There’s a good article in yesterday’s Indie by Johann which makes an important point:
But as the New Statesman’s Mehdi Hassan has pointed out, as far as public debate goes, it’s as if these crimes never happened. While planned attacks by jihadis (rightly) dominate the news agenda for days, these remarkably similar plans pass unmentioned and unnoticed.
This disjunction exposes a rash of hypocrisy. The parts of the right that gleefully blame all Muslims for the actions of a tiny minority are mysteriously reluctant to apply the same arguments to themselves. If Martin Amis was consistent, he should now declare: “The white community will have to suffer until it gets its house in order. What sort of suffering? Not letting them travel. Deportation. Strip-searching people who look like they’re from Hampshire or from Surrey … Discriminatory stuff, until it hurts the whole community and they start getting tough with their children.”
But of course he won’t. It shows the bigotry at the core of these make-all-Muslims-pay arguments: they see brown-skinned people as a homogenous mass who can be collectively punished, while they see white people as discrete units who should only be punished individually.
The first point is a duff one. We discussed at the time the reasons – unconnected to anti-Muslim bigotry – that some far Right bombing plots don’t get as much coverage as some of those planned by Islamists.
But the second point – in paragraphs 2 and 3 – is spot on.
Over the past few years, we have argued that it is essential that politicians and pundits develop a full and proper understanding of those Islamist groups which push a sectarian, anti-liberal and pro-terrorism politics: Hizb ut Tahrir, Jamaat-e-Islami, Hamas/Muslim Brotherhood, Al Muhajiroun and the Khomeinists. We have always been careful to identify, specifically, the groups which we are talking about. Even where individuals are not clearly members of any particular groups, it is usually possible to identify which particular strand of Islamist thinking they’ve been influenced by. We understand the ideology.
Compare and contrast the Daily Express, who have some journalists with a very sophisticated understanding of the British Islamist scene, but an editorial policy that consistently blurs the distinction between small fascist groups and “Muslims” generally. See Edmund Standing’s latest piece.
Even now, most people have a better understanding of the white supremacist than the Islamist far right. Admittedly, relatively few people could list all the far Right groups which push a violent politics against cultural minorities. But there is a general appreciation that there is an ideological continuum which runs from the British National Party to semi-terrorist groups like Combat 18 and the British People’s Party.
When we publish articles on both the Islamist and the white supremacist far Right, we hope to deepen and strengthen people’s comprehension of what these groups stand for, who is involved in them, and the sort of things they get up to. I think we’ve made real advances on this front.
Five years ago, there was significant confusion as to the proper attitude of the Left towards the various Islamist groups. All of them claimed to speak for “the Muslims”, just as the BNP and the other white supremacist extremist groups insist that they are the true voice of white people. Amazingly, there were those on the Left who participated in this charade, and who joined activists in Islamist parties in attacking anybody who drew attention to their vicious politics as an “Islamophobe”. Conferences were organised at which bigots and extremists shared platforms with liberal and democratic politicians.
To be frank, these problems persist. You will still find mainstream politicians eager to engage with Islamist activists whose politics closely mirrors the attitudes and beliefs of the neo Nazis. However, there is now a growing literacy in this area. Supposedly progressive politicians who have made common cause with Islamists are now more likely to do so because they have made a conscious decision to ally themselves with these extremists, rather than simply because they’ve blundered into it.
In short, the level of political illiteracy in relation to the Islamist far Right has hugely improved over a relatively short period of time.
One of the consequences of that has been that the sort of arguments that we used to have on Harry’s Place, which consisted of anti-Muslim bigots repeating the theological and political arguments of Islamist groups, and deeming all Muslims who claimed to disagree either liars or dupes, have now become a thing of the past. Similarly, those comments enquiring – either honestly or in bad faith – why Harry’s Place hates Muslims, whenever we publish an expose on a member of an extremist Islamist group have disappeared. More or less.
What is needed is more of the same. Johann is right. People don’t blame all white people for the actions of white fascists. But that is because anybody who follows the activities of neo Nazis know exactly where they’re coming from.
The Islamist far Right is no different. It consists of a relatively small number of highly ideological and very active people. If you’ve been reading Harry’s Place for a while, you’ll know who they are. You’ll also have no excuse for treating Muslims as a “homogeneous mass”.
The next step is to make sure that progressive groups no more readily appear on platforms, co-organise conferences with, or otherwise treat with activists on the Islamist far right than they would with the British National Party.