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The Left's Unholy Alliance With Religious Bigotry By: Nick Cohen
Guardian Unlimited | Monday, March 03, 2003


The satisfaction of an anti-war movement which persuaded one million people to tell Iraqis they must continue to live under a tyranny has been disturbed by a dispute among the comrades on the vexed questions of gender and sexual orientation.

My reference last week to the decision of the Stop the War coalition to ally with the Muslim Association of Britain has provoked a few of its supporters to examine the beliefs of their new friends. Not everyone likes what they see. The association, whose members are mainly Arabs, isn't a strong force in British Islam. It is a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood which wants a religious tyranny to enforce Islamic law. A supporter explained to the communist Weekly Worker that existing Muslim governments were far too permissive. 'We see no genuine Muslim states in the world today - Saudi Arabia and places like that profess to be Muslim states but this is untrue.'

The association believes the punishment for Muslims who abandon their faith should be death and that Israel should be abolished. Although it didn't support the 11 September atrocities, it refused to condemn the al-Qaeda killings in Mombasa because Israelis were the target. One small group, the Alliance for Workers' Liberty, protested that the coalition was promoting reactionary Islam rather than Muslims with 'democratic, secular and internationalist ideals,' but it was overruled by the Socialist Workers Party.

In Marxist terms, the Trotskyists have preferred feudal theocracy to bourgeois democracy which - in non-Marxist terms - is disgraceful and stupid, as a few members of the far Left are starting to realise.

'I ask all you women haters why you protest against one form of violence (war) while supporting the violence against women in Islamic countries (and presumably the West too)?' says one reader of the uk.indymedia website. A gay reader announces: 'I give this warning to the next SWP paper seller I see on Gay Pride: keep the hell away from us.'

But before the complaints got out of hand, order was restored and the debate concluded by a reader who cried that people who condemn fundamentalists were the victims of a 'desperate' plot hatched by 'MI5/Special Branch.' Well spotted, Comrade.

Single-issue campaigning always brings strange alliances and it's silly to be over-fastidious. Those of us who can't see any way other than war to remove a tyrant who has killed hundreds of thousands and forced four million into exile are in bed with Tony Blair, a novel experience, but there you are.

It's one thing, however, to see the upholders of sharia law join your demonstration. It is quite another to invite them to co-host your demonstration and embrace them as brothers. The absence of principle is matched only by the absence of intelligence. What is the Left offering Iraq? It has no strategy other than the continuation of a brutal status quo. It can't support the Iraqi democrats because they say Saddam can only be overthrown by violence.

It can't support the Iraqi Kurds because they agree. It has been reduced to allying with religious bigots, the deadliest enemy of those best and brightest Muslims who offer that rare commodity in the Islamic world, hope.




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