Anarchism and British Islamism: Putting Things in Perspective

Article by Steven Johns.
Paul Stott opens his article stating that it “aims to kick-start a debate about how anarchists should respond to the development of Islam and Islamism in the United Kingdom. It is a debate that is long overdue.”

Jumping straight to his conclusion, I would first like to emphasise that I agree with his final points wholeheartedly:

There is a need to stress the type of alternative, bottom up multi-culturalism that we live with and support daily – getting on with neighbours, colleagues and school friends as people, not as identities based on their colour or creed. Joining together with people as fellow workers and fellow members of working class communities targeted by cuts will be a lot easier on that basis, than the multi-culturalism of the state and the left.

This being the case I hope that my disagreements with the rest of the article are taken in the constructive spirit they are intended.

My disagreements with the rest of the piece go right back to the opening paragraph, to the statement that this is “a debate that is long overdue”. Anarchists love nothing more than to argue incessantly over irrelevant issues (look at me now!), often the more irrelevant the better.

Islam and Islamism and our approach to them is one such issue. On the website I help run, libcom.org, for example we have dozens of articles about Islam, and we have had dozens of debates about it in our forums over the past eight years – far more than we have about any other world religion. Anarchists are certainly not immune to a media frenzy, unsurprisingly, as things we read about in the paper and end up discussing with friends and co-workers we want to discuss with one another as well.

However, we should always remember that the media is not neutral, it has an agenda, and so to counter this we should always try to put things in perspective. The main issue with Stott’s article is the complete lack of perspective.

The clear scale of the exaggeration of the issue is quite well illustrated by this statement:

[the global Islamic] resurgence was – and is – an event as important as the French or Russian revolutions.

Now I ask on what basis is this even close to being true? The French revolution was the triumph of capitalism over feudalism, setting the scene for the dominant new economic system for the entire planet. The Russian revolution was the world’s first major proletarian revolution and experiment in socialism, which was crushed and instead turned into the second imperialist superpower and led to the Cold War, which dominated much of the world’s political life, including class struggle, over the past 100 years.

The supposed growth of political Islam has had nowhere near as big an impact as either of these two events, no matter what the Daily Star says. I say “supposed” growth because despite a recent resurgence I would question whether political Islam now even has the same influence it did 30 years ago.

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