or Muslim, and sensing this unfairness, will abandon you.

This whole idea of "fairness" springs from a vulgarized notion of the tabula rasa, one in which you can hold the idea of a defining, coherent tradition alongside the idea of atomistic individualism.

Being told you'll lose the white working class is at once a threat and a sentence: stick to the falsely leveling idea of "fairness," assume a world of blank slates, or you will deserve to lose popular support. Some who promote it do not believe it; they know that it is a useful fiction for masking the existence of privilege and hegemony. Others probably buy in because buying into it masks those same things from them.

I think this is the same problem with the critics of comics who mock christianity but "would never mock Islam". Often this is because those comics have grown up in a society which is massively influenced and determined by christianity. They may not be christians themselves, but they are familiar with the tropes and ideas associated with christianity, and feel confident that they can make informed jokes. Any joke they make about Islam is bound to be less informed because they are less informed.

That's pretty much exactly what Irish comic Dara O'Briain says here.
posted by kewb at 9:44 AM on June 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Whatabout?
Rhetorical Ploy

Hwaw-Tah-Bowt

Devastating nuclear device of discourse, the deployment of which blasts, melts and obliterates the arguments of pro-fascists - much like what happens to the Nazis following the opening of the Ark of the Covenant at the end of the first Indiana Jones movie.

"Frankly, I feel that these friendly-fire incidents are symptomatic of a situation in which the U.S. army is operating reactively in a consequence-free environment."

"Oh really? Well, whatabout last week's chlorine-bombs in Baquba? Will you condemn that?"

"Whooaaaarrghhhh!" (Skin melts off face, speared by divine lightning, head explodes like a smashed watermelon.)

"I thought not."
posted by MartinWisse at 9:45 AM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't buy the whole non-Muslims-may-never-criticise-Islamists thing. Granted, there is the risk that if you rail against them, you'll make some unwelcome friends on the fascist side of the fence, though I think the way to mitigate that is to condemn the fascists and bigots equally strongly as the Islamist extremists, rather than to stay silent.
posted by acb at 10:02 AM on June 18, 2013


I don't buy the whole non-Muslims-may-never-criticise-Islamists thing.

It's not really a matter of "may never." It's more like: Why bother? Society has a way to deal with people who do things we disagree with. It's called the rule of law. If radical Islamists are plotting to whatever, then they should be arrested and tried. What good does the torches-and-pitchforks approach do? It just fans the flames of hatred in both directions.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:38 AM on June 18, 2013


"Anjem Choudhary can barely gather a couple of dozen. He's a much smaller threat."

Really? One of the men suspected of the brutal killing of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich attended a rally led by controversial preacher Anjem Choudary, a new video has shown.
posted by marienbad at 11:33 AM on June 18, 2013


Yes, really. One is a smaller number than "a couple dozen."
posted by Sys Rq at 11:55 AM on June 18, 2013


fingerbang, I'm pretty sure that the role of opinion pieces is to persuade you what to think. And reasoned debate is a cornerstone of democracy.
posted by ambrosen

Thank you for setting me straight on the role of opinion pieces, that's always appreciated. But I think what I find delightfully contradictory is any radical press using the word "should" to tell me what I should be thinking.

Also yes, thank you for reminding me that "reasoned debate is the cornerstone of democracy". It's true, but in my enthusiasm I do tend to forget this.

You also understand of course that I was not really suggesting we separate Guardian columnists from the use of the word "should" in subheadlines. You can deduce from this that I was not 100% literal when I posted my first comment. I was in fact, brace yourself, making a joke.
posted by fingerbang at 11:59 AM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Tea and biscuits will work absolutely fine when you meet a small handful of EDL members who are massively outnumbered. When you meet three hundred EDL Casuals who've spent all day chugging lager, it's likely to be a different story.

Of course, no one should put themselves at risk.

But if people got serious about tea & biscuits against extremism, I think they could attract thousands of people - Muslim and non-Muslim - to support tea & biscuits against extremism. In the article you linked to, the author (the same man I heard interviewed on Canadian radio) noted that their mosque expected 20 people to support them, but had 150-200 show up. (On the radio, he said that they had also alerted the police, because they weren't crazy and wanted protection in case of violence).

My point is that tea & biscuits - and the quiet, civilised conversation that they represent - are powerful symbols with which to mobilise the true silent majority in Britain, a majority of moderate people who don't support either racists or religious extremists. We need symbols, positive images and phrases to rally behind. The extremists have their symbols, but we need our own and we outnumber them by far.
posted by jb at 12:13 PM on June 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, it's moments like these that I wish I had any organising ability whatsoever. But I don't, and though now I'm proud to be a permanent resident of the UK, I live on another continent. In Canada, we would obviously have a coffee & donuts movement. Maybe I should start one in support of our local Somali community which has been very much in upheaval due to recent events.
posted by jb at 12:17 PM on June 18, 2013


I don't buy the whole non-Muslims-may-never-criticise-Islamists thing.

Well, it's not like there is a cosmic force preventing it, but it's a dangerous tactic. First, the further you are outside the community you are criticizing, the more likely it is that you will miss a critical nuance
That renders your argument less effective, ineffective, or even counter-effective. Second, it becomes harder for the criticized community to see your point, especially if they are used to being criticized for being themselves. So, while it's obviously possible, it makes you feel pretty awkward when you in turn are criticized for your ignorance or discover that you've made enemies of the allies you were seeking.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:31 PM on June 18, 2013


From the article's standfirst: Anti-fascists who happily march against the BNP or EDL rarely show that level of commitment against Anjem Choudhary’s group. Why?

Well, aside from everything that Frowner's excellent comment mentioned upthread, maybe it's because the likes of Choudhary's group, and their ideological friends and allies, don't have roots going back 80-odd years in a specific strain of British culture which mushroomed in the 1930s with Oswald Mosley and his British Union of Fascists, and which was revived, in varying degrees, by Powell's "rivers of blood" speech in '68, by the National Front in the late '70s, (which led to a fightback from groups like the Anti-Nazi League and Rock Against Racism), by the resurgence of hard right paramilitary groups like Combat 18, and political extremists like the BNP in the late '90s – which not so coincidentally coincided with events like David Copeland planting nail bombs in London which targeted black, Asian and gay communities, killing three people and wounding 39 – and by the current state of affairs, in which the the leader of the EDL stokes tension by (for some reason) being invited to speak on the BBC's flagship news radio programme as if he was an elected politician, and not a convicted former football hooligan living under an assumed name. Maybe if we had an 80 year history of violent, radical Islamists and their supporters murdering and maiming people all over Britain, we might take the likes of Choudhary more seriously.

In the previous thread, about the Woolwich murder, I mentioned that for some reason it's only ever fundamentalist Islamist terrorists of British origin who are described as "homegrown". Everyone mentioned in the previous paragraph who has murdered innocent civilians over the past 80 years – and I'm not going to count exact numbers, but it's not an insignificant figure – was most definitely homegrown. But they're white, and therefore don't count because Scary Muslim Reasons.
posted by Len at 1:39 PM on June 18, 2013 [10 favorites]


But if people got serious about tea & biscuits against extremism, I think they could attract thousands of people - Muslim and non-Muslim - to support tea & biscuits against extremism.

Been there, done that, wouldn't it be nice if everybody was nice doesn't really work in the real world outside of a vicar's tea circle.

Extremism is a semantically null word, something with no meaning; there's no such thing as an extremist movement, there just are political movements which are branded extremist, each with their own ideology and motivation. It makes no sense whatsoever to lump the EDL and Anjem Choudary together and think you can combat them, have to combat them, in the same way.

More practically, in the current political climate, any generalised movement against Muslim extremism will service rightwing politics much more than it will do good for the left. Muslim extremism for over a decade now has been a mainstream political concern what with the war on terror and the wars against Afghanistan, Iraq, Lybia and such to the point that Muslim = terrorist if you'd go by the evening news, with British Muslims having to already prove over and over again that they're not any kind of swivel eyed loonies. Any tea & biscuits movement, no matter how genteel, will be judged in that context.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:44 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]



The tea & biscuits & union jacks response to the EDL is brilliant. I heard an interview on the radio the other day with a gentleman from a mosque which greeted their local EDL protestors with tea & biscuits. They out-Englished the EDL, while still being proudly Muslim.

Tea & Biscuits against extremism (of all kinds) could be a wonderful grassroots campaign in the UK.


How to Stop the Far Right Using Only Tea

j/k, you can’t.


From what i've heard from the UK antifa on the ground, they need to protect vulnerable members of the community from the EDL attacks. Everything else is secondary.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 6:00 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Personally, I think there's something to the accusation that a certain class of people spend more time protesting the far right than they do protesting "othered" extreme groups.

I take what frowner and theosophile escargot say on board though. Even though there may be a bit of cognitive dissonance going on there.

Sidenote: The assertion here that the things they say and the fights they fight are done strategically rubs me up the wrong way. Here was I thinking we were just talking about what we thought, and in actuality, for some people the truth takes second base to some other hidden end game. That's pretty underhanded.

Anyway -

1) I've mentioned this a number of times previously and it does appear to be My New Favourite Theory, but part of the reason why this happens is because of the Narcissism of small differences. We understand white non-muslims because we're white non-muslims, and we're therefore more comfortable and more capable of empathising with those that look and sound more like us. When the white racists do and say stuff that we don't agree with, we're more likely to hate on that because we're more able to understand how outside our own moral code that behaviour is.

This goes hand in hand with a lot of Othering that you see in white middle-class anti-racist environments. It's nice that people like to embrace that which they see as different, but let's not fool ourselves that these people still see brown people as different.

It's also a little tricky and probably counterproductive to tell people that they hate the EDL more because of a lack of empathy with the "other", but I think there is something in this.

2) The far left feel a real kinship with Islam. This is probably historical, and probably influenced by some left over anti-semitism from the bad old days of marxism, etc. but it's there and it makes the choosing of "sides" in these sorts of situations easy. Compare and Contrast with the lefts position on Israel / Palestine. Note - that I'm not saying the left is anti-semitic here. Just that a kinship with Islam can probably be traced back to anti-semitism.

I fully expect to be roasted for suggesting this BTW. Queen Gertrude for the win.

3) Cognitively, there has to be a correct side in all these kinds of arguments, and if you're anti-racist now, then you and your peers have been anti-racist in the UK for much longer than you've known about Islamic extremists. I've been protesting the BNP and the EDL and the NF for much longer than I've been aware of angry Muslims (Angry muslims possibly started for me in 1989, but didn't get going until 2001). The EDL are an old understood enemy, and you can call it habit if you like, but I'm much more likely to protest them than any new facism that I come across.

4) If I start hating on extremist Muslims, at least one idiot is going to call me racist because of it, and I'd prefer it if people didn't think I was racist.
posted by zoo at 1:56 AM on June 19, 2013


The far left feel a real kinship with Islam.

The mind-reading school of political analysis.
posted by colie at 2:05 AM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


The mind-reading school of political analysis.
The dismissive bad-faith wankery of metafilter commenting.
posted by zoo at 2:15 AM on June 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


2) The far left feel a real kinship with Islam. This is probably historical, and probably influenced by some left over anti-semitism from the bad old days of marxism, etc. but it's there and it makes the choosing of "sides" in these sorts of situations easy. Compare and Contrast with the lefts position on Israel / Palestine. Note - that I'm not saying the left is anti-semitic here. Just that a kinship with Islam can probably be traced back to anti-semitism.

These are strong claims and would seem to require strong evidence. You'd have to find clear examples of anti-Semitism on the non-Soviet left and clear examples of pro-Islamic -- as opposed to pro-Palestinian -- rhetoric from multiple mainstream Left figures.

The anti-Semitism accusation is problematic, because it's so often misused as a defense of the government of Israel, which neither represents all of the Jewish people everywhere nor even all Israelis themselves. There's an Israeli Left and an Israeli Left tradition, after all; would you define these as "self-hating Jews" who prefer Islam to their own religion or ethnos? Or is your argument that any criticism of the government, military, or intelligence apparatus of Israel inherently threatens the Jewish (or at least Israeli) people because you presume them to exist in a constant state of emergency or precarity?

Yes, there's George Galloway, but he's a single, polarizing figure; his main effect in recent years has been to split progressive parties more than to unify them, he hardly gets support even from Left political coalitions, and he's widely understood as a paid shill for various despotic Middle Eastern governments. The Left is diverse, and most of its constituent groups don't particularly agree with him.

And by definition, with a moment's reflection you'll find large constituent groups on the Left -- LGBT advocates, feminists, left anarchists -- who have strong disagreements with pretty much any Abrahamic religion, especially a hierarchical one like most extremist or nationalist forms of Islam. Marxists, too, are hardly pro-Islam. All that "opiate of the masses" rhetoric makes it a bit hard, dontchyaknow.

For that matter, "Islam" is hardly monolithic. Does pro-Islam mean pro-Shia or pro-Sunni? Does it favor exclusively the militant brands like Qutbism or Wahhabism? Or is it about alliances with reformist movements within Islam? Most often "pro-Islam" is a kind of "useful idiot" smear; your mention of the anti-Semitism of the "bad old days of marxism" certainly resonates with that old trick. What Left positions can you identify and demonstrate are deliberately, explicitly, pro-Islam and only pro-Islam? Do you have an explanation better than "reflexive anti-Semitism," which you'd also need to demonstrate?

Frankly, the vast majority of uses of this rhetoric, where "Left = anti-Semitic," are reductive of all three terms: Judaism, Islam, and the Left. It often comes from those who perceive both Islam and the Left as out-groups and both homogenize and reduce them for rhetorical gain and the reduction of their own cognitive dissonance. Ironically, they also tend to turn Judaism into a long series of "No True Scotsman" tests in which insufficient support for the Right in America and Israel becomes evidence of self-hatred or even "un-Jewishness." This may not be you, but you probably need to answer some of those questions about your claims to clarify them.
posted by kewb at 5:26 AM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


zoo: We understand white non-muslims because we're white non-muslims

I'm not sure we all are, actually.
posted by ambrosen at 8:56 AM on June 19, 2013


2) The far left feel a real kinship with Islam. This is probably historical, and probably influenced by some left over anti-semitism from the bad old days of marxism, etc. but it's there and it makes the choosing of "sides" in these sorts of situations easy. Compare and Contrast with the lefts position on Israel / Palestine. Note - that I'm not saying the left is anti-semitic here. Just that a kinship with Islam can probably be traced back to anti-semitism.

This is crazy talk. Have you never heard of a kibbutz?
posted by Sys Rq at 9:02 AM on June 19, 2013


zoo: We understand white non-muslims because we're white non-muslims

I'm not sure we all are, actually.
posted by ambrosen


I won't speak for anyone else (you know you're all dogs in my head, right? Because you're on the Internet), but I am a white, non-Muslim. More than that, I consider myself to be at least half-English by marriage and immigration. The EDL are blackening my adopted nationality, and shitting in my house, and generally making me, as a white person, look bad. I'm more pissed off at them because it's personal. Extremists Islamic clerics don't have a direct effect on my life: terrorism continues to be a minor threat in most of the western world, and I tell them to fuck off if they try to impose their social mores on me. But the EDL affects directly how other people view and judge me.
posted by jb at 9:16 AM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


as for the supposed split between the left and Judaism: that explains why so many important leftist activists have been Jewish, both contemporary and historical.
posted by jb at 9:18 AM on June 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sure, many EDL members are looking for any excuse to express their racism, but the far-right group also draws in recruits who don’t consider themselves racist but want to oppose religious extremists.

Not considering yourself racist is not necessarily the same thing as not being racist.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 7:08 PM on June 19, 2013


George Galloway isn't unusual.

Kibbutz - Yes I've heard of them. The context given to them by the left was one of savage exoticism, so yeah - even if not anti-semitic, the attitude was definitely racist.

Asking me for stronger proof because you personally don't agree is not the same as asking for stronger proof because a theory is too out-there to consider.

On the Jewish Question

Sorry - but people on the far left (as well as the far right) are historically and culturally anti-semitic. You only need to know a couple of people in the SWP or linked to Respect or Antifa groups to figure this out. It's not rocket science, People in these circles are better than most at keeping to message & silencing those that disagree, so I can understand why you may be denying it, but I've seen it.

Maybe - if you are linked to these groups, you should take a leaf out of your own book, and instead of emphatically and blindly denying it, you look inwards and try and work out why this vicious rumour persists.

Or maybe just another secret court. I hear those are working well for the SWP at the moment.
posted by zoo at 4:51 AM on June 20, 2013


Good God people. You've got me wandering round parts of the net I don't like.
posted by zoo at 6:27 AM on June 20, 2013


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