On Jeremy Corbyn And Islamism: You Can’t Be Progressive Some Of The Time

Nothing Is Sacred vents concerns from Bread & Roses TV staff about Jeremy Corbyn's attitude to political Islam. 

New Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn’s policies against austerity and university fees and in favour of refugees, amongst others, are welcome. Nonetheless, we at Bread and Roses are concerned about Corbyn’s troubling associations with Islamists and the Islamic regime of Iran.

Corbyn has spoken at the Iranian government’s anniversary of the “Islamic revolution” despite the fact that Islamism in Iran is a counter-revolutionary force, which came to power by suppressing a Left-leaning people’s revolution against the Shah. The regime continues to maintain power by brutally suppressing dissent.

Corbyn has also praised the Islamic Human Rights Commission linked to the Iranian government, saying ‘I like the sense of values surrounding it’. In 2015, IHRC awarded Charlie Hebdo staff who had been murdered ‘Islamophobe of the Year’. IHRC also organises Al-Quds Day rallies initiated by Ayatollah Khomeini, which Corbyn has spoken at. Whilst the rallies are touted as pro-Palestinian rallies, in fact, they are Iranian government rallies to spread an Islamist and anti-Semitic narrative.

Despite the existence of a strong Left and progressive movement in Iran, Corbyn seems to prefer the Islamic state of Iran, renowned for its persecution of the working class and progressive political and social movements.

Corbyn has also come out in support of other Islamist groups like CAGE, which Gita Sahgal exposed years ago for its support of jihad. There was a public outcry only after a CAGE leader Asim Qureshi described Mohammed Emwazi or Jihadi John as a “beautiful young man.”

Until a few days ago, Corbyn was chair of Stop the War Coalition, which has a history of siding with Islamists. Anas al-Tikriti, Vice President of Stop the War Coalition has said, for example:

Calls for an Islamic state by some corners should not scare us nor should it bring about a negative reaction. […] In Muslim countries where Islam forms a focal point of history and society, this must not be dismissed as mere political or ideological fanaticism, but rather viewed as a collective aspiration.

Islamic states and groups are one of the largest producers of refugees and deny basic rights to all those living under their rule. Deeming far-right movements and states as one and the same as the people they suppress ignores class politics and dissent and sides with the oppressors.

Corbyn also praises Islamists who promote the ideas of Sharia and the Islamic state such as Ibrahim Hewitt who he has called ‘a very good friend’ though the latter has compared gays to paedophiles and refused to condemn the stoning to death under Sharia law. In a pamphlet for ‘The Muslim Educational Trust,’ Hewitt says the punishment for apostasy from Islam is death in an ideal Islamic state. Clearly, this is not a theoretical matter, particularly since apostates are persecuted and killed in a number of countries under Islamist rule.

We would like to remind Corbyn that progressive, anti-fascist and anti-war politics without opposition to Islamist far-Right states and movements is self-defeating.

One cannot be progressive in some areas and not in others. One cannot be against some fascists whilst being ‘a very good friend’ to others. This is a politics that betrays the dissenters and victims of Islamism including those deemed “Muslims”, progressive forces and the working class. It is also a betrayal of the very principles that the Left has historically defended (from social justice, egalitarianism, secularism, universalism, and human liberation, including from religion).

While we oppose the attacks of the rightwing press on Corbyn aimed at displacing the legitimate anger and protest of people in Britain against austerity and capitalism, we cannot ignore his utter failure in challenging Islamism and the Islamic regime of Iran and his betrayal of the progressive and secular forces in Britain, the Middle East, Diaspora and the world.

For more information:
Bread and Roses TV with Maryam Namazie and Fariborz Pooya
Director: Reza Moradi
نان و گل سرخ
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  1. I was at the Bill Bailey show in the Ulster Hall on Sunday night. He talked about the media frenzied attacks on Corbyn and quipped while imitating the press how they view things like,
    "Corbyn likes humus,mmmm, change that to Hamas"

    Great show by the way!

  2. Corbyn thinks Islamophobia is a device used to cover the theft of "Muslim resources". Its an fatally western centric view, and doesnt evaluate Islam on the same terms it reserves for others,hence the rank hypocrisies in standing with those opposed to civil rights etc. But even given that,Corbyn shouldnt be dismissed when he is also anti-EU and anti-Monarchy. Islamophobia laws can be written or un-written, once you smash the illusion of permanency around those two ‘institutions’, things will never be the same.

  3. DaithiD,

    Islamophobia is an ideological construct designed to protect from critique a religious opinion and thereby mask it in time honoured ideological sense. A religious opinion has as much right to existing as a sporting one. People of faith believe there is some Paradise awaiting them, Liverpool supporters believe a League title awaits them. Neither opinion should be protected and both should be open to mockery if a detractor so chooses. No special privileging of opinion.

  4. AM, I completely agree. Although it would be difficult to ascribe that motivation to Corbyn or other athiests in their codependent relationship with Islam. I think they see America as their great Satan, and therefore cannot evaluate Islamic doctrine except through the lens of American empire building. Ignoring the Islamic laws and practices I think are barbaric predate the birth of the American nation, and would be barbaric even without an America. But even the term “ignoring” is generous to them, that suggests they are even aware of what that version of living entails, how they know something without researching it is a symptom of our age. Even if people didnt agree with me, I would at least appreciate their acknowledgement that my position is the dangerously unacceptable one to hold.

  5. Sorry to double post AM,what I mean by my last remark is : holding the correct the opinion is akin to holding a hot coal, it will be painful. You will know from your own experience, there is a spectrum of repression for 'inconventient truths', you were one slot away from from a bullet for you own truths in what you have suffered, that elevates you about other commentators. Nobody has suffered for saying "Islam is a religion of peace", we can at least accept that.I could probably be fired (hypothetically because im quite good!) for saying these things about Islam, thats the difference.

  6. DaithiD,

    how accurate the "one slot away" description is I have no means of knowing. There was a risk for sure: whether one step or ten steps I do not know. I continuously emphasise the point that opinions are to be elevated on their internal coherence and external power as explanations. Be wary of elevating opinions because of the opinion maker: it can make the opinion maker lazy if nothing else and then they deliver weak opinion in the expectation that it will get past.

  7. DaithiD,

    religions become peaceful to the extent that the options for being violent are closed down. What makes Islam more dangerous than other religions is its ability to acquire state power.

  8. As an anti-imperialist I reserve critique for several reasons.

    As a Brit, it is more important for him to criticize his own country. (1) It makes you anything but a hypocrite. (2) Your own country is the one you are capable of changing.

    Also, the British and American empires have done more damage to the human race than the Islamic Republic. US and UK are aggressive in a way that Iran is not. Iran is in more ways oppressive to its own people, but given the "democratic institutions" and immense wealth of the USA, I find America's inability to care for its own people and refrain from killing them/jailing them all the more inexcusable. To criticize Iran as much as the USA, especially, is the height of hypocrisy.

    It would also be wise to remember George Orwell. While ostensibly a "democratic socialist" (more of a social democrat), he is best remembered for his anti-Soviet anti-communism. His critiques of capitalism pale to his critiques of the Soviet Union. He also volunteered the names of communists to Churchill in WW2 when the USSR was an ally.

    That should be a lesson in why /not/ to appeal to liberals.

    Admittedly, it's not good to glorify or whitewash these countries; limited comment would be best in public fora (while criticism within the party is good, publicly castigating Iran is not). But hey, it isn't all bad in Iran. Lawrence Wilkinson, a retired US colonel and former chief of staff to Powell in the George W. Bush years, and a GOP Republican, said Iran is the most democratic country in its region. Especially compared to allies like Saudi Arabia.

    In any case, UK electoral politics may be a dead-end. I think the first-past-the-post system is deeply flawed, I doubt Labour is salvageable, and I would like to see a woman-led party take its place. That said, anything's better than the last Milliband Labour had. Watching him debate Cameron was like watching the most sheepish Tory rehearse a campaign ad on live television.

    -from an ex-patriate native of New York, USA