Being ‘in denial’ is a concept I first encountered in regard to a friends developing alcoholism. In that particular form it refers to a persons denial of their excessive and out of control drinking. They deny what is obvious to all. However, once encountered as more than a simple noun, this behavioural concept is immediately recognisable as applicable to other experiences and other areas of social and political life. Denying an unpleasant characteristic or unfolding situation is also the province of those who cannot (or wish not to) own up to being centrally or tangentially involved in any unpleasantness, particularly when this unpleasantness is extreme. The aftermath of the recent horrific events at Woolwich has illustrated this phenomenon and once again ramped up the level of denial.
There must be therefore at least fifty shades of denial currently leaving the mouths or pens of the economic, financial, political and military elites. Very few if any of the bourgeois elite spokespersons or commentators can utter what more and more people are starting to realise – that the capitalist mode of production and the system of patriarchy are fundamental problems facing humanity. For the purposes of this article I wish to draw attention to two obvious states of denial that have intersected over the recent brutal incident on the streets of the UK. The incident in question was the recent horrific killing of a soldier by radicalised followers of Islam. It has become clear that the events leading up to this atrocity are not simple but complex. However, almost immediately following it, the two forms of denial were projected into the public domain.
The first form arose from comments emanating from the neo-liberal political elite in the UK and the US. This ‘official’ political source was anxious to disconnect this barbaric act from the West’s barbaric attacks upon innocent citizens of other countries (Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen etc.) committed during the so-called war on terror. The second form of denial came from the UK elite within the religion of Islam who wished to disconnect this barbaric act from their religion. Both sources quickly dismissed out of hand crucial pieces of evidence. The unequivocal public utterances of the perpetrators of this heinous event made clear that a) it was retaliation against the West’s actions in the east, and; b) was conducted in the name of Islam and Allah.
The ‘war on terror’ is actually – a ‘war of terror‘.
On being briefed about the horrific incident, David Cameron, the British Prime Minister on May 23 (2013) declared that the blame for it:
“..lies purely with the sickening individuals who carried out the attack.”
“This afternoons attack in Woolwich is a sickening, deluded and unforgivable act of violence. (Boris Johnson.)
These two extracts are enough to encapsulate a substantial part of the entire UK political elites (Left, Right and Centre) responses to these events. The key word in the first quote is ‘purely’. Of course the individuals are to blame for the attack, but the insertion of purely, clearly signals the political elites denial strategy. So does the lack of any reference to the possible motives for such an ‘ unforgivable act of violence’ – in the mayor of London’s comment which follows it. What other unforgivable acts of UK and US violence does he and his leader avoid mentioning?
The so-called war on terror could be more accurately designated as a ‘war of terror’ since the numbers and volume of personnel and armaments used against the targets and the communities they live among are astronomical in comparison. They far exceed the resources and casualties wielded against, and inflicted upon, those of us in the west. Massive shock and awe, is the Western elites default position when it goes after those who dare to oppose it, and shock and awe is what these defenceless communities regularly get.
The justified horror we feel when innocent citizens are killed and maimed on our streets in the UK and the US has been felt nearly everyday over the last decade in Iraq, Afghanistan and more recently in Libya, Yemen and Pakistan. In fact, sometimes the innocent citizens of these countries feel justified horror more than once per day. For this reason only the most bigoted or unthinking people can fail to recognise that such a war of targeted extermination would not create feelings of anger, resentment and eventual retaliation. Particularly when the West’s violence includes a circle of ‘collateral damage’ and a second, minutes-later strike, to eliminate those who rush to help. How sickening is that?.
Indeed, the UK governments security chiefs have more than once, recognised this very fact of revenge in copious documents readily available to the government. So Cameron, Johnson. Clegg, Miliband. Obama and the rest of the elite know this is the case. Indeed, after the terrible slaying of the soldier Lee Rigby, the perpetrators stayed at the scene of the crime and announced their motives. They stood around and spoke to passers by and asked their words to be filmed and recorded. Here a couple of crucial sentences.
“..because David Cameron (the) British Government sent troops to an Arabic country……I apologise that women had to witness this today but in our lands our women have to see the same. Remove your governments – they don’t care about you.” (Michael Adebolwale and Michael Adebolajo. 22 May 2013.)
So the link between the West’s atrocities in the Middle East, North Africa etc., and the killing was unmistakably in the minds of the perpetrators of this brutal act. Now let us consider whether there is any connection between Islam and the Woolwich killing.
Islam, killing and holy war.
There have been many claims from politicians and Islamic representatives during the past weeks, that violence and killing has nothing to do with the religion of Islam. Here are just two examples.
“There is nothing in Islam that justifies this truly dreadful act.” (David Cameron.)
“…The actions of the perpetrators are totally against the religion of Islam and the example of the prophet Muhammad.” (Sheikh Abdul Qayum. 24 May 2013.)
Elsewhere, (‘Religion – is – Politics’) I have demonstrated that all the three Abrahamic religions commenced as forms of political governance and have retained the textual instructions and thus the original ideologically based political ambitions in their scriptures. Islam is not alone in having violent textual directives at the very core of its ideology. Nor is it the only religion advocating killing members of other religions. It is a verifiable fact, that the sacred texts of Christianity and Judaism are littered with examples of killing in the name of God and numerous threats of barbaric punishments. However, since the Woolwich events it is Islam that is currently under the microscope again, so here are a few extracts from the Qur’an.
“The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His apostle and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified of their hands and their feet should be cut off on the opposite sides…..” (Surah 5 v 33.)
If a devout believer considers that there are those who ‘wage war’ against Islam and are making mischief in the land’ then a choice of punishments are allowed by the Qur’an. This and many other such directives are the scriptural basis for the Islamist clerical pronouncements concerning the permissiveness of atrocities against those they perceive as making war against them. It is also the Islamic textual basis of those who carry out these acts, whether against British and American soldiers or young school children such as Malala Yousafzai. Within the Qur’an, there are over a dozen such direct courses of action on killing, almost 100 on various forms of hurting, harming and fighting and over 200 advocating retribution. Another example;
“Permission (to fight) is given to those upon whom war is made because they are oppressed, and most surely Allah is well able to assist them.” (Surah 22 v 39.)
We can see from this that the right to resist war and oppression, which is now embedded in International secular Law, is also found in the Qur’an in the form of a justification for ‘holy-war‘. This again is undoubtedly a Surah which will be imprinted upon a resolute believers consciousness. Note that it doesn’t specify what kind of fighting is allowed in such ‘war’ and so it is up to the believing reader and/or cleric to fill in this blank space. This next example introduces a ‘just cause’ permission to kill and this is granted to any surviving heirs of someone killed unjustly.
“And do not kill any one whom Allah has forbidden, except for a just cause, and whoever is killed unjustly. We have indeed given to his heir authority, so let him not exceed the just limits in slaying; surely he is aided.” ( Surah 17. v 33.)
So when we witness members of the Islamic religious community saying or writing that Islam does not condone murder of revenge killing, they are in a state of denial about the basis of their religion – if not about themselves. What they should say and what many undoubtedly mean – is that they are against murder and revenge killing! If they openly said this it should be genuinely applauded. However, this of course should cause them to question the foundations of their religion. Like it or not, a religion based solidly upon the complete sacredness of the Qur’an, does advocate, allow and justify murder along with revenge killing. So when one of the perpetrators of this attack declared;
“We swear by the almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you.”
He was merely expressing what both perpetrators knew from their studies of the Qur’an. Studies, no less, which were gained by attendance at circles organised by one Imam or another. In other words they and Imams who support them were merely echoing the spirit and letter of numerous sections of the Qur’an. To deny the connections in both cases is deny the obvious – it is to be in denial!
Defend Muslims but not Islam.
Many on the left have failed to distinguish between defending a human being and defending an ideology. Revolutionary-humanist anti-capitalists cannot condone this failure to rise above bourgeois ‘identity’ politics. It may sound an irreconcilable contradiction to argue for defending Muslim working men and women, yet rigorously and vigorously criticising their religion of Islam, but it is not. The contradiction is reconciled by recognising that human beings are not identical with any ideology they may have been indoctrinated with. It is also clearly possible to recognise that ideologies (religious or not) are forms of mental and frequently physical forms of enslavement.
As human beings those workers and poor currently attached to the religion of Islam are oppressed, exploited and marginalised by the capitalist mode of production. But they are also oppressed and exploited and marginalised by a religion and a religious elite, which demand submission to religious authority and denies many human rights to its members. At its roots and in much of its practice, Islam is a fiercely patriarchal religion which dominates and exploits at all levels the womenfolk, the children and the ordinary members attached to it.
Such religious domination and oppression may be administered lightly in some cases and violently in others – but oppression and exploitation is always at its core – as it is in all religions. So too is its flagrant hostility to other religions and those of no faith. This aggressive hostility and control may have diminished for a time, and even for considerable periods as with the Umayyad Caliphate in southern Spain etc. But muted or open, hostility and competition for the patriarchal governance of communities remains an essential part of Judaism’s, Christianity and Islam’s ideological foundations.
For this reason, we should defend Muslim communities against the attacks of state and the neo-fascists of all persuasions but make it clear (to them and others) we are defending them as oppressed and exploited members of the human family and are definitely not defending Islam or any other such archaic ideology. For it is an ideology which seeks to keep women as second-class citizens, promotes child marriages, violently discriminates against gays and lesbians, issues death Fatwa’s against those who criticise and promotes governance by ‘belief’ in an invisible, unknowable, therefore for all intents and purposes a non-existent male.
Finally. It is has become clear that many Muslims, particularly young Muslim’s have celebrated acts such as this and other such revenge attacks upon the UK and the US over the last decade. However, they should understand this is not the way to end their oppression or the capitalist mode of production which is economically, financially, politically and militarily at the root of their and other peoples oppression. Indeed, such despicable and inhuman acts only weaken organised opposition against the capitalist mode of production and allows the pro-capitalist political and military elite to brandish their weapons of death even more vigorously. There is a need for oppressed and exploited everywhere to elevate their human identity over any religious, national, cultural, gender, age forms of identity and unite to work toward a post-capitalist future where all human beings have sufficient necessaries to live a contented and fulfilled life.
Roy Ratcliffe (May 2013.)