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Views in brief

March 10, 2006 | Page 4

The left and anti-Muslim racism
Fight for a woman's right to choose

Stopping Nazis in Providence

ON TUESDAY February 7, fliers from the neo-Nazi Web site/group the Vanguard News Network (VNN) were found posted all over Rhode Island College (RIC) campus. A member of the Providence branch of the International Socialist Organization was on campus and noticed one of the more than 20 fliers posted outside the Donavan Dining Center.

On less than 24 hours' notice, a "Stop the Hate" rally was organized, for the next afternoon. The rally was a huge success for the usually atomized and disorganized community at RIC.

Overnight, a mass e-mail was sent to all student groups, including RIC NAACP, Stonewall, and Amnesty International groups. One student spent the whole morning silk-screening "Stop the Hate" T-shirts to raise awareness of the event. Over 40 people gathered in the quad to express their outrage at the neo-Nazi infiltration of the campus.

Since the VNN posters were this time exclusively anti-Semitic, many opinions were raised about the topic, connecting issues of homophobia with racism and the anti-Jewish hatred that many students feel is out of control at RIC. A majority of attendees spoke not only with outrage at the VNN, but at the complacency of the school administration and student government on such issues.

The rally was a huge success, and students are now planning on continuing meetings to address this issue so that in the future the response can be stronger. With recent neo-Nazi rallies in Boston, and the horrendous hate crime that just took place in neighboring New Bedford, Mass., the RIC community takes the issue of organizing against the Nazis very seriously.
Jeff Schneider, Providence, R.I.

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The left and anti-Muslim racism

THANK YOU for your editorial in response to the protests against Islamophobic cartoons. ("Muslims are right to be angry," February 10)

Unlike even the liberal mainstream press, SW actually explained why Muslims would be so angry about a single cartoon: The historic role of cartoons in promoting oppressive policies; the fact that Islamophobia is used to sell the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; and the racism against Muslims and Arabs in many European countries. But what is even more important is that you took a clear stand on the issue.

Unequivocal opposition to a blatantly racist cartoon and firm support for those who struggle against it should be standard practice for a revolutionary socialist paper. Unfortunately, however, this was not necessarily the response in the far-left publications of Western Europe--where a clear anti-racist stand was most urgently needed.

In France, the only country that has an official policy against Islamic religious practice (i.e., the wearing of the hijab in public schools), and where racism against Arabs is deeply rooted, the two main revolutionary socialist parties have not even featured a response to the cartoons on the cover page of their weeklies.

Lutte Ouvrière (Workers' Struggle) newspaper, which has long equated any assertion of Muslim rights with right-wing Islamist propaganda, even mocked French Muslims for demanding laws against Islamophobia: "But what does that mean? Should we also have laws against 'Catholicophobia' and 'Protestantophobia'? One smiles to imagine one against 'non-believer-phobia.'" (February 17)

Rouge, the newspaper of the Ligue Communiste Révolutionaire took more care to underline its rejection of the cartoons as part of a racist, anti-Muslim campaign by the European right wing. But the article, entitled "Neither racism nor backwardness," lent just as much or more space to condemning corrupt Middle Eastern regimes, which, it claimed, re-published the cartoons in order to manipulate public opinion. (February 9)

Furthermore, the article finished with a call for unity of all peoples against "those who oppose unity in the name of their religion." This leaves immigrant-bashing politicians--the real obstacle to unity--nearly off the hook.

Such reactions are at best dismissive of the fight against Islamophobia and at worst play into the hands of the far right. Either way, they will hurt the left's efforts to build a strong challenge to neoliberal and nationalist parties in the 2007 presidential elections.
Kate O'Neil, Chicago

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Fight for a woman's right to choose

LAST WEEK, just after the South Dakota legislature sent their sweeping anti-abortion bill to the governor for his signature, I flew into Sioux Falls for a visit to nearby Marshall, Minn.

Throughout my visit, I wore a button insisting "We won't go back to the back alleys"--a button that drew a dozen women to me, each saying, "Thank you for wearing that button!" and one young woman crying, "High five!" These women--and a few men too--were very interested in talking about why abortion rights are under attack and how we can fight back.

Clearly the abortion ban in South Dakota does not represent the beliefs, wishes, or the interests of many people in the upper Midwest. The more we can do throughout the country to defend abortion rights for all women, the more we can give confidence to these women and men to speak up too.
Nancy Welch, Burlington, Vt.

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