From our friends over at Ikhras.
What the Muslim-American Establishment Fights For
If I may sound so callous, allow me to admit that I don’t really care about recent approval of building a mosque near Ground Zero (that’s New York’s ground zero for the purposes of this article, not Baghdad’s or Kabul’s). Aside that this step will anger islamophobes, which is always a good thing, I see nothing to celebrate.
I would be impressed if the mosques that were destroyed in Al-Lid and Palestine 48 were rebuilt for Nakba survivors to pray in, or if the mosques of Iraq that were destroyed during the US invasion and occupation were restored. However, I fail to see the point of pouring much time and energy into gaining legal and political permits to build a mosque near the site of an event that happened on 9/11/2001, in retaliation for which around 2 million Muslims have been killed between Iraq and Afghanistan, Pakistan and other sites of the so-called war on terrorism. How will the building of a mosque near Ground Zero alleviate the grief of 2 million Muslim families that have lost loved ones? How will it protect Muslims from the empire’s claws? What role will it play in defanging the US war machine? Will Abu Ghraib survivors’ psychological scars heal? Will this mosque help dispossess Afghani and Iraqi refugees feel safe enough to return home?
Let’s examine what interests will be served. What will Muslims get out of the establishment of a mosque at ground zero? A place to pray at most. And it’s not like there was a shortage of mosques in New York. Indeed, one Muslim who advocated for the building of the mosques stated there were already 200 mosques in New York, so building one at ground zero won’t be a big deal. Any attempt to enhance political standing in the US discredits the entire mosque effort islamically, as the intention (niyyah) behind building a mosque or performing any deed should be made exclusively for pleasing God.
What will the US get out of the establishment of a mosque at ground zero?
1) A PR cover for its war of terrorism against Muslims. The US couldn’t possibly be islamophobic if it builds a mosque near ground zero, right? The best cover for intolerance and xenophobia is building a mosque at ground zero at a time when many Muslims still linger in Guantanamo, many millions live under military occupation, and many Americans approve of Arizona-style immigration enforcement.
2) An opportunity to spy on Muslim congregants. One of the projects sponsors has stated “We have worked to ensure that our mosques are not recruiting grounds for terrorists.” How can that possibly be accomplished without violations of civil liberties? Will people get interrogated about their politics on their way in to prayers? Will there be security cameras installed in the mosque? Will the imam’s Friday sermons be surveilled? Will congregants be required to submit personal data for “record-keeping” purposes? Will phonecalls going in and out of the mosque be monitored? Now that the Muslim American establishment feels indebted to the US for granting it land (it had stolen from Native Americans) to build a mosque on, can you picture Muslims refusing civil liberties intrusions in the name of security at such a sensitive location?
3) A distraction to keep Muslim Americans tied up in the perpetual task of chasing after acceptance in the US instead of engaging in the far more pressing priority of working to end the occupations of three majority-Muslim countries (Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine).
What more could the US ask for? I can’t see what the Tea Party and other islamophobes are fuming about.
Mark my words: the ground zero mosque will be a breeding ground for ikhras-worthy events. Muslims will host US presidents, US National Security Advisers and other such war criminals there. Friday sermons will consistently fail to criticize US foreign policy. Muslim-American soldiers will pray there before getting deployed to participate in the empire’s crimes abroad. Groups like “Seeds of Peace” will use the mosque as a site to engage in useless negotiations between Zionists and Palestinians. The FBI and DHS will hold sessions to learn “Muslim culture” to look more politically correct when detaining and deporting Muslims.
Incidentally, it is remarkable to note how victimized the citizens of the world’s only superpower feel; they’re viewing this event with the same sense of bitterness and irony with which Palestinians view the building of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum near the ruins of Deir Yasin, where a horrific massacre took place in 1948.
12 thoughts on “Park51 Coopts Muslims”
This are serious points raised by Ikhras and specifically Kathim.
For starters, props to Ikhras for throwing down with Malcolm. I have been around too many South Asian and Arab Muslims who only know one Malcolm. The one that came back from Haaj and wanted to hug everyone! Mythology about Malcolm aside, it seems yall at Ikhras are some of the first Muslims in a while that take Malcolm’s revolutionary content damn seriously. Furthermore, you are taking his House Negro/ Field Negro argument and apply it to Muslims today. I am damn sure there are a lot of racist ass Muslims out there who squirm at the thought of being compared to a Black slave. There are more questions I got for yall regarding the changing aspects of white supremacy post 1960s but we can discuss that later. I hope y’all keep exploring Malcolm and I look forward to reading more about it.
But to the meat of this post: I think in terms of critique yall raise, I have no disagreements. This is something the crew and I debated in NYC. Is it worth our time to attend the rally? Considering there is a major economic crisis which is affecting working class Muslims isn’t it important that we focus on organizing around the budget cuts. I remember “A” telling me how she took some Arab youth to a budget cuts rally and how they were demoralized when all the Dominican youth came with chants and signs against the cuts. The DR youth rolled pretty deep as well. The Arab youth did not feel so hot seeing the sad state of affairs in the Muslim-Arab scene. It could have been a sweet place to make links/ solidarity. I think that is particularly important in places like the mid-west and North east where there can be big ass Arab or Muslim and Black divides cuz of class dynamics.
But either way, we decided to attend the pro-Mosque rally. My main arguments (nt sure if everyone was convinced?) was that it is part of a spike in xenophobia-white supremacy in the country with SB-1070 in the forefront. The anti-Mosque stuff should be seen in this light. That meant that the Park 51 Mosque could become a potential flash point and barometer of the balance of forces between white supremacy and anti-racists. I think I might have minimized how the Republicans were using this as part of an electioneering scheme and the NYC spectacle phenomenon. So if the Mosque was forced to move by the Right, then it would have only emboldened those fools and continued the cowering behavior of a lot of Muslims.
I think the big problem of any such demonstration right is the lack of militant Muslim organizing going on right now. A lot of us in NYC just moved less then a month before this came down. We tried to run with it fast, but real organizing, agitating, and developing other militants takes time. So while we did not struggle with a lot of other Muslims (major problem!), I think we handled the political-programmatic obstacle alright. Meaning can’t we defend the Mosque; call out the State Dept Imam = a stooge; this lends to the anti-imperialist tip; connect the anti-Mosque stuff to SB-1070 and Oscar Grant; this leads into white supremacy in this country which needs to be crushed. We were never able to find out how accessible this Mosque would have been to poorer Muslims. So we did not put out a hard class critique of the Mosque in terms of accessibility, but considering it is in downtown NYC, I doubt it was meant for Taxi Cab drivers, small vendors etc. Maybe I am wrong.
in solidarity yall
An oppressed religious minority is trying to build a cultural center and house of worship, while the far right and corporate media whip up racist hysteria against them. Is it really so hard to figure out which side revolutionaries should be on?
Furthermore, Islamophobia is playing a crucial role for the ruling class during the economic crisis. It’s a classic example of “don’t look over here, look over there” — “don’t get angry at the bankers and politicians, get angry at the Islamic cultural center in your neighborhood.”
In the interests of working-class unity against the cuts, against austerity, against the ruling-class offensive, revolutionaries have an absolute duty to fight Islamophobia. That means defending this mosque.
In terms of anti-imperialism, it’s pretty obvious that anti-Arab racism and Islamophobia prop up the ongoing US occupations in the Middle East. Another reason to mobilize around what’s happening in New York.
Will, your point that:
“Considering there is a major economic crisis which is affecting working class Muslims isn’t it important that we focus on organizing around the budget cuts”
is textbook economism. Why counterpose the struggle against the cuts to the struggle against racism and oppression in this way?
What I really appreciate about this piece is the asking of questions around what Muslims in the US should be doing to fight white supremacy and imperialism. This is something that neither the official society media nor many of the articles by the left are asking. Props to Kathim and Ikhras for taking this up. I agree that Islamophobia is alive and well, but the debate over Park51 is masking the reality of occupations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine as Kathim mentions. Its not that as Muslims in the US we don’t face important struggles here. We do, but I think those struggles are more accurately depicted by looking at the class tensions within our own communities. Will talks about the lack of radical organizing in Muslim and Arab communities, and this is also part of the problem.
What I mean is highlighted by how Kathim ends his piece. If this mosque is built, what role is it going to play in our communities? It is not going to be a center of continuing resistance to white supremacy and US imperialism, but rather, accommodation to those forces. It is going to further cement the role that house Muslims play in US empire.
I agree with James that the right to build a mosque should be defended. But I think Will is asking the question, with limited resources such as we have, how do we participate in this struggle? I dont think we have the resources to wage a class struggle inside Arab and Muslim communities just yet, to fight for this mosque to be something other than a sign of assimilation in the US. We would do better to join other struggles that people of color, immigrants, queers and other oppressed folks are waging, and try to build a multi-racial, multi-gendered movement with others.
I wanted to post a quick response to James first. I have some more general comments to say and will try to write it up in the upcoming days.
I generally agree with James that there is exactly the question of economism if it is only thought of in terms the real struggle being budget cuts. Or that the mosque issue is not related to the crisis and specifically the budget cuts. That looking at the crisis of the last 2-3 years only in the aspects of the budget cuts ignores how the crisis is multi-dimensional and cuts across religion, class, race, gender and sexuality. In other words, this crisis cannot be seen just as an economic crisis, but a political crisis in the broadest sense.
For starters I want to make it clear that I and other militants went to the “pro Mosque” rally and did a pretty good job of agitating there. At the same time, I strongly agree with Fatima regarding how I was thinking through the choices for a small group of revolutionaries in NYC who have just begun our organizing work. As many of the readers know, starting campaigns around issues take immense amounts of time and we do not have time to engage in the various important and righteous struggles going on. So tough tactical/ strategic decisions have to be made. 4-6 people cannot possibly attend all the events in NYC. Otherwise what ends up happening instead of really building roots with an oppressed community, event hopping becomes a replacement for real grassroots organizing. In NYC, it seems event hopping is a real problem. I remember a comrade emailed us a list of events going on in one night in NYC and it was like 30 radical events! So if a group of organizers choose to struggle more narrowly on budget cuts work, there is a reasonable debate to be had over whether resources should be spent attending the rally. There is another political discussion of how is the anti-Mosque stuff related to the budget cuts crisis. I will not go into the details of that here.
More to come soon ☺
I understand where you’re coming from, Will. My first post probably came across as more polemical than was necessary, so apologies for that.
I totally agree that small groups of revolutionaries need to make tough choices about where to put their resources. And the fight against the budget cuts is just about the most important thing to focus on right now.
I guess I’m open to the argument that the NYC mosque might play an assimilationist or co-opting role. Whether or not that’s true, though, this has also become–in my opinion–a central struggle for the whole working class. Islamophobia is one of the main weapons of the ruling class in this period of crisis. Are we going to try and disarm them or not? That’s the contradiction we have to navigate.
In that sense, the debate here is similar to the debate around the movement for marriage equality. Some militants argue that marriage is a conservative and bourgeois institution, and that we should therefore abstain from the movement or even polemicize against it. While there’s a kernel of truth to that position, it’s also the case that winning marriage equality would be a huge blow to homophobia and a major step forward for working-class unity.
Thanks to folks at Ikhras for an excellent piece. In our Palestine solidarity organizing through the years we’ve unfortunately had to deal with a lot of opposition from the folks you call “house Arabs.”
James, I’m sure you know the way we do anti-budget cuts organizing is not economistic. We’re not just talking about stopping cuts and preserving social democracy, we’re talking about transforming the university so it is more of a common resource, a democratic community center for the entire city. We point out how the budget cuts reinforce patriarchy and white supremacy and we see the anti-budget cuts struggle as an anti-racist and anti-sexist struggle. We also link budget cuts to increased militarization of university campuses, to union busting, and to attacks on immigrant workers, and we build united front coalitions to fight back. For an example of this non-economistic approach, check out this piece that Jomo and others worked on as part of Democracy Insurgent
I imagine that comrades in New York are taking a similar approach.
I agree with you James that fighting Islamophobia is a central struggle for the entire working class because Islamophobia is a key weapon the rulers use to keep us divided. However, I think it’s more complicated than that, as folks at Ikhras suggest. We actually have two different sets of enemies we need to fight at the same time, and they are often fighting each other as well.
The first set of enemies is the global, trans-national ruling class, with it’s headquarters in Washington D.C. and it’s bodyguard in the form of the U.S. military. U.S. imperialism today is not just American nationalism, it is a coalition of ruling elites around the world subordinated in a white supremacist hierarchy with the U.S. on top. But to hold this coalition together the American ruling class can’t just say “destroy Islam.” They need to cultivate a whole army of House Arabs who will help them govern the Middle East. They need to claim they are bringing things like “religious tolerance” , “women’s rights”, and “civilization” to the Middle East and to do this they need the House Arabs like Abbas and the Palestinian Authority to validate their presence there. It is a much more sophisticated form of the white man’s burden. Instead of “Islamophobia” they cultivate fear of the “Bad Muslims” and praise for those they decide are “Good Muslims”. It is these elements of the global ruling class that want the Park 51 mosque to be built for all the reasons the Ikhras article lays out. They want to say “look we’re tolerant of the Good Muslims here in our homeland so we have a right to invade your homeland and impose our tolerance on you. If you’re a Good Muslim we’ll give you patronage and if you’re a Bad Muslim we’ll torture and murder you.”
The second set of enemies is the populist white supremacist right. I’m open to better names/ labels for these people, but basically what I mean is the grassroots, insurgent rightwingers who are angry at the global ruling class because they think it is not serving the white man’s interests anymore. These are the folks who want to burn Qur’ans, shut down mosques, police the border with guns, and directly attack and kill immigrants. There are major variations within this camp – some are co-opted into electoralism and legal means of struggle via the right wing of the Republican Party and others shade into direct action fascist organizing efforts. But a lot of them are serious about confronting the state and ruling class and in many ways are directly competing with us to make sense of the economic crisis and to organize against the rulers who caused it.
These two forces are fighting each other over the mosque situation – hence the Pentagon telling the racist preacher not to burn Qur’ans because it would be bad for the U.S. military’s counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan.
We need to confront both of these forces at the same time, which is a daunting task and requires a greater degree of unity among the class struggle Left. We need to confront the ruling class which is invading Muslim countries and throwing working class immigrant communities (including some “field Arabs”) in places like New York into poverty even while they support the Park 51 mosque. At the same time we need to confront the white supremacist populists who are trying to stop the Park 51 mosque from being built because we can’t let them gain confidence and power or pretty soon they’ll be at our doorsteps.
I think it’s good Unity and Struggle folks in New York went to Ground Zero to confront the white supremacists for that reason. At the same time, I think it’s good folks are balancing that intervention with a criticism of what the Park 51 mosque represents, showing that “confronting Islamophobia” is not enough, we also need to wage the class struggle inside Arab and Muslim communities, to confront those “House Arabs” who are helping the racist global ruling class oppress people of color.
James, I appreciate that you and your organization (the ISO) are trying to fight Islamophobia and to defend Arab and Muslim communities from attack. At the same time, there are limitations to a model of just allying with Arab and Muslim communities to “fight Islamophobia”. It’s important to see that these communities are divided in exactly the ways Ikhras and comrades here on Gathering Forces are describing. Who are you and your organization going to ally with? The House Arabs or the Field Arabs? What do you do when these groups are in conflict with each other? We could all probably talk for hours about how that choice has played out in our local organizing.
James, to put it in other terms, are you and your organization for a Popular Front against fascism, where we unite with the liberal ruling class against the fascists, or are you for a United Front, where we continue to wage class struggles in our communities while at the same time uniting to defend each other and our communities from the fascists? We are for the latter.
You asked in an earlier comment what we think about Trotskyism and unfortunately no-one responded (sorry about that). I have a lot of criticisms of Trotskyism and do not consider myself a Trotskyist but one of the things I do think we should learn from Trotsky is the importance of the United Front and the dangers of the Popular Front.
There’s a lot going on in those two responses, Mamos. I’m not sure I can get to all of it, but I’ll give it a shot.
Firstly, of course I accept that there are class divisions within oppressed groups, and that these divisions are important to keep in mind when doing anti-racist organizing. But I think that your attempt to divide this particular community into the neat, fixed categories of “House Arab” and “Field Arab” is a gross over-simplification of what’s going on here. It’s not even remotely useful on an analytical level. Does it refer to class position or level of political consciousness?
Be more precise, please.
Second: you’ll need to show me which section of the global ruling class is out demonstrating against the racists at Ground Zero. And which section of the liberal bourgeoisie. Because apart from a couple of exceptions (Bloomberg, for example) all I’ve heard from mainstream liberals has been pretty grotesque pandering to the anti-Muslim hysteria.
Okay, so it’s certainly true that there are contradictions in the ruling class use of Islamophobia. As you point out, they can only let things go so far before they start to alienate their client regimes in the Middle East. But let’s face it—they’re letting it go pretty fucking far right now. I hardly think the danger at this juncture is that our anti-racist organizing will get co-opted by the liberal bourgeoisie.
In fact, as I intimated in my original comment, the main danger I saw in the article above was that serious militants like those in Unity and Struggle would abstain from the struggle because it didn’t rise to the requisite level of proletarian purity. Re-read the Ikhras piece: it’s not an argument to recognize the complexities of class and political differentiation within the Arab-American community, it’s an argument that the struggle around the NYC mosque is irrelevant—or worse, a distraction that plays into the hands of the ruling class.
I still think that’s dead wrong.
On the united front vs. the popular front: your approach to the question could’ve come right out of the pages of Workers Vanguard. What would a simon-pure United Front look like in this instance, do you think? The Sparts have been waiting for 50 years and they still haven’t found one that they like…
Finally, I hope it goes without saying that I’m commenting on here under my own auspices, and in no sense as a representative of the ISO.
Ok, so Mamos and James have started another interesting discussion thread on the comments. I am not gonna jump on that line of that right now. Instead I want to ground analysis and strategy based on my youth as a South Asian Muslim in Detroit. And I want to discuss some my experiences as an organizer in the Palestine Solidarity Movement as it related to questions of breaking down social and cultural divisions between immigrant Muslims and Americans (wont get to this today).
I wanted to start out by saying how frustrating it has been to have grown up Muslim and South Asian in this country. My brother and I were the only South Asian kids in an all Black elementary school. Luckily we never got picked on for being South Asian. At the same time my racist parents kept me from making Black friends. Nor did my parents understand what was going on in the city of Detroit other then racist political perspectives that Black people were inherently poor and prone to crime so better keep your kids away from them, and best to get the hell out of Detroit as fast as possible. To some degree this is complicated by the fact that my parents just did not understand the racial realities of this country. So they easily picked up the dominant racism floating around. If there had been a strong anti-racist movement and if the Black freedom struggle had not been smashed things might have been different.
I tend to think the community I come from certainly has some immigrant-ghetto breaking to do. People huddled around people who looked like them. In the metro-Detroit area there are whole suburbs and cities which are predominantly South Asian. But more importantly is the mental conception of many South Asians which sees the self-preservation of culture and religion as vital. This is generally very isolating and has lots of political problems. There are political reasons for this: arguable one of the most fundamental would be because of white supremacy and the constant assault on Islam, many Muslims take a gather the wagons around the community approach. This is understandable but it has real consequences for solidarity and what “integration” into America means per CLR James. Complicated to this is the white supremacy of the American left itself when it comes to sections of the progressive left and even Revolutionary left related to the agency and libratory aspects of Muslim people. So at times the contradictions of the American left isolate Muslims. There is the decimation of the revolutionary left in most Muslim countries and the rise of Islamic politics for the last couple decades. Furthermore there are class dimensions to many layers of the Muslim community in the US based on whether a person comes from Palestine, India, Pakistan, or Bangladesh. Different nationalities tend to express different class backgrounds which have effects on the ghetto-izing of communities.
Maybe what I am trying to get at with my story is the tension of being an immigrant—I was not born in the U.S. The desire to be recognized as someone who rightfully belongs in the United States, which I have generally felt a constant struggle to remind others that I belong here. (There is also something unreal about white supremacy where you want to see people who like yourself in the past and not seeing that in the United States, even in radical history has consequences—at least it did for me. I am over it now and can deal with it/ look at it from a historical and political perspective, but that took some time.)
And what that tension looks like in practice recognizing that the immigrant-American is a vital part of U.S. history. But reflecting on my life, what happened to the broader community I was with, and then trying to historicize still leaves gaps/ questions. I think some of those things can only be answered with the development of a movement.
If I can be so bold to make a leap into another line of thought….So broadly speaking some of my political conclusions is that Muslims do not have a revolutionary history based in the United States. We can go back to the Ghadar Party which was mostly a Sikh organization. (It was a South Asian revolutionary anti-colonial organization and of course there is Hayar Dal.) Although Malcolm was a Muslim, I hate how most Muslims and most people make Malcolm a loving liberal in his life, and especially how his race politics become time to hug everyone. In other words I am always suspicious of Muslims who try to revive the liberal Malcolm. To some degree this is not their fault as that is what is taught in school.
But when looking at the scope of revolutionary history in the United States there are no Muslim figures as far as I know. What ideological, cultural etc consequences does that have on how Muslim people can build solidarity to contemporary struggles. I do not have the answer, but it is something I have had to wrestle with, and something which I believe has real consequences for Muslims today.
The reason I raise these things is cuz I am thinking about what movements have the potential for multi-racial solidarity. Which movements will help Muslims’ break down the circle the bandwagon mentality. Which movements will help develop revolutionary politics amongst Muslim people. I want to be upfront that I have been a Palestine Solidarity organizer for the most of my political life and that I am not downplaying the possibilities of Palestine Solidarity work accomplishing these things. At the same time, also reflecting on what has actually happened in the movement and its relationship to some of the questions I am raising.
More tomorrow…hope this all makes sense!
Let me try to tackle some of your main points. I think many of your concerns are addressed by Jubayr’s excellent piece “Park 51 Raises Urgent Questions for Muslims” so I’ll try not to be redundant.
First of all, I don’t think anyone is trying to reduce the question of class tensions in Arab and Muslim communities to a framework of “House Arabs” vs. “Field Arabs.” I do think that framework is useful because it situates Arab liberation struggles in a tradition of Malcolm X and Black liberation, which is key for challenging the anti-Black racism of a lot of the Arab American Middle Class as folks suggested. It also helps polemically tear down some of the legitimacy that middle class Arab American liberals and conservatives try to claim as “representatives” of Arab communities when they push Zionist and pro-US imperialist agendas. Again, a lot of us have been organizing for years around Palestine solidarity and we have repeatedly come into contact with these folks and we find it refreshing to see Ikhras developing a sharp critique. So I strongly disagree with you that this framework “is not even remotely useful on an analytical level.” Would you say the same thing about Malcolm X’s own use of the terms Field Negro and House Negro? Were those terms useless to the Black Power movement?
You ask “Does it [the term House Arab] refer to class position or level of political consciousness?” I’m not sure precisely how Kathim and other Ikhras folks are using it, you should ask them. But to me it seems to mean both. It is referring to a specific section of the Arab American middle class which is Zionist and pro-US imperialism. You ask me to be more precise. I could give dozens of examples but maybe other Gathering Forces readers could take this as an opportunity to discuss our various experiences dealing with this social layer in our everyday lives and our organizing. Will’s reflection starts to get at some of the class and race tensions among middle class Muslim folks in the Detroit metro area. Jubayr’s piece also quotes an African American imam, Abdur-Rashid, who has some very sharp insights into the ideological, class, and ethnic composition of the Arab and South Asian-American Muslim leadership. He calls them out for distancing themselves from Black folks and says that they have pursued a failed strategy to assimilate into white America instead of building alliances with Black America; this is now backfiring as the racists attack them.
You write: “you’ll need to show me which section of the global ruling class is out demonstrating against the racists at Ground Zero. And which section of the liberal bourgeoisie. Because apart from a couple of exceptions (Bloomberg, for example) all I’ve heard from mainstream liberals has been pretty grotesque pandering to the anti-Muslim hysteria.” I think Jubayr’s piece answers this question. I’ll just add that I’m not saying the liberal bourgeoisie will adequately stop anti-Muslim hysteria. They won’t. They will pander to it many times, which is why we can’t rely on them to fight the Right and need to do it ourselves. All I’m saying is they’re not the SAME as the forces pushing that anti-Muslim hysteria. They operate more along the lines of pitting folks they claim to be the “Good Muslims” against those they claim to be the “Bad Muslims” as Mahmood Mamdani put it. The Park51 project is part of that so it needs to be criticized openly even while we confront the racists who are trying to shut it down.
You write: “I hardly think the danger at this juncture is that our anti-racist organizing will get co-opted by the liberal bourgeoisie.” I disagree. What happened to the anti-war movement? It started out having anti-racist potential but got coopted into supporting first Kerry than Obama. What happened to the Palestine Solidarity movement? It got coopted into popular fronts with liberal Zionists who keep pushing on toward a “two state solution” which is really just State Department propaganda: if it ever exists it will be simply international legal recognition for a bunch of disconnected Palestinian reservations or Bantustans surrounded by Israeli guard towers.
You write: “In fact, as I intimated in my original comment, the main danger I saw in the article above was that serious militants like those in Unity and Struggle would abstain from the struggle because it didn’t rise to the requisite level of proletarian purity.” There is no danger of that – that’s not how we roll. Over the past several years we have consistently confronted right wing Islamophobic racists and have formed blocks with the most militant Arab and Muslim youth, often with young women at the forefront, to do this. We’ve done this in both working class and middle class communities. At times we’ve caught hell from the House Arabs for it because they have pushed dialogue with the racists and have not wanted to alienate white folks. We’ve done it anyway. But our approach has never been to make the House Arabs our primary target. Our approach has generally been to confront both the anti-Muslim white populists AND the policies and representatives of U.S. imperialism and then to argue with the House Arabs as well if they try to stop us from doing either of these things.
Finally, as Will said, U&S folks in New York DID go confront the racists at Ground Zero despite our open critiques of the Park51 project.
Finally, I’m not sure what you’re saying about Workers Vanguard and the Sparticists… I’m not familiar with those historical references. I know there is a group called the Sparticists with a reputation for being sectarian. Are you comparing us to them? If so why? We’ve repeatedly worked in united front coalitions with your organization and in some cases we’ve even initiated those coalitions and reached out to your members. Even when that work has been frustrating we haven’t given up on it so we’re hardly looking for some sort of “pure” united front. We just refuse to silence our criticisms of forces such as the House Arabs who help oppress our communities in order to work in coalition to confront the racists. We want to confront the racists AND openly critique the House Arabs. I don’t see what’s so dangerous about that, in my mind that’s part of building a democratic movement.
You probably answered my questions with more patience than they deserved, to be honest.
The only things I’d add are these:
As a white guy I’m just kinda uncomfortable using the whole “House” vs. “Field” terminology. You might remember that Ralph Nader called Obama a “House Slave” a few months ago and I thought that was pretty inappropriate. Maybe I’m just being overly PC.
I could say more about this, but maybe some other time.
But the question of political consciousness vs. class position is important, especially if we’re talking about the united front method.
There very well may be people (Arab-American, Muslim, or otherwise) who have problematic positions on, for example, the Palestinian struggle or the US occupation of Afghanistan, but who are nevertheless willing to join us in protest against Islamophobia.
I think we should be wide open to working with these people because a) this struggle could be a radicalizing experience for them, and b) through joint work we win the right to challenge their bad ideas on other questions.
I’m sure you agree with that.
While we’re talking about Palestine solidarity…I think some of the bad ideas you’re finding in the Arab-American and Muslim communities in relation to this question may be the result of defeat and retreat rather than bad faith or entrenched class privilege.
Perhaps the fight against Islamophobia will give people confidence to shake off the baggage of what has, after all, been a terribly reactionary and frightening people for these sections of the US working class.
In my experience the one-state argument is actually gaining strength in the movement right now. Are you finding something different?
I agree with you that we should march with folks who want to challenge Islamophobia even if they don’t have anti-Zionist or anti-imperialist perspectives. We just can’t let them prevent us from coming to such actions with signs, flyers, speeches, etc. which articulate firm anti-imperialist or anti-Zionist perspectives…. we need to fight for democratic coalition spaces where we reserve our right to show why we think Islamophobia is connected to US Empire and Zionism.
I also agree that the one state argument is gaining strength in the movement, especially in Palestine itself, but it is precisely for that reason that the global ruling class feels the need to support and cultivate Arab and Muslim leaders who can reinvigorate the two state “solution” and the “peace process”. I wouldn’t be surprised if Cordoba House would be used for this purpose.