Kafa, a new campaign against islamophobia, was launched at the Bishopsgate Institute in London on Friday 26 June. The meeting, attended by around 250 people, was organised by the Stop the War Coalition, the British Muslim Initiative and the Muslim Council of Britain. It was addressed by Seamus Milne, George Galloway MP, Daud Abdullah, Lowkey, Lindsey German and others.
Kafa is the Arabic word for ‘enough’, and the name signifies that the muslim community in Britain has had enough of the racism and repression to which it has been subjected in recent years.
The fundamentalist views, both actual and ostensible, of various muslim leaders are perpetually being waved in our faces by the mainstream press, ostensibly as proof that muslims are unwilling to integrate into British society. Much is made of various ‘terror plots’ (which invariably turn out to be imaginary). Yet the British public know next to nothing about the attacks on muslims that have become part of the daily existence of many people.
Did you know, for example, that there have been three separate firebomb attacks on mosques in Britain this year? Did you hear about the arson attack on the Greenwich Islamic Centre on 16 June that caused about £10,000-worth of damage? Or the early July arson attack on the home of a muslim community organiser, Noor Ramjanally, in Loughton, Essex? Or the recent torching of the Glasgow branch of Islamic Relief, a worldwide disaster relief charity which is currently raising money towards the Gaza Emergency Appeal? (For more details on these incidents, see islamophobia-watch.com or read Inayat Bunglawala’s articles in the Guardian )
Anti-imperialist and communist sentiments are increasingly being suppressed under EU legislation, but Nick Griffin, BNP leader and newly elected member of the European Parliament, doesn’t risk breaking the law when he says on the Channel 4 news that Islam is “a cancer eating away at our freedoms and our democracy and rights for our women and something needs to be done about it”. All sorts of religious and cultural quirks are tolerated in this country, but the Daily Express has launched a campaign to ‘Ban the Burqa in Britain’.
What reason can there be for such attacks other than to prejudice non-muslims against muslims? As Seamus Milne rightly pointed out at the Kafa launch meeting, the BNP and the Daily Express care not one jot about the rights of women (where were they in the fight for equal pay, for example?); the burqa has simply become a stick to beat muslims with. Milne noted that Lord Curzon in Egypt and the French colonisers in Algeria had attempted to inspire campaigns for ‘women’s rights’ in order to divide the Egyptian and Algerian resistance movements.
More subtle forms of islamophobia include the high-profile arrests of various innocent muslims under anti-terror legislation, and the aggressive policing of muslims on demonstrations and pickets (an example of which was the police handling of the pickets outside the Israeli Embassy in Kensington in January). Such actions by the state send a clear message to muslims that their participation in British politics is not welcome.
The fight against islamophobia, which is part of the more general fight against racism and political repression, is an important cause. We must make sure people are aware of the physical, political and psychological attacks that are being perpetrated against muslims, and we must also make sure people understand that this attack on muslims is an attack on the working class as a whole. and on all those sections of society that oppose imperialism.
Islamophobia, like all forms of racism, is used by the ruling class to divide oppressed people in order more easily to rule them. Furthermore, islamophobia, like all forms of racism, is used by the ruling class to provide some sort of ideological justification for vicious colonial wars (the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan being a case in point).
We must demonstrate to people that the fight against islamophobia is an essential part of the fight against capitalism, against racism, against war and against oppression.
We offer our support to Kafa/Enough and hope that it will grow into a large and thriving organisation.