Monday 6 August 2018

The Tory Uses of Islamophobia

I expect not many readers have time for Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, especially as she was happy to front up the most appalling policies of Dave's ancien regime. But her repeated criticisms of Islamophobia deserve attention because, well, the attention is lacking. The press are uninterested, and no Tory has broken cover to attack their party in the vociferous terms we find across the chamber. Quite the opposite - we see Boris Johnson going overboard with his ever-so-funny characterisation of burqa-wearing Muslim women as letter boxes. There is nothing from the party, nothing. Not even Sajid Javid, the most senior Muslim in the government, has said anything. All in all it's outrageous and disgusting. But why are they totally uninterested in doing anything about it?

In the day-to-day of politics, the Tories can expect to get little grief from the press. Apart from The Graun and perhaps The Mirror and Indy, who's going to hold Johnson and his rancid views to account? House journals like The Spectator and the party's Fleet Street branches aren't about to make a song and dance. Especially when they indulge Islamophobic scaremongering themselves and employ columnists to the same effect. Why call out the Tories when doing so is a) hypocritical and b) shines a spotlight on the press's own shitty behaviour? Being Tory and being Islamophobic then is well within the zone of non-punishment, which is where politicians want to be. Islamophobia, which has always been a cover for being racist toward Asians, is an acceptable racism as far as the right wing establishment is concerned.

It goes without saying there has always been a racist streak in the Tory Party. It is the party most indelibly marked by Britain's history of empire, and it never entirely shed its imperialist superiority complex a t the time Britain divested its colonial possessions. This has manifested in a subculture of Tory MPs for whom racism (and Islamophobia) is ideological glue, an episodic occasion for populist rabble-rousing, and a means of currying favour among the yellowing grass roots. The opportunist racism of a Johnson, the hob-nobbing with Steve Bannon by Gove and Rees-mogg, the banter and larfs of Aiden Burley's mate's Nazi stag do, the foaming Tiber of Enoch Powell's fevered imaginings, the crude racism of Winston Churchill. The Monday Club, the links with fascists, loyalists and far right military figures, the lineage is a rotten one, a shaming one. And, appallingly, one that isn't dead. This was something Dave and Osborne understood and tried stowing under the stairs, but their pains at embedding social liberalism came to nought. A veneer for electoral convenience is what it turned out to be, the bare minimum necessary so the Tories didn't look hopelessly out of touch with an increasingly socially liberal society. How else to explain Dave's hands-off, chillaxed approach to Zac Goldsmith's London mayoral campaign which, you will recall, relied on Islamophobia and terrorist dog whistles. And how easily it was all swept aside once Theresa May assumed office.

Which brings us to the other reason why the Tories won't deal with Islamophobia. Because it suits them. Political parties don't stand apart from the rest of society. Its prejudices are bound to appear and find some political expression in parties, though this doesn't happen evenly - it all depends on the communities of interest parties articulate and condense. For instance, one reason why all racism, including anti-semitism, is less prevalent in Labour than the Tories is because its political power rests upon the core of the organised workers' movement. Or, to put it in plain language, solidarity. It's been a hard road but over the course of this last century the labour movement has tackled racism in its own ranks, not least because racism cuts against the collective organisation of our power. The Tories, however, are a reactive outfit. They are an organisation of ruling interests for ruling interests, and are the natural inheritors of Britain's long history of managing large populations. Their tried and trusted method, at least in domestic politics, is fear-mongering. And when does this work best? When they have scapegoating - the ideal ingredients for a spot of divide-and-rule.

The truth is Islamophobia works as part of an electoral strategy. Not with everyone, of course, but recent polling suggests 40% of the populace harbour some kind of suspicion toward Muslims. For the Tories, beleaguered by Brexit and relying on older voters, they need something to stop their diminishing electoral coalition from falling apart further. Islamophobia is a handy lever to pull on in such times. For the would-be kippers flirting with, um, the kippers, a few racist comments from leading Tories is, the likes of Johnson hope, enough to let them know he is thinking what they are thinking. But this is far from the preserve of a few mavericks , the party as a whole benefits. You might be a nice liberal Tory in a leafy shire appalled by the pack of gammon who congregate at the association meetings, but you will stay quiet because they deliver your leaflets, and as far as you know are representative of the constituency.

This ultimately is why the Tories won't do anything to address Islamophobia. Because it's too useful.


Ken said...

Given the Tories obsession with the type of clothing worn by others, remember Cameron lambasting JC because he wasn’t wearing a bespoke suit?, (Smarten up!) it’s odd that the mpression given by Boris as Foreign Secretary didn’t come in for criticism. As he flew abroad to represent Britain his suit began to fit less and less well. I’m against throwaway fashion as much as, well as much as the next bloke, but there comes a point when you have to admit that the current suit does not fit. Increasingly he began to resemble a thuggish bouncer at a low rent club.
Actually, the bouncers at my local Wetherspoons at the weekend looked smarter than he does at the moment.
And as for his increasingly contorted attempt at gravitas by resembling a Churchillian growl, frankly, I’m beginning to be reminded of the insurance dog “Oh, yes!)
It’s odd that what is supposed to be society which obsesses over appearance that there remains no semiological analysis of his sartorial performance.

Boffy said...

There was nothing racist of itself in Bojo's statement that women wearing Burqas look like post boxes. Its no different to the many jokes about nuns looking like penguins, for example. That would not be anti-Catholic. Nor is it any different from someone saying that someone with an exaggerated Mohican looks like a bottle brush.

People are free to choose whatever fashion they choose, but likewise other people should be free to comment on it. Personally, as a Marxist I am all in favour of people mocking religion, and all of its ridiculous superstitions, rituals, and paraphernalia, as, for example, Dave Allen used to do. That is of course, different from mocking specific individuals.

I wouldn't go up to a nun, and say "You look like a penguin", for example, or to someone with a Mohican and say "You look like a bottle brush", unless it was someone I knew well, and who would take the comment in good heart. Where, as with nuns habits, or with Burqas whose existence itself stems from reactionary religious prejudices, and is based upon oppression of women, I think its all the more important to be able to speak out against that, and to mock the practice in general without mocking the individuals concerned.

But, the point about Bojo's comment is that what makes it racist is the intent behind it. He knows precisely what he is doing in making such a dog whistle comment. It is designed to rouse up the Tory troops behind him, on the basis of their racist beliefs, ready for when he makes his leadership challenge.

TheOnlySanePersonOnPlanetEarth said...

I have been reading this blog for a few years now and have noticed that you have consistently overblown the issue of anti Semitism and very much under reported the very real issue of Islamophobia, though I would call it just racism against Muslims and dark skinned people irrespective of their religion. In other words real racism by real racists.

As I said previously Islamophobia is a safe space for fascists and the reason it is a safe space for fascists is because of liberals like you!

It is telling that one of the few times you mention Islamophobia, the single biggest target of the far right across the Western world, it is simply to score political points against the Tories. Which simply reduces you to the level of the witch hunters.

Totally hopeless!

Phil said...

Imagine living in a world where an analysis that draws out the institutional racism of the Tories, which is reflective of Britain's place in the global structure of capital, and where pointing out why the Tories won't deal with Islamophobia is because they have an electoral interest in continuing to stoke it (among other things) is taken as symptomatic of a liberal analysis. Well imagine no longer - it's the sane old world of the sanest person on the planet.

TheOnlySanePersonOnPlanetEarth said...

A very disingenuous response I must say. Quite out of character!

I did contextualise my criticism of yours by pointing out that you have consistently underplayed Islamophobia in society, I was actually quite taken aback that you had even bothered to speak on the topic. Better late than never I guess.

“Imagine living in a world where an analysis that draws out the institutional racism of the Tories, which is reflective of Britain's place in the global structure of capital,”

You give yourself too much credit here with analysis and draws out. It’s hardly a dissertation is it!
It would be ok if you had had more to say on the matter beside this.

As for Britian’s place in the structure of global capital it should be pointed out that the 1945 manifesto was delivered with the help of Britian’s place in the structure of global capital, see Tony Norfield on this. Again this article is hardly a thesis on that subject.

To put it more bluntly, I am not disputing that the Tories are institutionally racist, after all they must reflect the society in which they spring, what I am disputing is that you give a fig for Islamophobia, If you really really were concerned by it you would have dealt with it far more frequently than you have done thus far.

So I accuse you of doing exactly what the Blairites (who know a thing or 2 about immigration controls by the way) are doing, using racism to score cheap political points. It just happens that you point out real things and the Blairites don’t.

Maybe I have judged you wrong and in your next post you will deal with why no one else, never mind the Tories, will deal with Islamophobia and widen the issue a bit! Maybe this is the first in a long series of articles on this grave matter.

Or maybe I am right!

Johny Conspiranoid. said...

I think your analysis is good and also liberal.

Kamo said...

Not a fan of Boris, but don’t think his comments about women concealing their identities are Islamophobic, for the simple reason that it’s not a religious requirement; in native British culture it is considered suspicious to conceal one’s identity with no justifiable reason.

There are also some important contradictions skimmed here, 'an increasingly socially liberal society' is recognised but not the suspicion stemming from sizeable Muslim communities who resist integration with same society; those stubbornly clinging to pre-modern, socially illiberal cultural conventions often more socially illiberal than those charged at 'Islamophobes'. The wider contradiction is that those resisting integration often migrated to the UK to exploit the advantages of a (relatively) more modern liberal society, only to cling to the pre-modern, socially illiberal cultural conventions holding back their ancestral homes.

It’s easy to charges 'Islamophobia' and challenge the Government/the Tories to engage with Muslims and to shake off prejudice, but this isn’t a one-way street, if these people are serious there should be an equally vociferous challenge to socially illiberal Muslims to move towards modern socially liberal behaviour.

George Carty said...

How much is Islamophobia among socially-conservative voters driven by envy of close-knit Muslim families?

Kamo said...

Maybe those Tories are simply envious they don't get the same leeway when it comes to socially illiberal attitudes?

CCAAC said...

The committee would like it noted that Kamo is a fellow traveller of Boffy!

I think that says it all.

Well, maybe not but please read this article which most certainly does say it all, particularly regarding the Yvette Cooper loving centre left:

Boffy said...

Boffy would like it noted that Kamo is a sock puppet of CCAAC/BCFG/DFTM et al.

CCAAC said...

KAMO has never been a member of the committee or the wider movement.

The committee have only noted that Boffy never criticises such open racist ideology that KAMO promotes, but does attack anyone standing up for the rights of the oppressed around the world.

Can we urge all activists to read the link we posted above, it scathingly takes a swipe at social chauvinists and pro imperialists such as Boffy, explaining why these people are every bit as much the enemy as the likes of Trump.

Boffy said...

Boffy would like it noted that its been now 5 days since I noted that KAMO is just another sock puppet of our resident sad and lonely troll along with his other sock puppets the Sentinel, BCFG, DFTM, Chris, Dave and now appropriately for someone with such a range of multiple identities the Committee.

Its been some time since our sad and lonely troll utilised the KAMO sock puppet as a convenient foil to bash over the head with his truncheon, and to line up as a hate figure to artificially attach to his real target. So, perhaps its no surprise that our sad and lonely troll rushed to deny that KAMO was a member of the Committee, whilst having put the KAMO sock puppet back in its box, at the bottom of his Punch and Judy stall, he forgot to get it out again, and log in using that persona so as to deny any association with the Committee.

Anonymous said...

How does Kamo know what's going on in British Muslim society?

CCAAC said...

The committee only just saw Boffy's response to the KAMO affair.

KAMO is not part of the committee or the wider movement, he is simply a racist that Boffy never criticises.

We would be grateful if the blog owner could confirm that KAMO and the Committee are 2 different posters and put an end to Boffy's slanders and attempts at distracting from the issues, a sure fire sign of his pro imperialist, social chauvinistic instincts.

And this is another good time to urge colleagues to read the link that exposes the likes of Boffy for what they are, not trolls or bogeymen just pure apologists for the crimes of the ruling gangster class.