The construction of a cultural racism?
Unlike her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, whose racial discourse was direct and primitive, Marine Le Pen, President of the National Rally(Rassemblement National),has tried to endow this political current with an ideology that, at least at first sight, seems respectable. In a book called So that France lives, she blames the political choices made by the elite who, in promoting globalisation and free trade, seek to keep the cost of labour low. French citizens, themselves impoverished by globalisation, face the arrival of a population in an even more precarious situation, who are direct competitors in the labour market. Marine Le Pen declares:
“The globalisation struggle needs to make the French feel guilty, to make them ashamed of who they are. Our fellow citizens, legitimately worried about the arrival on their soil of several million foreigners in just a few decades, have been accused of narrow-mindedness by the elites, themselves sheltered in their opulent apartments on the Right or Left Bank [wealthy areas in Paris], far from immigration areas …The ordinary Frenchman became the ‘franchouillard’ – a term more or less impossible translate, with the sense of parochial French patriot – too stubborn to understand the ideal society that was being put in place in spite of his resistance. From immigration, he only perceived the disadvantages, the pressure on his security, his income and his environment. He was dismissed as xenophobic, stuck with colonial prejudice…”
In a pamphlet entitled Islamophobia in France: For the Muslims, firstpublished in French in 2014, the journalist Edwy Plenel describes a current of thought that has taken a long time to come to fruition. He reminds us that racism has, after the decolonisation movements, undergone “a profound change of paradigm … with a slippage from biologicial racism to cultural racism”. He adds : “Hiding in this new guise, the term ‘Islamophobia’ has been used by political groups to mobilise a wider electorate and demand the right to express its hatred of Muslim and the Islamic religion”.
Plenel is alarmed that a “radical fringe” moves from “speech to action”; this point of view believes that “Islamophobia is a matter of freedom of opinion and expression”; “on these grounds the expressions of hatred it may inspire, whether towards the Islamic religion or its believers, do not fall under the scope of the criminal code. Following this dangerous line of argument, aggression against a veiled woman is simply a political act against a practice seen as a form of oppression of women”.
Islamaphobia, racism and the problem of resources
To those who tend to forget that colonisation was a prosperous period for Western Europe, it is worth quoting William Dalrymple:
“At their heights during the 17th century, the subcontinent’s fabled Mughal emperors were rivalled only by their Ming counterparts in China. For their contemporaries in distant Europe, they were potent symbols of power and wealth… By the 17th century, Lahore had grown even larger and richer than Constantinople and, with its two million inhabitants, dwarfed both London and Paris”.
The journalist and historian, in an article entitled 60 Years of Independence. India’s Rise is Business as Usual, published by The Time Magazine on August 2nd, 2007, noted: “In 1600, when the East India Company was founded, Britain was generating 1.8% of the world’s GDP, while India was producing 22.5%. By 1870, at the peak of the Raj, Britain was generating 9.1%, while India had been reduced for the first time to the epitome of a Third World nation, a symbol across the globe of famine, poverty and deprivation” (Ibid).
Proponents of Islamophobia in the West tend to equate Islam with poor migrant populations struggling for survival. And they elicit the support of politicians seeking popularity. Thus, Michel Houellebecq, an Islamophobic writer of dubious talent, was awarded the Legion of Honour. President Emmanuel Macron indicated on this occasion that “the republican order” was opposed to “despotism” and “tyranny”, and demanded “the respect of each and every opinion”.
Edwy Plenel reminds us that racism has, after the decolonisation movements, undergone “a profound change of paradigm … with a slippage from biologicial racism to cultural racism”
The consequences of a whistle-blowing, vigilante society
Following the attack of October 3rd, 2019, of which the Prefecture of Police of Paris (Police Department responsible for the entire internal security system in the territory of Paris and its suburbs) was the target, Macron refused to dwell on the psychiatric problems from which the attacker, a French citizen from Martinique converted to Islam eighteen months earlier, apparently suffered. The President, addressing the staff of the Prefecture, stated:
“Your colleagues have fallen under the blows of a misguided and deadly Islam that it is up to us to eradicate…The administration alone and all the services of the State can not overcome the Islamist hydra…We must build a vigilant society. [A society where, according to the head of state, it will be necessary] to know how to identify those small gestures, lapses and deviant actsat school, at work, in places of worship, close to home, that signal a distancing from the laws and values of the Republic”.
Is a society of vigilance, of whistle-blowers, the answer to the terrorist phenomenon with which Western Europe is confronted? And would not it wiser to reflect onthe policies pursued by the Westfrom decolonisation onwards, which arouse great resentment in many parts of the world? Such an approach would at least circumvent the intrumentalisation of prejudice that allows all too many politicians to acquire a good conscience at little cost. In an article entitled After the attack on the Paris Police Department, Macron launches an Islamophobic campaign published by the International Committee of the Fourth International (World Socialist Web Site), Anthony Torres noted that Macron’s speech testified to the way in which “Political lies about imperialist wars abroad serve to reinforce the push for a fascist police state. The emergence of the “Islamist hydra” is the result of imperialism, not of Islam or the Muslims”.
Prime Minister Imran Khan, speaking recently at the United Nations General Assembly, has called on world leaders to pause for thought, urging his counterparts to respect the sensibilities of Muslims (just as they had learned to respect those of the Jewish community in the aftermath of the Holocaust). Stressing that “there is no such thing as radical Islam”, he added:
“Our Prophet (PBUH) lives in our heart, and when he is maligned, it hurts us.
I always imagined what I would say and educate the world about Islam if I ever stood on this forum.
In western society, the holocaust is treated with sensitivity because it hurts the Jewish community. So that’s the same respect we ask for; do not hurt our sentiments by maligning our Holy Prophet (PBUH). That is all we ask”.
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The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.