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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.

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Les Blancs, les Juifs et nous. Houria Bouteldja. Review: Post-Colonial Race-Baiting.

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Revolutionary Love.

Les Blancs, les Juifs et nous. Vers une politique de l’amour révolutionnaire . Houria Bouteldja. La Fabrique. 2016.

(The book will be presented at Berkeley: Towards a Politics of Revolutionary Love – Houria Bouteldja. 04/19/2016 – 1:00pm to 2:30pm. 691 Barrows Hall, UC Berkeley.

http://crg.berkeley.edu/node/990oWe invite you to hear her presentation of her book, just published a few weeks ago in France, and already the object of a very highly mediatized controversy. Live translation of Houria Bouteldja’s presentation into English will be provided.)

Review: Post-Colonial Race-Baiting.

“Et que penser de la discussion sur les mérites culinaires comparés de la viande de nègres, d’Allemands et de Marseillais, ou sur la meilleure manière de civiliser les sous-hommes d’Afrique ou des Indes en les réduisant en poussière avec la « fée Dum-Dum », alias « balle Nib-Nib »?

And what to consider about the discussion on the relative culinary merits of the flesh of Negroes, Germans, and the inhabitants of Marseilles, or on the best way of civilising the African and Indian sub-humans by reducing them to dust by ‘Fairy Dumdum’ alias, the ‘Nib Nib bullet’?

Le Jardin de Supplices. Octave Mirbeau. 1899. (The Torture Garden).

Segré and Pérez have systematically shredded this historical picture to pieces. We can bin the puerile idea that empires are a European invention, and, most fundamentally, that European colonisation began outside Europe, and not in the conquests of the East, and of Ireland. On the darker side of the history of the Arab rule in Iberia and of the Caliphate’s incursion and domination of large parts of Europe she is, perhaps understandably, more or less silent. Flowing amongst her would-be lyrical invective Bouteldja offers a few valid ideas. One stands out, that the Atlantic slave trade and violent colonialisation provided models for the Nazis. This insight is nevertheless amply considered elsewhere (by Hannah Arendt, to only give the best known). One might extend the idea and examine Timothy Snyder’s argument that Hitler was a ‘zoological’ ideologue who thought that ‘race’ was real and that struggle between races was the ultimate reality of history. Unfortunately this comes rather too close to Bouteldja’s allusions to the idea that ‘whites’ are engaged in the fight to the death with ‘blacks’…. (1)

Les Blancs, les Juifs et nous

Then there is her tussle with Jean Paul Sartre. Shoot Sartre! (Fusillez Sartre) is her refrain, which sounds perhaps better in her armchair than on the paper. The Intellectual, novelist and philosopher, is taken for an analogy for the French left. Why? This turns out to be well known, and may be summarised quickly. In the Maspero edition of Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth (1968) his famous preface was withdrawn, on the insistence of Joie Fanon, who called Sartre a Zionist because he defended Israel in the Six Day War of June 1967.

Bouteldja is keen on the equally famous – and morally cretinous – Sartre lines expressed in that text: that killing a colonialist serves two purposes, the death of an oppressor and the making of a freedom fighter’s independent manhood. She admires Fanon, one of her titular figures along with James Baldwin and Malcolm X. But, like his widow, she detests ‘Zionists’. Exit – as she might say in one her numerous attempts at pithiness – Sartre. Welcome the unconditional supporter of the Palestinians, Jean Genet, “What I like about Genet is that he doesn’t give a Fuck about Hitler.” (“Ce que j’aime chez Genet, c’est qu’il s’en fout d’Hitler” Page 20)

The Shoah.

The European Civil Religion of the Shoah needs, Bouteldja is not shy to assert, blasphemers. Not to deny the Holocaust, or (?) not to give a toss about it, but to remove the moral legitimacy that atoning for the genocide gives the West and Israel. The Jews have turned from ‘dhimis’ (that, is second class citizens) in Europe, to become their colonial soldiers in the service of ‘imperialism’ (Page 51). The Jews, post 1945, have accepted the “racial pact of the Republic”, become part of the ‘Jewish-Christian civilisation”, “part of the race of the Lords”, trading their history and memories for a “colonial ideology” (Page 53)

In that context, for the ‘South’ the Shoah is less than a ‘detail’ of history, it is nearly invisible. Anti-semitism is European (Page 55). Apparently. Arabs are not philosemites, but they are not anti-Semites either (Ibid). The European religion of commemorating the Holocaust is just that…European, a distant sound for those suffering from colonialism. Only by abandoning Zionism can the Jews drop their white masks and become comrades, sharing the skin of the noirs In other words, and….do what Les Blancs, les Juifs et nous tells them to do.

Bouteldja is a master of race baiting, shouting down her opponents. These passages effectively deny self-determination to one group of people, the ‘Jews’, along with some unpleasant claims that insult people’s right to give genocide the importance it has. Her panders in academic post-colonial studies will no doubt be able to explain away these passages. They will surely be at Berkeley in the near future.

Some such people, and her domestic allies, will no doubt dismiss the sexism, homophobia and racism attacked by Segré and Pérez. No doubt there is an audience for an assertion and exploration of the identities and oppressions of the multiple communities of immigrant origin in Europe, ill-served by all the states, including the formally egalitarian France. Many writings exist. There is a need to talk about the new forms of anti-racism, if only we knew what they were…. There are occasional gleams of interest in the present work of personal experience, overshadowed all too often by slabs of pre-digested ideology. Les Blancs, les Juifs et nous, indeed has also the most ambitious possible intention: to speak for “nous”, the ‘noirs’ the ‘indigènes’ and to hail, with a shout the Vous, the Whites. Without doubt we should include the text on the reading lists. But, but, but…….

Behind the brave words there is a more than a lack of substance. There is absolutely no discussion of the horrors taking place across the whole Middle East, from Yemen to Turkey, passing by Iraq and Syria, not to mention Israel and Palestine themselves. There are genocides happening there right now.

Bouteldja ignores them. Expect for a brief sentence about young people in the banlieue falling for violent extremism she ignores the international phenomenon of Islamism and, most significantly, the popular fight against it. The pamphlet avoids these, and other, profound issues in  a book that resembles a written version of a  puppet theatre, the crudest of seaside shows, with the Jews dangling on the strings of Imperialism, as if these cords only need to be cut for peace and justice to reign.

Faced with a culture ruled by White “égoists et individualistes”, a West “in decline” what does Bouteldja offer? Is there a way out of oppression? She proposes a “radical questioning of Modernity and a consideration of an alternative civilisation.”(Page 92) What is this superior option to the White Republic and is false promise of liberty equality and fraternity?

Fanon’s Third Worldism, American Black Power ideology steps aside. Instead of any universal alternative she summons the narrow word of god, Allah, for a world without hierarchy, a “une seule entité et authorité à dominer: Dieu” – a single entity authorised to rule: god. “ a côtés de tout leurs frères et soeurs en humanité” – alongside all their brothers and sisters in humanity. (Page 133).

Bless!

(1) Black Earth. The Holocaust as History and warning. Timothy Snyder. Bodley Head. 2015.

Some notes from Frantz Fanon. A life, David Macey. Granta Books. 2000.

Of interest in this context.

“Even when Fanon is remembered in Algeria, the memory can be clouded by partial amnesia and ignorance, Fanny Colonna, who taught as the University of Tizi-Ouzo until she was forced by the rising tide of violence and xenophobia to leave for France in the early 1990s, recalls meeting school students who had read Fanon in their French class but did not know that he was black.”(Page 8)

““The Third Worldist Fanon was an apocalyptic creature; the post-colonial Fanon worries about identity politics, and often abut his own sexual identity, but he is no longer angry. And yet, if there is a truly Fanonian emotion, it is anger. His anger was a response to the experience of a black man in a world defined as white, but not to the ‘fact’ of blackness. It was a response to the condition and situation of those he called the wretched of the earth. The wretched of the earth are still there, but not in the seminar rooms where the talk is of post-colonial theory. They came out in the streets of Algiers in 1988, and the Algerian army shot them dead. They have been subsequently killed in there tens of thousands by authoritarian Algerian governments and so-called Islamic fundamentalists. Had he lived, Fanon would still be angry. His readers should be angry too.”(Page 28)

“Anti-Semitism was by no means unusual in North Africa, and no, despite all the talk of African and Afro-Arab unity, was anti-black racism. In both Algeria and Tunisia black people were commonly referred to as Al-âbid (the singular is ‘Ab’d’), meaning slave’ –a reminder that the corsairs of the Barbary Coast had enslaved black as well as white.”(Page 316)

“the function of the violence of the colonised is to negate and transcend the seriality created by the violence of colonisation. In doing so, to create a group-in-fusion with a common project and praxis.”(Page 485)

“The themes of Third World solidarity and unity, of a version of pan-Africanism and of the liberating power of violence have not worn well. Fro a generation, Fanon was a prophet. He has become a witness to the process of decolonisation but, whilst his discussion of racism remains valid, he has little to say about the outcome of that process.”(Page 503)

Lenin’s Tomb Indulges Dieudonné’s ‘Mates’ and anti-Semites.

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Lenin’s Tomb writes,” I have been given permission to publish this excellent paper from the Penser l’émancipation, closing plenary, Nanterre, on February 22, 2014.  It was written and delivered by the excellent Houria Bouteldja, a member of Le Parti des indigènes de la République.”

On anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.

It also designates an enemy: the Jew as a Jew, and the Jew as a Zionist, as an embodiment of imperialism, but also because of the Jew’s privileged position. The one who occupies the best seat in the hearts of the White, a place for which many indigènes are fighting.

Because they dream of becoming the Prince’s favourites, but without questioning that Prince’s legitimacy: the legitimacy of the White Man. As we, in the PIR, often say: “The spontaneous ideology of the indigènes is integrationism.” And in the end, if Soral’s strategy is working, it is also because he revalidates arabo-muslim virility that was the target of racism and colonialism — I will not detail here another episode, the one with Ni Putes Ni Soumises and Femen.

Must we condemn this youth? Are they fascists?

My reply is No!

Now, the trouble is that we are not integrationists. And integration through anti-semitism horrifies us just as much as integration though White universalism and national-chauvinism. We abhor anything that seeks to integrate us into whiteness; anti-semitism being a pure product of Europe and the West. As a decolonial movement, it is self-evident that we cannot support Dieudonné.

Yet we could not condemn him in the manner of the white Left, because there is a certain dimension that has escaped the Left, but one that is clear to any indigène with a modicum of dignity. It is what I have recalled in an interview in 2012: “For me Dieudonné is not Soral, because he is a social indigène. I cannot treat him as I treat Soral. I thoroughly disagree with his political choices: the fact that he has been seduced by Soral’s nationalistic views, that he knows nothing about Palestine and Zionism, and his alliance with the far-right.

At the same time, I feel ambivalent. I would start by saying that I love Dieudonné; that I love him as the indigènes love him; that I understand why the indigènes love him. I love him because he has done an important action in terms of dignity, of indigène pride, of Black pride: he refused to be a domestic negro. Even if he doesn’t have the right political program in his head, his attitude is one of resistance

This “excellent Houria Bouteldja” has other views of note,

“Pour Houria Bouteldja, porte parole du mouvement], sans être une tare  « le mode de vie homosexuel n’existe pas dans les quartiers populaires ». Dans un droit de réponse à l’article la mettant en cause, elle rappelle notamment ses propos exacts sur le sujet, tenus le 6 novembre 2012 dans l’émission télévisée Ce soir (ou jamais !) de Frédéric Taddéï: « Je ne crois pas à l’universalité de l’identité politique homosexuelle. Je fais la distinction entre le fait qu’il peut y avoir des pratiques homosexuelles effectivement dans les quartiers ou ailleurs mais que ça ne se manifeste pas par une revendication identitaire politique.”

So gay life does not exist in the working class housing estates, which the ‘indigènes (self-appointed) claim to represent.

They certainly do their bit to make sure this happens.

In 2012 they shouted down and attacked gay writer Caroline Fourest.

She was attacked in September that year at the annual Fête d’Huma by the Indigènes de la République  and the Indivisibles. They prevented her from talking about her latest book against the Front National.

As a kind of ‘autonomous rights’ movement (indigènes is taken from the time of French colonialisation) for the civic status – lack of – of the ‘natives’ in the French empire one thing sticks out about this groupuscule (apart from his willingness to use thuggery against opponents).

It is its American-UK  defence of ‘multiculturalism’.

This explains perhaps the following (distastefully  phrased),

So what has happened between these two generations: the potentially pork-eating immigrants who were tied to the Left and the non-pork-eating immigrants drifting towards the Right?

The bully continues,

On the front of the radical Left, we have witnessed: complicity of parts of the radical Left with moralistic anti-racism; hostility towards autonomous immigration movements; collusion and active complicity with islamophobia; focusing on fascism at the expense of structural racism and a critique of white supremacy that cuts across the radical Left itself; the centrality of the Holocaust at the expense of the history of colonialism and slavery; clientelism in the neighbourhoods (in particular in Communist Party municipalities); white anti-Zionism, that is an anti-Zionism that is supportive of resistance movements that resemble the left (the PFLP for example) and that is contemptuous of those who do not resemble it (such as Hamas at the time of the attacks against Gaza).

It would be interesting to hear how his group which also backed Hezbollah not considers them.

On Syria – motus!

One heartily agrees, however  with this statement,

For this to be possible, we must be accepted as we are: a group that is racially and socially dominated, not necessarily clear-cut on several issues: not clear-cut on capitalism, not clear-cut on class struggle, not clear-cut on women, not clear-cut on homosexuality, not clear-cut on Jews.

Parti des Indigènes de la République

That is “”la reconnaissance par l’Etat de ces différentes langues, cultures et spiritualités comme autant de besoins sociaux et comme des composantes à part entière de la communauté politique et culturelle et des institutions qui la constituent.”

State recognition of the different languages, cultures and spiritualities as social needs and integral parts in themselves of the political, cultural and institutional framework.”

Update.

This is Seymour’s Twitter Reply to someone who tweeted him about this,

leninology ‏@leninology  19h

@Pabloite @JamesHeartfield fuck Caroline Fourest, she’s a weirdo Islamophobe conspiracy theorist. (Lot of that about.)