Matgamna gets it (partly) right

This site has had some harsh words to say about the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty in the past, but happily we’ve found an article, by Sean Matgamna on the veil controversy, at least some of which we can agree with. Of course, you have to put up with the usual denunciations of “Muslim bigots, and their kitsch-left and invertebrate-liberal toadies”, but the core of Matgamna’s article is correct:

“To do what Straw has just done, in the atmosphere in Britain right now, is to light a match in a gas-filled room. It is to pour petrol on a fire. Inevitably Straw has given the green light to people who want to have a go at Muslims, who are not at all concerned to have a reasonable discussion about Muslim women, or with Muslims….

“Dark-skinned Muslim people are victims in this society. They are easy targets. Straw has shown just how easy a target they are. Shamelessly racist newspapers, like the Express – one of a number of similar headlines: ‘Muslims pledge to ruin Straw’! – have weighed-in to turn his words into denunciation, blame-mongering, thinly disguised hate-mongering against identifiable Muslims.”

Workers’ Liberty, 9 October 2006

However, it’s difficult to square this argument with other positions taken by the AWL. Only a couple of weeks ago Matgamna came out in support of the pope – a stance that won him the admiration of Melanie Phillips – and earlier this year the AWL reproduced the Jyllands-Posten cartoons on their website on the basis of defending freedom of expression.

But, surely, the same argument applied in those cases. If freedom of expression is exercised in such a way that it incites bigotry and hatred against a minority community, in circumstances where that community is already under siege – by associating Islam with “things only evil and inhuman”, or by portraying the Prophet Mohammed as a terrorist bomber – then anyone with any progressive principles should condemn this. Time for the AWL to have a rethink, perhaps.