Public meeting: Fighting Islamaphobia and the rise of the right

Venue: St John’s Community Centre, 80 St John’s Road, Isleworth TW7 6RU.
Date/time: Thursday, 20 April, 8pm

Incidents of anti-Muslim abuse and attacks in public areas rose by 326% in 2015. Attacks mainly target visibly Muslim women reports Tell MAMA, the anti-Muslim hate monitoring group.

Four years ago, 82-year-old Mohammed Saleem was stabbed three times in the back by neo-Nazi Ukrainian Pavlo Lapshyn, Lapshyn fled the murder scene, leaving Mr Saleem with fatal wounds, and went on to embark on a campaign of terror and Mosque bombing in and around the west Midlands.

There was no media uproar or mass condemnation of neo- Nazis activities in the UK and Europe. The EDL a neo-Nazi group who was set to be a ‘Counter-Islam’ movement continues to exist, despite its openly racist narrative – it is legal in the UK and has staged anti-Muslim protests across major cities just last week.

Join us on April the 20th to hear from Maz Saleem, the daughter of Mohammed Saleem, who lost his life as a direct result of Islamophobia.

We look forward to your valuable contribution in a lively discussion on Islamophobia and the rise of the right.


One thought on “Public meeting: Fighting Islamaphobia and the rise of the right”

  1. I don’t know if I will be able to get to the meeting on Islamophobia – I will try. So just in case, and anyway to give advance notice of some concerns, here are some concerns that I have.

    Although a part of common political language I doubt that the term “Islamophobia” has any real analytical value. Like the term “multiculuarism” it has become so heavily used by groups with an interest in the outcome (both pro and anti) that it is too charged with pre-conceptions to have any objective descriptive content. There are interest groups with an interest in demonstrating significant increases in “islamophobia” and others who want to show the reverse.

    Just what can be meant by “Islamophobia”? The ignorant racist who says that he or she hates Islam generally knows nothing about it. So what it is it that they are hating? They are hating brown/black people who they can pick out because of some kind of valid, or invalid, connection with Islam (typically clothing). Does it make sense to describe this as hatred of Islam rather than a case of straight racism which has grabbed a convenient label from common language?

    And what are we to say of someone who has very strong objections to Islam because they believe that many of its forms encourage sectarian attitudes to the advantage of so-called community leaders with an agenda of control and manipulation. Is such a person an Islamophobe? I see religion in the 21st century as an owewhelmingly harmful phenomenon. I believe that the closer any religion gets to social or political control the more its inherent intolerance comes to the fore. This, it seems to me, is well illustrated by the histories of all the Abrahamic religions.

    So there are reasons to be critical of religion in general and, given some of the current “muscular” forms of Islam associated with some very unattractive political regimes some special reasons to be concerned about Islam. In the same way one has the right to be concerned about the strident forms of Christianity in the USA or aggressive forms of Judiasm in Israel. My view is that the term “Islamophobia” mixes and confuses all these questions.

    I am also not at all keen on campaigns led by religious foundations. When Christians call at my door to ask for donations to this or that charity I say to them “I give to charties but not to religions ones. As a non-religious person I don’t want you to get any kudos from donations from people like me”. Quite a few have stomped off in a huff but that’s their problem.

    So I could not help noticing that TellMama is a “national project of Faith Matters”. Faith Matters was founded by Fiaz Mughal who is listed as the only member of the its “Board of Directors”.

    Faith Matters takes an overtly liberal stance regarding extremism. Thus the recent attacks on Christians in Egypt is commented on with “Islamist extremists need to be tackled head on by the State, but the reality is that the State is weak and unable to break up these networks. The future for the Copts is extremely precarious. We simply cannot allow them to be pushed out of their own country”. But is it really just a matter of the State? What is being said in the Mosques and by religious leaders? Where are the campaigns against such intolerance led by Egyptian Muslim leaders?

    I remember a very devout Muslim student of mine telling me years ago that he would not attend the Hounslow mosque in Wellington Road for Friday prayers. I asked why not and he said that he was not prepared to listen to the regular anti-Western diatribes which were, then, according to him, part of the normal offering. Maybe things have changed since then, I don’t know, but this illustrates my point that we should not give religions some kind of blank cheque on the grounds of their alleged peaceful and tolerant attitudes.

    Faith Matters also perpetuates the nonsense much favoured by Blair and Bush that “true Islam” like “true Christianity” is a “religion of peace”. Islam nor more than Christianity or Judaism is not one thing. It is many different and often contradictory things as the conflict between co-religionists of all three religions amply testifies.

    We read on the Faith Matter website that extremists seek to “undermine the history of majority Muslim countries as places where pluralism was alive and thriving”. This is just more special pleading and cannot be taken seriously. It may be true that in the middle ages Christian intolerance had the edge on Muslim intolerance but that is about all that can be said. The idea that either of them offer a historical model for modern liberal democratic society is just not serious.

    So my preference would be for combating racism in all its forms on a purely secular basis. If religious anti-racists want to participate then that is all to the good but I would like them to do so on the grounds of their anti-racism on not while claiming that their particular faith offers any kind of model for a tolerant society. We need to combat racism as citizens who may or may not happen to be religious believers.

    I also have some rather more specific doubts about the accuracy and objectivity of the materials on the TellMama website, starting with some of the statistics given, but I will raise those if I manage to get to the meeting.


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