“Islam is not a race” – a complete waste of everyone’s time.

I have already written one post clarifying what is meant by Islamophobia. Now it looks like I’ll have to write one saying why I think it has racist content.

Obviously on the surface it claims to be criticism of a religion – but this itself isn’t anything anyone has a problem with, if done with human decency at least. It’s more the whole burning down mosques and stabbing elderly men. Or even just the spitting.

To reiterate – nobody objects to you criticising a religion. We object to you abusing people or behaving in a bigoted or prejudiced way towards them, in this case people who are Muslims.

Clever voices are often deliberately stupid

A big part of the problem with the rising levels of fear Muslims now have to undergo as they go about their day to day lives is that discourse from the liberal press and intelligentsia helps to solidify hard nationalist and/or Islamophobic opinion by agreeing with the notion that political crimes by Muslims are not about individual agency, but a ‘faith problem’. ‘We are only criticising their faith’ is a cry that come from liberals almost as often as the apologists for far-right organisations and discourse that smatter the toilet walls of twitter.

That’s all very well to say from a newspaper building or a Reuters platform, but is ignorant of the effect it has in the real world where Muslims are being attacked. This is a material fact, normally the first category of information the liberally inclined parts of the left of centre chooses to ignore.

As well as such concrete facts, there are also facts that are political.

Race politics in British capitalism – a political fact

Islam is not a ‘race’. It’s a proxy for many races in Islamophobic discourse. Lumping these cultures together is part of what is offensive. Meanwhile, there are many organised people out there who are not happy with ‘outside’ culture or races, and will happily raise points about both, as part of a deeper divisive agenda. How to respond? Well, who knows?

But here’s another question – do they influence those of us who think themselves far more reasonable?

The idea that the cultures (and worse, individuals) are all defined purely by faith is racist, and the idea that the faith is monolithic is itself built on a refusal to accept the diversity between various predominantly Muslim cultures.

Somehow then we have generated at least one seldom discussed example of a religion specific bigotry built on generalisations about race.

Further to that, Islam is then used to target people at least in some measure because they do not look white. Firstly is is used to that end by groups such as the BNP. Does anyone really believe that they didn’t make a tactical turn toward talking about culture and identity rather than straight up eugenics? Or that this thinking isn’t also inherent to the base of the EDL, and its leadership? Liberal press, please stop ignoring this. It’s real.

Many impressions about Islam and what it means for Muslims are prejudiced, often because those making the judgements are from a different ethno-linguistic and cultural background. This is racist.

Secondly, Islam is used as a general targeting mechanism for a range of primarily Muslim groups by racists. This is also both real and racist.

Thirdly, taken together, this means prejudice and difficult living for people who are Muslims, regardless of what their idea of Islam or their wider personhood is like – something that white Britons are not willing to endure. This is racist.

Fourth, the attacks which result as this culture change embeds itself are concentrated on those who appear look ‘visibly Muslim’, not close-shaven white Bosniaks or white converts. This is heavily racist.

There are four connected and well joined-up arguments as to why Islamophobia is inextricably linked to racism in the real world – whatever your own views happen to be on Islam as a theology or cultural influence.

And of course if religious critique is your aim, you are of course free to avoid stoking all of these things up and to simply do something like, I don’t know, not becoming a Muslim.

So if your only response is to say ‘Islam is not a race’, congratulations on showing yourself capable of deliberately missing the point. I’m proud of you.

However, I might think slightly more of you if you condemn people burning down mosques or stabbing Muslims before you set the world to rights on others’ choice of private faith. These things are pretty bad.

The oppression of Dan Hannan

While I welcome Dan Hannan’s long tradition of cross-ideological respect and general niceness, it’s interesting to read this piece, as I feel it may give an insight into why Dan is so right wing.

We all have our Weltanshaunge, and I’m no different. I live in a world where the right effectively dominates all forms of media, which is why it came as such a big surprise to me that the right was the first in this country to us blogging for real world political effect, as useful as blogging on the left has always been for making contacts and debating ideas.

For me, blogs offered your average every day socialist an opportunity to broadcast for free, in a media world ruled by the corporate capacity to editorialise and distribute, something the left, representing and comprising of those who are less well off and less in control of their own time, have little access to.

In Dan’s world, however, there genuinely is a big ugly biased BBC stalking the media world, and despite the enormous sales of right wing papers across all classes (a crucial aspect the left misses out on), and the various Sky News, ITV and 5 Live semi-monopolies leaning to the right in their every implicity, the BBCm secretly left wing despite all its impartiality policies, always gets in the way. Has he ever heard 5 Live?

It’s so far from my reality that it must have a part in demonstrating the difference between us.

What about the underlying logics? Does Dan Hannan believe that the right is oppressed, despite reaching far more people than the BBC and being able to heavily outspend Labour at elections? With all that private cash sloshing around among the people whose interests they put first?

Sign of the times

In a rather confused, agitated (agitating?) puff piece, the Times has broken cover to stand alongside its sister publication, the Sun, as an out-and-proud anti-Labour rag. The former newspaper of record was already virtually indistinguishable in any event.

Any pretence to balance, authority, nay, basic understanding of the political world… it is a thing long since departed. A close friend comments via gmail:

“I thought the Times was supposed to be a decent paper?
That article reads like the Mail, almost”

I must confess that in this fittingly critical first post, I am simply attempting to articulate in a more structured form a fractured mess of facebook bemusement. Sourced from a range of virtual acquaintances. Nevertheless, many of those assertions scattering the intertubes are nowt if not bang on.

Firstly, Mr Murdoch, it is difficult to understand why the Times seems so averse to Union backed candidates winning selection for, shock horror, a Labour Party.

A party linked to labour is what a Labour Party is. So it is fitting, then, that the Times has chosen to attack representation of union views in parliament at the same time that the Tories are busily trying to chip away at the union link, while preserving their link to the organised forces of capital. I wouldn’t even call them ‘business’; trade unionists depend on surplus producing ‘business’ just as much as senior personnel. For them, one form of economic organisation is acceptable (one that is massively undemocratic, dependent on hierarchical power relationships, and primarily advantages a minority interest within that grouping). Others are somehow a moving of the political goalpost.

Conservatives are in the habit of looking to America. In certain ways, this is healthy. Like all societies, the US has advantages and disadvantages. During the American Revolution, Tory predecessors, with the notable and heavily influential exception of Edmund Burke, stood against the American Revolution, its ideals, and its participants. Whiggish Radicals such as Charles James Fox backed the revolution wholeheartedly, and, despite this act of apparent treachery, maintained a large rump of parliamentary support.

In any event, as time passed into the full swing of Pax Victoriana, Britain was blessed with two parties who strongly emphasised the apparent differences between them. Some were significant, particularly the issues of free trade vs protectionism, political and religious freedom, and home rule for Ireland.

But despite these differences, way over half the country looked on with a total lack of understanding, mostly unable to vote, and if one should be so fortunate, faced with the choice between a shit and a shite. A large chunk of the population saw two parties with roundly similar policies and integral interests. These were parties of business owners who routinely and murderously ignored the greatest issue facing the country at the time; the plight of the massively expanded industrial working class, toiling in their millions for little reward in atrocious conditions, dying in their thousands as they built the railways, roads and bridges that business still profits from today, consumed as children in the mangles of weaving machines or the gas chambers of deep pits.

Men looked on from the benches, replete with their top hats, isolated, indifferent, and indistinguishable against the context. Many think that the main parties are too alike today. I would argue that this is because to a smaller or larger extent, they all represent capital as the a priori concern, no force pulls them the other way. There is an absence of opposition, and even an absence of compromise. This is more true in America, so admired by the Tories. Parties debate what kind of not-universal healthcare to have, what kind of regressive low rates of taxation they can implement, what variety of population, domestic or international, is worthy of oppression or abandonment, what kinds of guns they can let people carry around school.

This cosy irrelevance was even more true of the age here 1900. For all the lavish praise that constitutionalists and politicians heap on America, in a sense, and with great historical irony, it has preserved each of the trappings of political wrongness it tried to escape with independence.

For every action of political economy, there is a political response. The response in 1900 was great. The bulk of the population which existed in near slavery was forced to politically and industrially organise to defend its working men and their dependent families. Yet this, the need for jobs, sustenance and political representation as the final guarantee… it never come us when Tories discuss their ‘family values’. Unless they want to attack it.


A Labour Party was born. It broke consensus. And it needed to be there. It was demanded.


A Labour Party exists. It is sometimes allowed by the press into government, if it agrees not to represent its core values and core voters. Sometimes, like in 1945, it gets in anyway.

Some within it struggle ceaselessly for it to accept these external boundaries, for it to accept its own weakness as a movement and a body of opinion in the country. If it its subservience to the politics of papers like the Times and the Tories, who appear to hate the concept of trade unionists being represented alongside the top-hats, or funding, like business, a political party to represent them and the families who depend on them.

The times will attack the candidates, the Tories will attack their funding and the right of individual trade unionists to donate through their unions (you would never see that kind of thing with business donations). A Tory friend claims that I am being alarmist by saying this, but what they are attacking is the general concept of a Labour Party.

They want us to be Liberals circa 1900, and seeing as that’s not what most of Labour believes in, a few ultra-Blairites and the man himself aside, the Tories want to use their democratic mandate to make our party’s decision for us, through the law.

Next, they will be using the commons and the Serious and Organised Crime Agency to pass our conference resolutions for us.

Between Times and Tories, their merry tag team is attacking a reform to the political system which happened 110 years ago, the Lib/Lab split.

Their political ambition and paternal, undemocratic unscrupulousness knows no bounds.

As it happens, Labour currently demands in the rule book that members join a trade union if eligible to do so. Not so surprising then, that candidates usually turn out to be members.

As for the ‘left wingers’ (by which the times means anyone left Murdoch, presumably), I noticed that the Times piece didn’t include any criticism of the bonkers right-wingers, the Donal Blaney lickspittles who line the benches opposite. But someone suggesting we shouldn’t allow predatory advertisers to target kids for pester power (for that was the real proposed policy)… that’s just wrong, surely?

The Trade Unionists who founded the Labour Party were preceded by Chartists, who won working-class people the vote. They did not just do so as a result of industrial activity; indeed, for much of their period of agitation, unions were actually banned outright (perhaps David Cameron will leave this one for the next manifesto).

They were primarily political, not industrial.

As such, progressive who have diverted from the Liberal/Tory stitch up ever since 1900 have been characterised by patterns of alliances between political socialists and social democrats, and those whose interests they believe they represent, primarily represented by Trade Unions.

I shan’t claim that Compass have any comparison of value to Chartists, because I’m not an idiot in totality. But why is the Times so concerned that voters might now be able to choose to elect people who believe in and work for left-of-centre values? Why are they so concerned that the leadership of the Labour Party is no longer quite as committed to control freakery and nepotism as a matter of routine practise?

I have an alternative proposal, you see. Let people select candidates, fund them domestically and openly (not that Labour has a perfect record on this), then let people vote for who they want to vote for.

We can have democracy without this kind of utter nonsense, and it would be a lot easier to achieve if people ignored the hysterical alarmism that now seems so routine for Britain’s abused post-broadsheet.

Oh yes, just to round off, once again sourced from facebook

“The Times appalled 14 new of Labour’s new candidates have worked for a union. GMB says 63 Tory candidates come from banking and finance.”

I won’t go in for the divisive Thatcherite rhetoric of ‘enemies within’, but as it happens, as much as I think financial expertise should be valued, I think that trade unionists have played a defter hand over the last couple of years than the Tory banking establishment, hmm?

Trade unionists, right or wrong for the country, want to protect their jobs, their colleagues, and the well-being of their children. What do the bankers on the opposite bench want?

See. There’s a reason for unions in politics.