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The rise of Muslim religion and its negative political consequences for the French Left

mercredi 5 octobre 2005

This is an extended version of a speech given at the AWL summer school, on the 8th of July 2005.

The rise of Muslim religion and its negative political consequences for the Left

To begin with, I have to confess that it’s almost impossible to have an objective and neutral view about the theme of this speech. There are at least 3 objective reasons :

1) Noboby agrees on the exact number of Muslims in France. For a very simple reason : the law forbids to collect statistics about religion or ethnical origins in France. And the situation is complicated by the fact that most people automatically credit North-Africans, Turks and Africans of being Muslims as if it was in their genes. But if we want to be serious about the authentic meaning of being Muslim, i.e. to believe in God, or more specifically to be submitted to God, the most reasonable number is 3 millions in a country of 60 million inhabitants. One can claim, like many people do, that Islam is the « second religion » in France but that affirmation has not much sense because sociologists dont agree about the percentage of « Muslims » who seriously practice islam, that is who pray five times a day, respect food prohibitions, go to the mosque on Fridays and respect the fast during the month of Ramadan. According to the inquiries, the statistics of pious Muslims vary from 20 to 70 % !

2) If there is no national scientific study on the religious and political practices of Muslims in France, there are nevertheless a number of books written by journalists or social scientists, but which are generally biased :
- the rightwing journalists or social scientists denounce a mythical « Islamist plot » to convert not only France but also all Europe ;
- the leftwing journalists or social scientists share the basic values of multiculturalism and identity politics. If they criticize French neocolonialism, they also want to restrict secularism even if they pretend that they are in favour of an « open secularism » One must never forget that French secularism was initially part of a larger fight for equality and against the domination of the Church on the school system and public space. Those who defend an "open secularism" renounce to defend women’s rights and freedoms in the name of the famous « freedom of choice » of the girls wearing the hijab.

3) The third objective difficulty is that I don’t belong to any national organization which would be rooted in working class districts all over French territory and could present you a clear view of what has been happening for the last 20 years. To these 3 objective difficulties, I must also add a subjective one : the Leftwing intellectuals and the political parties of the Left and Far Left are very confused about religious questions in general, and Islam in particular.

How some people twist the meaning of Islam and Muslim religion

Normally Islam is basically a religion. So one should consider as Muslims only those who practice this religion. But many intellectuals consider that being a Muslim is something « cultural » and not mainly religious. This is the trick used for example by thirdworldists, Maoists, multiculturalists of all sorts and of course by the militants of the SWP tendency in France. The process runs roughly through the following scheme :

1) First they broaden the meaning of the word « Muslim » or Islam and transform it into a loose cultural reference ;

2) once they have succeeded this magic trick, the concept is sufficiently vague to be filled with any content. The advantage is that they can change this content, as cultures change often. And they have 2 additional bonuses : a) succeeding interpretations of Islam dont need to be coherent between themselves and b) this nebulous concept creates a ficticious ideological unity between people from opposed social classes and from opposed political views. After all, they are all « Muslims », belonging to the same imaginary "community".

3) Once this concept is accepted, people who were born (or whose parents, or grandparents were born) in a country where Islam was the dominating religion are obliged to call themselves Muslims even they are atheists. Because if they dont accept this label, they are considered as traitors not only to their supposed religion, but also to their fatherland, their culture and even their so-called « race ». Malek Boutih, a rightwing Socialist party leader, and Fadela Amara, leader of the Ni putes ni soumises movement are two important figures of NorthAfrican descent. They are labelled as almost « Whites » by their adversaries because they supposedly betray their "religion" or their "race". A bit like American Blacks who are sold to the socalled White establishment are labelled "cherios" (the cherio being a cookie which is black outside and white inside).

4) The fourth step is to mix and confuse the question of racism with socalled Islamophobia.

5) And the fifth and final step is to oblige all non Muslims, even if they are atheists, to define themselves as Islamophiles or better… Muslims. Once more the French friends of the British SWP have been particularly creative when they invented the slogan : « We are all Muslims ». Things have come full circle : multiculturalists start twisting the meaning of a basically religious notion and end obliging all Leftwing people to call themselves Muslims by fear of being called racists.

Five negative consequences

Despite these objective and subjective difficulties, I’ll try to present you some basic data about the rise of Muslim religion in France and its five main negative consequences which I’ll list briefly :
- the rise of Islam in France has created new divisions inside the Left and the Far Left, not only inside these groups but also inside mass associations, trade unions, etc. where these militants are active ;
- the rise of Islam has weakened the influence of feminist values in French society,
- the rise of Islam has weakened secular values in the political field,
- the rise of Islam has contributed to limit even more the political debates to purely moral and false alternatives : for example, either you are atheist, racist and islamophobic, or you are antiracist, prohijab and soft with religion and islamism ;
- the rise of Islam in France has introduced an important confusion in the political debate about colonialism : as the French Third Republic introduced secularism and also waged colonial wars, secularism is accused, per se, of being racist, colonialist and islamophobic.

- After having sketched the main lines of my contribution, I will go back to the history of the rise of Islam in France and its consequences on the Left and Far Left. The first question we must ask ourselves is :

Who is concerned by this new religious phenomenon ? For the last 20 years the rise of Islam has touched all sorts of people : * old migrant workers who had an almost clandestine religious practice until recently and were praying in cellars, garages and former industrial premises (in France there exists only 8 mosques but 1700 prayer rooms) ; their sons, daughters, grand-sons and grand-daughters who have climbed up the social scale, have studied at the university and want their religion (islam) to become a cult respected by all French people, and specifically by French authorities ; * recent migrants who are proud to be Muslim and don’t see why they should hide their faith, * new converts from all ethnical origins (« French » but also Portuguese, etc.) Islam has rooted itself in all the social classes and its rise has obviously had important social consequences, the most visible being the consequences concerning the French school system (right to wear the hijab at school, right to eat hallal food at the factory restaurant, right to be dispensed from gym classes, opposition to the content of some philosophy or history classes, etc.).

The rise of Islam and the Left

This new phenomenon has surprised all the political parties including the Left, both the reformist and revolutionary militants. Historically, the French communist and socialist parties have never been truly interested neither in massively recruiting among migrant workers nor in defending their basic rights. Almost from their creation, the Communist Party and Socialist Party have been nationalist parties defending the interest of French and now European imperialism.

One must recall that the Socialist and Communist parties either did not support at all the anticolonial movements, either waited the last minute to show a minimum of solidarity. This is true of the two main colonial wars (Indochina and Algeria, although the CP was more active against the first one then against the second one) waged by the French Army, but it is also true for the presence and numerous interventions of French troops in several countries of Africa until today. Not to mention the integration of Martinique, Guadeloupe, New Caledonia and French Guyana into the French Republic as "territoires d’outre-mer" or "départements d’outre-mer" .

Apart from a few sentimental speeches in meetings, basically the Socialist and Communist parties thought that socalled « foreigners » should either come back to their native countries after a short stay for economic reasons, or stay discrete, invisible in France.

The Communist and Socialist parties thought that migrants should be controlled by community organisations specially designed for them : basically the « Amicales » which regroup all the workers from one country : Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey, etc., and are controlled by the embassies and political polices of these regimes. The Communist and Socialist parties never struggled very actively against racism in their own ranks and in the working class, even if the Communist Party was a dominant force in the MRAP (Movement against racism, antisemitism and for peace) and even if the Socialist Party had strong ties with the LICRA (specialised in the struggle against antisemitism) and with SOS Racisme, a youth organisation which appeared in the 1980s.

The Communist and Socialist parties never had a long-term political perspective concerning migrant workers : they did not want to organise them on a political program to help them continue the fight in their native countries if they were to come back to their native land. In the 1970s the CP opposed the famous tenants strikes of the SONACOTRA hostels, strikes which were supported by the Maoists. On one occasion a CP mayor even used a bulldozer in Vitry to kick-out the immigrant squatters. In 1991, the leadership of the French Communist Party distributed hundreds of thousands of leaflets saying that « with 3, 5 millions of unemployed, one must stop any new immigration » and that « immigrant families are (...) among the first beneficiaries of the money distributed to the poorest fraction of the population » ! The same leaflet ended with the traditional denunciation of drugs, delinquence and violence.

The Far Left was a bit more interested in foreign workers, specially the Maoists in the 60s and 70s, but they never gained a mass influence neither among so called « autochtonous » workers nor among migrant workers.

French secular tradition

Concerning the place of religion in social and political life, both the Left and Far Left held until the 1980s a secular position, influenced by the national bourgeois Republican tradition : religion was a private matter, and Islam was no exception to this rule. This conception of secularism was obviously not very strictly applied, as testifies the State-financing of all the religious cults in the Alsace region, but at least this philosophy was more or less shared by all parties. Even if the Left and the Right did not put the same meaning behind the world secularism, there was a tacit agreement about it. Everything changed when French Muslims and foreign Muslims living in France started to be more demanding about their rights : right to build mosques and Muslim cemeteries, right to have special meals at work or at school, right to receive money from municipalities to finance their associations, etc.

This change is partly linked to the official closure of immigration in 1974 and to the consequent changes it provoked in French society. Basically, to make a long story short, workers who were working in France and had left their wives and children at home, asked to their families to come and live and France. Their decision, which was a reaction to governmental restrictions, changed the nature of immigration : foreign migrants decided to settle in France, their children were automatically French, and part of them progressively felt the necessity to transmit their religious beliefs to their sons and daughters.

Muslim bashing during workers strikes

Traditionnally, in the 1950s and 1960s North African and African workers had non qualified jobs in big factories and were generally supporting the Communist Party dominated trade union, called CGT (General Confederation of Labor).

Already in 1983-1984, Pierre Mauroy, the Socialist Prime ministrer of France denounced the strikers of Talbot factory because, according to him, they were « manipulated » by « imams ». « Muslim bashing » started in the medias, during several strikes in the auto industry (Peugeot, Renault and Citroën) around Paris mainly among Moroccan workers. These strikes were defending workers dignity, fighting downsizing, and included for the first some demands linked to Muslim religious practice. In fact, far from being manipulated by imaginary French Talibans, Muslim workers started more and more to respect the basic principles of their religion ; for example, during these strikes, they prayed inside the factory itself, instead of waiting for the end of the day and regrouping the prayers they were not able to do at work ; or they started bringing their own food at work, or fasting, instead of eating at the factory restaurant ; they respected the fast of the Ramadan which they did not do massively before, etc.

The Communist Party and Islam

The Left first came back to power in 1981. The Communist Party did not stay long in the government (two years). So the Stalinists did not have many occasions to attack Muslims on a national-governmental level, but in the municipalities the CP mayors were confronted to the rise of Islam in the 1980s and 1990s.

In the 1990s, the position of the CP has changed, partly because the Stalinist Party has become a more and more heterogeneous organisation, divided into competing fractions of the apparatus, each one claiming to be to the Left of the Central committee. The CP local mayors responded basically with two opposite attitudes, as shown by the example of two working class suburbs of Lyon, the second biggest town of France (1,5 million inhabitants), and one of the most active and lively centers for all Muslim tendencies, from those who joined the Talibans in Afghanistan to the friends of Tariq Ramadan or more moderate tendencies.

The Communist Party mayor of Vaux-en-Velin chose the traditional keynesian, Welfare state position. He invested money in swimming pools, municipal libraries, activities for « baby-swimmers » and all sorts sorts of activities for the youth, what we call in French « Maisons de la culture », Houses of culture.

The Communist Party mayor of Venissieux chose a different policy to deal with social problems : he decided (as other rightwing or extreme rightwing mayors have done sometimes in their municipalities) to make an alliance with local Muslim forces. The Communist Party mayor gave "temporary jobs" (emplois-jeunes) to young Muslims in the State School system or in the municipality administration, in order to ensure social peace. The Stalinist mayor participated to campaigns to free French suspects locked in Guantanamo, etc.

The French friends of the British SWP

As regards the Far Left, the only organisation which has a strong « pro-hijab » and antisecular tendency is the LCR : the 2 tendencies linked to the British SWP, Socialisme par en bas (Socialism from below) and Socialisme international represent something like 10 % of the LCR, that is around 200 militants over 2000. But The JCR (youth organization of the LCR) is heavily influenced by the pro-SWP militants. This policy has led the pro SWP militants in France to ridiculous attempts :
- they tried to develop political agitation in mosques, by supposedly imitating the example of the bolsheviks in the 1920s in the Asian Republics of the USSR. Gerry Birne wrote 3 articles about this period in your newspaper Solidarity, so I’m not going to deal in detail with this point. Whatever you think about the bolsheviks and their policy towards Islam, you can’t seriously compare the situation in these areas of Central Asia populated by peasants and nomads living in feudal or tribal conditions 80 years ago to the situation of migrant workers living in the industrial suburbs of a highly advanced capitalist country like France or Britain today.

- The pro-SWP militants in France also organized a solidarity concert where they had decided to ban alcohol and were obliged to sell it under the pressure of the participants.

- On a "theoretical" level, the pro-hijab militants inside the LCR defend the idea that a new Muslim religion theology may appear, and this is one the reasons why they are so kind with a reactionary bigot like Tariq Ramadan.

- They are very soft with the Iranian regime and present the specific position of women in Iran as linked to the mollahs’ policy, ignoring almost one century of feminist struggles in Iran. (As if women’s less disadvantaged position in Swedish society was put to the credit of social-democracy, while Swedish capitalists decided to massively hire women in the industry at the end of 19th century.) But the worse is that these pro-hijab militants also participate to larger struggles and alliances with all the anti-secular forces. That is, a good part of the ATTAC (noglobal) milieu, all sorts of third worldist groups, the Christian Left, L’Ecole pour tous-toutes, etc. (L’Ecole pour tous is a movement regrouping leftwing multiculturalists of various sorts and islamists.) This unprincipled alliance is waged in the name of the struggle against racism and « islamophobia ».

I suppose you are familiar with these arguments, so I’ll just note that in the 60s and 70s the French revolutionary Left used to hail "immigrant WORKERS", the second word being more important than the first. Today the same Far Left does not refer anymore to workers, just to "migrants" or to "sans papiers" (illegals). Any reference to the working class has disappeared from the propaganda of the Leftwing « prohijab » and antisecular forces.

Catholic and Protestant religious revival and rise of Islam

The rise of Islam coincides with a revival concerning the other religions :
- catholicism : its most visible sign has been the organisation of the JMJ, World Youth Day, in Paris in 1997 with the presence of the Pope, but one can also mention the fact that more and more intellectuals and journalists reveal in the medias their sympathy for catholic religion and for John Paul II, something which never happened before. Or the fact that the French right is trying to promote new classes about religion in the Public Education System, a project which is clearly aimed at defending « Christian values », with the pretext that the ignorant youth should know better the content of the « religions which have founded world’s civilizations ».
- protestantism : pentecotism is gaining ground, particularly among West Indian people living in working class suburbs,
- judaism : jewish organisations agitate in favour of Israelian governments, the Aliah (return to the « Holly Land ») and Tsahal (they collect funds for the Israelian army). This multifaceted religious activism is important but until now one must recognize that it has not led to the creation of new parties, heavily influenced by religion. In general French religious people try to work inside the main parties, not to build their own on a sectarian basis, even if there is Christian trade union (CFTC) and one Christian-Democrat party (the UDF).

French Islam : real and imaginary dangers

In the case of Islam, its rise has not been accompanied by the growth of any significant party or group which would defend, for example, the social and political model imposed by the Talibans in Afghanistan or Khomeiny in Iran.

Despite all the efforts of the racist or rightwing medias to invent an « islamist » plot, there is no danger that political islam will grow and take power in France. That does not mean, nevertheless, that there will never be some clandestine cells of Al Quaida or other djihadist-terrorist groups hiding in France or even preparing attacks on the French soil itself, as it happened several times in the last 30 years. But djihadist-terrorist ideas will affect only a microscopic fraction of the socalled « Muslim » population. What is at stake is very different ; it is a long-term and steady erosion of some basic aspects of secularism inside public services (mainly School and Health systems, and State Administration) through all sorts of means :
- halal food (in theory, I’m not against providing halal food, but a State school may have serious problems if it wants to satisfy all the demands of all micro groups about food : vegetarians, vegetalians, Christians, Jews, Muslims, etc.),
- attendance to swimming pool or gym classes,
- problems when pupils go out at night to see plays or films with their teacher,
- participation to theater groups,
- discussions about certain aspects of the philosophy or history cursus, disagreements with the way of dealing with religion, etc.
- In some hospitals Muslim husbands ask for a female doctor or surgeon, etc., for their wife ;
- in private medical offices, strong pressures are exerted on young girls by their parents : they should stay modest, keep their eyes down, etc. Unfortunately, until now, only right wing papers or superficial TV programs collect informations about these negative facts concerning daily life. It’s very difficult to collect and check informations from Left-wing militants : usually they are afraid of being labelled racists and the Far Left press does not deal with these questions.

What lies behind the rise of Islam and its negative political or social consequences ?

What is happening in France is partly the product of the disappearance of any sign of class consciousness, specially among the working class youth. The problem is perhaps that they are increasingly not working class, just poor. Few have ever had a real job. They don’t have any ties of solidarity with the working class. If their parents were workers, many were hurt by unemployment and delocalizations. They totally lack identity - except for brand names, or neighborhood gangs, or religion or a football team.

During the last twenty years, the organisations which have been influential in the youth (SOS Racisme, Ni putes ni soumises for example) and have organized hundreds or thousands of people outside the traditional Left and Far Left groups have accustomed the youth to reason in terms of race and not in terms of class : the famous slogan of the 1980s was « Black, Blancs, Beurs ». This tendency to view all social problems with purely "moral glasses" has been facilitated by the general evolution of the political scene.

What is at the center of the political debates is no more marxism, communism, dictatorship of the proletariat, revolution, armed insurrection or general strike, what is trendy and vital today is to be "antiracist" and "against liberalism" or « liberal capitalism ». To be racist is bad and to be in favor of liberalism is evil. One should « respect all differences » and promote a « fair » or « ethical » trade and « fair » capitalism. The daily political propaganda of the noglobal movement, the antiracist movement and most Left thinkers does not go beyond this very minimum program, which is in fact their maximum program.

Political adaptation

In a situation where the political level of the youth has constantly declined, the Far Left has adapted itself to the most backward elements of the noglobal and antiracist Left. This is why these militants are so soft not only with Islam, political Islam, Ramadan, socalled Muslim feminism, etc. but also about catholic religion. It’s interesting to note that the Collectif des sans papiers (an organization defending illegal migrants) sent a press release when Pope John Paul II died to express its deep solidarity with the grief of all the Catholics who supported their struggle. In such a situation, which is marked by a setback not only of workers struggles, but of some basic socialist or class ideas, the perspectives are rather gloomy.

What are the forces which oppose the rise of Islam and its negative political consequences ?
- Two of the three main trotskyst groups (le Parti des travailleurs and Lutte ouvrière) have kept a traditional secular and atheist position. But they have no mass influence in the working class suburbs and specially among foreign workers and their descendants. Le Parti des travailleurs is a very right-wing group linked to the Free Masons. As regards Lutte ouvrière it has adopted a strangely non critical position towards Ni putes ni soumises, position which looks like a trick to evade its political responsibilities towards immigrants and their descendents.

- Ni putes ni soumises is an organisation with very moderate political positions. Its leader, Fadela Amara, claims that she is proud to live in a « lovely democracy » like France and boasts to be « franchouillarde » (a soft form of froggy chauvinism)

- And the third force opposing or partly opposing the rise of Islam stands on the other side of the barricades, it is the extreme right (Front national) and the traditional right-wing parties, etc. It may be useful to explain that part of the Right and specially its most ambitious politician Nicolas Sarkozy have recently made important ideological changes : Sarkozy defends a form of affirmative action although he has not taken any concrete steps in this direction. And he has already strengthened the links between the French State and the religious forces, specially Islam : the training of French imams will be controlled and financed by the State, he has created the Conseil Consultatif du Culte Musulman, which regroups the various Muslim tendencies and is supposed to represent the Muslim community, as was shown when some delegates when to meet the Ulemas Council in Bagdad when the French journalist Florence Aubenas was kidnapped. Progressively an organisation which has officially purely religious aims is taking political positions with the help of the Right wing parties.

The disappearance of local solidarity links

Local and class solidarity links were partly secured, even on a reformist or stalinist political basis, by working class parties, trade unions and all sorts of local associations. These links are disappearing or have already disappeared in most places. It’s easy to understand that in such a situation, religious groups (from all religions) are partly replacing social links which have disappeared and they try to found new religious communities. And naturally Islam plays its role in this context. Y.C.


The « cry of the oppressed » or the « opium of the people » ?

Revolutionary marxists have often defended a schematic view of religion, reduced either to the « cry of the oppressed » or to the « opium of the people ». Those who see religion as the « opium of the people » tend to believe that a good desintoxication cure would suffice to deal with the grip of religion on society : in other words rational and scientific education and technical progress will automatically lead to the disappearance of religious alienation. Those who see religion as the « cry of the oppressed » tend to be « soft » (i.e. opportunist) or neutral with religious groups. For these militants (and the British SWP offers once more a « good » example of this policy), the fact that religion can be a distorted expression of the pains and revolts of the « oppressed » leads them to see religion, and in particular Islam, as a quasi revolutionary ideology which can or will easily find the path of socialist revolution.

To top it all, Marx’s article called "The Jewish Question" has not helped, to say the least, Marxists to deal with religious phenomena. Sentences like « What is the secular basis of Judaism ? Practical need, self-interest. What is the worldly religion of the Jew ? Huckstering. What is his worldly God ? Money. » « Money is the jealous god of Israel, in face of which no other god may exist » have not armed Marxists to understand the nature of religion in general.

L’Appel des indigènes de la République The Republic’s Natives Manifesto

A side effect of the growing and negative intervention of Islam on the political scene is the " The Republic’s Natives Manifesto », a text signed by Far Left militants and a significant number of Leftwing Muslims. « Indigènes » means « natives », a term used by French settlers or colonial authorities to name colonised peoples. The word Native is used by the Manifesto as a stigma which is turned against the French racist State and institutions but it has also an extended meaning : a Native is a typical member of the most exploited classes, of the underclass if you want, and can even be generously granted to the socalled "Whites" who support the Natives cause.

Although this Manifesto does not come from a coherent political group the explanations given individually by several of those who signed it converge on many points. You will find useful information on the website "Les mots sont importants" in articles written by Said Bouamama, Pierre Tevanian, Houria Boutelja and Sadri Khiari.

The Natives Manifesto manifesto justly condemns colonialism in general and French colonialism in particular, but at the same time it mixes the colonial history of the French Republic with the implicit idea that Republicans (whatever are their political positions) are racist and colonialist because they have a secular point of view and because they are "white". It forgets the basic fact that several European monarchies (Britain, Netherland, Spain and Portugal) also developped the slavery system.

This manifesto denounces the law against religious signs adopted last year as an expression of racism and colonialism, an accusation which has only one result : promoting the hijab and limiting women’s freedom. It mixes important questions like anti-Arab or anti-African racism in France with the problem of the hijab at school, which is dishonnest. One can be against the law, and also against the fact that socalled religious traditions are admitted inside public schools. The Natives manifesto is inspired by the ideas of American multiculturalism, and copies a lot of its solutions which, in the United States, only marginally challenged racism and marginally bettered the position of Black American workers in US society. The Natives manifesto is wrong when it implicitly compares the position of all socalled "non white" minorities in France with the situation of the Blacks in the United States.

After having written that the "concept of white in itself is meaningless" Sadri Khiari uses expressions like the "white Republic", the "white feminists", the "white world". Said Bouamama who pretends to uses Marxist concepts writes "social reality distinguishes between Whites and non Whites". Pierre Tevanian says that "Blacks and Arabs remain non Whites" and that the French political system is based on a "majority standard which is the White French bourgeois individual with Christian origins whether he is a believer or an atheist". All this rhetoric pretends to struggle against the ethnicization of social questions used by the Liberal Right which is more and more in favour of multiculturalism. In fact, Tevanian, Khiari, Bouamama and other partisans of the Natives Manifesto contribute to give a pseudo radical varnish to multiculturalism, but their contribution does not go much farther. By defining as « natives », as descendents of enslaved or oppressed people all those who were born in former French colonies (or whose parents were born in French colonies), this manifesto hides the fact that slavery did not start with colonialism.

It hides the fact that slavery had its own roots in African and Arab societies a long time before French colonialism appeared and dominated them. Pierre Tevanian rightly denounces the fact that when Max Gallo, a well-known Socialist Party intellectual, declared that the perpetuation of slavery by Napoleon Ist was "not really important" nobody protested. But Tevanian forgets to say that slavery, this "crime against humanity", was not only organised for the benefit of so-called "whites" but also for the benefit of so-called "non white" societies. The "Natives manifesto" falsely presents all migrants and descendents of migrants as descendents of slaves or oppressed classes.

It reduces colonialism and neocolonialism to a purely moral problem : the French State should say "we are sorry" like Chirac did with the French State participation to the Holocaust ; the French Ministry of Education should add some pages in school texbooks, and create some new research departments in French universities, French society should understand and feel guilty for the "sufferings", the "moral injuries" of its socalled "Natives", etc.

This manifesto puts all the blame of the corruption of independent States in former colonial countries on the shoulders of "France" (not even French imperialism), in a typical thirworldist fashion. It evokes the "socalled Berber" case, forgetting that in the independent Algeria after 1962 the Arab majority oppressed and still oppresses the Berber minority in the name of the defence of arabism, an attitude which today has nothing to do with French colonialism, and everything to do with the dictatorship of the Algerian militaries and state capitalist elites.

This manifesto does not put forward any clear demands for the moment but one can guess where they are heading to by analysing some of the solutions debated in these circles :
- A demonstration was organized in Paris, 2 years ago I think, to ask that more African or Arab TV journalists or actors should be hired in TV news programs, shows and films. Obviously revolutionaries cant oppose or denounce this kind of demands, but this system of quotas has been existing in Britain and in the States for 30 years at least and has not fundamentally changed racial segregation and prejudices, even it has given some additional jobs to a handful of representatives of ethnic minorities.
- Some people ask for more historical research in the Universities about French colonialism : this demand may be practically useful for a small minority of academics but it cant be a central demand for revolutionaries. It’s naive to believe that any imperialist State will generously finance its radical critics. And anyway this research work about colonialism is already being done for at least 30 years on a small but significant scale. It’s the work of revolutionaries to explain around them what colonialism was and what neocolonialism is, without waiting for the French state to do it for them.
- More texts about colonialism should be added to school textbooks : this demand is very useful but has been already applied as the "Indigènes de la République" should have known if they had opened any secondary school textbook. And they should know that antiracist education is only one part of the problem of racism. The French State has invested a lot of money and energy in the struggle against antisemitism in textbooks and schools, it did not prevent new forms of antisemitism to appear among French youth.
- indemnizations to the victims of slavery : this demand is absurd. Already part of the Left opposes the indemnizations payed to the Jews who survived to the Holocaust. If one shares this absurd point of view, how can one fight to promote a new "Slavery Business" which will defend the interest of people who have not been affected by slavery in the 20th century and whose ancestors have been freed 2 or 3 centuries ago ?

Not only this demand, if it was miraculously applied, would divide the working class in imperialist powers but it’s impossible to put in practice. And if the money was given to the corrupt African semi-imperialist or neo-colonial States, it would only reinforce the local powerful elites and foster racist feelings in the population of the imperialist metropoles.
- affirmative action : the balance of this policy in the United States is not very positive, to say the least. It has created a small Black petty bourgeoisie and middle class but has ignored the mass of Black poors and workers. In France, such a policy would aggravate the division of the working class along colour and "race" lines : it would not help all the working class children but only a minority of them, it would create or develop negative feelings, it would foster resentment among the various ethnical groups of working class youth ; and instead of promoting the unity of all the exploited inside factories, offices and communities through common struggles against the State and capitalism, it would increase the divisions among ethnic lines..

The reason why fake Left Muslims like Ramadan support this Natives Manifesto is very clear. They want to gain more space in the public debate and in French Society by any means. They want people to believe that Islam has good and specific answers to the questions of racism, poverty, colonial and neocolonial oppression, identity problems, etc. And when one reads the articles of some of the social scientists who signed the Natives manifesto one sees very well what is their common point with religious Muslims when they deal with social questions : they seem to think that if the oppressed can publicly express their sufferings and the oppressors confess their crimes, a great step forward will be accomplished. This kind of attitude is close to practices inspired by the Catholic church like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in South Africa or by the King of Morocco to deal with the murders, tortures and emprisonments practiced by King Hassan II. Muslims have the right to believe that their religion can be effective, but it is also the duty of the Revolutionary Left to explain that Islam, like any other religion, has no solution to offer to the main social and political problems of humanity, as the preceding centuries have shown.

Negative consequences on feminism

The rise of Islam in France has also had very negative effects on feminist ideas and feminism. Feminism has never been a mass movement in France, but it has been permanently under attack : ridiculed by the media (including the bourgeois women’s press which flirted with feminism like the magazine Elle), attacked by rightwing politicians, and defamed by the integration of some proeminent careerist feminists in the Socialist Party or in State institutions..

But now feminism has found new unexpected ennemies on the Left : Tariq Ramadan and noglobal thirdworldist tendencies as well as Leftish Muslim intellectuals explain that Ni putes ni soumises and other moderate feminists give a negative image, or to be more precise, a racist image of North-African males living in France or French males of North-African descent. A whole book has been devoted to this theme (La jeune fille et le garçon arabe) a book which constantly used references to race concepts which before totally alien to the culture of the Left. These socalled Leftwingers denounce Ni putes ni soumises and bourgeois feminists because of their links with the Socialist Party or because of their moderate political views. This position could sound correct if they did not have something else in mind. In fact they dont appreciate that these women denounce machism, sexual harassment, rape and homophobia in proletarian suburbs. In an article of the L’Ecole pour tous website, for example, there is an article attacking "Ni putes ni soumises" for having invited Elisabeth Badinter, a moderate feminist, in one of its meetings in Fontenay-sous-Bois a working class suburb. The author of this article uses 8 times the expression the "white Badinter". Instead of criticizing Badinter’s politics, she prefers to denounce her "whiteness". As everyone knows that Badinter is Jewish, it seems quite obvious to me that the term "white" is systematically used to avoid problems with the laws against antisemitism. And this article is published on a website which is very left-wing, very critical towards the National Front and the right wing parties… This kind of situation is probably one of the most perverse effects of Left-wing Muslims and soft noglobal attitude towards islam : this milieu refuses to denounce machism, homophobic attitudes and male violence in working class suburbs because these districts are populated by people who are oppressed by neo-colonialism and French racism ! And when they are unable to justify their political positions, they invent a fictitious fight between Whites and Blacks, or Whites and Arabs, exactly like the Right and Far Right do when they want to mobilise the most bacward layers of French population. In the 1960s, one often said « One must not discourage Billancourt ». Billancourt was a proletarian suburb where was located the biggest Renault factory. Today it’s not Billancourt which the Left is afraid to despair it’s an imaginary radical Muslim community !

The main Muslim organisations in France

Although the medias always talk of « the Muslims », there is no united Muslim community in France. First because the notion of community is alien to French political culture, and second because of the variety of organisations which are present on French soil. The Grand Mosque of Paris was built after the First World War as a reward to the Muslim soldiers who died for the interests of French imperialism. It’s legally bound to the Algerian State and its staff is recruited among Algerian public servants. Its policy has always been very conservative and its influence is now declining. Founded in 1983 the UOIF (Union des organisations islamistes de France) was founded by Tunisian members of En Nahada, a movement influenced by islamism and close to the Muslim Brothers. It has regrouped 300 Muslim associations and every year, 20 to 30 000 people come to the event they organize in Le Bourget. The Federation nationale des musulmans de France (FNMF) regroups Moroccan and Turkish associations and was founded in 1985 to counter the influence Grand Mosque of Paris. The FAIACA (Fédération des associations islamiques d’Afrique, des Comores et des Antilles) regroups mainly African associations and insists on the difference between Arabness and Islam. The Coordination des associations musulmanes des pays d’Asie et de l’Océan Indien regroups Muslims coming from these countries and has some contacts whit shia groups. The Tabligh, born in Bengal, is a transnational movement. Active and militant, it promotes a very traditional interpretation of the Quran. The Union des femmes musulmanes de France regroups several Muslim associations. Several youth organisations have recently appeared : l’Union des jeunes musulmans de France, les Jeunes musulmans de France et les Etudiants musulmans de France. These groups are mainly composed of Muslims born in France and influenced by Tarik Ramadan and the imam Tarik Aubrou. They are animated by middle class people like executives, professionals, teachers, etc. The Secours Islamique collects money and helps Muslims who live in very difficult situation. And one should not forget the various "confréries", very much centered around the personality and ideas of their mystic founder, groups like the Tijaniya, Quadiriyya, Muririyya and Alawya which founded the Muslim Scouts of France.

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