Extremists and Public Enemies

If Liz Kendall wins the Labour leadership contest she says her victory anthem will be Public Enemy’s ‘Get up, stand up’. This song was inspired by historic leaders of popular struggle like Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X (who at the time were demonised by the mainstream media as so-called Muslim extremists).

“Most of my heroes still don’t appear on no stamp” goes the song. Yes indeed: Kendall’s own mentor Tony Blair was excluded from the Royal Mail’s recent batch of stamps celebrating British Prime Ministers.

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But can Kendall spare some time and effort to help H. Rap Brown, one of the activist leaders mentioned by Public Enemy, who for the past fifteen years has been unjustly incarcerated in America?

Rap Brown played a heroic role in the fight for civil rights during the 1960s, later converting to orthodox Islam, adopting the name Jamil al-Amin. He then became an imam and led a life committed to promoting social justice more in line with his spiritual beliefs than his previous experience in revolutionary politics. Yet unjustified police harassment doggedly followed Al-Amin.

In 2000, Al-Amin was arrested on murder charges, and found guilty of shooting and killing a police officer. To this day he languishes in the “domestic Guantanamo” prison in Florence, Colorado, despite the fact that another person confessed to the crime, and the evidence filed against him was shoddy to say the least.

Tragically, in 2009, Luqman Abdullah, who had led the fight for Al-Amin’s release was killed by the FBI. The full story of injustice is recounted by Arun Kundnani in his 2014 book The Muslims Are Coming!: Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror.

As Kundnani concludes, “there is little doubt that had the government chosen not to infiltrate [Luqman Abdullah’s] mosque and entrap him in a criminal conspiracy of its own invention, he would still be alive.” (p.5)

Kendall professes that “the freedom to worship in different places” is “worth defending with everything we have” (July 7, Leicester Mercury). So will Kendall “Get Up and Stand Up” for Al-Amin, and take a firm stand against the American, and our own Government’s, escalating attacks upon Muslim’s through their regressive and counterproductive anti-terror legislation?

It seems not. For Kendall, Public Enemy’s powerful militant raps and melodies are just for dancing, not for listening to. Instead, with little regard for logic or equality, Kendall adds fuel to the Islamophobic frenzy gripping the political establishment, calling for a “battle of necessity” “against Islamist extremism” (July 7, Mercury).

This letter was sent to the Leicester Mercury mailbox on 11th August.

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