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Posts Tagged ‘Islamophobia.

March Against Islamophobia in France – some divisions on the French left.

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Image result for marche contre l'islamophobie novembre paris affiche

This Sunday there is going to be a large demonstration against Islamophobia in Paris.

This is bound to have international resonance.

Protesting against hatred shown towards Muslims takes place after the attack on a Mosque  in Bayonne at the end of October and polls which show up to  44% of French people backing laws against wearing the veil in public spaces. (LES FRANÇAIS ET L’INTERDICTION DU PORT DU VOILE ISLAMIQUE DANS LES LIEUX PUBLICS.)

An appeal, signed initially by 50 prominent figures of the political left, trade unionists, anti-racist activists and intellectuals  was published in Liberation on the 1st of November calling for a response to the rise in hatred.

The dignity and integrity of millions of our fellow citizens are at stake. It is a question of unity against racism, which, in all its forms, which today again threatens France.

Le 10 novembre, à Paris, nous dirons STOP à l’islamophobie !

The racist atmosphere has reached a new level after what has been called an appeal to civil war against Muslims and immigrants from the writer Éric Zemmour at the  Convention de la Droite, held at the end of September,  which also starred the rising figure of the French far right Marion Maréchal. (Les propos d’Eric Zemmour, comme une incitation à la guerre civile)

Anybody wishing to be informed on the climate could do well to begin by reading Zemmour’s Le Suicide français (2014).

He begins by lamenting French decline, blaming an alliance of 68 libertarian leftist ideology, feminism, gay rights, and unrestrained free market capitalism for undermining the family and French national sovereignty. The left, by denigrating the Nation, the land, and its dead, has paved the way for globalism. The destruction of France is furthered by the European Union’s super-national project and the ‘elites’ running it against the rooted people of the countries they rule over.

Immigration plays a role in undermining French nation. In place of the ‘integrationist’ process of assimilation – he himself is from a North African Jewish background – today capitalists and leftists have allowed separate communities to develop. The “cult of mixing” and diversity has replaced the republican model of equality (, le culte du métissage )

Le Suicide français Zemmour described Paris as surrounded by a banlieue  studded with Islamic and drug dealing fortress.

His more recent diatribes continue in this vein,

“one must choose between living and together” [a play on words on the slogan “vivre ensemble”]. The question today is thus that of the people. The people can remake a nation. The French people against the universalisms, whether market or Islamic. The French people against the cosmopolitan citizens of the world who feel closer to the inhabitants of New York or London than to their compatriots in Montélimar or Béziers and the French people against the Islamic universalism that is transforming Bobigny, Roubaix and Marseille into so many Islamic Republics and which waves the Algerian or Palestinian flags when its football team wins – I mean the team it loves, the team of their parents’ country, not the team of their ID or health insurance card.

Speech here.

In these conditions it is valid to make some comparisons between Zemmour and the 19th century  author of the best known French anti-Jewish hated, Edouard Drumont  (De Drumont à Zemmour, les résonances de la France rance).

It is less clear that we can draw exact parallels with the organised anti-Semitism, which included ‘leagues’ that promoted Jew baiting,  of that period.

The attempt to do so and make explicit reference to the Dreyfus Affair in Pour les musulmans by Edwy Plenel (2015) whose title echoes Pour les Juifs  by Emile Zola is devoid of all geopolitical context, beginning with the rise of extreme right Islamism.

Yet there are clearly mechanisms of exclusion against Muslim voices. During public debates on the veil, the Hidjab, this has happened:

La semaine du racisme antimusulmans a commencé le 11 octobre 2019 : depuis cette date, 85 débats sur le hijab ont été organisés, 286 personnes ont été invitées sur vos écrans mais PAS UNE SEULE femme portant le hijab n’a été invitée dans le cadre de ces débats

 (The week of anti-Muslim racism began on October 11, 2019: since then, 85 debates on the hijab have been organized, 286 people have been invited to your screens but NOT ONE ONLY woman wearing the hijab has been invited as part of these debates)

These indicate some of the reasons why the Sunday protest may have problems in balancing a universalist stand against the racist wave and the need to avoid becoming trapped in an incircle defence of religious-political  ideas.

So far most of the debate has centred on these aspects of the difficulties involved.

To begin with the word Islamophobia, as if a religion rather than Muslims as people, are the target of hatred, is a difficulty for many.

This is much less of an issue than the fact that the demonstration is backed by people whose own anti-racism is far from clear.

Marcher le 10 novembre avec les islamistes et décoloniaux : une erreur politique majeure pour la gauche. Manuel Boucher.

There is equally  a strident tone against existing secularist  laws in the appeal for the march.

Few people are eager to take lessons on secularism from anybody associated with Islamism. (1)

This had led the Parti Socialiste and others to withdraw their support. A gauche, défections en série avant la «marche contre l’islamophobie»

Despite these criticisms Jean-Luc Mélenchon has maintained his backing (Marche contre l’islamophobie : Mélenchon défend sa signature «au nom du texte réel et du contexte cruel»)

Even from a distance it is hard not to deny the scale of the problems Muslims, from very diverse communities, forms of Islam, politics,  and origins, from the Maghreb onwards,  face in France.

********

(1) Une ombre islamiste plane sur la marche contre l’islamophobie

La Croix.

D’autres signaux permettent de déceler l’engagement de l’islamisme, parfois radical, dans la manifestation « Nous dirons STOP à l’islamophobie ! » du 10 novembre. Ainsi, une source policière note le relais de l’Appel à cet événement par plusieurs imams lyonnais, très investis dans l’UOIF. Mohamed Louizi relève, lui, les mêmes attitudes chez l’imam francilien Noureddine Aoussat, « frériste » reconnu ou chez l’imam nordiste Abdelmonaim Boussenna (Roubaix), très proche, longtemps, de Tariq Ramadan, et dont les profils YouTube et Facebook comptent des centaines de milliers d’abonnés.

Scrutant la liste des signataires de l’appel à manifester « contre l’islamophobie », Mohamed Louizi estime que « plusieurs d’entre eux posent problème ». Ainsi, la « Plateforme L.E.S. Musulmans », un « réseau collaboratif » qui entend exprimer l’opinion des « bases musulmanes », a été fondée par Marwan Muhammad, un « proche des Frères musulmans » qui fut aussi porte-parole et directeur exécutif du Collectif contre l’islamophobie en France (CCIF). Cette plateforme activiste vient d’ailleurs de lancer une Union des imams qui inquiète certains observateurs. Ses adhérents pourront être de toutes sensibilités et tous courants de pensée, y compris salafistes.

Plus largement, poursuit Mohamed Louizi, « tous les initiateurs de cette manifestation dénoncent, depuis le début, la loi du 15 mars 2004 qui interdit de porter à l’école les signes manifestant ostensiblement son appartenance à une religion… » A ce propos, une phrase de la tribune publiée par Libération, le 1er novembre, a particulièrement attiré l’attention : « Depuis des années, les actes qui visent (les musulmans) s’intensifient : qu’il s’agisse de discriminations (…) ou de lois liberticides… »

 

 

On the Ambiguities of ‘Islamophobia’; Debate Launched by Yves Colman and AWL.

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The supplement Anti-semitism and anti-Muslim racism in Europe, by Yves Colman (from Ni patrie ni frontières) is published by the Alliance of Workers’ Liberty. It is essential reading.

These are some comments on one section,  About the ambiguities of the “Islamophobia” concept.

The original title is perhaps more forthright: De l’usage réactionnaire de la notion d’« islamophobie » par certains sociologues de gauche et… Amnesty International. It is also, Yves notes, “a slightly different and longer version”. In French he refers to, for example, to claims about ‘hypersensitive’ Jews, by  French academic, Olivier Esteves (joint author of De l’invisibilité à l’islamophobie : Les musulmans britanniques (1945-2010) with  Gérard Noiriel. 2011).  I doubt if anybody outside of France would be greatly  interested in Esteves, although Yves’s annoyance at the use the writer makes of Maxime Rodinson would be shared by many on the left in the scores of countries where Rodinson’s works on Islam are read and appreciated.

This, nevertheless,  suggests a wider point. The political and cultural bearings of any discussion about Islamophobia – and anti-Semitism – are different in France and Britain. This is not just that different writers can be, or need to be, cited, but   that there are some deeper distinctions. Not only has continental Europe a more direct exprience of the history of the consequences of anti-Semitism, but France has a distinct relation to Islam (North African colonialism was more ‘immediate’ than, say the Raj), and a much stronger secular and radical left, which is hostile to the kind of religiously inspired fudging of these issues that exists in the UK.

Much of this may be well-known, but it is less appreciated in the UK, and elsewhere, just how far a large chunk of the French left just does not accept the same premises on these topics. It is  doubtless partly due to the efforts of groups like the SWP, who systematically turn reports on France to fit their own ‘line’, but also from other groups, who are themselves aligned with the various (minority) French groups who make up such bodies as the Collectif contre l’Islamophobie.

We have to begin, then,  by noting that in France, to a much greater degree than in the English-speaking world, the concept of ‘Islamophobia’ remains contested, above all on the anti-racist left. Houda Asal observes that it remains “champ de bataille ” (Battle field). That is, as a political issue of great importance, its content remains to be clearly defined (Contretemps). Above all, she notes, the identification of Islamophobia (a term she backs, as a supporter of the group cited above) as a form of racism, has met with sustained objections amongst important sections of the French left. A variety of objections have been made to the word, not least by important French left parties, such as the Parti de gauche of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who are firm secularists and fear a restriction on their right to criticise reactionary religious politics.  Apart from the obvious point that faith is not in the genes, this runs up against the idea that people can have their ideas challenged and that they should be free to leave their ‘birth’ religion. 

Yves Colman begins his article by giving some reasons why the word Islamophobia is not just ‘essentially contested’ but eminently contestable. This is is so not just in terms of French debates, but for the whole international left.

He begins,

I have tried not to use the word “Islamophobia” in this article and chose expressions like “anti-Muslim paranoia”, “anti-Arab”, “anti-African” and “anti-Muslim racism”, in line with what Sacha Ismail proposed in Solidarity.

Among many other reasons, I prefer not to use the word “islamophobia” for the following motives:

• The phenomenon involved is not a simple phobia (fear) but a paranoia, therefore much more serious than a simple fear;

• This concept is manipulated by Islamists and the 57 States of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to prevent any criticism both of political Islam and Islamic religion;

• It’s used by left militants and social scientists who refuse to criticise religion: for example, Clive D. Field 60 considers the rejection of sharia courts in Britain an “islamophobic” prejudice!

It remains to be seen if one can clearly distinguish paranoia and fear. Or, that there is any point in saying that because anybody intensely dislikes, say Boko Haram, they are imagining something about them.

Viewers of this week’s BBC 2 documentary Kill the Christians, might equally become fearful about Islamic religious intolerance and hatred towards non-Muslims.

It is hard to see what worse one could imagine about groups such as the Islamic State – Daesh.

Which is not to say that racists, of any stripe, are not capable of deluded fantasies about the objects of their loathing.

There are few more disgusting sights than listening to Nigel Farage speaking, and his views on Muslims are no exception.

UKIP is striking evidence of that – and spans a very wide variety of targets. ‘Populism’ in this case seems about very classical scapegoating, too simple in fact to need any sophisticated cultural, ideological/discourse analysis. However it does not have one clear target: it’s an heap of images, Polish, Gypsy, Muslim, Chavs, Africans, Caribbeans, idle British benefit claimants, Brussels,  single mothers, and, let’s not forget, the large Hindu and Sikh populations, to give a far from exhaustive summary.

But the deep rooted, all-embracing, hatred of one group has yet to take hold. There is not the obsessive loathing against Jews looked at in books such as Sartre’s  Réflexions sur la question juive (1946), with their institutional and political backing in National Socialism and other European extreme-rights, has yet to take hold in large sections of the population. There is no version of the Protocols featuring Muslim ‘Elders’. Éric Zemmour, who advocates expelling Muslims from Europe, does not lead a political party, even a groupuscule. 

These reservations should not obscure the principal point that  across Europe there is widespread intolerance against migrants and all ethnic minorities.

In this noxious mixture there are anti-Muslim strands.

How can this best be termed? Sacha Ismail’s list strikes me as right: there is “anti-Arab”, “anti-African” and “anti-Muslim racism” .  Though unfortunately one has to add a long list of other prejudices, xenophobic hatred, and biological racism to the tally. There is, though not at present of visible importance in Europe, intra-Muslim conflict, too well known to catalogue.

These qualifications said, Yves’s argument is extremely fruitful: it has implications for the left’s strategies to oppose this tide of prejudice.

The Left and ‘Islamophobia’.

As a first step we have to look at what we should not do. 

The line advanced in the pages of the Socialist Workers Party magazine, Socialist Review, by  Hassan Mahamdallie of the Muslim Institute (January 2015) gives some indications of very misleading approach.  (Resist the racist offensive against Muslims)

Mahamdallie works with this central premise,

Although the term “Islamophobia” is widely used to describe the phenomenon of hatred and discrimination against Muslims, we should regard it like other racisms as having historic roots, and a particular role to play in modern capitalist societies.

This is true in the west, whose governments are failing to deliver the needs of their working classes, whilst engaging in military interventions in regions they see as strategic. Muslims in the West are being used as scapegoats for a situation not of their making, and simultaneously being divided from the rest of the population, cast as alien, dangerous and thereby set apart from those with whom they have most in common.

‘Islamophobia’ is not at all reducible to the something that can be reduced to  a “function” or role in “scapegoating”. The expression is already flawed enough without this. But it’s the political consequences which Mahamdallie draws that are most ambiguous:

local initiatives include the vibrant campaign around the Trojan Horse affair in Birmingham; the work of activists to repulse the racialisation of child abuse “grooming” cases in towns such as Rotherham; and the defence of Tower Hamlets council and schools. This is a vital bulwark against Islamophobia, not only in demonstrating that Muslims can count on the support of others, but in radicalising a new generation of activists, Muslim and non-Muslim, who can feel that they can move from the defensive to the offensive, and by doing so making themselves active in changing the world around them for the better.

These are very far from clear issues. Anybody who ‘defends’ the Birmingham schools, to start with, is misled. Why Tower Hamlets Council leadership should be ‘defended’ without any qualification (or evidence in the courts) is equally questionable. Not to mention why the left should be deeply involved in the child abuse cases, which defy any kind of rational political intervention….

Indeed the words hornet’s nest barely cover the issues Mahamdallie baldly cites.

But, (we learn)

…there are bigger issues at stake, which means breaking out of the Good Muslim/Bad Muslim framework and championing the right of Muslims to practise their religion and to express themselves culturally and politically freely and without fear, to organise against war and injustice without suffering the fate of activists such as Moazzam Begg and to defend their communities and leadership without being labelled as “fundamentalist” conspirators.

It is natural that Britain’s Muslims should reach out for allies in this struggle. The responsibility falls on the wider movement against racism and imperialism, on trade unionists and socialists to actively demonstrate, without pre-conditions, that it will consistently unite with Muslims under attack. Only then can we begin to roll back the state repression and the bigotry and discrimination that are in danger of being embedded in British society.

No socialist can accept the phrase, “Without pre-conditions’, without, pre-conditions…..

We have just seen some reasons why; there are plenty of others.

Defending those who identify as Muslims, from racist assaults, is absolutely right, in general.

But what of  organised groups, political and religious associations? Every single Salafist? And is every individual to be backed? ‘Against’ the state, and ‘against’ what else? Every, well the word begins with a ‘J’……

There is a drift, ultimately, to the blanket ‘defence’ of every Muslim, which the SWP, and many on the left, make all too often – for all their ‘yes ISIS is terrible’ but…...

Yves notes, that Islamophobia is used, in this context above all, to protect a range of figures from criticism (from Islamists to ‘traditional’ leaders, ‘conservative’ – reactionary – clerics, academics and perhaps most important, would-be political leaders) , to encircle ‘The’ (as if there is ‘one’) Muslim ‘community’ and as Charlie Hebdo’s murdered Editor, Charb says, to encourage ‘identity’ against the ‘enemies’ of Islam (Lettre ouverte aux escrocs de l’islamophobie qui font le jeu des racistes. 2015(1)

Behind this is not a powerless body of migrants, but some wealthy and powerful countries, the 57 States of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

Does the left defend “without pre-conditions” all of these bodies?

Clearly not.

Multiculturalism. 

Yves takes us the critique of official multiculturalism”. He singles out

“….imaginary “communities” whose self-proclaimed representatives want to impose a “traditional” law on their cultural/religious group, we can’t just look away and forget the necessity of defending democratic rights for everyone… including Muslim workers.”

The comrade from Ni patrie ni frontières looks at Amnesty International’s report 63 (April 2012).

This asserts,

“States must take measures to protect women from being pressured or coerced by third parties to dress in certain ways, and in so far as social, cultural or religious norms prescribing dress codes are a reflection of discrimination against women, the state has a positive obligation to take steps to prevent such discrimination.”

He states,

Amnesty is right to criticise the discriminatory policies adopted by Western states: in the countries where the hijab ban has been implemented (outside Turkey and Tunisia, where these decisions were taken by Muslim governments), it has only served to expel young girls from the state-run, or “non-denominational” schools, which was a major setback; it has pushed them either to abandon their studies, or to follow long-distance education and remain isolated at home, and made them more vulnerable to (self-) indoctrination; and it has reinforced the influence of private schools and religious (Christian or Muslim) schools.

I disagree that the French law on wearing ostentatious religious symbols in schools is wrong. There is no reason why a public education system should be permitted to become a battleground in which personal religious symbolism, above all, religious standards of ‘modesty’ and ‘purity’, should be allowed to enter. The French concept of laïcité for all its obvious faults (notably, the failure to tackle class and other inequalities), nevertheless represent an advance in this area: schools should not be the place for the aggressive assertion of faith, either by the instructors, or by those trying to extend the  ‘micro-powers’ of religious observance.

To those who say that we not ‘defend’ the French state, I reply: schools are funded and run by the state. Unless you plan to take them away from the public authorities we are discussing about what should happen within them. Secularists want them to be secular. Obviously some on the left do not agree.

Anti-Semitism.

“The Islamophobia concept is sometimes used to counter the necessary struggle against anti-Semitism, the latter being presented, by the most extremists, as a “Zionist” tool to prevent any criticism against Israeli war crimes (see for example the opposition raised in the left by the working definition of anti-Semitism elaborated by an European Union commission which proposed to point the limits of anti-Zionism). “

In other words, everyone but the anti-Semites are responsible for…anti-Semitism.

There is another example of this in the  Parti des Indigènes de la République, and its leading figure Houria Bouteldja (admired by Verso Books and Richard Seymour amongst others).  Bouteldja has recently argued that there is a State philosemitism  in France (philosémitisme d’État). This state, apparently, ‘uses’ this, including the Shoah, as shields (boucliers idéologiques) to disguise its own racism. Thus, Arab anti-Semitism in France is…..a reaction to this State (racist) philosemitism. (François Calaret Combattre le philosémitisme » : impasse de l’antiracisme).

We wonder where this particular journey will end.

 In provisional conclusion: Yves Colman’s discussion and the major piece, Anti-semitism and anti-Muslim racism in Europe, are essential reading for everybody on the left. The AWL are to be congratulated on publishing it.

As the comrade says,

It’s never too late to recognise our errors and wage a clear fight against all forms of racism. For this we must understand their specificities, without negating the existence of any form of racism and without building an absurd hierarchy between them.

More articles by Yves on site Ni Patrie, Ni Frontières.

More on the increasingly overtly anti-Semitic  Parti des Indigènes de la République (PIR)Non au philosémitisme d’État » : un slogan indigne !  (Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l’amitié entre les peuples).

Update: RW points us to this translation of the speech that marked this turn by Houria Bouteldja, membre of PIR translated into English.

The most striking is this sentence, “Last question: what is it that prevents the « real left » from struggling against state philosemitism? I will answer unambiguously: the real left is itself, with a few exceptions, philosemitic.” (State racism(s) and philosemitism or how to politicise the issue of antiracism in France ?).

Yes, they like Jews those French leftists……

How awful.

(1) I am considerably more a “follower of the line of Charlie Hebdo” than Yves Colman.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 17, 2015 at 12:11 pm

French Left: Parti de Gauche Refuses to Back Problematic Meeting against “Islamophobia”

with 23 comments

https://i2.wp.com/www.lejdc.fr/photoSRC/W1ZTJ1FdUTgIBhVOGwYSHgYNQDUVGFdfVV9FWkM-/un-meeting-contre-l-islamophobie-fait-salle-comble-a-saint-d_1979110.jpeg

Rally against Islamophobia divides the left.

On Friday at the Bourse du Travail Saint-Denis a rally “against Islamophobia” was held with the backing of some left organisations, notably the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste and the French Communist Party.

Muslim and Islamist associations were prominent amongst its supporters. These included the Union des organisations islamiques de France (UOIF, close to the Muslim Brotherhood), le Parti des Indigènes de la République, (often described as the militant wing of post-colonial studies and associated with homophobia)  les Indivisibles, Présence musulmane (close to Islamist Tariq Ramadan) and  le Collectif enseignant pour l’abrogation de la loi de 2004 (CEAL) – that is the group which wants to abolish the secular rules on ostentatious religious signs in schools).

 Other groups, above all from the human rights and anti-racist movements, refused to take part.

 These were notably, the main French anti-racist body, the Mrap, la LDH (The League for the Rights of Man, France’s oldest anti-racist human rights group), SOS Racisme and  the Licra (The International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism).

The Left Party (Parti de Gauche) of Jean-Luc Mélenchon also  refused to join. Its general coordinator, Eric Coquerel said. “The term Islamophobia has posed a problem for us for several years. It makes it difficult to distinguish between  freedom to criticise religion and racism  The text also does not cite any other form of racism. In the present context – after the terrorist atrocities – it should have had a broader appeal”.  “At the same time”, he  continued “we have problems with those signing this document. They include communitarian groups and bodies that represent Political Islam. “

Inside the same bloc, the Front de Gauche, the grouping Ensemble backed the appeal and meeting, while the Parti Communist Français maintained its support for the declaration by sent nobody to the meeting.

At the rally itself Ismahane Chouder denounced the fact that people always ask Muslims to be irreproachable on ‘antisemitism’ ‘sexism’ and ‘homophobia”. She called this demand for anti-sexism, opposition to hatred of Jews and of gays,  “Islamophobic”.

Alexander Sulzer L’Express.

For a defence of this meeting see: Grand succès du meeting contre l’islamophobie et les dérives sécuritaires (Laurent Lévy.  Ensemble).

Laurent Lévy ignores the main point of the Parti de Gauche: the questionable term “Islamophobia”. Indeed he continues with the dangerous reactionary confusion between racism and dislike/criticism of a religion.

In Libération today the radical left atheist Michel Onfray comments favourably on the Parti de Gauche’s decision and clarifies this point,

What a joy it is, finally, on the left, and in particular on the anti-liberal (economics) left, my own political side, we have begun to fight this ‘amalgam”. That is, is to lump together criticism of religion with Islamophobia” when it’s a matter of Islam, Christianophobia,  when it’s Christianity, anti-Semitism when it concerns Judaism, to the point where atheism itself becomes blasphemous. “

The writer wishes that this approach will continue, and that it will clarify the debate about religion.

“It  would distinguish those who oppose religion in the name of reason, not racism (in my case, and that of many people who do not even adopt the ‘catechism’ of the left), and those who hide their racism and xenophobia behind the rejection of religion.  One could imagine that once this distinction in the realm of ideas is made, those who do not want religion to govern our law, will be able to clearly distinguish those who dislike the Muslim religion and those who dislike those who practice it. “

Exactly.

Oppose racism against Muslims.

Criticise Islam as a religion.