Condemn police assault on Muslim protesters - RSP statement

Against racism and Islamophobia and for the right to protest

The Revolutionary Socialist Party unreservedly condemns the New South Wales Police force for its September 14 assault on protesters who were peacefully demonstrating against a racist video attacking Islam.

The police initially escalated the event by banning the demonstration. The fact that NSW still has laws requiring protesters to seek a permit before exercising what should be the democratic right to protest is outrageous. The police force then attacked the protest using capsicum spray and tear gas. Any disorganised resistance in response to the heavy-handed attempts by police to quash people’s democratic right to protest needs to be understood within this context. The police, coming armed with capsicum spray, dogs and horses, created the tense situation. The protesters came with no weapons. The police arrested only six people in the immediate aftermath, and none for any serious violent acts.

Furthermore, this protest occurred within the broader context of racist and Islamophobic attacks against Arabic and Islamic people as well as “non-white” people more generally. While statistics show a decline in violent crime in Australia, levels of violence towards minorities continue to be high. In 2005 a bunch of “Aussie” thugs rioted, attacking people from a Lebanese background. Despite approximately 3000 people being involved in this racist and openly violent witch-hunt, police were less heavy handed towards these racists than they were towards a peaceful demonstration of fewer than 500 people, including children.

Australian racism is not simply an attitude problem for a large section of the Australian population — some worse than others. Rather it is reflective of government policy, which justifies imperial interventions on anti-Islamic grounds (even when invading secular countries like Iraq or installing new religiously conservative governments like in Afghanistan). In the light of bipartisan support for bigotry (which extends towards Indigenous people as well as people from migrant backgrounds), it is no wonder that racist thinking remains strong in the population and minority communities feel marginalised.

The RSP stands with the protesters in defence of their right to protest and joins all demands for an end to both the physical and ideological harassment of Middle Eastern or Muslim communities. Police who used violence against demonstrators should be punished.

Understanding and fighting xenophobia, racism and Islamophobia

Demonstrations against the Islamophobic film Innocence of Muslims have occurred around the world, including demonstrations calling for suppression of the film, and even capital punishment (beheading) for the film-makers. Some Muslim commentators and activists have referred to the film as being a trigger, igniting deeper anger.

There is no doubt deep anger exists among the Muslim and Arab world going far beyond the numbers of people involved in the recent demonstrations in Sydney and worldwide. This anger has been caused by more than 100 years of exploitation, colonialism, neo-colonial occupation and humiliation, which have helped lock the societies affected into social and economic backwardness. The same deep anger also exists in the non-Muslim part of the “Third World”.

In the search for an understanding of and solution to this misery and humiliation, some people have been won to the view that it’s the result of a Western crusade to defeat and eliminate Islam and to impoverish its people, taking the wealth to fund a way of life based on decadent hedonism. This stands in contrast to the understanding that what the peoples of the “Third World” have experienced is a result of imperialism — that is, capital’s ruthless expansion seeking labour to exploit and natural resources to plunder, financing the wasteful and luxurious lifestyles of a 1% elite and the expansion of their war machines.

The two views give rise to two solutions. One sees an Islamic state using religious laws, by their nature often reactionary and undemocratic, as the means to end the suffering and humiliation. The other sees the solution as the organisation and mobilisation of the exploited masses to establish a democratic and socialist state and society.

It is the urgent task of socialists to build a stronger capacity to explain the socialist understanding and solutions and to build a stronger movement struggling for those solutions. Not only are socialist solutions the only ones that will work, but building the capacity to explain this can be an effective counter to any influence of reactionary religious ideas among those most angered by the humiliation of the Muslim world through the economic and military policies of Washington and the other imperial capitals and by the harassment of their communities in Australia, which is fuelled by the xenophobia and racism spread here as part of the ideological justification of Australian imperialist occupation and exploitation overseas.

Direct Action — September 19, 2012