Far Right Racism and Gang Abuse

By Nancy Lindisfarne and Jonathan Neale.

Three years ago we posted an article about gang abuse of young women in Oxford. This article is of national relevance now, because the fascist and hard racist right is making hay with campaigns against Asian and Muslim abusers. Two weeks ago 15,000 people marched in central London calling for freedom for Tommy Robinson. There were 500 anti-racist counter-marchers. Things are getting serious.

Tommy Robinson was sentenced to thirteen months in jail for contempt of court. Twice, once in Kent and once in Yorkshire, he had broadcast footage on social media of men accused of gang abuse of young women going into court. His intent was to target those men, influence the juries, and to stoke up racial hatred on sexual grounds. He also wanted to get himself sent to prison as a martyr for the white race. This would enable him to build a campaign and restore his tarnished position as the leader of the hard racist right in Britain. He succeeded.

The march in London was large, angry, confident, and fought with the police. Geert Wilders, the Dutch fascist MP, spoke at the rally. Steve Bannon sent a message of support. The organising of the Football Lads Alliance in Britain is matched by the new Hooligans against Salafism group in Germany. At a more mainstream level, the public and demonstrative persecution of immigrants is mounting in Italy, Australia, the United States and Hungary.

It is a matter of urgency to build a response on the streets of Britain to future mobilisations of this sort. In doing so, we should be aware it is not just Robinson who is campaigning around sexual abuse from the right. Fascist websites are full of it, and Robinson has pinpointed that the tactic works for them like nothing else.

But there is a weakness in the response of most anti-racists to the protests around Robinson. They say nothing about the gang abuse he is targeting. They are silent, we think, because they don’t know what to say. This leaves the field open for people to assume that what he is saying is right.

We do know what to say. The post below is about gang abuse of young women by seven men in Oxford. In microcosm, the story contains all the elements seen since around the country. Our argument has two strands. One is that many different kinds of sexual abuse have been covered up by senior managers and the criminal justice system around the UK.  Under enormous pressure, the authorities have moved to prosecute some men, but almost all of them have been entertainers or actors. None of the managers who covered up their abuse have been prosecuted, or even disciplined. Dead politicians have been exposed, but not living ones. The national inquiry into historical abuse seems to be turning into a sick joke. The Metoo movement, which has done so much in the United States, has achieved very little in Britain. The sexual exploitation of young women by gangs of Asian men in several cities has to be put into this context. Those men are not foreign, or of  a different culture. They are doing what so many other British men have done.

The second strand of our argument is that when abuse is revealed, it is always because ordinary people have organised collectively from below to force the authorities to stop covering up. Continue reading

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Thinking about Feminism and Islamophobia 6: The Class Basis of the Taliban

Taliban reader

Nancy Lindisfarne

This is the first of two posts about the Taliban. In understanding the Taliban we need to face up honestly to two quite different things. First, the Taliban are on the side of the poor .

The Taliban are on the side of the poor in three different ways. Most of their supporters come from the poor. The leaders of the Taliban are themselves from among the poor. (In this they are unlike most other Islamist groups.) Thirdly, when they take power in an area the life circumstances of the poor improve significantly. These are the reasons why many ordinary people support the Taliban.

But there is another truth: the Taliban are also conservative in their sexual politics, and their policies oppress women. This is one of the things most ordinary Afghans and Pakistani Pashtuns don’t like about the Taliban.

Both these things are true. We need to face up to this contradictory reality. So we need to explain the situation in some detail. This post is an academic – but readable – paper explaining the class background of the Taliban. In another post, we shall turn to their right wing gender politics. Continue reading

Thinking about Feminism and Islamophobia 5: Bombs and Drones

American bomber being prepared for flight

American bomber being prepared for flight

Nancy Lindisfarne and Jonathan Neale write: Many people now argue that feminists should support the American and Iranian alliance against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Or they argue that we should support the American and Pakistani armed forces against the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Many other feminists, and many on the left, are confused and unsure. But they also talk as if it was a straight choice between IS and the US, or between the Taliban and the US. ‘Both sides are morally repugnant,’ these people say, ‘but if I have to choose…’

This way of thinking ignores the fact that you are not just choosing between two sides, you are choosing between two ways of waging war. How you kill people is important, and has emotional and political consequences. It matters that American bombing from the air is more cruel, more unequal, kills more women, and kills more children than fighting that on the ground with guns. Continue reading

Thinking about Feminism and Islamophobia (3) The new grand alliance in the Middle East

Women defendants at a mass trial of supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood in Alexandria, Egypt, November 2013

Nancy Lindisfarne and Jonathan Neale explain the changing international alliances in Middle Eastern politics, and how this is connected to rising Islamophobia in Europe.

In most of Europe and North America now there is only one acceptable form of racism: prejudice against Muslims. This is recent. Until 1978 in most of Europe and North America Muslims were often discriminated against because they were Asian, or Arabs, or people of colour. But in the US, Britain and many other countries they were not singled out for their religion. Continue reading

Iranian Street Aesthetics

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Netanyahu speaking to the US Congress: ‘Do a deal with Iran and nuclear war is inevitable’

Nancy Lindisfarne writes: One of the reasons Middle East politics is so confusing is that the alliances between the major players keep shifting. Changes in the balance of power are often extremely complicated, and leave plenty of gaps in our understanding of what is going on. In these gaps Islamophobia thrives. This post is meant as an antidote to the Western racism that targets Iran.

The shenanigans we’ve been watching this past week in anticipation of the Israeli election on Tuesday, the 17th March are a measure of the scale of the changes that have been taking place over this past year. We shall write about the new political alignments at length in a later post. Here I want to mark what hasn’t changed nearly as much.

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New building, Isfahan

In 2005 I travelled in Iran for a month. I had recently left academic teaching to do art. Luckily, I had remnants of Persian left over from anthropological fieldwork in Iran in the 1960s, and fieldwork in Afghanistan in the 1970s. In 2005 Western propaganda against Iran was relentless and visually dominated by ugly images of dust, terrorists and women smothered in black veils. In Iran, however, people were kind, endlessly helpful, and above all, they lived their lives in colour! Continue reading

Thinking about Feminism and Islamophobia (2): ‘Traditional’ and ‘Modern’ in Turkey

By Nancy Lindisfarne

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Kemal Atatűrk -Founding Father of the Turkish Republic

There is a lot to be learned when a society is changing rapidly and radically. This blog is an excerpt from Thank God, We’re Secular: Gender, Islam and Turkish Republicanism, published in Turkish in 2001.  This is a piece about Turkish Islamophobia, and about the class divide between Turkish elites and the working class. Continue reading