11 July 2010

Ummah of Muhammad demonstrate in Cardiff

Saturday 10 July, a group calling themselves the Ummah of Muhammad held a demonstration in Cardiff. This is probably just about the only real, first-hand coverage they'll get.

In the lead-up to the demonstration, the Ummah of Muhammad (UoM) put out press releases in which they claimed to be protesting only against bans on the veil and construction of minarets, releases which the BBC ate up and regurgitated without critical examination. The press releases are a mask: Ummah of Muhammad are the radical theocrats the English Defence League pretend all Muslims are.

They've been linked to the "Muslims don't vote for democracy" stickers that appeared all over Cathays and Roath and there was no change today. Signs like "Democracy = Hypocrisy" were all over. They also called for Sharia law to replace secular law in Britain and took up a quite threatening tone; chants included "UK, watch your back, Islam's coming back".

The good news is that Ummah of Muhammad remains a fringe movement, despite their name — calling themselves "Ummah of Muhammad" is roughly the same as if the British National Party called themselves the "Nation of England" — and their claims, they speak for only a tiny fraction of British Muslims and a national mobilisation only brought 30 demonstrators to Cardiff from all over England, hardly any locally, reminiscent of the "Welsh" Defence League demonstration demonstration. The bad news is that they are a fringe movement backed by someone with a decent amount of money &mdash full-colour stickers are expensive — and recall that securing the financial backing of capital is a critical step in the establishment of a mass fascist movement. The Ummah of Muhammad are a sprouting seed that should be squashed before they can take root.

The anti-fascist movement had only short notice of the demonstration and therefore could not mobilise en masse, with I think about thirteen attending over the course of the day, a few people arriving late and some leaving early. Present were members of Cardiff Communities Against Racism & the Socialist Party, Unite Against Fascism or the Socialist Workers Party (I'm not sure in which capacity), Cardiff Independent Antifa, several anarchists, but first and foremost in importance Cardiff's Muslim community. A Cardiff-born liberal Muslim took the lead in organising the counter-demonstration and members of other groups, including two Somali men who joined the counter-demonstration as passers by, rounded out a presence that showed the whole city, across racial & religious lines, was standing together against totalitarianism, whether it came from the religious right or the racist right.

A slightly smaller number, combined, of EDL/WDL, BNP and unaffiliated far-right, including one person who turned out to be an actual Nazi, were there. I don't think the EDL knew quite what to make of us, seeing as we were not just there protesting against theocratic Islamists but doing so while they were too afraid to even wave a St George's Cross. They stayed well away from us, didn't identify themselves at all, and received a lift from the police back to Cardiff Central; South Wales Police are turning into the far right's taxi service.

I asked recently whose side South Wales Police are on, and now my doubts are reinforced. The UoM demonstration was, if anything, over-policed, with at least 30 officers on foot plus horses. But the Ummah of Muhammad weren't "soft kettled" the way we counterdemonstrators were at the EDL demonstration; instead most of the police were facing outward, as if we were the ones planning to start trouble, while the Ummah of Muhammad received coach rides into Cardiff just like the EDL had. Most tellingly, on Thursday evening both the organizer and I got unannounced late-night visits from the police, asking what our intentions were for the counter-demonstration. I don't know what sort of attention the UoM got from the police but, well, seriously? The organizer is seventeen, I'm not deeply involved in Cardiff Independent Antifa, neither of us have any criminal record nor have either of us advocated initiating any violence beyond self-defence against the far right. The counter-demonstration Facebook group had fewer than 30 people signed up to attend. The police saw fit to bang on my door at 11:45 at night. Couldn't they have just rung us up?

After two hours of highly repetitive speakers and chanting, the UoM were led away without incident. The Left counter-demonstration watched them leave; the EDL and BNP went home early.

How do we, fighting on class lines, respond to a group like the Ummah of Muhammad? A few things are immediately apparent. We must connect the response to the broader Muslim community and, where practical, follow its lead in organising a response; as we saw in building for the EDL demonstration in Cardiff, mosques can be conservative forces, telling their members to stay home and not cause a fuss. Therefore it is advantageous to seek out connections with those groups likely to cause a fuss, that is, student groups. Furthermore, we must be doubly careful with crafting out message to make it clear that in opposing theocrats we are not endorsing nationalists, formulating that message by being confident in our own political attitudes.

It is by no means certain that the Ummah of Muhammad or any other Islamist group will make any progress in gaining a mass base. Whether it does, and from where, will determine our tactics if they ever do gather large numbers. If their base is middle-class Muslims, then we face the problem that the Ummah of Muhammad could develop into a genuine fascist movement; if we are certain of our analysis then we have our tactics in hand from history. If instead they instead have a fascist or fascistic core but build their support within the working class, then the UoM are indeed a group akin to the BNP or EDL. In the short term, our best immediate strategy is to undercut the Ummah of Muhammad and ensure they never develop a working-class base. Ergo we must not just bring to the working-class Muslim community a response to the demands the Ummah of Muhammad raise, but propose something better.


Anonymous said...

A small clarification, Neither SWP or UAF were part of the 'Cardiff Communities against Segregation' protest of around half-a-dozen people.

Anonymous said...

1) 13 people on the counterdemo ?
You said 8 the other day .
2) The UAF and the SWP did not support the counter demo.
If someone went along it was to see what's happenning.
3)In the present atmosphere of islamophbia and racism with the facist EDL very much with us , it is not the cleverest thing to have a demo against a small group of islamist cranks holding a peaceful protest.
You run the risk of coming across as islamophobic.
That is all.

Edmund said...

Adam Johannes, Lloyd James, Arthur and a woman I didn't recognize from South Wales SWP & UAF were standing next to me and Lloyd was selling the Socialist Worker. Hell, they got there before I did.

The 13 weren't all there at the same time, as I mention; there were never more than 7-8 at a time I think. Those were:

* Myself and Michael from the Socialist Party
* the four aforementioned SWP comrades
* Michael's friend Ahmed
* Kevin Ackerman from United Shades of Britain
* Pauline from Cardiff Antifa
* Cosmo from South Wales Anarchists
* Yasmin Begum and one of her friends
* two Somalis who joined the demo whose names I didn't get
* Jeff Lloyd was wandering around a bit, not sure whether to count him.

That makes 13-14. I know I'm forgetting someone but I can't immediately come up with who.

Edmund said...

Incidentally, while some people are saying the left counter-demo was "Islamophobic", the BNP are saying Michael and I were "supporting the Radical Islamists".

There is a certain pleasing symmetry to this.

Anonymous said...

there was no counter demo, just about six people standing around awkwardly. you have just invented a counter demo through words. the reason most of the left didn't support it is because the demonstration is stupid. the fact that some edl/wdl actually wanted to join your demo shows clearly how confused this demo and your politics really is. a fascist movement from a minority that is three percent of the population- c'mon mate. you are lost in your own rhetoric. you claim to be a marxist but you understand nothing about materialism, and peddle this guardian liberal line. Islamicism is a problem, but it is NOT the same in any way as BNP/EDL. it is easy to make these so called comparisons, just like the liberal equate left/right 'extremism'. for a start, Islamicism is the ideology of many anti imperialist forces such as Hamas, Hezbollah, Taliban etc. we may not like their ideology, but they are on the front line against imperialism.the BNP/EDL is a pro imperialist ideology. this is the difference. your pseudo demo failed miserably because it was confused from the very start. also, one muslim girl does not represent the' muslim community'

Edmund said...

Was one more than UAF brought...Yasmin also got a letter from the Muslim Councils of Britain condemning the UoM, which as far as I know UAF didn't try to pursue. Meanwhile, when you suggest that EDL tried to "join our demo" you're simply incorrect; were you actually there? It sounds to me like you're filling in some gaps second-hand; it is furthermore incorrect, I'll note, to try to minimize Yasmine's contribution because she's a "girl" -- she's talented, whatever her age and gender are.

Now, as you're fully aware, Islamism pre-dates imperialism; while it's often taken up today as an anti-imperialist ideology, it is still not a working-class ideology; look at, for example, the Iranian revolution, in which the mullahs turned on the left as soon as they could; and look at how it props up the Saudi regime, which happily persecutes Saudi Arabia's own few, brave trade unionists. Endorsing Islamism is endorsing a ruling-class movement and taking its anti-imperialism as being compatible with our own is the exact same mistake the Stalinists made in Iran.

On the left we always put class foremost; it seems that elements of the left have lost sight of this in discussing religious & cultural conflict within Britain. Within the Muslim community, as within every community, there are working-class and ruling-class elements, sometimes with coinciding interests but fundamentally with incompatible interests. Equating this analysis with a social-liberal approach is simply false and, I feel, distracting; anti-democratic, middle-clas Islamism is reactionary, not progressive, and confusing the two is possible only if one's analysis is superficial.

Anonymous said...

your 'demo' made you guys look really stupid, thats the truth. i hope this flirtation with islamophobia is over.

Edmund said...

What aspect of the demo was Islamophobic, exactly?

Anonymous said...

I am really confused now.Adam is not in the swp for what its worth and he was dubious about this counter demo.You sure he and Arthur didn't just stop for a chat ? Never heard of a Lloyd James and how could you tell if this woman you never seen or heard of before was in the swp?
I agree broadly with the third annoymous although not the slightly patronising tone to Yasmin.
I gather some of your fellow SP are not impressed with the entire escapade . If you really value democracy why not discuss with them before attempting anything similar. Anyway no harm done since the turnout on all sides was laughably small.
All the best

Edmund said...

Adam's always at everything the SWP's at, I was pretty sure he was a member; I apologize for the insult. ;) It wasn't just stopping by for a chat though, they were standing there with us for at least an hour talking to passers-by.

I did discuss things with comrades on Thursday before going to the demonstration; there wasn't time for a full mobilization or the deepest discussion (Thursday was a district meeting so we had four branches' worth of business to take care of) and I agree there is room for discussion about the specific tactics (although opposition to the Ummah of Muhammad as a group is as far as I can tell an unambiguous choice); but as Yasmin was already taking the lead in calling a demonstration it would have been unwise to split the response — compare the EDL demonstration last month where CCAR had misgivings about UAF's plan but critically supported it in order to avoid a split.

Anonymous said...

An hour? That's a short chat for Adam :-D Not an insult,Adam's a bright lad.

Edmund said...

I do agree that the tactics we take up regarding a group like the Ummah of Muhammad are discussible; I think this discussion should happen not just within organizations but across them.

At the same time, someone sending out a mass e-mail accusing us of "flirting with Islamophobia" as Anon #4 quotes is not a productive response nor is it one associated with a united front, and to the best of my knowledge it was itself constructed without any discussion; certainly it's hypocritical when contrasted with proclamations from the same organization damning outside criticism as sectarian.

I think we can get back to a state of discussion, but to do so everyone has to stop blurring the line between polemics and simple shrillness.

Anonymous said...

no disrespect to Yasmin, but she is a bit naive and a bit young, and in her naivite she repeated many of the standard islamophobic nonsense from the mainstream media. the demo is islamophobic in that it repeated the same cliches about muslims that the mainstream press do. the fact it was so laughably small and did not get much support showed the good sense of most people. edmund has managed to create a 'demo' through words, when i walked past, i only saw at most six people standing around and edmund with a stupid placard.

Edmund said...

As I asked Anon #4, how was it Islamophobic exactly? Yasmin has her full take on things here.

Anonymous said...

read yasmin's article. exactly. naive, hysterical from someone rather young. how is it islamophobic? the edl are protesting against 'islamic extremism' and so are you guys. you are doing the same thing, one from the right, and another from the so called 'left' also, what is wrong with 'democracy is hypocrisy'? its true isn't it. most anarchists dont vote, so i dont see whats wrong with asking muslims not to vote. your demo is a demo for the government, in effect. Yasmin is probably too young to realise she is being used as a 'useful idiot'. lets hope she grows up soon.

Edmund said...

OK. So you're saying all Muslims are theocratic extremists?

michael555x said...

Young and naive? So does that invalidate her views on the issue? Yasmin's take on this was very well thought-out.

Seriously, those people who are equating us with the EDL are either mentally challenged or they lack any real solution for defeating fascism. In any case, nobody has given a decent argument about why we were wrong to have a counter-demo, other than to brand us Islamophobic.

What we managed to do was engage with the public before the EDL did. We undermined their ability to turn this into another of their campaigns.

Anonymous said...

Who's equating you with the edl , Michael ? You were playing into they're hands , mind you .

M said...

Far from it. If anyone's been playing into the EDL's hands, it's the UAF, who consistently disrupt any attempt to counter them. The UAF tried splitting up our Newport demo last year, the UAF diverted last month's protest away from where the EDL were, and now the UAF are kicking off because we stopped the EDL using the extremists' protest for another campaign.
Face it, the UAF are either a joke or they're working with fascists. If I was you, I'd be asking your leadership a few questions.

Anonymous said...

That's right , Michael , the UAF are total shit aren't they? So rubbish that they organised a demo and protest of around 600 to 700 . Wasn't that pathetic ? Nothing like the incredibly vast figure of a couple dozen marching behind the CCAR demo at the back .
How dare those scum in the UAF divert the protest with a march that went directly to where the EDL were meeting ?
How dare they split YOUR demo in Newport whoever YOU maybe because YOU are so important ? (I have no idea what demo you are talking about because i'm not as IMPORTANT as you ).
I'm so impressed you managed to stop the EDL by holding an islamophobic demo before they could . Well done , that's just what these uppity muslims need . Being told by white lefties what to do . And such an impressive demo , 6 people or was it 8 or 13?
You know I don't know ? The number keeps changing it could be 300 by the end of the week .
No , sod it , I've lost patience. I don't like silly accusations of "working with fascists" . You sound like Rick from the young Ones .
If this is what CCAR and the SP are going to be like from now on then sorry , you're not part of the solution , you're part of the problem .
And if you don't like being called
an islamophobe don't behave like one .
Best of Luck and Best Wishes.

M said...

Will someone please explain why we were 'Islamophobic'? If I have a pathological fear of Muslims, why was I standing next to four or five of them? I suppose the Asians who joined us were all Islamophobic as well.
But no, I excersised a democratic right and spoke out against a handful of nutters and that somehow makes me Islamophobic. That's the only argument I've heard from the UAF so far - Islamophic this, Islamophobic that.
And I take it everyone here is fine with the homophobia and the oppression of women these nutters are calling for?

On the subject of the demonstrations, why not just block the EDL protests, instead of marching elsewhere? Why lead the march on the opposite site of a building to them?
Why not just oppose the EDL in the first place? At least we got the job done instead of pissing about condemning everyone who speaks against right-wing lunatics.

M said...

Funny thing is most of you lot weren't even there anyway :)

Anonymous said...

Not many people at all were there .
Have you considered moving to France ? There's an example of what hysteria about "extremists" leads to . I'm sure youl'd be happy there.

Anonymous said...


I was not part of your protest.


Adam Johannes

Edmund said...

What were you doing there then?

M said...

As it turns out, SP comrades are in agreement with our counter-protest, for roughly the same reasons as myself and Edmund. The only reason we didn't have a load of comrades there was because we had only two or three days to mobilise anything. We knew the risks of the counter-protest getting misinterpreted, but we knew the BNP and the WDL were going to be there, and doing nothing wasn't an option.

Far from dismissing Yasmin's contribution, the SP and ANTIFA are taking it pretty seriously. So far, she's the only one who's gone through the effort of contacting what you call the 'Muslim community', and unlike the UAF she has a letter from the Muslim Council of Britain to back her up and impress the point the UoM don't represent Muslims. She has a lot to offer in our attempts to deal with the far-right as it tries to build in South Wales.

Now the UAF, with its large proportion of Trotsky-quoting SWP, should have known better than to reduce this issue into an Islamist/Islamophobia thing. Both the EDL and the UoM have a few things in common - both are right-wing, well-funded and serve to divide the working class. Defending the UoM and allowing the far-right to use them to further its own aims will undermine our attempts to build a united struggle against capitalism.

The 3 per cent figure comrades often quote - where does this figure come from? Even if that is the proportion of Muslims in the UK, it's much larger here in Cardiff, probably around 25-30 per cent. These Muslims aren't a separate community either. That's why doing nothing about the far-right and the UoM would be a huge mistake.

For the SP, this is a class issue more than anything. For the UAF it's a race issue. I suspect this is what most the arguments are centred around.

Anonymous said...

Well as one of your own comrades argued against you "Michael there is no comparision between the two groups, the EDL hsve potential as they base themselves on the white working class, the majority of people. The UoM base themselves on muslims which makes 3% of the population, there are many other parts which makes the situation uncomparable."

The ethnic make-up of Cardiff's population at the time of the 2001 census was: 91.6% white, 2% mixed race, 4% South Asian, 1.3% black, 1.2% other ethnic groups. According to a report published in 2005, over 30,000 people from an ethnic minority live in Cardiff, around 8.4% of the city's total population.

So now your 'bigging up' the number of Muslims - that's what the EDL do
Your protesting about 'Muslim extremism' - That's what the EDL do.
The leadership of the SP characterise the BNP as 'far right' rather than fascist - So do they.

Nobody "defended" UoM, we took the advice of Muslims within UAF and encouraged people to avoid the counter demo given the current climate of Islamophobia.
Hardly anyone turned up on either protest - it was a storm in a teacup, yet you continue to act as if it were a tsunami...

For UAF it isn't a race issue - its a not pandering to race issue.

I think you acted with good intentions but your actions were mistaken (like your population figures?) - and that is why the majority of people were conspicuous by their absence. I have seen emergency anti war protests of maybe 100 - 150 organised in Cardiff within 1-2 days in the past.

Socialist Activist Who Enjoys Gerrin' Pissed

Anonymous said...

this is a bnp video of the demonstration. includes a brief clip of the 'counter demo', including footage of Edmund. I hate the BNP by the way, but interesting footage of this demo, and the mixed up response from 'cardiff communities...'


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Anonymous said...

Muslims and their religion of hate are pure filth. WE buy copies of thje Qu'ran to wipe th sit off our arses with the pages.

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