New Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn’s policies against austerity and university fees and in favour of refugees, amongst others, are welcome. Nonetheless, we at Bread and Roses are concerned about Corbyn’s troubling associations with Islamists and the Islamic regime of Iran. Corbyn has spoken at the Iranian government’s anniversary of the “Islamic revolution” despite the fact that Islamism in Iran is a counter-revolutionary force, which came to power by suppressing a Left-leaning people’s revolution against the Shah. The regime continues to maintain power by brutally suppressing dissent.
Corbyn has also praised the Islamic Human Rights Commission linked to the Iranian government, saying ‘I like the sense of values surrounding it’. In 2015, IHRC awarded Charlie Hebdo staff who had been murdered ‘Islamophobe of the Year’. IHRC also organises Al-Quds Day rallies initiated by Ayatollah Khomeini, which Corbyn has spoken at. Whilst the rallies are touted as pro-Palestinian rallies, in fact, they are Iranian government rallies to spread an Islamist and anti-Semitic narrative.
See Deadly Fatwa: Iran's 1988 Prison Massacre
Despite the existence of a strong Left and progressive movement in Iran, Corbyn seems to prefer the Islamic state of Iran, renowned for its persecution of the working class and progressive political and social movements. Corbyn has also come out in support of other Islamist groups like CAGE, which Gita Sahgal exposed years ago for its support of jihad. There was a public outcry only after a CAGE leader Asim Qureshi described Mohammed Emwazi or Jihadi John as a “beautiful young man.”
Until a few days ago, Corbyn was chair of Stop the War Coalition, which has a history of siding with Islamists. Anas al-Tikriti, Vice President of Stop the War Coalition has said, for example: ‘Calls for an Islamic state by some corners should not scare us nor should it bring about a negative reaction. […] In Muslim countries where Islam forms a focal point of history and society, this must not be dismissed as mere political or ideological fanaticism, but rather viewed as a collective aspiration.’
Islamic states and groups are one of the largest producers of refugees and deny basic rights to all those living under their rule. Deeming far-right movements and states as one and the same as the people they suppress ignores class politics and dissent and sides with the oppressors.
Corbyn also praises Islamists who promote the ideas of Sharia and the Islamic state such as Ibrahim Hewitt who he has called ‘a very good friend’ though the latter has compared gays to paedophiles and refused to condemn the stoning to death under Sharia law. In a pamphlet for ‘The Muslim Educational Trust,’ Hewitt says the punishment for apostasy from Islam is death in an ideal Islamic state. Clearly, this is not a theoretical matter, particularly since apostates are persecuted and killed in a number of countries under Islamist rule.
We would like to remind Corbyn that progressive, anti-fascist and anti-war politics without opposition to Islamist far-Right states and movements is self-defeating. One cannot be progressive in some areas and not in others. One cannot be against some fascists whilst being ‘a very good friend’ to others. This is a politics that betrays the dissenters and victims of Islamism including those deemed “Muslims”, progressive forces and the working class. It is also a betrayal of the very principles that the Left has historically defended (from social justice, egalitarianism, secularism, universalism, and human liberation, including from religion).
While we oppose the attacks of the rightwing press on Corbyn aimed at displacing the legitimate anger and protest of people in Britain against austerity and capitalism, we cannot ignore his utter failure in challenging Islamism and the Islamic regime of Iran and his betrayal of the progressive and secular forces in Britain, the Middle East, Diaspora and the world.
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