How to use religious fanaticism to justify state racism

JVL Intro

We are all shocked by the horrific murder of French teacher, Samuel Paty and send our condolences to his family, friends and pupils.

We are also appalled by the way it is being used by many in France, including leading elements of the French state, to incite hatred against Muslims.

The potential horrific consequences of demonising a whole community for the actions of an individual is something that we, as Jews, are all too aware of.

Here the French, Jewish, antiracist campaigning organisation UJFP, Union juive française pour la paix, raises the alarm.


Declaration of the Union juive française pour la paix (French Jewish Peace Union), 19 October 2020

The original French text is included below

The horrific murder of a teacher by a young fanatic has shaken and upset all of us. Teachers, who the authorities generally care little about, are asking questions about how to do their job, and about their pedagogical freedom.

The young terrorist was a religious fanatic claiming to be acting for Islam. One day we will have to speak of the terrible psychological damage wrought by war and genocidal repression in Chechnya.

This horrible crime is now being shamelessly exploited. In the past, the powers that be insisted that state racism and islamophobia did not exist. Now these same authorities want to ban any fight back against islamophobia, by attacking Muslim organizations like the Collective against Islamophobia in France, the CCIF.[1] This organization is being libelled, smeared and insulted because it aims at having the rights of Muslim citizens respected and at fighting discrimination.

There is something totalitarian in this new stage in the racist and islamophobic  discourse of the French State. The new phase has been brought in by the fraudulent introduction into public debate of the idea of “separatism” .[2] We are supposed to believe that our  fellow citizens of Muslim culture, believers and non believers want to separate themselves from the nation.

From denouncing a few fanatics, the discourse has moved onto calling entire groupings Islamist. Then they denounce any independent organization based on Islam ( in the same way as the Catholic charity Secours Catholique is faith-based). The organization Baraka City, an antiracist grouping like the CCIF, is threatened with being banned.[3] Previously the authorities spoke of “the enemy within”, now they accuse Muslims of “separatism”, of wanting in the long run to create spaces in the country where the laws do not apply, in which only laws inspired by the Koran will hold sway, replacing those of the Republic. This accusation is just an old theme of the far right, dressed up in new rags.

The real separatism lies in the open attempt to scapegoat whole sections of our society just because they are Muslims.

It is sickening and obscene to see government speak endlessly of “freedom of speech”, when this freedom has been under attack for years by repressive laws, violence or banning orders against demonstrations. And now they are calling for humanitarian or activist organizations to be banned.

We know the effects of this cranking up of racism because we Jews ourselves suffered from similar campaigns. The generalized denouncing of Muslims every time a lost young man carries out such a crime is in a sense a victory for the perpetrators of these acts against democracy. The poisonous atmosphere today in France helps us understand what must have happened in France and Germany in the 1930s – how an entire society could be contaminated little by little by anti-Jewish political speeches and press coverage, until it was enrolled into a genocidal crusade.

It is our job more than anyone’s to warn our fellow citizens about the dangers threatening our Muslim brothers and sisters and our society more generally. We may not have much time remaining if we are to avoid another catastrophe.

We call on all women and men of goodwill, who love justice and mutual respect, to refuse this islamophobic discourse of dangerous racist hate, and to unite together against this racism which threatens to flood our society and to bear far away those very democratic and republican values it claims to defend.

The Political Antiracist Commission,
for the UJFP National Co-ordination, 19 October 2020.

Translation: John Mullen

Translator’s Notes

[1] The CCIF  is  an organization which deals with islamophobic discrimination. Muslims who think they have been discriminated against contact the CCIF. It often solves conflicts by mediation, but will get you a lawyer if you need one. The government is threatening to ban it, despite the fact that it has regularly worked with official government bodies.

[2] At the beginning of October Macron’s government proposed a bill on “separatism” pretending to deal with all sorts of extremism including white supremacy, but actually aimed essentially at Muslims.

[3] Its banning has now been officially announced.

UJFP, 21 ter rue Voltaire, 75011 Paris, FRANCE

e-mail : [email protected] · Site : www.ujfp.org

Facebook : www.facebook.com/UJFP.Officiel  · Compte Twitter : contactujfp


De l’art d’utiliser le fanatisme religieux pour légitimer le racisme d’État

L’assassinat atroce d’un enseignant par un jeune fanatique nous émeut et nous bouleverse tous. Les enseignants, en général méprisés par le pouvoir, s’interrogent sur les conditions d’exercice de leur métier et sur la liberté d’enseigner.

Le jeune terroriste a agi avec les motivations d’un fanatique religieux, qui prétend se revendiquer de l’islam. Il faudra dire un jour les ravages psychologiques qu’auront fait guerres et répressions génocidaires en Tchétchénie.

Ce crime atroce se double désormais d’une exploitation sans vergogne.

Autrefois, le pouvoir protestait contre l’idée qu’il y aurait un racisme d’État et niait l’existence d’une islamophobie. À présent, ce même pouvoir veut interdire de lutter contre l’islamophobie, en s’en prenant à des associations musulmanes, dont le CCIF, calomnié, sali, injurié parce qu’il veut faire respecter les droits des citoyens musulmans en France et lutter contre les discriminations.

Il y a quelque chose de totalitaire dans la nouvelle étape du discours raciste et islamophobe d’État qui vient d’être franchie avec l’introduction frauduleuse dans le débat national du concept du « séparatisme » supposé qu’entretiendraient nos concitoyens de culture musulmane, croyants ou non, avec la Nation.

De quelques fanatiques, on passe à des groupes entiers qualifiés d’islamistes, puis à toute organisation indépendante s’appuyant sur l’Islam comme le Secours catholique s’appuie sur le christianisme, des ONG comme Baraka City, une organisation antiraciste comme le CCIF.

D’ennemis intérieurs hier, les voilà aujourd’hui accusés d’entretenir dans leurs rangs un projet de séparatisme avec, à terme, une volonté de créer des espaces de non-droit où seules des lois prétendument inspirées du Coran remplaceraient les lois de la République. Vieux discours de l’extrême droite parés de nouveaux oripeaux…

Le véritable séparatisme, c’est la désignation assumée à la vindicte générale de pans entiers de notre société au seul motif qu’ils sont musulmanes et musulmans.

L’utilisation de la notion de « liberté d’expression » jusqu’à la nausée par un pouvoir qui la brime depuis des années, en instaurant des lois d’exception, en interdisant ou en réprimant les manifestations populaires, et désormais en appelant à l’interdiction d’organisations humanitaires ou militantes, a quelque chose d’obscène.

Nous connaissons les effets de cet engrenage criminel du racisme pour en avoir nous mêmes subi les conséquences. La généralisation des discours antimusulmans à chaque fois que se produit un acte criminel d’un jeune égaré, constitue en quelque sorte une victoire des auteurs de ces actes contre la démocratie. L’atmosphère empoisonnée d’aujourd’hui peut permettre de comprendre ce qui a dû se passer en France et en Allemagne pendant les années 1930. Comment une société entière a pu être petit à petit contaminée par des discours politiques et la presse antijuive, pour se retrouver embrigadée dans une croisade exterminatrice.

Plus qu’à tous autres, il nous appartient d’alerter nos concitoyens sur les dangers qui menacent nos sœurs et nos frères musulmans, et plus largement notre société toute entière.

Le temps nous est compté si nous ne voulons pas que se produise à nouveau une catastrophe.

Nous appelons les femmes et les hommes de bonne volonté, épris de justice et de respect mutuel, à refuser ce discours islamophobe – ce discours de haine raciste gros de dangers – à faire front, toutes et tous ensemble contre le racisme qui risque de submerger notre société et de l’emporter très loin des valeurs démocratiques et républicaines qu’elle prétend défendre.

La Commission Antiracisme Politique,
pour la Coordination nationale de l’UJFP, le 19 octobre 2020.

 

Comments (8)

  • Dr ALAN MADDISON says:

    I’ve been following some debates on this subject on French TV.
    The view of many seems to be that a proportion of Imams are non-french and some are part of foreign-linked programmes, funded to spread radical political propaganda to undermine french democracy.
    Of course, only rarely will individuals commit such crimes as this dreadful beheading, but the fear is that many more will be ‘ radicalised’ and so not critical of such acts of aggression.
    There is concern that freedom of speech, as taught by the victim, is under threat, and open debate has been limited to avoid any allegations of Islamophobia.
    I have not heard this shocking event used to blame ‘ all Muslims’, but questions have been raised about the numbers of Muslims that may have been ‘persuaded’ to ‘sympathy’ for such violence by these Imams, and other activists. The dominant view is that teachers need more open support from their hierarchy and Government.

  • Naomi Wayne says:

    I am going to say something very nervously – I hope I get this right! The murder of this teacher is beyond horrific, and I am sure it will have left many of the children he taught, severely traumatised. I believe he had kids of his own – I cannot bear to think about how they are coping. I know that images of something I didnt see nevertheless keep running through my mind, and I will never forget my imaginings. And the man himself – the terror he must have experienced . . . . In the same way, the mass murder of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists was tragic and horrifying.

    However, I would like to try to address the issue of free speech. It has seemed to me that many of the cartoons produced at Charlie Hebdo are viciously anti Islamic. I know that satire involves ferocious parody, stereotypes taken to the extreme, frequent cruelty etc. But had the Hebdo cartoons been satirical in that way towards Jews, I reckon many of them would have been well over the line we would call antisemitism. So it worries me that I have seen no discussion about how you marry the right, even the need to create satire as an essential component of free speech with avoidance of taking that satire over the boundaries into one form of racism or another.

    I also cannot help thinking about the Muslim children in that teacher’s class, who, as I understand it, were told that if they were upset by the cartoons they could leave the room. What kind of responsibility was being shown to those children? How were they supposed to learn about free speech? Didnt their upset matter? How were they supposed to see themselves as part of French society if the answer to their hurt or bewilderment or anger was that they take themselves out of the class? And what must other Muslim families be feeling if they know their investment in free speech runs as far as the right to go away while others discuss images satirising them behind their backs?

    If a teacher had run a discussion on free speech when I was a teenager, had used as subject matter cartoons which I felt were antisemitic, and had then told me I could leave the room to avoid being upset, I am not sure I would ever have gone back to that school. And I know my dad, an East End Jew, a veteran of Cable Street etc, a history teacher himself and a passionate socialist, would have been up in the head teacher’s office tearing the walls down. (Or maybe, because there were three Jews in the class who saw themselves as left wing, we would have managed ourselves to kick up blue murder. Or even to comfort each other.)

    Perhaps this is the wrong time to raise these issues – but if not now, when?

  • Philip Ward says:

    Two Muslim women have been stabbed under the Eifel tower, and some mosques are under police protection. Some of the demonstrations in support of Paty have been denounced as “Islamo-leftist”. The murderer played directly into Macron’s plans to gain control of Muslim schools (which he is not doing with Catholic schools) and to attack Muslim and pro-Palestinian organisations, as the article above shows.

    There is a deep well of Islamophobia in France, which serves the interests of the establishment and the far right, but is unfortunately shared by many to the left of the “centre” as well. It is perhaps well illustrated by the record of Charlie Hebdo, as Olivier Cyran – an ex-member of the magazine – pointed out before the terrorist attacks of January 2015:

    https://www.counterfire.org/articles/opinion/17616-former-charlie-hebdo-employee-lambasts-its-racist-trajectory

  • John Noble says:

    The Press have enormous responsibility and culpability in these matters, totally biased reporting seems something that is being wielded more and more these days, witness the anti EU propaganda before and after the referendum in the UK. Without a true press/MSM society will go to pot.

  • Why do people murder in the name of their alleged religion(any religion)?

  • JanP says:

    Agree with every point Naomi has made.
    People forget that the human right to free speech exists, but as long as it doesn’t undermine the recognised basic human rights of others – such as to a religion.
    The teacher could have used a different example to illustrate his lesson, especially as there were Muslim pupils in the class. He sent them out – which alone is divisive.

  • Jim Denham says:

    Statement by the French socialist group Ensemble! (translated by Google):

    Act against Islamist terrorism, not against Muslims
    After the abominable act perpetrated against a teacher last Friday, it is important to act against Islamist fascism, which threatens democratic freedoms, secularism, living together. We will be in this fight, as we are against all oppressions.

    But we refuse to let this fight be waged against Muslims. In this regard, the request to dissolve the CCIF is inadmissible. This Collective against Islamophobia did not intervene in the denunciation of Samuel Paty. He doesn’t have to be sanctioned. In the same way, there is no need to stigmatize all Chechens for the act of one of them, nor to suspect all asylum seekers … Nor is it the place to establish a general law against “separatism”, which risks stigmatizing those who claim to be a religion, and therefore a law of division.
    The far right and the right are taking advantage of the situation to advance their repressive proposals. Under the guise of the fight against Islamist terrorism, they aim to attack migrants, call into question the right to asylum, and definitively destroy our possibilities of living together in a free and democratic society.

    ENSEMBLE, Movement for an ecological and united left alternative, will participate in mobilizations to oppose these repressive measures targeting the most vulnerable populations. All together, inhabitants of France, whatever our origins or religions, we are able to fight Islamist terrorists, because we want to live together in a democratic society.

  • Jim Denham says:

    Statement by the French socialist group Ensemble! (Translation checked by Andrew Coates.)

    Act against Islamist terrorism, not against Muslims

    After the abominable act perpetrated against a teacher last Friday, it is important to act against Islamist fascism, which threatens democratic freedoms, secularism, and community relations. We will be in this struggle, as we are against all oppressions.

    But we refuse to allow a battle to be waged against Muslims. In this regard, the request to dissolve the CCIF is inadmissible. This Collective against Islamophobia did not intervene in the denunciation of Samuel Paty. It should not be sanctioned. In the same way, there is no need to stigmatise all Chechens for the act of one of them, nor to suspect all asylum seekers … Nor is it the place to establish a wide-ranging law against “separatism”, which risks stigmatising those who adhere to a religion, and is, as a result, itself legislation that creates division.

    The far right and the right are taking advantage of the situation to advance their repressive agenda. Under the guise of the fight against Islamist terrorism, they aim to attack migrants, call into question the right to asylum, and permanently destroy the possibility of different communities living together in a free and democratic society.

    ENSEMBLE, Movement for an ecological and united left alternative, will participate in mobilizations to oppose these repressive measures targeting the most vulnerable populations. All together, inhabitants of France, whatever our origins or religions, we are able to fight Islamist terrorists, because we want to live together in a democratic society.
    ________________
    The orignal French text can be found here.

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