The struggle over the Park51 project — the Islamic center that will be known as the Cordoba House — in New York has presented a series of challenges to both Muslim organizers and the broader Left, but these challenges need to be understood as the culmination of deeper political and strategic questions that have so far gone unresolved.
Responding to white populism
In a period of growing white populism, it’s important to ask what strategies are necessary for the defense of our communities, and the defeat of both white supremacy and US imperialism.
The murder of Oscar Grant is only one of the most recent and better known cases of the ongoing police campaign to control and repress the Black community. Since the death of Oscar Grant, at least seven more young Black men have been murdered in northern California alone. Bloodshed at the hands of white violence — whether by slave drivers, lynch mobs, or the police — has been a consistent feature of the Black experience in the U.S.
In Arizona, Latin@ and undocumented peoples have been on the front lines of the fight against draconian forms of immigration control. Sheriff Arpaio — who openly associates with neo-fascists — has become a national figure of the anti-immigrant movement conducting raids on immigrant neighborhoods, and holding many immigrant and undocumented people in tent cities that differ little from concentration camps. This struggle, of course, has deeper roots in NAFTA and other imperial incursions by the U.S. in Latin America.
The passage of SB 1070 in Arizona needs to be understood as part of the success of a resurgent Right, that has been circling around the Tea Party, to capture state power in AZ. While the ideological make-up around the Tea Party nation-wide is still being contested, fascist elements have entered the fray, and are attempting to both win individuals to their program, and influence the political direction of this milieu.
In this context, Park51 takes on new meaning and greater urgency. Deepa Kumar has argued that anti-Muslim racism in the U.S. is in the process of changing. While in the past, the U.S. ruling class treated the “Muslim terrorist threat” as a task to be tackled in the international arena, we have seen an increase in attacks on Muslim peoples inside the U.S.