Saturday, February 10, 2007

Alliance of Socialism and Islam Unites Against U.S.

This week's Economist has an interesting piece on Britain's antiwar movement, where a broad anti-American alliance between Socialists and Muslims has emerged in recent years to lead opposition to the U.S.-led international order:

AS GEORGE BUSH prepares to send more troops to Iraq, his critics all over the Western world are bringing more protesters onto the streets—and the range of people who are angry enough to fill the icy air with chants of rage seems broader, and in some ways stranger, than ever.

On February 24th, for example, gallery-goers and pigeon-feeders should probably avoid London's Trafalgar Square, on which tens or possibly hundreds of thousands of people will converge from all over Britain, and farther afield, to demand the withdrawal of Western troops from Iraq—and while they are at it, oppose the renewal of Britain's nuclear arsenal. Tourists who do venture near the square will notice the odd sociology of the anti-war movement: the unkempt beards and unisex denims of old-time street fighters rubbing shoulders with the well-trimmed Islamic beards and headscarved ladies.

This leftist-Muslim partnership exists not just on the streets, but in the protest movement's heart. Britain's Stop the War coalition, which has organised more than 15 nationwide protests and hundreds of smaller events, was largely forged by two small, intensely committed bodies—the far-left Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and the Muslim Association of Britain, which is close to the international Muslim Brotherhood. These tiny groups have co-ordinated street protests by up to 1m people.

With its combination of an American-aligned foreign policy and a large, angry Muslim population, Britain is an unusual case among Western countries. But in many other places, too, Muslim grievance has been yoked to a broader anti-capitalist or anti-globalist movement whose leitmotif is loathing of the Bush administration and all its works.

An Italian Marxist involved in the “Social Forum” movement, which organises large, disparate gatherings of groups opposed to the existing world order, puts it this way. Almost everybody in the movement shares the belief that “capitalism and militarism” (both epitomised by America) are the main challenges to human welfare. If political Islam can blunt American triumphalism, then so much the better—even from the viewpoint of those who would never dream of donning a headscarf or upsetting a sexual minority.
Read the whole thing. The article's discussion takes an interesting turn in highlighting the fissures within the intellectual left on the threat from Islamo-fascism. The piece quotes Paul Berman, for example, the author of Terror and Liberalism, who says "the left's refusal to take sides in the internal battles of Muslim countries (between dissidents and oppressors) reflects an “angelic blindness” which mistakes violent reactionaries for charming exotica." (For more on this, see David Horowitz's book, Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left, which looks at the emergence of the Socialist/Muslim coalition in the United States.)

The Wall Street Journal ran a great article on the gobal left's resistance to American hegemony last December: "
Anti-Americans on the March: Inside the Unlikely Coalition of the U.S.'s Sworn Enemies, Where Communists Link Up with Islamic Radicals."

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