Attack on City Central mosque, Stoke-on-Trent

Stoke-on-Trent was one of the key battlegrounds for the British National Party last election, and has also been a focal point for the English Defence League.

Modernity has disturbing news about an attack on City Central mosque in Stoke-on-Trent. Police were called early on Friday morning when a gas pipe was discovered to have been diverted into the mosque and lit. They have arrested four teenagers and are treating the incident as a racist attack on a religious building.

There’s no point the British National Party acting shocked about this and trying to dissociate themselves from this. They continue to lay the foundations for violence by insisting that some people belong in this country because they are ‘indigenous’, and those who are not should be given the signal to leave. That is not a peaceful strategy that can be pursued by peaceful means.

On the English Defence League

In June, Ben Gidley’s Dissent blog post characterised the aggressively pro-Western, anti-Islamic, anti-multicultural English Defence League as currently ideologically diverse and unstable, but capable of becoming a politically sustainable movement under certain circumstances.

Conditions now seem conducive to this. Dagenham MP Jon Cruddas observes that the English Defence League is coalescing into a movement with more purpose, and now constitutes a bigger threat than the BNP.

Ben’s post gives consideration to how to respond to the EDL:

“I genuinely have no suggestions then about the best way to respond to the EDL in the short term, but the nature of the EDL seems to me to have clear implications about how to defeat them in the long term.  In the long term, we need a politics that mounts a robust defense of the best elements of the Western enlightenment tradition against the genuine threat posed by Islamism. If we leave this defense to arch-reactionaries, we’ve failed in advance. One aspect of this is surely to engage with those forces within the communities targeted by the EDL who also care about Western democratic values, which is why campaigns like One Law for All and grassroots organizations like Southall Black Sisters are so important.

Second, we need to foster an ethics of hospitality and solidarity, so that the communities which the EDL seeks to inflame and divide are immunized against their provocations. This means we need to actually make the arguments for the value of immigration, cultural diversity, and religious tolerance. Since 2001 we have generally failed in this. Within Guardian-reading enclaves these values are just taken for granted, while in local and national politics the mainstream Left has been reticent about defending them to the point of silence. The absence of a debate has enabled the anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim Right to dominate the discourse while claiming an underdog status in relation to the liberal elite. People who are concerned about the impact of migration in their areas or about the threat Islam might pose are made to feel vaguely ashamed (as with Gillian Duffy, confronted with the prime minister calling her a bigot), but the counter-arguments are simply not articulated. The moment to articulate them is now long overdue.”

Jon Cruddas ends his piece with intent:

“The threat of the EDL and the wider cultural war must be taken seriously. That is why we will soon be establishing a broad-based group to formulate a response. The right has become very organised; it is time for those of us who believe in a decent progressive society to do the same.”

Shunning the English Defence League

Late but important:

That’s the EDL.


European Jewish Congress concern over Swiss referendum on minarets

The European Jewish Congress defends equal treatment of Swiss Muslims:

Following the referendum in Switzerland concerning the construction of minarets, the European Jewish Congress reiterates the position of its Swiss affiliate SIG in “speaking out firmly in favour of equal treatment and justice and against laws of any type which are intended to apply specifically to certain religious communities.”

The European Jewish Congress defends freedom of religion and religious practice as a fundamental human right, including the right to build places of worship.

Scapegoating Muslims for the heroin trade

Attributing a pestilence or catastrophe of the day to a social group is one of the most common forms of bigotry, and a point of overlap between antisemitism and Islamophobia. Blaming Jews for the financial crisis is one example. Another is the leaflets accusing Muslims of crimes against humanity which were circulated in Preston, Lancashire.

Viewing phenomena through a prism is prejudiced, and most of us are prejudiced. Prejudice is a precondition for making sense of the world; if you don’t have a prism then you experience the world as an undifferentiated barrage of happenings between which you’re unable to prioritise. But if that prism is religion, ethnicity or nationality (not to mention sex, sexual orientation, age, and other immutable aspects of identity) it is bigoted. If you’re also looking for a group on which to lay the blame, you are looking for a scapegoat. None of these ways of thinking are against the law. The incitement to hatred kicks in if you publicly castigate your scapegoat and attempt to persuade others to see things your way. At that stage you have stepped outside the law.

None of this is obvious or to be taken for granted, as the thought-out incomprehension on Stormfront about the islamophobic heroin leaflets shows.

Marwa El Sherbini

This needs to be surfaced. Nearly a week ago in a Dresden courthouse a 32 year old pregnant woman, Marwa El Sherbini, was stabbed to death in a frenzied attack. Her killer was the man against whom she had just won a defamation case for hate speech – she wore a headscarf and he’d called her “terrorist”. Her husband Elwi Okaz, a geneticist, was critically injured when he intervened, and their three-year-old son was present. Bikya Masr says the man, who is reported not to be affiliated to a far right organisation, had a deep hatred of foreigners.

This hate crime was a fatal nexus of Islamophobic sentiment at a time when the veil is being argued over in Europe. Egyptians, including Eman Abdel Rahman, have been disgusted by the media silence.

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