Muslim women leading the movement for Palestine (Picture: Guy Smallman)

The British ruling class is pushing a torrent of Islamophobia. It isn’t what has become the grimly usual level of racism and scapegoating—it’s a qualitative shift linked to the movement over Palestine. The long-standing attacks on Muslims have crashed into the mass movement in support of the Palestinians and against Zionism and imperialism.

That movement has mobilised millions in Britain, including hundreds of thousands of Muslims. And Palestine has increasingly become the defining political issue — a test of whether you stand with the oppressor or the oppressed.

We didn’t know the result of the by-election in Rochdale when Socialist Worker went to press. But we can guarantee it will show deep anger with both Tories and Labour.  

Millions of people in Britain are standing with oppressed Palestinians. In response, politicians are weaponising Islamophobia to attack the Palestine movement, scapegoating Muslims as “incompatible with British values”.

Politicians are demonising Palestinian activists as terrorists and antisemites, scapegoating Muslims as if they are “an enemy within”.  Islamophobia is used to divide up those who accept “British values” and those who don’t, where “British values” mean obedience to the state. 

Vile bigots such as Lee Anderson and Suella Braverman are overt in seeing Muslims as backwards and yet sneakily capable of grasping control in society. 

But Islamophobia infects every element of the Tory party, including those who, for their own reasons, cannot yet heartily endorse what Anderson and Braverman say.

And remember that Anderson was made Conservative deputy chair to be the rough end of the big business party, the former miner designed to appeal to the Red Wall constituencies. 

But Starmer can’t challenge the root of the latest explosion of Islamophobia. He wants to say don’t be nasty to Muslims but, at the same time, cheer on Israel’s genocidal policies in Gaza. 

Labour says Anderson is wrong. But a video emerged this week of shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves saying in October that the police should do “everything within their powers” to crack down on anti-Zionists in Britain.

She told a Labour Friends of Israel event that she understood concerns about “the anti-Israeli feeling that is allowed to flourish in some communities in Britain”. 

Which “communities” do you think she meant? The audience included Keir Starmer, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper and shadow foreign secretary David Lammy. They applauded Reeves.

The surge of Islamophobia is a real threat to the working class. It will encourage the far right and the fascists. 

We need to escalate solidarity with Palestine and to hit back against Islamophobia that flows from the attack on the Palestinian movement. And Starmer’s Labour won’t do that.

Stand up to Islamophobia, Protest outside Conservative Party Head Office, Thu 29 Feb,  6pm,
4 Matthew Parker St, London SW1H 9HQ. Called by Stand Up to Racism

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