Thursday, January 07, 2010
I have been observing a strange, coded, stilted kind of uneasy chattering emerge in the media, the kind that is usually filed under 'comment' or 'debate'. The general thrust of this chatter is that 'extremists'* known as 'Islam4UK' are intent on marching through Wootton Bassett, a small town in Swindon near RAF Lyneham. This is also where deceased British soldiers are paraded when they are brought back from Afghanistan, en route to the coroners. (Nothing good ever happens in Swindon.) The chatterers believe that this is no coincidence, and that this group 'Islam4UK' means to denigrate the sacrifices made by these soldiers - let us leave aside whether their sacrifice is at all worth extolling (it isn't). Depending on their specific concern, these commentators either want us to revile 'Islam4UK' or ignore them. My sympathies are with the latter, since this group is eminently ignorable. They pose a threat to no one, and are probably riddled with MI5 moles. In fact, I'm of the decided opinion that there's more mole than molehill in this organisation. The trouble is that the latter position often comes with hand-wringing about defending 'real' or 'moderate' Islam from association with these headbangers. I really don't blame them for this - it is the racism of the media and a segment of the public that compels them to undertake such prophylactic operations. But it is still far too defensive: Muslims don't have anything to answer for as a group, and aren't responsible for 'Islam4UK' any more than all white people are responsible for Operation Enduring Freedom, Guantanamo, Bagram, extraordinary rendition, fascist marches, arson attacks on mosques, genocide, colonialism, slavery, Nazism, etc etc.
But already a Facebook-based campaign aimed at opposing the march has generated considerable media heat, and has garnered over 600,000 members. The group insists that it is not anti-Muslim, has no racial agenda, and is not interested in promoting any one political group. I think for some of the organisers this may be true. Predictably, however, it emerges that among those running the group is a BNP activist named Dennis Raines. What is more, despite being apprised of this, the organiser of the site is standing by Mr Raines. So, that suggests a very interesting approach to what the group refers to as 'extremism'. Fascists and racists are, far from being extremists, appropriate allies in the struggle against a group that would have difficulty packing out a telephone box. I would like to think that this is just an anecdote, just an incidental fact about the way in which one campaign emerged and has developed. But it happens that whenever there is an attempt to generate a controversy about the troops, Islam and 'extremism', the far right and the racist filth are almost invariably involved. Further, one has to wonder about the sense of perspective among such a large number of people that they are apparently moved to affront by a proposed hoe-down involving refugees from the banned al-Muhajiroun outfit. I realise they're a noisome bunch - I hear that Anjem Choudhury is opposed to Christmas forgodsake. Still, they remain peripheral. And I'm quite sure that among those mortally offended by Choudhury's antics are quite a few who have nothing but bromides about 'free speech' to offer when genuinely menacing and violent groups like EDL engage in marches against local mosques etc.
Isn't it about time these people grew up, and stopped being so easily gulled? Their wealth is being consumed in the fires of an almighty recession, their mortgages aren't worth jack any more, their economic security is being incinerated, they can't borrow any more and even if they could they could never expect to pay it back, if they have a job they can't be sure they'll still have one in a month's time, employers are taking the opportunity to slash wages and extend working hours, their retirement age is being deferred in some cases beyond the point at which they can expect to croak, their public services are about to face a savage bout of cuts, the whole basis of their livelihood until this point has been based on ideological fiction... and they're allowing themselves to be obsessed by these objects of petty resentment. If you're one of these people, my advice is to stop hyperventilating, get some exercise, relax, and concern yourself with a few things that actually matter.
*Just so that we're clear on useage, 'extremism' isn't a meaningful political category. What is extreme is whatever offends me, whatever defies my common sense, whatever my tastes and/or narrow-mindedness prevents me from understanding. As the above indicates, the discourse of extremity smuggles in normative assumptions in a language that is supposedly neutral and technocratic - it's one reason why governments are apt to frame legislation in such terms, as it allows them maximum flexibility in pursuing heretics. The correct political term for people like 'Islam4UK' is 'fucknuggets'.