With the United States losing its aggressive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the most reactionary forces in US society are resorting more and more to Islamophobia to bolster support not only for imperialist wars overseas but also as part of a concerted push to turn US society to the right, rolling back even the most minimal social and economic reforms, such as President Obama’s healthcare plan.
In Gainesville, Florida, a racist pastor called Terry Jones, leader of a tiny, right-wing fundamentalist church, drew worldwide headlines with his threats to burn the Quran, Islam’s most sacred book, on the 11 September anniversary of the 2001 attacks in New York City and Washington DC.
Jones eventually called off his threatened stunt after coming under heavy pressure from the White House and Pentagon, who feared the explosive impact it might have in Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries, where the United States and its local collaborators are already only just managing to keep the seething cauldron of the muslim masses’ anti-imperialist rage under some semblance of control.
However, whilst Jones was brought into line, the Tea Party pressed ahead with an 11 September protest in New York, ostensibly against plans by a muslim group to build an Islamic community centre near to the World Trade Centre in lower Manhattan.
The group in question represents an extremely moderate trend within the muslim community, one which has repeatedly condemned the 11 September attacks, but to the reactionaries of the Tea Party, any manifestation of the muslim community, of its right to organise and freely worship, is an abomination.
The Tea Party essentially represents a distinctly American proto-fascist movement. It originally sprang to prominence in opposition to Obama’s very limited and partial healthcare programme, when it dubbed the first non-white occupant of the White House a “Marxist muslim”. We need scarcely point out that Mr Obama is neither!
The Tea Party is now providing the shock troops for Sarah Palin’s widely expected bid to be the next presidential candidate for the Republican Party. For Palin, who was running mate to Obama’s defeated rival John McCain, and her acolytes in the Tea Party, no matter how faithfully Mr Obama serves the interests of US imperialism at home and abroad, they simply cannot forgive him for removing the de facto “whites only” sign that has hung over the White House throughout US history.
For a nation founded and built on the genocide of its indigenous people and on plantation slavery, US reaction inevitably assumes racial overtones. Be it opposition to Obama’s healthcare policies, to so-called ‘big government’ or to a proposed Islamic cultural centre, these are all the unmistakable ‘dog whistles’ signalling hostility to minorities, workers and the poor.
The Tea Party no doubt thought that with the raw emotions of the ‘9/11’ anniversary, more raw this year as the reality of the miserable quagmire into which US imperialism has stepped in Afghanistan becomes more and more impossible to deny, their planned protest was perfectly timed and that nobody would dare to defy them.
They were wrong. This 11 September, some 10,000 New Yorkers turned out to defend the muslim community, far outnumbering the much better funded Tea Party reactionaries. Larry Holmes, one of the organisers, told Workers’ World newspaper:
“We brought out the real New York City – a city of workers and peoples of colour from all around the world. This mobilisation started because we were forced to defend our muslim sisters and brothers. It will continue because we have to open up the struggle against war, against racism, and for jobs, education and health care.”
The paper added: “In a city that is home to more nationalities than any other in the world, all seemed represented in the crowd of thousands who came to demonstrate.” (‘Thousands show solidarity with New York’s muslim community’, 11 September 2010)
The militant demonstration in New York this 11 September shows that the way to defeat the dangerous demagogues of the Tea Party and other racists is not through the kind of weakness and vacillation, let alone their attempts to prove themselves the best defenders of US imperialism, of Obama and the Democrats. Rather, we must follow the path of militant mass struggle, relying on the working class and the oppressed of all communities, fighting every attack on any section of the people, and standing in solidarity with all oppressed people fighting the same imperialist beast on the time-honoured principle that “an injury to one is an injury to all”.