Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Islam4UK Banned: A Socialist View

From the BBC:
[Home secretary Alan] Johnson said: "I have today laid an order which will proscribe al-Muhajiroun, Islam4UK, and a number of the other names the organisation goes by.

"It is already proscribed under two other names - al-Ghurabaa and The Saved Sect.

"Proscription is a tough but necessary power to tackle terrorism and is not a course we take lightly.

"We are clear that an organisation should not be able to circumvent proscription by simply changing its name."
And so the amateur controversialists in al-Muhajiroun have had a banning order slapped on them.

However, from the point of view of the ever-eroding democracy we have in Britain this is indefensible. Nor is it particularly a wise move from a "security" point of view.

That al-Muhajiroun and its various front groups are deeply unpleasant and reactionary is incontrovertible. Yet they are perfectly entitled to their opinions. Ideologically they may be profoundly illiberal and downright anti-socialist, but as far as I'm aware they do not intimidate their opponents or seek to physically disrupt their activities. They pose zero threat to what liberals and conservatives call 'civil society', nor do they significantly challenge the labour movement. True, their brand of political Islam plays into the hands of Islamophobic scare mongering by the gutter press and the far right, but is that reason enough to ban them? That they have a membership among Muslims comparable to the most irrelevant and shrill elements of the Trotskyist left demonstrates the lack of resonance their ideas have.

According to the same BBC report, al-Muhajiroun's founder-leader Omar Bakri Muhammad said of the news "I think it is a grave mistake because it will force them underground". For once, he speaks a truth. Study after study has shown that there is a minority of Muslim-Asian youth who are profoundly alienated from British society for a whole host of reasons. While it is true al-Muhajiroun has only recruited a tiny percentage of this layer their victimisation at the hands of the state can act to *enhance* their status as a radical Islamic answer to the status quo. Is that really what anyone who cares about deepening democracy in British society wants?

Yes, it does appear there are "coincidences" between al-Muhajiroun membership and bomb plots, in the same way there's coincidences between BNP membership/support and would-be terrorists. But neither fundamentalist Islam or white nationalism by themselves *cause* terroristic actions. They, like the ideas they seek inspiration from, have their well-spring deep in the bowels of a deeply unequal, authoritarian and alienating society. Being tough on terrorism requires being tough on the causes of terrorism - and that requires a politics committed to profound social change. Unfortunately for Alan Johnson, while his ban on Islam4UK will secure some positive headlines it will do nothing to ameliorate the sources of disaffection.


Anonymous said...

Agreed. This order makes my skin crawl.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

I note the coward's face is covered in he picture.


Simon said...

There's alot to be said for this ban, may as well follow it up with a ban on the BNP as well.

Anonymous said...

There's alot to be said for this ban, may as well follow it up with a ban on the BNP as well.

And pretty much anyone you disagree with, yeah?

Measures like these, here deployed against an extreme right organisation, can easily be deployed against left-wing 'domestic extremists'. Anyone who thinks otherwise is naive in the extreme.

This move sets a disturbing precedent.

SamG said...

This ban is a disgrace. There is no way the BNP or EDL will be banned. Galloway was correct, you make war against Muslims abroad, you will eventually make war with them at home.

More reasons to detest New Labour.

This machine kills fascists said...

they're fascists

but don't ban em, fuck em up

Phil said...

Well Simon, by the Home secretary's logic if we're to ban Islam4UK for its terror connections the same argument can be made in relation to the BNP. But just for the record, I don't want to see the BNP banned. It's up to the labour movement to stamp their influence out.

Simon said...

I don't think there's a clear disconnect between the two. What if we stamp them out by means of forcing the state to take action?

Further, such an idea would be nice if we were in any position to do so but the Labour movement is week. Further, let us consider the plan of these groups. Islam4UK wants to provoke violence from BNP/EDL types (or maybe average joes) so as to inspire reprisal violence from those muslims currently on the fence. Both groups are trying to stir up a hate war in Britain. How is this to be stopped? Taking a progressive working class presence (along with moderate muslims) onto the streets to oppose both groups is the best thing we can do, but the tabloids already know what they will write.

The ban is an easy option. It stops Islam4UK from ramping up support for the BNP/EDL. If that is cutting some sacred corners then I'm okay with that.

Simon said...


And pretty much anyone you disagree with, yeah?

Both of these groups advocate violence against me and many others. With such advocacy comes a certain degree of responsibility for ones actions. These organisations have crosses where I consider that line to be. You may disagree with my assessment of where that line lies but please don't pretend no line exists, that freedom of speech is without limits (even if it's just giving the order to 'fire'), you're smarter than that.

In response to your second paragraph, yes such measured could be used against left-wing organisations. But that's a separate battle altogether.

Highlander said...

Think you've pretty much covered it. You make war with them abroad and then ban their, in this case, extremist movements at home and straight away you've alienated a portion of your own population even further AND given grist to the organisation that you banned.

From the BBC: Islam4UK spokesman Anjem Choudary told BBC Radio 4: "What the people will see is if you don't agree with the government and you want to expose their foreign policy, then freedom quickly dissipates and turns into dictatorship."

And, as Duncan says, you can start applying bans across the board for anyone whose ideas your not keen on. I wonder if Johnson will reload and take the other foot off?

Anonymous said...


Sorry for the initial irritable response.

However, I think it's mistaken to regard the deployment of legal restrictions against left-wing groups as a 'seperate battle' to bans on extreme right groups.

If 'advocating violence' is to be the criteria for banning organisations then the focus can easily switch to left 'extremist' groups. For example, any environmental group which advocates direct action (which is basically a form of coercion) could be criminalised on these grounds.

Similarly, 'The State and Revolution' has some pretty strong stuff in it and I reckon some passages could be construed as advocating violence against a fair number of people. Better get the purveyors and distributers of that banned.

Whatever our views about the acceptable limits of freedom of speech we should oppose state bans for reasons of self-preservation.

claude said...

I'm afraid I disagree with you guys. I'm in favour of this ban, I just think it should have come earlier and here I explain why explain why.

claude said...

"freedom quickly dissipates and turns into dictatorship", Choudary said...

...since when does he care? I thought that's what he wanted!

Dominic Smith said...

I've never been a fan of the Spart, Ibt and others approach of just mindlessly quoting from the likes of Lenin and Trotsky in order to arrive at solutions to contemporary problems, the tradition of the SP/CWI, even going as far back as the 30's and 40's in the Workers International League and Revolutionary Communist Party when we were up against a stagnant, doctrinaire international leadership, has been to apply the 'method' of Marxism to analyse events.

None the less, we are far from discarding past contributions and currently, as has been dealt with in the previous post about the split in the Russian CWI section, we are virtually alone among the larger far-left organisations and international groupings in relation to our defence of many Marxist, Bolshevik and Trotskyist conceptions, while they are drifting further and further to the right and we attempt to develop our cadre though, along with a practical embracing and involvement in activism, a grounding in the Marxist classics, combined with ongoing discussions and debate.

All this has been a rather round about way of recommending comrades check out Trotsky's very short article 'Freedom of the Press and the Working Class' from 1938. Again as I stressed at the beginning, I am certainly not advocating we simply bow down before the sacred worlds of the old man, who's views on the question of bourgeois censorship echo comrade Phil and other SP comrades who have already contributed, but in attempting to arrive at an informed and well developed position on this issue and indeed any issue we should study the lessons of history and past contributions to see what we can take from them.


aberfoyle said...

This form of state sanctioned censorship should be opposed.It sets a precedent and is an errosion of our civil liberties,and it begs the question who is next,anti capitalist political parties workers orginisations enviromental activists the list goes on.

The law is undemocratic and has Orwellian undertones.

Proper Tidy said...

Duncan has it spot on when he says "Whatever our views about the acceptable limits of freedom of speech we should oppose state bans for reasons of self-preservation" - and this is why...


EddM said...

Yes, we can't support a state ban on them anymore than we would on the BNP. It does raise the question of whether or not to "no platform" groups like this, I think there would be more disagreement on that perhaps.

It does make me wonder though, will Choudary be immediately arrested as soon as this takes effect, or have to go through some public "I am not, or have I ever been, a member of Islam4UK" routine?

Safiya Outlines said...

From a Muslim perspective, I think the ban is an excellent thing, as it will finally stop the media printing every banal uttering 'Andy' Choudary makes.

For too long now, the pathetic antics of Islam4UK have been used as a stick to beat the Muslim community with, leading to increased harassment and abuse of Muslims.

To quote something I read elsewhere:
"Choudary needs a good kicking, he won't get one. It'll be some uncle coming back from the masjid or a sister doing her shopping instead."

Oh, and I loathe the term 'moderate Muslim', but that's another story.