British Politics Founder Maxim Ilushenkov Dismisses Islamophobia As "Legitimate Criticism"
Follow up to an earlier article published on The Prole Star ""British Politics" Facebook Group Is A Hotbed Of Islamophobia & Hate."
The Founder of the Facebook group Maxim Ilushenkov has responded to our article by instructing his admins to ban anyone who posts it in his group. He also made the below statement.
We agree entirely with Maxim Ilushenkov’s statement that it is absolutely legitimate to criticise Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. Religions are indeed ideologies, and can be freely criticised. But our criticisms of antisemitism and Islamophobia are not about legitimate critique of religious doctrine - they were against bigoted statements singling out individual groups, and this is not legitimate.
The Prole Star is not a communist organisation. In fact, we represent a broad spectrum of political opinion, and are proud to do so. Many of our writers disagree vehemently with some of the political perspectives expressed by other writers which we have published. I believe most of us are Corbyn-supporting, left-leaning socialists or social democrats, and not communists. I identify myself as a social democrat - in the international, left-wing populist sense, not the closet Tory in the Labour party sense. In my most recent article for the Prole Star, I denounced Jeremy Corbyn’s prevarication on the issue of a final say referendum on EU membership, and argued passionately for remaining in the EU.
I absolutely reject the left wing case for leaving the EU - which, far from communist, arguably positions me to the right of Jeremy Corbyn. The attempt to dismiss our criticisms by calling us fanatics, idiots, and communists is a transparent attempt to deflect legitimate criticism by undermining the source, and right out of the New Labour playbook.
In our article, we presented screen captured evidence which shows the Facebook group “British Politics” does indeed have tolerance for abuse. We showed countless examples of people expressing racist sentiments such as “none [sic] white invasion is the problem”, and “i hate the black fuckers”. There were also countless examples of disgraceful anti-Muslim sentiments.
We showed screenshots of a man named Mohamed who expressed a desire to come to Britain being told repeatedly to fuck off because we’re full, or to try another Muslim country. On several occasions, Muslims were equated with terrorists, rapists, and murderers. In one particularly chilling post, we screen captured somebody arguing that “the best thing about the Christchurch shootings is that Muslim kids were killed”. Are we to believe that these are legitimate criticisms of a religious ideology?
While I was - very briefly - a member of the group, I saw criticisms of one “Muslim”, lambasting him for apostasy - which is fascinating, because if Islam is not a race, how can an apostate be a Muslim? It is absolutely clear that, to many on the far right, Muslims are seen as essentially a race. It doesn’t matter if you follow the teaching of Mohammad, if you're brown and born in an Islamic country, it counts.
When we refer to flagrantly Islamophobic hate speech as “racist”, this is what we mean. Moreover, if you really view religion as the problem, there is absolutely no need to single out Judaism or Islam. If your problem with Judaism or Islam is substantive, and not mere prejudice, you can criticise “religion”, rather than singling out one of them as the world’s “one common problem”. You can say religion is a problem. You can point out the terrible deeds that are done by some religious people, and condemn them. You can point out the terrible deeds condoned or recommended by religious texts, and condemn them too. None of this is racist, or antisemitic, or Islamophobic. But when you start attacking every member of a religious group over offences most of them had nothing whatsoever to do with, you’re not an enlightened crusader for reason and liberty - you’re just a bigot.
While we are not communists - or even socialists, in the strict, international, fully post-capitalist sense of the word, rather than in the sense of our right-biased political spectrum - we would be happy to represent the views of communists just the same as those of more moderate leftists, and for two reasons. Firstly, because, much like the admins of the British Politics group themselves suggest, we do not feel that people should be denied a platform just because we disagree with their views. Secondly, because when you have an Overton window - the spectrum of political views considered acceptable within a given society - that has been shifted as far to the right as ours in the UK, it is good to have a range of further left views to drag that spectrum back. Jeremy Corbyn's policy platform is overwhelmingly popular, and those of us who support it should, in fact, be viewed as the true centrists, but we will always be smeared as extreme left as long as the far right is embraced by the media, while the true far left is ignored.
EDIT Maxim Ilushenkov responded.
Sorry, I see where the confusion arose here. See, we were making the apparent mistake of crediting you with being able to see the difference between making specific, substantive points about the specific problems associated with a particular religion, in which case, yes, you can focus on that religion, and making sweeping blanket statements about how one particular religion is THE problem, that one particular religion is evil, etc. These are two completely separate issues. Islamophobe: Muslims are all evil, Islam is the problem with the world!
Enlightened Society: That's Islamophobic and not true.
Islamophobe: No it's not Islamophobic, I hate all religions because they are responsible for a series of evils.
Enlightened Society: If your problem is religion in general, why did you say "Islam" is the problem, and not "religion"?
Islamophobe: That's ridiculous, one can make legitimate criticisms of the specific problems of Islam without mentioning other religions.
Enlightened Society: But that's not what you were doing...
Islamophobe: Waa waa I'm not listening. See the problem? And that's not even getting into the fact that "Muslims are rapists, murderers and terrorists" is not "a detailed critique of a particular ideology", required by the context of being in a British Politics group.
I'm sure the many people involved with the Prole Star will have wildly different views on some of this, but mine is that, no, you don't have to block people for telling an immigrant to go home, even though these people disgust me. I'd even agree with you that communists and fascists should either both have the opportunity of a platform, or neither should. (It was a hypothetical point, because I've not actually seen either communism or fascism represented on the Prole Star, but I do think if we were to do so it would have some legitimacy.) But even if we accept that fascists should be able to give their views on a given topic, we must also accept that these views can be challenged, criticised, and dismantled. When a particular platform is presenting content that is as bigoted and hateful as that which we identified in the British Politics group, it can and should be highlighted and condemned - which is what we did. If your admins chose to practice a policy of free speech absolutism, not removing anything other than abuse of personal information or direct threats of violence, this would be one thing. But as we also highlighted, posts condemning the bigotry of far right figures such as Tommy Robinson have, in fact, been removed, and our writers have been blocked from the group for discussing such issues. Are you all really such snowflakes that you can't handle legitimate criticism of the political views expressed by so many members (including admins) of your group?