A Socialist Critique of Islam


Socialists view all religions, including Islam, as a barrier to the establishment of socialism. Religion represents a distorted and incorrect view of the world generated by the lack of control over material existence. In holding religious beliefs workers are prevented from having a clear understanding of the social problems caused by capitalism and the urgent need for the socialist alternative.

To begin to question religion in materialist terms is to begin to question and confront the social basis on which religious ideas and beliefs have historically developed.

The real problems of social existence have given rise to a distorted, fictional and up-side down account of the social problems facing the working class made more pernicious by being used as a means for social control by the ruling class and their priests and Imams.

A socialist critique of religion is an essential component of the class struggle between a world working class who do not own the means of production and distribution and a minority world capitalist class who do.

One of the first pamphlets produced by the Socialist Party of Great Britain was SOCIALISM AND RELIGION (1910) which gave a material analysis of religion as well as an account of the modern purpose of religion.

Not so with the capitalist left. The capitalist left has taken upon itself to defend Islam from the rational arguments of atheists, from cartoonists drawing images of the prophet Mohammed, from investigations into religious radicalisation of school children, from the imposition of creationism in place of evolutionary science and from the exposure of electoral malpractices in some local authorities.

The capitalist Left have also played down Marx's materialist criticism of religion when applied to Islam and have tried to prevent a socialist account of religion from being given a public space.

Every criticism of Islam, no matter how well founded is denounced by the capitalist left as islamophobic and every action of Muslims is defended even if it means a weasely apologetics for the repression of women, gender segregation, homophobia and acts of terrorism. The accusation of Islamophobia is the trump card. To be smeared as an Islamophobe is apparently to lose all right to be taken seriously. You are supposed to be just politically less than the accusers.

Nevertheless any charge of 'islamophobia' associated with the SPGB's criticism of Islam is baseless. Sticks and stones come to mind at those who hurl insults rather than use reason and shout down opponents rather than engage in debate.

No belief system is so privileged as to be off limits to socialist criticism and that includes Islam. As for the socialist case against religion and capitalism in particular we welcome criticism and debate. Socialists have nothing to either fear or hide.

The Capitalist Left and Islam

So why has the capitalist left championed Islam to the exclusion of all other religions? What is in it for the political parties like the SWP? To embrace radical Islam the SWP has resurrected texts by Lenin written in the early 1920's to justify Sharia Law and gain the support of Islamic groups within Russia (see the article written by Colin Crouch, Bolsheviks and Islam, http://isj.org.uk/the-bolsheviks-and-islam in International Socialism, issue 110, 2006).

Marx and Engels writings on religion have also been twisted and distorted by SWP opportunists to give the false impression that they were agnostic on the question of religion and its relation to the class struggle. The leading SWP writer, John Molyneux wrote that:

Marxists (sic) reject the idea that any particular religion is inherently more reactionary, (or more progressive) than others. Clearly, at present, this applies principally to Islam, but in other circumstances it could be Hinduism, Confucianism etc. Our attitude to political movements with a religious coloration or religious leaders, such as the (Catholic) Hugo Chavez, or (Buddhist) Tibetan nationalism or Falun Gong in China or Islamic resistance in Iraq and Palestine, is based not on the movement�s religious beliefs but on the material social forces it represents and the justice of its political cause

And who legitimises whether the �cause� is legitimate or not? The anti-socialist leadership of the SWP, that�s who. It is the leadership, and they alone, who decide whether a particular religious group represents a useful �material force� against the Imperialism of the US and its Western allies. Consequently, for the capitalist Left, the Catholic Church is disqualified in Britain but not in Venezuela; the Royal House of Saud is deemed to be politically flawed because it is an ally of the US but not the Kurds in Iraq or the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. Such is the logic of the Trotskyists.

The journalist James Bloodworth noted that this tortuous train of thought has meant:

(there), has been an anti-war movement working enthusiastically with those advocating the murder of homosexuals, a left-wing Mayor of London embracing a man who said Adolf Hitler had been sent by Allah to punish the Jews, and a group set up ostensibly to oppose fascism warmly welcoming religious fascists into its own ranks (James Bloodworth: Why the Left is so blinkered to Islamic Extremism, Independent 13th June 2013).

We even have this gem from George Galloway, a leading figure in Respect.

Socialism and Islam are very close, other than on the existence of God (George Galloway, Sunday Times, 14th of August 2005)

Lest we forget, George Galloway famously paid tribute to Saddam Hussein�s �strength, courage and indefatigability� (I�m Not the Only One�, London: Penguin, 2004, p. 106f)

Are Socialism and Islam close? Does Islam subscribe to the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production and distribution by all of society? Does Islam campaign for men and women to be free without discrimination on grounds of sex and ethnicity? Of course not, any more than the nationalist Palestinian struggle against Israel is a positive material force in the class struggle to establish socialism.

What is the �socialism� of George Galloway anyway? It is either a menu of social reforms or the establishment of state capitalism. Socialism it is not.

Defenders of Islam claim it is opposed to capitalism. Isis, for example, is supposed to have a feudal outlook but it embraces capitalism in its oil production, its use of social media produces slick propaganda which would not go amiss in the mainstream advertising industry and it buys hi- tech weaponry and satellite communication systems .Theocratic capitalism hides itself behind the black mask of the knife-wielding fanatic.

As for wealthy individuals in the Middle East who invest their capital into western businesses and property, they owe their unearned wealth and privilege to the exploitation of the working class. Workers and the rich in Palestine do not have a shared class interest, neither do they in Pakistan or Iran. While Islamic nationalism is just as poisonous as any other form of capitalism and a theocracy just as oppressive as a secular state.

Political Opportunism

There is also the political opportunism of the Labour Party. Ed Miliband recently announced to Muslim News (29th April 2015) that a future Labour government would make �Islamophobia� a criminal offence on a par with other �hate crimes�. No doubt he had in mind ending the freedom to insult Mohammed, to laugh at political Islamists and to ridicule the obscurantist belief system of Islam itself.

Buying votes is par for the course in capitalist politics but to promise state censorship to silence those wanting to deride Islam in exchange for Muslim votes is a new low in the politics of political opportunism associated with this anti-socialist political party.

Ed Miliband�s thought police would no doubt have stopped the sale of a satirical magazine like Charlie Hebdo, imprisoned the cartoonists, shut the magazine down; in short done all the Islamic terrorists� work for them.

Committed to the Leninist view that revolutionary change is impossible while some nations are dominated by others, the capitalist left support political Islam if it inflicts damage against US and Israel interests.

Such a view is incompatible with the ideas of Marx and Engels and has nothing to do with the class struggle and the need for a majority of workers to organise consciously and politically to establish socialism.

Resisting the Politics of Islam

The fear of being labelled islamophobic has to be resisted as socialists are under no obligation to be respectful towards Islam any more than we are towards any other religion. We have no intention of being forced into mute self-censorship by religious leaders any more than we have of being forced to take a vow of silence by the self-appointed leaders of the capitalist left.

Self-censorship is a form of political cowardice; letting the political bully get into your mind to tell you what to say and write and what not to say and write, and ultimately, what you may even think. Self- censorship is dismissed for what it is; mental coercion. Socialists stand in line for no one. We refuse our consent.

Islam, in its belief system, is based on the flawed theological doctrine of creationism and an intelligent designer. This explains its hostility towards Darwinian science. And Islam is also hostile to the writings of Marx and Engels and socialism in particular for putting forward centre stage class, class interest and class struggle.

Anti-Marxist pamphlets, for example, are freely available on the streets of Istanbul although it would be a brave Marxist to sell socialist literature there particularly when a central tenet of Marx was ��to liberate the conscience from the spectre of religion� (Critique of the Gotha Programme, p. 32, Progress Publishers).

Islam is a religion of social control. The secular blogger, Raif Badawi, is still under sentence of 1,000 lashes in a Saudi prison where he is considered as a threat to the total obedience required by subjects to the Wahhabi sect that runs Saudi Arabia and exports its pernicious ideas and beliefs to the rest of the world.

Islam also controls women through the imposition of the cult of modesty. This craven female deference to the male is totally at odds with socialist principle but uncritically accepted or ignored by the capitalist left for its own anti-socialist political ends.

Islam is like other religions of the book in preserving the historic patriarchal form of the family, where women are simply chattels, the property of the male head of the household � a subordination which was typical of the ancient nomadic lifestyle of the biblical patriarchs of the Old Testament and the desert tribal system informed by the Quaran. This culture can still be found in the traditional forms of Judaism, Islam and in the more conservative branches of Christianity, particularly the American Bible belt with its anti-scientific world-view and fundamentalist interpretation of the bible.

The position socialists take regarding religion is a materialist one. The materialist conception of history allows us to understand both how and why social systems like capitalism generate and sustain ideas as well as the role ideas play in the class struggle to either prevent or encourage social revolution. In this respect religious ideas and beliefs are wholly negative.

A materialist understanding of both the natural and social world in which we live gives us a clear understanding that all religion is reactionary and unscientific. The only material force for revolutionary change is the working class taking conscious political action to establish socialism without leaders; political or religious.

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Object and Declaration of Principles


The establishment of a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interest of the whole community.

Declaration of Principles


1. That society as at present constituted is based upon the ownership of the means of living (ie land, factories, railways, etc.) by the capitalist or master class, and the consequent enslavement of the working class, by whose labour alone wealth is produced.

2. That in society, therefore, there is an antagonism of interests, manifesting itself as a class struggle, between those who possess but do not produce and those who produce but do not possess.

3.That this antagonism can be abolished only by the emancipation of the working class from the domination of the master class, by the conversion into common property of society of the means of production and distribution, and their democratic control by the whole people.

4. That as in the order of social evolution the working class is the last class to achieve its freedom, the emancipation of the working class will involve the emancipation of all mankind without distinction of race or sex.

5. That this emancipation must be the work of the working class itself.

6. That as the machinery of government, including the armed forces of the nation, exists only to conserve the monopoly by the capitalist class of the wealth taken from the workers, the working class must organise consciously and politically for the conquest of the powers of government, national and local, in order that this machinery, including these forces, may be converted from an instrument of oppression into the agent of emancipation and the overthrow of privilege, aristocratic and plutocratic.

7. That as all political parties are but the expression of class interests, and as the interest of the working class is diametrically opposed to the interests of all sections of the master class, the party seeking working class emancipation must be hostile to every other party.

8. The Socialist Party of Great Britain, therefore, enters the field of political action determined to wage war against all other political parties, whether alleged labour or avowedly capitalist, and calls upon the members of the working class of this country to muster under its banner to the end that a speedy termination may be wrought to the system which deprives them of the fruits of their labour, and that poverty may give place to comfort, privilege to equality, and slavery to freedom.