HOPE NOT HATE has done invaluable work in exposing the vile provocation masterminded by self-styled “counter-jihadists” to ignite inter-communal violence.
The plotters plan to host an exhibition of cartoons in central London lampooning the prophet Mohammed with the express intent of instigating violence as a means of counterposing “free speech” against Islam.
That this is simply an exercise in Islamophobia can be gauged by the decision to invite Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders to the exhibition’s opening.
It is equally no surprise that exhibition organiser Anne Marie Waters has held meetings with members of the English Defence League and Britain First extremist organisations.
Waters is no stranger to Islamophobia, having been unmasked by Socialist Unity website blogger Andy Newman two years ago when she was on the shortlist to be Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Brighton Pavilion and headed a group called One Law for All.
Newman, who stood for Labour in Chippenham at the general election, drew flak for his revelations from the usual B52 liberal suspects, including Observer journalist Nick Cohen, who backed Waters and accused Newman of being on the wrong side of a religion v women’s rights struggle.
Waters went on within a year to be a Ukip parliamentary candidate, so it will be interesting to see what that party has to say about her activities and the company she keeps.
When David Cameron delivered his “anti-extremism” speech in Birmingham last week, he claimed that “far-right extremists” would be scrutinised as much as “Muslim non-violent extremists.”
Yet he has been silent so far on Waters, her co-plotters and their exhibition.
The efforts of Islamophobes to pose Islam per se as antipathetic to free speech, women’s rights, gay rights and other issues that continue to be areas of democratic struggle are absurd.
There is as little difficulty in quoting from Christian or Jewish holy books as there is for Muslim scriptures to highlight outdated or unacceptable attitudes.
Similar views are still voiced widely and some indeed shared by members of Parliament, but most non-religious people would not seek to tar all believers with the brush of bigotry.
Yet this is the strategy of Islamophobes who, through dishonest websites such as Sharia Watch, seek to portray all Muslims as a threat to equality, social harmony and human rights.
Full emancipation remains incomplete and will be achieved by common struggle not patronising injunctions to Muslims to adopt “our” values.
Blasphemy laws in Britain are an anachronism. Cases are seldom pursued and are even more rarely successful, but they remain on the statute book, applying solely to defence of Christianity.
Although Britain is often portrayed as a secular country, the blasphemy laws are an example of the ongoing power of the established Church of England, with the monarch designated head of the church and a number of bishops sitting as of right in Parliament.
Secular democracy, in which all faiths and those who profess no religion can operate freely, requires the complete separation of state and religion.
Unfortunately, one of New Labour’s most retrograde steps was the championing of “faith schools” over secular state education, thus reinforcing religious differences.
Government inaction so far over the Mohammed cartoon exhibition is a challenge to everyone who is committed to a multicultural country living at peace with itself.
It must be countered by communities and faiths uniting to say No to extremism and division and insisting on mutual respect as the basis for coexistence.
The efforts of the “counter-jihadists” to split us must be defeated.