General election: Why Jeremy Corbyn is no true friend of Muslims – Dr Azeem Ibrahim

While the Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn has faced strong criticism over anti-semitic attitudes among some members, the Labour leader also has questions to answer about his attitudes towards Muslims, writes Dr Azeem Ibrahim.

Jeremy Corbyn is only allied to Muslims if they share his anti-imperialist view of the world, says Dr Azeem Ibrahim (Picture: PA)
Jeremy Corbyn is only allied to Muslims if they share his anti-imperialist view of the world, says Dr Azeem Ibrahim (Picture: PA)

The anti-semitism that has become a serious issue in the Labour Party since Jeremy Corbyn became leader in 2015 is often contrasted, at least by his supporters, when challenged, to the Islamophobia in the Conservative Party.

Corbyn himself seems to be unable to recognise anti-semitism and seems to be ill at ease with the Jewish community. In contrast, whether after a terrorist attack such as that on the Finsbury Park mosque or in more general circumstances, his relations with the Muslim community appear to be natural and sympathetic.

However, the reality is his support for the Muslim community is heavily qualified. The fundamental driver of anti-semitism in the Labour Party is the belief that Israel is a deeply imperialist state with a long history of oppressing the Palestinians.

Thus, when Jews are the victims of oppression or racism, their right to sympathy is contingent on whether they have already denounced Israel in suitable terms.

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This simplistic, binary view also influences Corbyn’s response to attacks on members of the Muslim community. If one must be the right sort of Jew to elicit sympathy from the Labour leader, one must be the right sort of Muslim to retain his support.

And what can put you on the wrong side of this line?

When Corbyn declines to offer support to oppressed Muslims, it is when the oppression is at the hands of a state or movement he considers anti-imperialist.

Socialist or dictator?In his worldview, those who are oppressed by “anti-imperialist” actors are on the same side as imperialism, so their suffering is justified and probably self-inflicted.

So, if you are Muslim and are murdered, are forced to leave your home, or have your civil liberties curtailed by a regime he supports, then he will not support you.

For example, when looking at the wars that followed the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, Corbyn and his allies’ sympathies lie with the dictator Slobodan Milošević, who is described as a socialist resisting the imperialist campaign to fragment the state.

In terms of Kosovo, in 2004 he put down an early day motion supporting the writer John Pilger’s claim that fewer than 2,788 were killed in the genocide there – and most of these by Nato bombs or the Kosovo Liberation Army militia.

For the record, Milošević’s allies were responsible for the deaths of almost 58,000 Muslims in Bosnia and over 11,000 in Kosovo.

He has a long-standing record of supporting the Iranian regime, which various reports by Amnesty International suggest has judicially killed over 100,000 people since 1979. In Iraq, Iranian-sponsored Shia militias have been implicated in at least 15,000 dead in the period from 2014 to 2017.

Corbyn’s allies in the Stop the War Coalition have become apologists for the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria.

Syria has been added to his and his associates’ list of anti-imperialist states, thus the impact on those who oppose it is of little concern.

In addition to the refugee crisis caused by Assad’s forces, it has been estimated the regime is responsible for 60 to 65 per cent of the death toll of around 500,000 people, mostly Muslims, since the uprising started.

Hamas kills PalestiniansCorbyn is also on record supporting Hamas, which he described in 2009 as “an organisation that is dedicated toward the good of the Palestinian people and bringing about long-term peace and social justice and political justice in the whole region".

Human Rights Watch estimates that dozens of Palestinians have been executed by Hamas in the Gaza Strip without any judicial process, but it is deemed above criticism as a member of Corbyn’s anti-imperialist club.

There is a common theme across all these instances. Corbyn’s worldview is one of anti-imperialist states resisting the nefarious actions of “the West".

If their own people suffer, then that is because they oppose the only valid cause: anti-imperialism. The movements and regimes he supports have been responsible for the deaths of many Muslims and have stripped away any human rights for many more.

He may appear to be a friend to the Muslim community, but in truth, as with the Jewish community, you only have his support if you are the “right sort” of Muslim. And if you are oppressed by a regime in the Islamic world that he supports? Well, then you have no right to complain.

Dr Azeem Ibrahim is research professor at the Strategic Studies Institute US Army War College and director at the Center for Global Policy