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Labour to Adopt New Rules to Fight Anti-Semitism.

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This Blog is amongst those who consider that anti-Semitism is a problem.

It has become increasingly to the fore as what our French comrades call “political confusionism” has infected a part of the left. This ranges from those who adopt the ‘anti-imperialism of fools’, that is taking the attitude that Israel is the major threat in world politics, and that ‘anti-imperialists’ have to align with the opponents of ‘Zionism’ to outright anti-Jewish individuals.

A range of political belief, parties and groups, centred on the belief that the state of Israel is the legitimate expression of Jewish national aspirations, without necessarily agreeing on the actions of that state, or its policies, is always referred to as “Zionism”, without qualification.

It is possible to be opposed to this from many standpoints.

We could start with the position of Hannah Arendt, who for all her distance from orthodox socialism,  has deeply influenced a whole part of the left, including the writer of this Blog.

Arendt had been a tireless advocate for Jewish victims and for the existence of a Jewish Homeland in Palestine, but she envisioned the homeland as a federated, pluralistic, democratic, secular state — a homeland for Palestinians and Jews coexisting peacefully as neighbours without an official state religion. This may seem a pipe dream now, but in early Zionism this was called the “general” view. The “revisionist” view that Israel must be a Jewish state and a homeland only for Jews did not come to dominate the discourse until the end of World War II, when the Holocaust was revealed in its full terror and destruction.

Arendt’s statement, ” to a principled liberal, truth and justice must always be higher values than patriotism.” applies a fortiori  to socialists.

We do not share her latter belief in the overwhelming  virtues of citizenship wedded to national sovereignty for the following reasons:

  •  internationalists who are against nationalism, or putting the interests of one ‘people’ first, rather than universal interests, would be opposed to  movements that give priority to a nation,  even if few would be so childish as to deny people’s self-defined right to form a state that is national.
  •  one can oppose the specific forms of nationalism that various Zionist groups and parties have taken – that is the founding moment of Israel as a territory, state and administration.  Arendt
  • Many more people may be against specific policies, such as the occupation of the West Bank the failure to reach agreements with the Palestinians to the legislation inside Israel that favours one section of the community over the other.

Put simply, we can criticise Israel from the standpoint of universal values.

Those who are dedicated to fighting for the national rights of the Palestinians and yet who oppose the existential right of Israel, that is its existence, seem in a poor position to criticise the nationalist premise of Israel.

For reasons many of us find hard to grasp Israel is considered as the embodiment of evil, far outclassing the threats posed by, say, Assad, the genocidal Islamists of ISIS, the ethnic cleansers of Burma, the murderous armed bands at work in Central Africa, and, so it goes.

Modern-day anti-semitism is often mixed in with self-descriptions as Anti-Zionism, as in the French based Parti anti-Sioniste, which finds evidence of Zionist activity even in Algeria: “It seems that Algeria is still under increased supervision and threat from US-ZIONISTS as shown by the recent seizure of spy equipment at Algeria’s airport in a flight from Qatar.” In 2012 these ‘anti-Zionists” stood Holocaust denier the ‘humoriste Dieudonné ” as a candidate in legislative elections.

That indicates clearly that while we agree wholly that anti-Zionism -is not in itself at all  anti-Semitic, many anti-Semites call themselves anti-Zionist.

With this in mind we look at the following:

The Labour Party has reached this decision:

Labour is to adopt tough new rules to tackle antisemitism following a heated debate at the party’s annual conference, but some activists have accused the party of policing “thought crime”.

The change comes after Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, pledged that the party would investigate how it gave a platform at a conference fringe event to a speaker, Miko Peled, who said people should be allowed to question whether the Holocaust happened.

Senior Labour figures will hope that the passing of the rule change on Tuesday will send a signal that the party is prepared to get tough on anti-Jewish hate speech within its ranks.

The rule change proposed by the Jewish Labour Movement, which has been backed by the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and the party’s national executive committee, will tighten explicitly the party’s stance towards members who are antisemitic or use other forms of hate speech, including racism, Islamophobia, sexism and homophobia.

Momentum, the grassroots leftwing group that has been Corbyn’s key support base, told delegates in its daily alert on Tuesday that they should vote in favour of the motion. The majority of the delegates at this year’s conference are aligned with Momentum; the group’s backing for the rule change means it is highly likely to pass.

Although the majority of Labour members are expected to back the amendment, there was heated debate after the change was proposed in the conference hall.

Delegate Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, who chaired the controversial fringe event on Monday night, was one of those who spoke against the rule change.

Wimborne-Idrissi, one of the founders of the anti-Zionist group Jewish Voice for Labour, said she was concerned the change referenced the “holding of beliefs” as opposed to expressing them. “Holding them? That’s thought crime, comrades, and we can’t be having it,” she said.

Hastings and Rye delegate Leah Levane also attacked the JLM’s change, saying the group did not speak for all Jews in the party.

Levane’s local party had proposed an alternative change, which described anti-Zionism as “legitimate political discourse” that should not be taken as evidence of hatred of Jews, but it said she would withdraw this because “the pressure is too great … We are not going to be risk being seen as the splitters”.

This row remains live:

The party was engulfed in an antisemitism row on the morning of the rule change debate, after remarks by Peled, an Israeli-American author, at an event on free speech and Israel. The Daily Mail reported that he said: “This is about free speech, the freedom to criticise and to discuss every issue, whether it’s the Holocaust: yes or no, Palestine, the liberation, the whole spectrum. There should be no limits on the discussion.

“It’s about the limits of tolerance: we don’t invite the Nazis and give them an hour to explain why they are right; we do not invite apartheid South Africa racists to explain why apartheid was good for the blacks, and in the same way we do not invite Zionists – it’s a very similar kind of thing.”

At the same meeting the Daily Mirror reports,

During the discussion, Michael Kalmanovitz, a member of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, said the claims were part of a right-wing effort to undermine Jeremy Corbyn and the left.

He went on to call for two pro-Israeli groups to be expelled from the party.

He said: “The thing is, if you support Israel, you support apartheid. So what is the JLM (Jewish Labour Movement) and Labour Friends of Israel doing in our party? Kick them out.”

Loud cheers, applause and calls of “throw them out” erupted in the room of around a hundred activists in response.

The Guardian continues,

Watson said Labour’s conference organising committee would investigate how Peled had been given a seat on a panel at the event.

“I’m sure these allegations from the fringe, which is nothing to do with the Labour party, will be investigated,” he said. “It is disgusting to deny the Holocaust. These people are cranks, they have no role in the mainstream of politics and we certainly don’t want them in the Labour party.”

Watson said antisemitism “has always been there on the fringes … But it is a very small number of people in our society, if they get involved in the Labour party we want them out”.

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, also condemned Peled’s remarks and gave his backing to the rule change. “I hope the conference votes for that motion because we should have absolute zero tolerance when it comes to the quite disgusting and pitiful antisemitism that sadly we’re sometimes seeing on social media these days,” he said.

A party spokesman said: “Labour condemns antisemitism in the strongest possible terms and our national executive committee unanimously passed tough new rule changes last week. All groupings in the party should treat one another with respect. We will not tolerate antisemitism or Holocaust denial.”

Responding to the row in a series of tweets Peled said he did not deny the Holocaust, and suggested that Watson and Ashworth were confusing freedom of speech with antisemitism

“Oh boy! … free speech is now antisemitism too… @UKLabour should know better” he said in one tweet.

 He followed this with the following comment, referring to the ‘Holocaust’ of Global Warming,

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Written by Andrew Coates

September 26, 2017 at 5:02 pm

Split in French Far Right, as Marine Le Pen’s Number 2, Florian Philippot, Leaves Front National.

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rien ne va plus entre les deux dirigeants du Front National.

Best Mates Fall out.

This was on the French radio this morning, as it happened.

Good start to the day….

It has even got on the BBC site:

Florian Philippot: Le Pen’s top aide quits National Front.

The war began some time back but reached a pic a few days ago when Philippot was found in a Couscousserie .

His one-time comrades in the FN accused him of “collaboration” (espèce de collabo... ) for eating the Arab dish (this one is beyond me, I have eaten Couscous in a restaurant run by Pieds-noirs).

 

Philippot, apart from being the major player behind the move to make Marine le Pen acceptable, playing down anti-Semitism and racism generally, and being liberal on gay issues (he is gay), s best known as a virulent ‘sovereigntist’ who has applied to the ‘left’ nationalist strain of the same name. On the radio this morning the name of former Socialist Minister and arch sovereigntist, JeanPierre Chevènement  got mentioned in this context.

Philippot already has his own ‘micro-party’,  “Les Patriotes“, to fall back on.

Split looms in French far right as Marine Le Pen’s key aide quits.

France 24.

Florian Philippot, for many years the closest aide of French far-right politician Marine Le Pen, said on Thursday he was quitting the National Front party, opening up a likely split in the country’s far-right ranks.

Philippot, whose responsibilities for strategy and communications were earlier removed by Le Pen, told France 2 television that he did not like being “ridiculed”.

“They told me that I was vice-president of nothing,” he said. “Listen, I don’t have a desire to be ridiculed. I have never had the desire to do nothing, so of course I am quitting the National Front.”

Philippot’s departure is a big blow for the far-right as it struggles to portray itself as the main opposition to President Emmanuel Macron.

 After Philippot’s announcement Thursday, the leader of the National Front said she was ‘sad’ about his decision.

“It’s sad to witness such a waste, but unfortunately, since this is how he wanted things, it can’t be stopped,” Le Pen told Le Figaro. “There were many attempts to reason with him, but they were always rejected.”

“The National Front is in a period of crisis,” RFI’s political editor Philip Turle told FRANCE 24. “Marine Le Pen’s tenure is no longer assured.”

Cracks have been appearing ever since the party’s election defeat earlier this year. After the National Front lost to centrist president Emmanuel Macron, Philippot started his own group ‘The Patriots’. His movement fast became a source of tension but when Marine Le Pen asked Philippot to leave it, he refused.

Philippot wanted to steer the party away from its traditional anti-immigration focus towards economic nationalism. His rivals in the National Front blame him for turning off many voters by pushing France to quit the European Union and leave the eurozone.

But Marine Le Pen appears not to want to soften her party’s stance on the issue.

“National sovereignty is a mainstay of our struggle,” she told LCP television on Thursday morning. “We will continue to fight the European Union with all our soul because it is an instrument for the elimination and impoverishment of our people.”

The firing earlier this month of regional official Sophie Montel, a close friend of Philippot, set off more sparks. Montel was a vice president of Philippot’s association. Shortly before she was fired, Montel said that the party was “re-toxifying”.

Party officials believe the rift between leading party figures over policy has drawn supporters to other parties, including to the far-left party of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who is emerging as the main opposition.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AP)

Written by Andrew Coates

September 21, 2017 at 11:12 am

Pakistan: Christian Man Sentenced to Death for Blasphemy.

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Image result for Protests against blasphemy law Pakistan

Demonstration last Year in Pakistan. 

Pakistan Sentences Christian man to death for blasphemy.

Nadeem James was arrested in 2016 after he allegedly sent a poem ridiculing Prophet Mohammad to his friend on WhatsApp.

A Christian man has been sentenced to death on blasphemy charges by a court in eastern Pakistan after a close friend accused him of sharing anti-Islamic material, the defendant’s lawyer said.

Blasphemy is a criminal offence in Muslim-majority Pakistan, and insults against the Prophet Mohammad are punishable by death. Most cases are filed against members of minority communities.

Nadeem James, 35, was arrested in July 2016, accused by a friend of sharing material ridiculing the Prophet Mohammad on the WhatsApp messaging service.

Lawyer Riaz Anjum said his client intended to appeal against the verdict, passed on Thursday by a sessions court in the town of Gujrat.

READ MORE: In Pakistan, a shrine to murder for ‘blasphemy’

There was widespread outrage across Pakistan last April when student Mashal Khan was beaten to death at his university in Mardan following a dormitory debate about religion.

Police arrested more than 20 students and some faculty members in connection with the killing.

Since then, parliament has considered adding safeguards to the blasphemy laws, a groundbreaking move given the emotive nature of the issue.

While not a single convict has ever been executed for blasphemy in Pakistan, there are currently about 40 people are on death row or serving life sentences for the crime, according to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Right-wing vigilantes and mobs have taken the law into their own hands, killing at least 69 people over alleged blasphemy since 1990, according to an Al Jazeera tally.

In March, Pakistan’s ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ordered the immediate removal and blocking of all online content deemed to be “blasphemous” to Islam from social media – and for those responsible to be prosecuted.

Background:  Persecution of Christians in Pakistan.

Most recent story, September the 11th.

Christian Member of the National Assembly Khalil George and others paid a call to Sharron Masih’s bereaved family. 17-year-old Christian student was callously lynched by his classmate at Government MC Model High School for Boys in Burewala city of Vehari District. MNA Khalil George offered condolences to the Ilyasab Masih and family ensuring them of an all-out support and assistance.

MNA Khalil George who also holds the position of Parliamentary Secretary for Religious Affairs met with Ilyasab Masih and told him that the perpetrators will be duly punished. On this occasion, parents of Sharoon Masih detailed the incident to Khalil George; expressing grief over the fact that their son lost his life to anti-Christian sentiments of his mates. MNA Khalil George was accompanied by Bishop Abraham Daniel, Major Michael Paul, Elder Dilber, Pastor Peter Imran and Pastor Arthur Daniel.

Parents of Sharoon Masih strongly believe that their son was lynched for drinking water from a glass which was used by all the students. They said that the assaulter did not relent until Sharoon breathed his last. Afterwards, Bishop Abraham Daniel offered prayers for the bereaved family. He prayed for peace and comfort for the friends and family of Sharoon Masih.

Previously, talking to a local media stated: “His teacher, Nazeer Mohal, sent him back home because he was not wearing the proper uniform. His mother told me later that evening that Sharoon had told her that the teacher had hit him in front of the whole class and also called him a Choohra, among other curse words. She said that he was quite upset at being humiliated in front of the whole class on the very first day of school.”

Detailing the excruciatingly agonizing moments he said: “Sharoon went to school wearing his new uniform. Hardly a few hours later, a Muslim neighbor whose son studies in the same school told us that Sharoon had been killed in school.”

“I cannot express the agony I went through when I saw my son’s dead body lying motionlessly on the hospital stretcher, his new blue shirt covered in dirt and blood,” Ilyasab said as he sketched the horrific incident. Sharoon’s family was told by his classmates that Ahmad Raza engaged Sharoon in a brawl; expressing annoyance because Sharoon had drunk water from the glass used by all students,” he told the media.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 16, 2017 at 3:54 pm

La Fabrique du Musulman. Nedjib Sidi Moussa: ‘Manufacturing Muslims’.

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La Fabrique du Musulman. Nedjib Sidi Moussa. Libertalia. 2017.

In the wake of the Tower Hamlets foster care furore Kenan Malik has written of the “inadequacy of all sides to find an adequate language through which to speak about questions concerning Muslims and Islam.” (Observer. 3.9.17) This inability to talk seriously about these issues as shown in the prejudiced press coverage, risks, Kenan argues, shutting down criticism of outing people in “cultural or faith boxes” and “blurring the distinction between bigotry against Muslims and criticisms of Islam”.

La Fabrique du Musulman (Manufacturing Muslims) is an essay on very similar dilemmas about “La Question des Musulmans” in French political debate. Moussa tackles both the “box” theory of faith and culture, and efforts by those taken by the “anti-imperialism of fools” to align with the “petite bourgeoisie islamique” and form alliances with Islamist organisations starting with the issue of ‘Zionism’. In 147 pages the author does not just outline the left’s political bewilderment faced with the decomposition of the classical working class movement. He pinpoints the “confusionnisme” which has gone with its attempts to grapple with the problems of discrimination against minorities in the Hexagone – its relations with forces with ideologies far from Marxism or any form of democratic socialism.

Indigènes, Race War and the US left. 

Moussa is the binational son of revolutionaries who supported Messali Hadj in the Algerian War of National Liberation. As the offspring of those who backed the losing side in a war that took place before independence, between the Messalists and the victorious FLN, who will not be accepted as French, he announces this to underline that he does not fit into a neat ‘anti-colonial’ pigeonhole (Page 11). He  examines the roots and the difficulties created by the replacement of the figure of the ‘Arab’ by that of the ‘Muslim’. Furthermore, while he accepts some aspects of ‘intersectionality”, that is that there many forms of domination to fight, he laces the central importance of economic exploitation tightly to any “emancipatory perspective” rather than the heritage of French, or other European imperialism. (Page 141).

La Fabrique is an essay on the way the “social question” has become dominated by religious and racial issues (Essai sur la confessionnalisation et la racialisation de la question sociale). The argument of the book is that the transition from the identity of Arab and other minorities in France from sub-Saharan Africa to that of ‘Muslim’ has been helped by political complicity of sections of the French left of the left in asserting this ‘heritage’. In respects we can see here something like an ‘anti-imperialist’ appropriation of Auguste-Maurice Barrès’ concept of “la terre et les morts”, that people are defined by their parents’ origins, and fixed into the culture, whether earthly or not. This, with another conservative view, on the eternity of race struggle, trumping class conflict, has melded with various types of ‘post-colonial’ thought. This is far from the original “social question” in which people talked about their exploitation and  positions in the social structure that drew different identities together as members of a class and sought to change the material conditions in which they lived.

In demonstrating his case La Fabrique is a critique of those opponents of the New World Order but who who take their cultural cue from American enemies of the “Grand Satan” and descend into ‘racialism’.  (Page 18 – 19) In this vein it can be compared with the recent article, “American Thought” by Juraj Katalenac on the export of US left concepts of “whiteness” as a structure of oppression reflecting the legacy of slavery (Intellectual imperialism: On the export of peculiarly American notions of race, culture, and class.) No better examples of this could be found than Moussa’s targets –  former Nation of Islam supporter Kémi Séba, “panfricanist” and founder of Tribu Ka, condemned for anti-Semitism, and a close associate of the far right, recently back in the news for burning African francs, and the Parti des indigènes de la République (PIR).

The PIR’s spokesperson Houria Bouteldja, offers a picture of the world in imitation of US Black Power lacing, in his best known text, diatribes against Whiteness (Blanchité) and laments for the decline in Arab virility, more inspired by Malcolm X and James Baldwin than by the nuances of Frantz Fanon. In the struggle for the voice of the indigenous she affirms a belief that commemorating the memory of the Shoah is, for whites, the “the bunker of abstract humanism”, while anti-Zionism is the “space for an historic conformation between us and the whites”. Bouteldja is fêted in Berkley and other ‘post-colonial’ academic quarters, and given space in the journal of what passes for the cutting edge of the US left, Jacobin. (1)

La Fabrique outlines the sorry history of the PIR, highlighting rants against integration, up the point that Bouteldja asserts that the wearing the veil means “I do not sleep with whites” (Page 51). The discourse on promoting ‘race’ is, Moussa, is not slow to indicate, in parallel to the extreme right picture of ‘racial war’. He cites the concept of “social races” offered by Tunisian exile and former Trotskyist, Sadri Khiari on a worldwide struggle between White Power and Indigenous Political Power (“Pouvoir Blanc et la Puissance politique indigène”) (Pages 60 – 61). Moussa notes, is the kind of ideology behind various university-based appeals to “non-mixité”, places where in which races do not mix. One can only rejoice that Khiari has not fused with Dieudonné and Soral, and – we may be proved wrong – no voice on the left France yet talks of a “transnational Jewish bourgeoisie” to complement the picture, and demand that Jews have their own special reservations in the non-mixed world.

Many of the themes tackled in La Fabrique are specifically French. Britain, for example, has nothing resembling the concept of laïcité, either the recognition of open universalism, or of the more arid arch-republicanism that has come to the fore in recent years. The attempts at co-operation, or more formal alliances with Islamists, and the sections on various moves, between opportunism and distance of those in and around the Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste (MPA),  intellectuals of the ‘left of the left’,  and the ambiguities of Alternative Libertaire on the issues, though important in a domestic context, are not of prime interest to an international audience. (2) Other aspects have a wider message. The convergence between ‘Complotiste’, conspiracy theories, laced with anti-Semitism, circulating on the extreme-right and amongst reactionary Muslims, finding a wider audience (the name Alain Soral and the Site, Egalité et Reconciliation crops up frequently), including some circles on the left, merits an English language investigation. There are equally parallels with the many examples of ‘conservative’ (reactionary) Muslims who, from the campaign against Gay Marriage and equality education (“la Manif pour tous”), have become politically involved in more traditional right-wing politics, and the beurgeois, the prosperous Islamic market for Halal food and drinks. 

Islamogauchistes.

In one area there is little doubt that we in ‘Anglo-Saxon’ countries (a term in the book that jars), that is the English speaking world, will find the account of alliances between sections of the left and Islamists familiar, So familiar indeed that the names of the Socialist Workers Party, Respect and the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) are placed at the centre of the debate about these agreements, from the 2002, 2007 Cairo Conferences Against US and Zionist Occupation (Page 74), attended also by Hezbollah, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), to the definition of Islamophobia offered by the Runnymede Trust (Page 87).

If one can criticise Moussa in this area it is not because he does not discuss the details of the failure of the SWP and the forces in Respect and the StWC have failed to carry out Chris Harman’s strategy of being “with the Islamists” against the State. The tactic of being their footstools collapsed for many reasons, including, the SWP’s Rape Crisis, the farce of Respect under George Galloway, and was doomed in the Arab Winter not just after the experience of MB power in Egypt, Ghannouchi and Ennahda in Tunisia and, let us not forget but when the Syrian uprising pitted the Muslim Brotherhood against Assad, Daesh was born, and the British left friends of ‘reformist’ Islamism lapsed into confusion. If the Arab ‘patrimonial states’ remain the major problem, there is a growing consensus (outside of groupuscules like Counterfire) on the British left that actually existing Islamist parties and movements are “deeply reactionary”. (3)

To return to our introduction: how can we talk about Islam and Muslims? We can, Moussa suggests, do without the use of the term ‘Islamophobia’ to shout down criticism of the ‘sacred’. The tendency of all religious believers to consider that their ideas make them better than everybody else and in need of special recognition cannot be left unchallenged. They need, “libre examen…contre les vérités révélés, pour l’émancipation et contre l’autorité”, free investigation against revealed truths, for emancipation against authority (Page 143). There should never be a question of aligning with Islamists. But systemic discrimination, and economic exploitation remain core issues. It is not by race war or by symbolic academic struggles over identity that these are going to be resolved. La Fabrique, written with a clarity and warmth that gives heart to the reader. Whether all will follow La Fabrique and turn to the writings of Socialisme ou Barbarie and the Internationale situationniste to find the tools for our emancipation remains to be seen. But we can be sure that in that “voie” we will find Moussa by our side.

*****

(1) Pages 66 – 67, Les Blancs, les Juifs et nous. Houria Bouteldja. La Fabrique. 2016. In discussing Fanon few who read him can ignore his sensitive complexity. For example, did not just discuss the ‘fear’ of Black sexuality amongst whites, but the dislike of North Africans for “les hommes de couleur”, as well as efforts by the French to divide Jews, Arab and Blacks. Page 83. Peau noire masques blancs. Frantz Fanon. Editions du Seuil. 1995.

(2  La Fabrique du musulman » : un défaut de conception. Alternative Libertarire. Droit de réponse : « La Fabrique du musulman », une publicité gratuite mais mensongère. Alternative Libertaire.

(3) See on the history of the period, Morbid Symptoms. Relapse in the Arab Uprisings. Gilbert Achcar. Saqi Books. 2016.

Declaration of the International Conference on Freedom of Conscience and Expression in the 21st Century.

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International Conference on Freedom of Conscience and Expression in the 21st Century

This is important and we extend our solidarity to those standing up for freedom of thought against religious bigotry.

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The International Conference on Freedom of Conscience and Expression, the largest gathering of ex-Muslims in history, was held during 22-24 July 2017 in London.

Over 70 notable speakers from 30 countries or the Diaspora gathered in what was dubbed “The Glastonbury of Freethinkers” and “a Conference of Heroes” to honour dissenters and defend apostasy, blasphemy, and secularism.

The sold-out conference highlighted the voices of those on the frontlines of resistance – many of them persecuted and exiled – and included the first London film screening of Deeyah Khan’s film, Islam’s Non Believers, a public art protest of 99 balloons representing those killed or imprisoned for blasphemy and apostasy, a body-painting action, and crucial discussions and debates on Islamophobia and its use by Islamists to impose de facto blasphemy laws, the relation between Islam and Islamism as well as communalism’s threat to universal rights, art as resistance and Laicite as a human rights. The conference hashtag, #IWant2BFree, trended on Twitter during the two days.

At the conference, the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) honoured ten individuals to mark its tenth anniversary, namely Bangladeshi freethinker Bonya Ahmed, Saudi freethinkers Ensaf Haidar and Raif Badawi, Moroccan atheist Zineb El Rhazoui, Philosopher AC Grayling, Centre for Secular Space’s Gita Sahgal and Yasmin Rehman, Algerian Sociologist Marieme Helie Lucas, Jordanian Atheists’ Founder Mohammad AlKhadra, Egyptian Atheist Founder of The Black Ducks Ismail Mohamed and Author and Scientist Richard Dawkins.

The conference issued resolutions against the no-platforming of Richard Dawkins by KPFA radio station, in defence of Ismail Mohamed who was prevented from leaving Egypt to speak at the conference by the Egyptian government, and on CEMB’s presence in Pride in London as well as a Declaration of Freethinkers (see below).

The event was live-streamed, which can be seen here. Professional video footage will be made available soon as well photos and more details of the event.

Report from Sedaa,  London conference sees ‘largest gathering of ex-Muslims in history’.

Sedaa founder Iram Ramzan, who was co-hosting the event, said: “The conference reminded us all that there are people in the UK and around the world who are ostracised or persecuted simply for deciding to think for themselves.

“It was also noted that one does not necessarily have to be an atheist in order to be a champion of secularism. In fact, a lot of religious people at the event recognised that secularism allows them to worship in the way they want to, just as it would protect non-religious people. A secular state would remain neutral in religious affairs.”

And this:

No apologies.  Maryam Namazie

This is my letter to you.

Not you, the Islamist, who wants me silent or dead whilst dreaming of your vile caliphate, nor you, the racist, who wants my Muslim and migrant family out whilst dreaming of your contemptible white, Christian Europe. To me, you are two sides of the same coin.

This is my letter to you who I should consider a friend, an ally, but who refuses to make a stand with me. You: the progressive, the anti-racist, the supposed defender of human rights.

How come your defence of freedom of conscience and expression never includes my right to reject and criticise Islam?

You exclude, bar, ban, blame and shame me – or at the very least – remain silent, simply because of who I am: an ex-Muslim, an atheist, a critic of Islam.

Of course, you have a right to your silence.

You are not responsible for my persecution. Only those who threaten, kill and harm freethinkers in countries and communities under Islamist control are directly responsible; justice, after all, can never be about placing collective blame.

But I do accuse.

I accuse you of blaming me and never the perpetrators.

They always seem to have some ‘legitimate’ grievance or ‘hurt’ sensibility that justifies their incitement to violence or mass murder.

I, on the other hand, am always at fault:

If only I had not offended’ Your religion offends me but I am still able to stand with you and defend your right to religion.

‘If only I had not provoked’ Islamists kill, maim, silence and I am the one provoking them by saying what I think? Is that you speaking or them?

‘If only I had respected Islam’ You don’t respect my atheism; why must I respect your religion? In any case, one is not required to respect beliefs but the right to belief.

‘If only I had kept my opinion about Islam to myself’… You do not keep your opinions to yourself. Every day, from every corner I hear how ‘Islam is a religion of peace’ and that ‘Islamists are not practising real Islam’. Religion is shoved down my throat until I suffocate; yet I must keep my opinions to myself? Do I not also have the right to speak and think as I choose? Until Islamists stop threatening me, I will shout my atheism from every rooftop.

‘I am aiding racism because I criticise Islam’ Are you promoting terrorism because you defend Islam? I do not blame you for terrorism; stop blaming me for racism – which, by the way, affects me too.

Dear ‘friend’,

Is it really so hard to grasp that freedom of conscience is not just for the believer? That it includes the right not to believe, the right to reject Islam – publicly or otherwise. That freedom of expression is not just for those who defend and promote Islam. It is also my and our freedom to criticise Islam, mock it, and even see it as the regressive ideology of the Islamist movement.

And to do so publicly without fear.

Frankly, when I hear the Quran recited, it feels like a kick to my stomach.  It reminds me of executions in Iran and the totalitarian nightmare from which I have fled and sought refuge.

Nonetheless, I can still make a distinction between beliefs and human beings. I can still defend the right to religion; I can still stand with you against fascists of all stripes.

Why can you not defend my right to reject religion?

Why can you not stand with me?

Can you not see that freedom of religion is meaningless without freedom from religion? These are corresponding freedoms. They cannot exist fully without the other.

Maybe you can afford your silence. After all, religion and its defenders have always been privileged and freethinkers have always been persecuted throughout the ages. But I and we cannot.

Because we have no choice.

Because we have a right to think and live freely – even if it offends you.

Because if we don’t speak for ourselves, who will speak for us? You certainly won’t.

Because we must speak for ourselves, our loved ones, for those who cannot speak, for those who are beaten into submission in homes in London, imprisoned in Riyadh or are facing the gallows in Tehran and Karachi.

For Raif Badawi, for Sina Dehghan, Sahar Ilyasi, Ayaz Nizami, Ahmad Al-Shamri, Taimoor Raza, Avijit Roy…

Because we are the tsunami that is coming…

Yes, I don’t blame you for my persecution, but I do often wonder how much of a role your victim blaming and silence play – even if unwittingly – in normalising the open season on Islam’s atheists and freethinkers.

I wonder. If you were not so tolerant of the culture of offence and so intolerant of my criticism, would the world not be a different place?

I accuse.

#IWant2BFree

“Religion has ever filled the mind of man with darkness, and kept him in ignorance of his real duties and true interests. It is only by dispelling the clouds and phantoms of Religion, that we shall discover Truth, Reason, and Morality. Religion diverts us from the causes of evils, and from the remedies which nature prescribes; far from curing, it only aggravates, multiplies, and perpetuates them.”  ― Paul Henri Thiry d’Holbach

Anti-Semitism in Europe Documentary Ditched Amidst Accusations of Censorship.

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Arte und WDR: Senden Sie die Dokumentation!

A comrade in Germany has told us that the controversy over the censorship of a documentary on anti-Semitism in Europe, Auserwählt und Ausgegrenzt. Der Hass auf Juden in Europa (« Un peuple élu et mis à part : l’antisémitisme en Europe » Le Monde), (Zensur einer Antisemitismus-Doku. Taz)   has not stopped growing.

It was due to be shown on the German-French channel, Arte.

Then it was withdrawn.

He comments, “WDR won’t let Arte send it because it is “anti protestant, and islamophobe” apparently “anti protestant” being the main problem, I presume i.e. they interviewed people at the “Kirchentag” (like the churches version of “Marxism 2017″ but much larger and funded almost completely by the German state) and they were clearly anti-semites.”

A French journalist, one of the authors of the film, considers however that Arte was embarrassed by the way the director tried to show a link between historic European anti-semitism, more recent anti-semitism amongst Islamists,  and the connection between anti-semitism  and anti-Zionism. Bringing in radical Islam was unacceptable for some at Arte, because they consider that this would feed hatred of Muslims. (Europe 24)

“”Ce qui gêne je pense, c’est que le réalisateur tente de montrer un lien entre l’antisémitisme d’antan et l’antisémitisme islamiste plus récent, et il fait aussi le lien entre l’antisémitisme et l’antisionisme”, ce qui n’est pas acceptable pour une partie des gens d’Arte, car ils considèrent que cela alimente la haine des Musulmans, explique la journaliste.

The controversy already has its own – German language – Wikipedia page: Auserwählt und ausgegrenzt – Der Hass auf Juden in Europa

Arte defends decision on European anti-Semitism documentary

The Franco-German TV channel’s director has denied charges of censorship and anti-Semitism lobbied at the broadcaster. His defence also hinted at tensions between German broadcasters.

Arte Program Director Alain le Diberder  on Thursday defended his broadcaster’s decision to pull the documentary entitled “Chosen and Excluded – The Hate for Jews in Europe” from its planned Arte airtime because the film did not meet approved project requirements.

He laid out the reasons for Arte’s cancellation in a letter to Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, who had previously criticised the broadcaster’s decision in his own letter to Arte and German public broadcasters WDR and ZDF. Schuster had asked the Arte to reconsider the decision, saying he could not understand why formalistic considerations would derail a broadcast of the documentary.

In his response to Schuster, Diberder said he was deeply affected by accusations of censorship, although he could understand why the Jewish leader was perplexed by the decision. The Arte head reiterated that “honourable and good reasons” had formed the basis of the channel’s decision to pull the plug on the documentary’s broadcast.

RT continues,

RTE, a Franco-German public TV station, has been accused of censorship over its decision to remove a 90-minute documentary titled ‘Chosen and Excluded – The Hate for Jews in Europe’ from its planned broadcasting schedule, saying the film lacks “balance.”

ARTE’s program director, Alain Le Diberder, said in a press statement that the film’s producers, Joachim Schroeder and Sophie Hafner, failed to make a documentary about anti-Semitism in Europe because they used too much footage from Israel and too little from European countries.

Schroeder told the Jerusalem Post on Saturday that “it is impossible to make a film [in Europe] today about anti-Semitism that shows a pro-Jewish perspective.”

Michaela Engelmeier, a Social Democratic deputy in the German parliament (Bundestag), said in a written statement to the Times of Israel that “a documentary that aims to present the problem of anti-Semitism in a reflected manner has to consider the relationship between anti-Semitism and criticism of Israel. In order to do so it is necessary to refer to the situation in the Middle East.”

She said the public tax-funded German TV networks ARTE and its sister outlet in Germany, WDR (Westdeutscher Rundfunk), “increasingly promote anti-Israeli narratives, while at the same time refusing to show a documentary on anti-Semitism that has been hailed by experts.” Volker Beck, a German Green Party lawmaker and president of the German-Israeli Parliamentary Friendship Group of the Bundestag, said the decision not to show the documentary “is even more disturbing when considering that ARTE and WDR have shown programs which could be seen as criticizing Israel one-sidedly.”

Josef Schuster, the head of the Central Council of German Jews, urged Le Diberder, who previously rejected the film because it lacked “balance,”  to reconsider the decision, noting that the film is “highly relevant.”

Schuster’s request fell on deaf ears, however, with Le Diberder saying that ARTE has “like almost no other outlet in Europe, committed itself to education about the fight against anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism” and that “the decision-making process was so as to ensure editorial quality and responsibility.

Diberder went on to stress in a statement to Deutsche Welle that ARTE had “good reasons” for its decision not to air the film. He said the documentary was a WDR production, approved by ARTE back in 2015. It was designed to focus on rising anti-Semitism across Europe, namely in Norway, Sweden, the UK, Hungary and Greece. But in late 2016, ARTE realized that the film “did not correspond to the proposal which had been submitted: it concentrates primarily on the Middle East and does not address the five designated countries in any way.”

This explanation did not satisfy Charlotte Knobloch, the head of the Munich Jewish community and a Holocaust survivor, who said that ARTE is on a “dangerous path.

German dailies Focus and and Der Tagesspiegel asked whether it was a case of censorship.

In the letter to the Franco-German public broadcaster, seen by the Jerusalem Post, Knobloch described the documentary as an “honest” presentation of anti-Semitism in Europe, saying that ARTE owes it to its viewers, who pay a fee for public programs, to show ‘Chosen and Excluded’ because it fulfills the outlet’s educational mission to “fight anti-Semitism.”

Historian Michael Wolffsohn told German Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung last week that the feature is “the by far best, smartest and historically deepest documentary on this topic, while at the same time being very much up to date and true.”

The Jewish Chronicle:

Alain le Diberder, Arte’s director, said that “honourable and good reasons” had informed the network’s decision not to broadcast the documentary. He claimed the network had taken a “necessary procedural decision taken to ensure editorial responsibility and quality,”

According to the network, the documentary had been commissioned to focus on antisemitism in five countries – Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Hungary and Greece. Arte claimed the documentary “concentrates primarily on the Middle East and does not address the five designated countries in any way.”

However, the documentary did look at antisemitism in Belgium, France and Germany.

It included an interview with François Pupponi, the Socialist mayor of Sarcelles, a northern suburb of Paris which has been a flashpoint for antisemitic incidents.

Mr Pupponi said that “French Jews think they have no future in France, that they have to leave the country to live in security and peace.”

He also said that hatred of Israel, encouraged by Pro-Palestinian groups, had led to some of the problems.

“For a certain number of young people ‘Jew’ and ‘Israel’ are one and the same so if you’re against Israel, you’re also against synagogues,” he said.

Here is the film:

Written by Andrew Coates

June 13, 2017 at 12:49 pm

La France insoumise: 2/3rds of Mélenchon’s Supporters Will Abstain or Vote Blank in Choice between Far-Right and Macron.

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Charlie Hebdo on the “prats” who will Abstain or Vote Blank Faced with Le Pen. 

Two-thirds of far-left ‘Unsubmissive France’ movement to abstain or cast blank ballot in presidential run-off France 24.

This “consulatitve vote” – since La France insoumise is a rally, not a democratic party, is apparently intended only as an “Indication” of what activists think.

S’abstenir ou voter Macron ? Les militants de La France insoumise de Mélenchon optent aux deux tiers pour le vote blanc ou l’abstention

Nouvel Obs.

La France insoumise a dévoilé ce mardi après-midi le résultat de la consultation de ses militants sur la conduite à tenir au second tour, entre vote pour Emmanuel Macron, qui refuse toute concession à Jean-Luc Mélenchon, et abstention.

Seuls 243.128 militants sur les 430.000 inscrits de la plateforme internet La France insoumise se sont prononcés. La consultation s’est close mardi midi et leurs votes se répartissent ainsi : 36,12% appellent à voter blanc ou nul, 34,83% à voter Emmanuel Macron et 29,05% se disent favorables à une abstention. Le communiqué précise : “Il ne s’agissait pas de déterminer une consigne de vote mais d’organiser la prise de parole des insoumis.es au sujet de leurs choix de second tour.”

Only 243,128 activists out of the 430,000 who belong to the Web Network of the La France insoumise voted. The consultation closed on Tuesday at mid-day. The voting was as follows: 36,12% for a blank-spoiled ballot, 34,83% for Emmanuel Macron, and 28,05% said they backed abstention. The communique added, “It is not a question of deciding how we should vote, but to give a voice to the choices that the ‘insoumis’ will make in voting during the second round.

The choice of voting Marine Le Pen was not available during the consultation, although over 15-16% of voters for  Mélenchon in the first round may vote for the far-right in the second (BFMTV).

Libération comments that Mélenchon did not have the courage to take a clear stand because he knew how divided his ‘movement’ was, “On comprend mieux la distance de Jean-Luc Mélenchon, qui a refusé de se prononcer publiquement, de peur de perdre des militants en route.” ( la France insoumise est divisée.)

From the French Communists, the PCF, the reaction was not favourable.

Alors que Marine Le Pen est aux portes du pouvoir le résultat de la consultation de la France Insoumise n’est peut être qu’une photographie mais c’est une mauvaise nouvelle », a réagi sur Facebook Igor Zamichiei, secrétaire départemental du PCF à Paris et membre de l’exécutif national.

When Marine Le Pen is at the gates of Power the result of the consultation of la France insoumise is only a photo-shot, but it’s bad news, remarked on Facebook  Igor Zamichiei, the regional secretary of the PCF at Paris, and a member of the party’s National Executive.

Le Monde. 

More comment unfolding: that the vote indicates a state of mind in some circles on the French left (se Charlie cartoon above….)

This  contrasts with those more directly affected by Le Pen:

 

 

See also: 

Why we support Macron in the second round – op-ed in Le Monde (English original) and DiEM25 France in Mediapart YANIS VAROUFAKIS.

In today’s Le Monde I call upon French progressives to vote for Macron in the second round of France’s Presidential election. The article explains my recommendation to French voters and finishes off with the following promise to Emmanuel:

“I shall mobilise fully to help you beat Le Pen with the same strength that I shall be joining the next Nuit Debout to oppose your government when, and if, you, as President, attempt to continue with your dead-end, already-failed neoliberalism.”

For the full article, in the original English, can be read below. (See also DiEM25 France’s collective position published earlier in Mediapart.)