How to use religious fanaticism to justify state racism
Declaration of the French Jewish Peace Union 19 October 2020
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.
1 Translator’s note: 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 Translator’s note: 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 Translator’s note: Its banning has now been officially announced.