Opinion

A Clash of the Uncivilised

A Clash of the Uncivilised

Trump, Muslim Profiling and the Far-Right’s Assault

Donald Trump’s suspension of new refugee admissions for 120 days and the barring of nationals from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia for 90 days (likely to be extended) is fundamentally about a far-right restructuring of US society under the guise of ‘stopping terrorism’ and defending ‘Western civilisation’ whilst hiding behind ‘acceptable’ bigotry against migrants and Muslims.

It’s similar to the rise of Islamism and its far-right restructuring of many societies in the Middle East and elsewhere under the guise of stopping “imperialism” and defending “Islamic civilisation” whilst hiding behind the industry of offence and “Islamophobia”.

Despite its packaging of counter-terrorism and border protection, the rise of far-right politics is part and parcel of the well-wrought assault on the fundamental rights of people in the US and Europe where policies imposed on the “other” are now being openly imposed right here at home.

The assault on women’s and reproductive rights, refugee rights, citizenship rights, welfare, health services, environment, education, legal aid, human rights, freedom of expression, freedom of the press, freedoms to strike and organisation … as well as the increasing privatisation and commercialisation of – well just about everything – are the real stories here.

The aims of the Islamists, Trump and Brexit are to dismantle citizenship rights, further lower living standards, and impose additional austerity measures whilst removing remaining constraints on capitalism. The sacred (be it religion, national borders, identity or culture) is used to manage and control dissent, vilify and eventually criminalise those deemed different.

As is always the case, the first lines of attack are women and the most vulnerable in society.

The advance of the far-right has depended in large part on the normalisation of their narrative, which includes cultural relativism; homogenisation of entire communities and societies;  limiting free expression; legitimising violence; feigning persecution; blaming the victim; reliance on religion, misogyny, homophobia and anti-Semitism; criminalisation of the other; subversion of the truth; use of threats and scaremongering; and identity politics.

The answer to this calamity is not strengthening one far-right over the other.

Wearing hijabs at protests or continuing to have the Muslim Council of Britain or Linda Sarsour as the “authentic” representatives of the fight-back plays into the Islamist narrative just as defending Muslim profiling, calling for the prioritisation of Christian refugees and promoting Trump or Brexit as the “authentic” voice of the disillusioned plays into the hands of the right-wing Christians.

Siding with either legitimises the subversion of truth and the politics of hate and fear. It helps them, wittingly or unwittingly, in their clash of the uncivilised at the expense of us all, across borders and boundaries, real or imagined.

The principled response to the rise of the far-Right and regressive identity politics has to be one that defends humanity – all of it – irrespective of beliefs, immigration status, race, gender, nationality and sexuality.

Defending the equal rights of those who do not think or look like you, an insistence on universalism, an unequivocal defence of secularism and civil rights as well as welfare before profit are important starting points. The magnificent protests at US airports in support of migrants and refugees are a great case in point.

Today, more than ever, we need politics that puts truth and the human being at the centre – not religion, nationality, race, gender or migration status.

Politics that start and ends with our common humanity.

Politics that break, not builds, walls.

A few points on profiling

“Muslim” profiling has now been imposed by Donald Trump via an Executive Order with its brutal consequences unfolding before our very eyes. Revisiting the main reasons one must oppose it as I had previously discussed in Sam Harris’ “Waking Up” podcast is a matter of urgency. (The full transcript of the podcast, including small sections that had been edited from the aired podcast, is available here.)

According to New America, every jihadist who conducted a lethal attack inside the United States since 9/11 was a citizen or legal resident. A quarter are converts. 15 of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi nationals whilst others were from the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Lebanon.  What this evidence makes very clear is that the issue of terrorism is not linked to migration status.

Moreover, whilst certain regimes like the Iranian or Saudi regimes are the perpetrators of terrorism, there is a distinction between regimes and the nationals of those countries.

Also, blaming every Iranian or Muslim for the crimes of Islamist terrorists is like blaming all whites or Christians or Americans for those killed by white supremacists.

Whatever the nationality, immigration status or belief of the perpetrators, it is unjust to hold entire populations collectively responsible for the homicide and mass murder committed by individuals.

Whilst still very imperfect, fairer justice systems have developed somewhat to move away from collective retribution and revenge to individual accountability for crimes committed. Trump’s Executive Orders blame masses of people whose only “crime” has been to be born in a specific geography or have certain religious beliefs, real or imputed.

It is important to note that since 9/11 more people have been killed in the US by white supremacists than Islamists. Based on Trump’s logic, should white Christians be placed on registries, targeted and banned en mass or should those who have committed the actual killings be prosecuted?

The homogenisation of entire societies and countless refugees denies plurality and diversity amongst those labelled Muslims. Don’t forget, there is a tsunami of atheism in many countries under Islamic rule, other religious minorities, and many who don’t consider religion to be the most important marker that defines them.

Also, no one understands the need for secularism better than those living under the boot of the religious-right. Clearly, just because someone is white or Christian doesn’t make them a white supremacist that will go on to murder innocent people praying at a mosque; the same applies to Muslims or Iranian, Iraqi or Somali nationals.

More importantly, scapegoating Muslims and migrants conveniently ignores the US’ role in perpetrating terrorism globally, including via its militarism or ongoing support of states like Turkey’s Erdogan and the Saudi regime.

As many security experts will attest, racial or ethnic profiling just doesn’t work; behavioural profiling does, as does targeting the far-Right white supremacist or Islamist groups rather than white people or Muslims or migrants. The reality is that most of the terrorists who have carried out attacks are already known to the authorities in various countries because of their links with groups that promote terrorism.

Of course in the post-truth era, facts don’t matter. The far-right needs scapegoats in order to whip up populist hysteria against the most vulnerable so it can go ahead with its assault on people’s lives and rights.

Eventually they will come for you. And the only way to stop them is to fight for those they come for first.  El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido.

14 responses to “A Clash of the Uncivilised”

  1. Brian Jordan says:

    The aims of the Islamists, Trump and Brexit are to dismantle citizenship rights, further lower living standards, and impose additional austerity measures whilst removing remaining constraints on capitalism. The sacred (be it religion, national borders, identity or culture) is used to manage and control dissent, vilify and eventually criminalise those deemed different.
    As is always the case, the first lines of attack are women and the most vulnerable in society.

    So Islamism, Trump and Brexit are much of a muchness?
    Women the first line of attack by “Brexit”? Show me! Getting free from laws made by unelected bureaucrats is much the same as being subdued by religious maniacs? Brexit dismantling citizenship rights, when just about the first thing May did was to offer a deal to the EU for rights for their nationals already in the UK – which was rejected out of hand by those bureaucrats?
    No wonder you say
    Of course in the post-truth era, facts don’t matter.
    It grieves me to read you making such rhetorical claims, when I have admired you and your writing for years. I think of the three, that one’s definitely down to Trump: driving people into over-egging the pudding.

  2. remigius says:

    “The aims of the Islamists, Trump and Brexit are to dismantle citizenship rights, further lower living standards, and impose additional austerity measures whilst removing remaining constraints on capitalism.”

    I didn’t realise that Islamism was all about removing remaining constraints on capitalism – I thought it had something to do with religion and theocracy and imposing sharia and stuff.

    I also thought it was the EU that imposed austerity on its member states, including the UK, and removed constraints on capitalism via the implementation of the Single Market. Silly me.

    I’ve learned something new today. Thank you.

  3. Fariborz says:

    I think Maryam is right to point out the characteristics of and similarities
    between Islamism, Trump and Brexit. Trump’s coming to power is part of the
    rightwing assault. Don’t believe me, ask Trump, Theresa Mayhem, Nigel Farage
    or any of the leave spokespersons who are stepping over each other to cozy
    up to Trump.

    To deny that Brexit has nothing to do with the rightwing resurgence is
    politely sticking one’s head into a big pile of sand offered by Brexit
    leaders.

    It would be foolish to ignore the fact that the EU has contributed hugely to
    the advancement of women’s rights and gender equality since 1973, such as
    equal pay, parental leave, care for pregnant women and new mothers, access
    to justice and projects to end violence against women. Further cuts that
    will follow Brexit will hurt women more!

    I doubt that you want to leave women’s rights to people like Nigel Farage
    and rightwing Christians who are lurking in the shadows.

    I guess when it is closer to home, it may be difficult to accept. The full
    force of Brexit – cuts, limitations on liberties and rights is yet to come.
    But we need to heed the warnings given by people like Maryam Namazie and the
    magnificent and clear headed AC Grayling who has spelled out the
    consequences of Brexit.

    I should add that just like the Islamists, the resurgent Right including
    Brexit claims to represent the “little people”, the marginalised, those left
    behind. This lie is now the trademark of all right-wing politicians. They
    have refined this narrative in the last few years and guess where they have
    learnt that from? The Islamists.

    Progressive freethinkers must oppose all forms of far-rightwing
    manifestations, including at home.

  4. Brian Jordan says:

    @Fariborz
    It must be wonderful, to have such insight and to be able to prophesy so.
    Anyway, now we know: everything good that has happened in the last 40 years has been solely thanks to the EU. Oh, and the apocalypse comes tomorrow. Thanks for that.

  5. Brian Jordan says:

    Meanwhile, an article in today’s Spectator suggests that a lot of Trump’s antics are designed to drive his opponents to hysteria. Harry Mount is probably right: we should all calm down.
    How to stay sane in Trumpworld
    Harry Mount’s tips for keeping your head when all about are losing theirs

    http://www.spectator.co.uk/2017/02/how-to-stay-sane-in-trumpworld/

  6. StephenJP says:

    Whatever one’s views on Brexit (and I opposed it,and still have many reservations), it is absurd to rank it alongside Trumpism, and even more to equate it to Islamism. I admire Maryam for her courage and honesty, but I think she has gone over the top this time.

    Having said that,I don’t find Harry Mount’s article particularly reassuring. I don’t think he’s scratched the surface of what Trump and his people have in mind.

  7. Do you think when the Islamists took power in Iran, they were as they are today? Khomeini promised free petrol and said religion would not be involved in the state. But they took power and we know what happened next. Bexit has not yet happened so it might be difficult to see what comes next but if you look at how political movements take shape and if you can understand where they fundamentally stand, it isn’t too hard to see where Trump and Brexit are heading and how they are part of the same plan.

  8. remigius says:

    @Fariborz. Seriously?

    “I think Maryam is right to point out the characteristics of and similarities between Islamism, Trump and Brexit.”

    The only thing that Islamism and Brexit have in common it that neither of them have anything to do with ‘removing remaining constraints on capitalism’.

    Show me the radical imam who preaches a pro capitalist sermon, or the jihadi who massacres innocent civilians because he wants a zero tariff free market economy. Show me anywhere in the pro-Brexit rhetoric where the objective is to remove ‘remaining constraints on capitalism’.

    The overwhelming majority of UK capitalists were anti-Brexit – because Brexit is likely to make the free movement of goods/services/labour and capital more difficult, not less.

    “To deny that Brexit has nothing to do with the rightwing resurgence is
    politely sticking one’s head into a big pile of sand offered by Brexit leaders.”

    Who is denying that? There are only two comments above yours – Brian Jordan’s and my own – and neither of us make such a denial. You are creating something to argue against – then doing it badly.

    The UK has always tended to treat extreme right-wingers with scorn, contempt and ridicule. The Fascists made a bit of noise here in the 1930’s and 1940’s but weren’t taken seriously – even when Fascism was all the rage in Europe. They never had any power because they never won any seats. And they never won any seats because very few people took them seriously…

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Union_of_Fascists#Election_results

    This country has not seen, and most likely will not see in the foreseeable future, any extreme right wing party achieve any political influence. But if history has taught us anything it is that any right-wing political shift is more likely in Europe than in Britain. The present political climate seems to evince this.

    “It would be foolish to ignore the fact that the EU has contributed hugely to the advancement of women’s rights and gender equality since 1973, such as equal pay, parental leave, care for pregnant women and new mothers, access to justice and projects to end violence against women. Further cuts that will follow Brexit will hurt women more!”

    Utter bollocks!

    The UK Equal Pay Act was passed in 1970. Maternity benefits in the UK are paid for 38 weeks. In Germany it is 14 weeks, in France 16 weeks, Spain 16 weeks, Netherlands 16 weeks, etc. With regards violence against women see the…

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convention_on_preventing_and_combating_violence_against_women_and_domestic_violence

    It is the first, and only, legally binding instrument in Europe for the protection of women against violence. It is not an EU initiative – the EU has no such legislation. It is from the Council of Europe, a completely separate entity from the EU. It was set up by Winston Churchill in the 1940’s.

    Every argument you have put forward is checkably wrong.

    I have long admired Maryam, I have attended many of her talks and met with her on several occasions. She is a principled and brave woman – but I believe she is seriously mistaken in her assertions here. You are doing her a disservice by supporting her claims with such blatant bullshit.

  9. remigius says:

    @Maryam. Seriously.

    “… it isn’t too hard to see where Trump and Brexit are heading and how they are part of the same plan.”

    So you think both Trump and Brexit are part of the same plan? You are implying a global conspiracy.

    So who planned it? I would be genuinely interested to know who you think is behind it.

  10. Edwin Salter says:

    Being selfRIGHTeous overrides all sensible thought and human care.

  11. Daz says:

    “Plan” may be the wrong word. They’re surely part of the same trend though.

  12. florence binard says:

    Only a small minority of feminists understood early enough that multicultural policies were at the expense of women and that leftists were betraying women when supporting minority religious leaders…

    many are still blind! “islamogauchistes” is what they call themselves in French…

    In echo to Maryam Namazie’s conclusion to her article:
    First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Socialist.

    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
    Martin Niemoller

  13. […] nature of the critiques and protests undertaken so far. We echo atheist and ex-Muslim feminist, Maryam Namazie, that everyone “Must oppose it” unreservedly – as “a matter of urgency”. But we also […]

  14. L.Long says:

    The USA is fast becoming a fascism! Now with trumpkin it is doing so faster. Also the pole show most ‘mericans believe in individual freedom, but the holders of power do not!
    The police are being militerised, why? Oh! Right! The fictional ‘war on drugs’ which could be ended tomorrow if they powers that be would allow it…legalize and control drugs!!!! But no, we are able to be legally bigoted and rob people by keeping it going!!
    Strange how some of the nicest and free-ist democracies are now some other countries!