From Secular to IslamoTrotsky

Any study of the growth of Islamic politicisation in the Bangladeshi community in the East End of London since September 11 to the parlous state we find ourselves in now should reference Delwar Hossein’s unsentimental analysis. Its spot on.

An older generation of British Bangladeshis saw Islam as one aspect of a plural, many-layered identity; for their children and grandchildren it has become the basis of a monolithic ideology, the supreme identity in the struggle for political and socio-economic interests. It is also both reaction to and defence against the experience of poverty and racism.

The context of this mobilisation is both global and local. The Islamists have managed both to articulate and project a persuasive political meta-narrative after 9/11, and to appeal to young people in east London by focusing on issues of drugs, crime and unemployment. Their local success is in part a consequence of the state-sanctioned ideas of multiculturalism which dominated society during their upbringing. They have been able to use, adapt and extend such ideas by taking them far from their “liberal” origin, and joining very different movements which yet proclaim the same objective of “equality”.

The impulses and actions of what might in another age have been seen as working-class anger have thus acquired a more plausible emancipatory narrative in Islamic fundamentalism. Religion has been the agent of empowerment for many Muslims in the struggle against racism, imperialism and the extremes of capitalist inequality. That this has been facilitated by state funding along faith lines is a fact few are ready to confront.

The fight of secularists against racism and poverty appears bland compared to the ardent certainties of religion. In Bangladesh, secularists and