On Woolwich: Islamism is the problem

The left wing secular communist Maryam Namazie with her take on the recent killing of a British soldier on the streets of London. The piece initially featured on her blog.

Anything can be justified – a war on Iraq or bombs on buses and decapitations on the streets of London. But having justifications doesn’t necessarily bring legitimacy or mean that they are true.

Just as the Iraq war was not about the liberation of Iraqi women or weapons of mass destruction, the cold-blooded murder of a soldier in Woolwich is not about retaliation for the war on Iraq or Afghanistan. (Just as the English Defence League’s convergence on Woolwich and attacks on mosques have nothing to do with demands for “justice”.)

The decapitation was an act of terror, pure and simple, and characteristic of Islamism and far-Right politics which uses terrorism as a key tool in instilling fear and for social control. The main target of this terror is usually civilians in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and elsewhere (and often with the acquiescence and appeasement of western governments via funding for or close relations with Islamic organisations and states, defending Sharia law, and the curtailing of universal and citizenship rights and secularism).

As Women Living Under Muslim Laws says:

Fundamentalist terror is by no means a tool of the poor against the rich, of the Third World against the West, of people against capitalism. It is not a legitimate response that can be supported by the progressive forces of the world. Its main target is the internal democratic opposition to their theocratic project and to their project of controlling all aspects of society in the name of religion, including education, the legal system, youth services, etc. When fundamentalists come to power, they silence the people, they physically eliminate dissidents, writers, journalists, poets, musicians, painters – like fascists do. Like fascists, they physically eliminate the ‘untermensch’ – the subhumans -, among them ‘inferior races’, gays, mentally or physically disabled people. And they lock women ‘in their place’, which as we know from experience ends up being a straight jacket…
Islamism is the main reason behind the murder in Woolwich and the slaughter of countless people across the world for the past several decades – not Muslims or those labelled as such who are in fact Islamism’s first victims and on the frontlines of resistance. Also, whilst Islamism sees Islam as a tool for the far-Right restructuring of power structures, the movement is not fundamentally about Islam as an ideology but about political Islam (gaining power and ruling via Sharia law). Ironically, political Islam and far-Right neo-conservatism and militarism are two sides of the same coin – both seek power and control through sheer violence, terrorism and by targeting civilians…

Of course times are changing. The new era of revolutions and uprisings – many of them women-led – is the real challenge to the far-Right, including Islamism, and terrorism. Only a humanity speaking on its own behalf can and will bring this movement to its knees. And whilst that fight has already begun, how it ends will depend on real solidarity with Islamism’s victims and dissenters and an unequivocal defence of universal human values, freedom, equality and secularism.


  1. The sad fact is the West doesn't care when this goes on in Syria, Libya, the Sudan, Iraq or Afghanistan. For the people of these countries it's a case of welcome to the club - have some of your own medicine. Such lynchings are a regular occurrence in Syria only they're perpetrated by those with the backing of the British government. The double-standards of the British, their government, their media and also their lackeys here who fall over themselves to condemn the killers of that British soldier are galling. No-one should be hacked to death in the street, who would suggest otherwise? But Britain should extend the same courtesy to those peoples around the world that experience such harrowing brutality on a regular basis thanks to those backed up by the British state and its intelligence services. That's the perspective a lot of people are missing here. For a lot of people it's a case of what goes around comes around

  2. One definition of terrorism is the use of violence against the civilian population for the purpose of engendering fear or instilling terror. I say one definition because there is little international agreement on a precise, universally accepted definition. Often it is used as a pejorative term against an enemy for political reasons. The phrase: "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter" illustrates this problem in a nutshell.

    The brutal killing of a British solider raises many questions that defy easy answers. Seen in the context of Britain's involvement in several illegal wars, in mainly Muslim countries, it is hardly surprising to find a small number of young Muslims prepared to carry out such acts. All too regularly we hear of entire families being wiped out in Iraq and Afghanistan followed by unconvincing apologies or hastily devised cover stories.

    What motivated two Muslim men to hack to death a British solider on a quiet Woolwich street, whether it be a commitment to radical Islam or the desire for revenge, will be hotly debated by all sides. But there is clearly a context for these actions that should not be ignored or lost in self-serving propaganda.

  3. Nice to see a republican who can for once not take sides in these pointless fights. Neither side has any self respect and both deserve to be consigned to the fringes where they rightfully belong.

  4. While I think it's important to see Islamism as part of the problem, I don't think the role of western imperialism should be overlooked one of the root causes of the problems.

    It's a bit like blaming the republican armed struggle as the root cause of the problem rather than the 'British occupation' and unionist misrule historically.

    Where yr article rings a bell Anthony is the agenda that much of the left and republicans share which is your friends enemy is your friends which results in anything being justified under 'anti-imperialism'.

    It reminds me of many republicans cheer leading for gaddaffi or Chavez, whenever the likes of gaddaffi before he was toppled was actually delivering for western imperialism in terms of close security cooperation with M15 in dealing with Islamists and rolling out the red carpet for tony Blair to secure oil contracts for BP. In the end he was it obviously not delivering enough but the reality behind the anti-imperialist rhetoric was quite different.

    On another note I remember listening to a passionate speech from an iranian dissident left who lost 9 members of her family to the Islamist regime. She spoke about the historic strong workers movement there which was later crushed by the Islamists. She also lambasted some sections of the left for supporting the regime as some form of alternative to western imperialism compared to actually supporting grassroots progressive struggles there.

    Lastly, I remember giving a talk a few years back on the need to both oppose imperialist occupation of Iraq but also the reactionary Islamists who are attacking the workers movement and women's rights. Unsurprisingly a leading member of the swp accused the talk of being disgustingly islamaphobic.

    Obviously some have not learnt their lessons as to what happens to the left and progressive movements once the Islamists take power which is repeating itself in Egypt today.

  5. Sean/Mark

    as is stated at the top of the page the author of the article is Maryam Namazie, an Iranian left wing activist based in London.

  6. Sean,

    Lastly, I remember giving a talk a few years back on the need to both oppose imperialist occupation of Iraq but also the reactionary Islamists who are attacking the workers movement and women's rights. Unsurprisingly a leading member of the swp accused the talk of being disgustingly islamaphobic.

    Now, why wouldn't that surprise me?!!! The SWP when it was making alliances through Respect got itself into something of a bind over this. And rather than debate it through it opted to censor by shouting 'racist' at anybody raising issues about what Tony Cliff had originally termed 'clerical fascism.'

    Islamicism has brutally repressed the Left and progressive causes whenever it got the opportunity. What Maryam does quite usefully I think is bring out what Napoleon once said - among the oppressed are many who like to oppress.

    And she is very much a critic of Western imperialism.

  7. The French and British are calling to supply arms to the opposition because they know it will create greater turmoil , we can look no further than our own country , UDA/UFF/UVF/RHC being armed through the back door by the British , UDR soldiers stealing weapons from there own armouries to sell , also pretending there weapons were stolen. We can also look at Iraq , Afghanistan ,and , Egypt , weapons were supplied , now , they are blowing each other up, is this The Brits way of stopping a world Jihad. Can we look further to Morsi in Egypt. whether it's Western Imperialism or not , The Muslims will continue to fight against each other until the Morsi's gain full power throughout the Middle east , Then , It all begins again, you will always have those who are against Sharia laws , and , with the help of the west , will again continue to uprise.