Progressives to mobilize Sept. 11 to confront racist gathering

Activists here and around the country have begun mobilizing to stop cold those who promote racism and hatred of Muslims. They plan to confront a vicious demonstration and rally scheduled for the World Trade Center site on Sept. 11. A rally and counterprotest near the WTC site on Aug. 22 showed that the confrontation is gaining momentum.

On one side are the U.S.’s most reactionary public characters, like Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Liz Cheney with the Tea Party and also more obscure fascist-like elements. They drum up anti-Muslim hatred along with a phony populism. Their target is a proposed Islamic community center a few blocks from the WTC site.

They are well-financed and have backing from reactionary gutter media like Fox News, as well as general corporate media attention to their racist offensive.

These racists’ short-term electoral goal is to defeat the Democratic Party in the upcoming congressional elections and debilitate the Barack Obama administration.

Their long-term aim, however, is to sow division in the working class by spreading race hatred and hatred of foreigners, specifically of people from Muslim countries. If allowed to take hold, such division would weaken the workers’ struggle. Workers need anti-racist solidarity to wage their essential fight for jobs, education, health care and other social benefits.

Fortunately, forces are mobilizing to confront the right-wingers’ fascist-like rally.

Stop the racist mobilization, fight for jobs

Many organizations and individuals have joined a call issued by the International Action Center to confront the anti-Muslim offensive. The call is for a New York City rally on Saturday, Sept. 11, at Church Street and Park Place at 2 p.m., followed by a march to the WTC site to confront the racists. Feeder marches are being organized.

The IAC call went out by e-mail at noon on Aug. 20 with 43 names attached, including community, labor, anti-war and anti-racist voices. According to IAC co-coordinator Sara Flounders, within hours hundreds of organizations and individuals had signed on their support. The IAC is hosting a planning meeting on Aug. 25 at its New York office for those wanting to help successfully confront the racists. (See iacenter.org to sign on)

The IAC raised the following slogans in an e-mail:
• Unity not racism!
• Unity not anti-immigrant bigotry!
• Unity not Islamophobia!

“It is not Muslim people who are robbing our jobs and homes and closing schools and hospitals. It is the banks, corporations and the Pentagon. Don’t let the memory of 9/11 be misused again to justify new wars against people in Muslim countries. Let’s unite against racism and bigotry and fight together for JOBS, health care, to save our schools and services and build human solidarity and respect,” read the IAC e-mail Aug. 23.

This orientation is straightforward: At a time of capitalist economic crisis, it is vitally important for working people to stay unified. It is also important not to be diverted from the essential struggle for jobs and benefits. To do this, working and unemployed people must fight all forms of racism and bigotry that are used to divide the working class and prevent it from waging a successful defense of its rights.

How to stop rightists’ effort

The rightists see the planned construction of an Islamic Center — an activity Washington has supported in order to repair what’s left of the U.S.’s reputation among the world’s billion Muslims — as an act they can exploit for reactionary domestic political gain.

They have invited their big guns to speak: former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, an enemy of Latin American peoples and conspirator against the governments of Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia; former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who tried to steal Social Security from the U.S. workers; and internationally, the racist Dutch parliamentarian and consummate anti-Islamist Geert Wilders.

These demagogues will tell and spread any lie for their reactionary ends. They encourage the false beliefs, for example, that President Barack Obama is Muslim or was born outside the U.S., searching to manipulate racism against the first African-American president. Another invited speaker, Andrew Breitbart, made and spread the video distorting Shirley Sherrod’s comments that got her fired this summer. Sherrod was the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s rural development director for Georgia. (See Workers World, July 28.)

They managed to get New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority to allow hate-mongering ads against the Islamic Center on New York City buses. This capitulation shows the unwillingness of the current political and ruling-class establishment to confront the Tea Party rightists head-on.

The Democratic Party establishment and some others have a more sophisticated approach to the Muslim world. They want to keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq and especially to control the oil of the Middle East. But they want a situation where they can make diplomatic agreements with the governments and ruling circles of the Muslim-majority countries and not appear to be at war with all Muslims worldwide.

The imam of the proposed Islamic Center, Feisal Abdul Rauf, even goes on diplomatic speaking tours defending U.S. foreign policy, sponsored by the State Department. This doesn’t stop those opposing the center from implying he is aligned with “Islamic terrorists.”

Even though the racist Tea Party approach sabotages U.S. diplomacy, this more sophisticated wing of the establishment refuses to take on the racists. They too refuse to build a true solidarity between the U.S. population and those of majority Muslim countries because that is a solidarity that could undermine the Pentagon’s murderous wars of occupation.

Instead, they propose compromise solutions, like building the center further away from the WTC site.

An honest people’s struggle, such as proposed by the IAC, is needed to build real solidarity. As the IAC statement made clear:

“In New York City the ugly demonstration of racism and bigotry against Muslims on Sept. 11 at the World Trade Center must be countered with a mass show of solidarity and unity. We call on all working people, youth, students, immigrants, trade unionists, community and human rights activists — all those opposed to racism and bigotry — to stand on that day in defense of our Muslim sisters and brothers.”

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