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Naima Bouteldja © 2001

 

 
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Given the chorus of disapproval from across the Channel of "extremist Muslims", the somewhat slack English politics concerning so-called "Islamist" groups, and because the world's press, unsurprisingly, has given few indications of any dissent, I would like to share an experience which I was able to have on Sunday, 18 November in London. Progressive forces exist within every society and community, although in different forms, conditioned by history, geography and culture, carrying the universal principles of hope and humanism. In the face of the existing monolithic and hegemonic capitalist order, the diversity of the movement of contestation is a Revolution in itself.

Some weeks after 11 September, an important coalition "against the war" was formed in England. It has brought together an unprecedented spectrum of activists, a test-card of political colours including the Socialist Alliance, SWP, Green Party, Ploughing MPs against the War (members of the Labour Party); top-drawer activists of the hour (the writer Tariq Ali, the journalist John Pilger, the old Labour MP Tony Ben); several Moslem organizations (Muslim Parliament, Justice and Peace, London Mosque Organisation, two Kurdish and Turkish organizations); and a rattlebag of other groups, including " the Artists against the war ", " Lawyers against War ", as well as several Unions (UNISON, and the National Union of Teachers).

Supported by this coalition, on 13 October an initial demonstration saw fifty thousand people march in London (only twenty thousand according to the police). Among them was a large contingent of Moslems. The Imam of the Birmingham Mosque had launched an appeal some days earlier, encouraging the Moslems to participate in the movement which was taking action from all four corners of Great Britain; his call was echoed by numerous other Imams and Muslim community leaders.

At Hyde Park Corner on Sunday, 18 November, some observers were sceptical about the chances of success of this second national gathering because, we had been told, Peace and Liberty had recently been restored to the Afghan lands. Yet, on this third day of Ramadan, no fewer than one hundred thousand people (fifteen thousand according to the police - and a complaint has been filed by the Media Workers Against the War to protest against this ludicrous underestimate) marched from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square. Long beards, turbans, red, green and humanist hair in any fashion and of any age sprawled in a good humoured, and lengthy, protest. Many non-Moslems fasted in solidarity with their comrades. One of them, on his third day of fasting, explained to me: " I want to understand the state of the people with whom I am, and with whom I walk ".

The crowd arrived at Trafalgar Square at about 2pm. On the centre stage, installed in the middle of the square, a representative of the Anglican Church, Canon Paul Oestreicher of Coventry Cathedral, began a long series of interventions: "We are the Patriots. We have now to fight for a real Peace, and we cannot reach this objective without building a just economic system. A world where the rich become increasingly richer and the poor ceaselessly poorer provides fertile soil for terrorism ". The speakers on the platform made their positions very clear, firstly No to the War, No to the racist backlash and no to attacks on civil liberties.

At ten past four, the call to prayer was announced from the platform by a young Moslem. Moslems and non-Moslems alike broke their fast with water and dates brought from several London Mosques. Dozens of Moslem men and women then grouped together in the left corner of Trafalgar Square to pray Maghreb (the prayer just after dusk). As night fell, representatives of all stripes continued to chant in unison that only a more economically and socially just world could guarantee a durable Peace. The organizers had mobilized the largest peace protest since the 1970s.

To end with the words of Tariq Ali "This is only the beginning..."

The title refers to an early 80s song by French socialist singer-songwriter Renaud, observing that there was only one female monster in the world: Mrs Thatcher. For the lyrics to Miss Maggie in their entirety visit http://goussets.multimania.com/

   
   
   

 

 
   
         

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