Anti-fascists must fill the political vacuum the EDL aim to exploit
In a press release earlier about tomorrow’s static EDL demonstration, Peter Tatchell wrote:
Islamist fundamentalists mirror the right-wing ideology of the BNP and EDL. In fact, they are far worse. They want to establish a religious dictatorship, ban trade unions and political parties and deny women equal human rights. They endorse hatred and violence against Jewish, Hindu and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. Muslims who do not conform to their harsh interpretation of Islam are harassed and threatened. They support terrorism and the suicide bombing of innocent civilians. Not even the BNP and EDL are this extreme.
For a few on the Left, tomorrow’s counter-protest has one minor caveat, in that it will centre around the East London Mosque (ELM).
In 2009, the London Muslim Centre, which is part of the ELM, located adjacent to it, hosted a video link of 9/11 spiritual leader Anwar al-Awlaki, as part of a conference on the “end of days” – advertising poster of which illustrated bombs dropping over a darkened New York City.
A statement by the ELM noted:
A video of al-Awlaki was shown by an external hirer on 1 January 2009 in which he talked about life after death. Nothing controversial or extreme was said in the video.
But as has been pointed out before, would we allow an White Nationalist to deliver an address on something, provided s/he said nothing that could be interpreted as controversial? The answer is probably not.
The other excuse given was the ELM were not aware of al-Awlaki’s extremism. This seems highly unlikely. Many have claimed that after 2006, when al-Awlaki was arrested, he became radicalised, but not before that. However in 2003 al-Awlaki spoke to another audience at the ELM, where he “addressed Muslims on the subject of terrorism arrests in the UK and urged them to never report on or turn over their fellow Muslims”.
He went on:
A Muslim is a brother of a Muslim, he does not oppress him, he does not betray him and he does not hand him over…You don’t hand over a Muslim to the enemies…
But this is just one example of extremely unpalatable views. As Shiraz Maher pointed out:
- In 2005 he translated the works of Yusuf al Uyayree – a supporter for jihadist causes and fundraiser for Chechens. Al-Awlaki wasn’t simply translating innocently; in the editors preface it is noted: “Imam Anwar al Awlaki brings this book back to life in his lecture series on the book.”
- In 2003 he also translated a book called the Book of Jihad – written by a 14th Century jihadist, Ibn Nuhaas. “It is regarded as a classical work on jihad and is endorsed by countless militants today.” Al-Awlaki praised the book and its ideas at this time, chapters of which have titles like: CHAPTER 1: ON THE COMMAND OF JIHAD AGAINST THE NON BELIEVERS AND ITS MANDATE, AND THE STERN WARNING AGAINST THOSE WHO DON’T PRACTICE JIHAD; CHAPTER 7: THE VIRTUES OF KILLING A NON-BELIEVER FOR THE SAKE OF ALLAH
The ELM may have said they had al-Awlaki there for the debate – in which case he shouldn’t address the audience unopposed – but to say they had no idea strikes me as weak.
But all this aside, tomorrow should be about going and protesting against the EDL – for you’re unlikely to hear them make a coherent separation between Islam and jihadi extremism (as I had the fortune of finding out on the comments thread of this blog entry).
Further, we cannot ignore the fascist presence inside the EDL.
In sum, going back to Peter Tatchell’s earlier press release:
The failure of anti-fascists and the left to speak out against Islamist fundamentalists has created a political vacuum, which the EDL is seeking to exploit and manipulate.To be credible and effective, opponents of the EDL need to be consistent by also taking a stand against the Islamist far right.
Only this way can we offer a principled alternative to the EDL, which isolates and targets the extremists without demonising the whole Muslim population.