The real unholy alliance

Letter in Socialist Worker, 1 April 2006:

The organisers of the protest for “freedom of expression” in Trafalgar Square last Saturday claimed to be standing up for free speech after the publication of cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed in Denmark. But what they were really doing was standing up for their rights to insult and offend Muslims, and increase Islamophobia in Britain.

The organisers had originally asked people to bring placards containing the cartoons to Trafalgar Square. But the day before the protest they had had to backtrack on this. One of the organisers admitted that many Muslims, including secular ones, were extremely offended by the cartoons that depicted all Muslims as terrorists.

The call to protest over this issue had opened a Pandora’s Box of racism and nationalism. The Civil Liberty website, run by Nazi BNP member Kevin Scott, had urged people to demonstrate on the day.

A strange mix of right wing libertarians and middle class liberals joined the rather small protest – which unlike the multi-racial anti-war protest that had filled Trafalgar Square the previous week, was mainly white.

I was particularly disappointed with gay campaigner Peter Tatchell who happily spoke alongside right wing nutcases from the Libertarian Alliance and the Freedom Association. Tatchell continually criticises the left, including Socialist Worker, for forming alliances with supposedly “reactionary” Muslims. He told the rally, “Free speech does not include the right to incite hatred and violence against other human beings.” But that was exactly what the cartoons were published to do – to make people see Muslims as the enemy within.

Sean Gabb of the Libertarian Alliance defended the rights of BNP leader Nick Griffin, Holocaust denier David Irving and disgraced racist lecturer Frank Ellis to “speak their mind”. The crowd cheered him. Mark Wallace of the Freedom Association also spoke. This is a notorious right wing group that campaigns for the “freedom” to speak out against the “tide of immigration”.

The real undercurrent of this rally was the racist idea that the main threat to all of our liberty is “reactionary Islam”. While some speakers denounced the “war on terror” most of the focus was on Muslims. Everyone involved with this “unholy alliance” should be ashamed of themselves.

Katherine Branney, East London