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Monday, October 19, 2020

[mukto-mona] France: the roots of the murder of Samuel Paty go back to the 1990s
Feminist Dissent - October 19, 2020

Stand and Be Counted
by Marieme Helie-Lucas

Marieme Helie Lucas, an Algerian sociologist and freedom fighter,
founder of the solidarity networks Women Living Under Muslim Laws, and
Secularism is a Women's Issue argues that the roots of the murder of
Samuel Paty go back to the 1990s and the experience of Algerians in
the 'war against civilians'. She argues that we should 'Stand and Be

Assassinations by decapitation or by the sword – which are highly
symbolic of all Muslim extreme right organisations (Al Quaeda, the
Taliban, GIA, Shabab, Daesh, Boko Haram, etc…) – are not a new
phenomenon in France. Several cases have already happened in recent
years. It points at the will of the sponsor to not just 'execute' the
victim for his 'crimes', but also to send a chill down the spines of
potential next victims, – in this present case anyone who will dare
re-publish the 'drawings of Mohammed'. This is why filming
decapitations or taking a photograph of French teacher Samuel Paty's
head severed from his body is a crucial step. Who will dare teach
freedom of speech in French schools after the mid-term holidays? Stand
and be counted…

In Algeria too, long before the 'bloody nineties' and the 'war against
civilians' as we called it then, we too witnessed some such public
terrifying Islamist war crimes: the first 'execution', in the early
seventies, was a communist student, who faced an ad-hoc Islamist
Tribunal inside the premises of Algiers University where I taught at
that time, and was 'executed' by the sword then and there.

For it is important to understand that the same scenario which
developed in Algeria right after independence and culminated in the
nineties is being replicated in Europe: gradually, there was
fundamentalist control taking place over women, their dress, their
behaviour, their space for choice, etc; there was 'Islamic
punishment', as they call it, for 'kofr' (unbelievers) – generally
death penalty – or for 'un-Islamic behavior' such as smoking,
drinking, not praying 5 times a day, not fasting during Ramzan/
Ramadan, etc…

But who cared for a bunch of women who did not conform, for drunkards
or for gays and for unbelievers? The State certainly was not about to
endanger 'social peace' for these un-important citizens. The French
State did not do any better, when the first victims on its soil were
young women or isolated intellectuals, decades before the
assassination of a teacher that took place a couple of days ago. And
France has, so far, not learnt from what followed suit in Algeria.

For three decades from the 60s to the 80s, violence in Algeria
mounted, until by the 90s fundamentalists deemed 'Kofr' any citizen
who had anything to do with the 'kofr state', such as, for instance,
sending children to school, getting treatment in government hospitals,
or going to any government office for an identity document, etc. For
all the critics of the government at that time, , let me remind
readers that, in Algeria, education was totally free for boys and
girls alike, and so was access to hospitals to all citizens. (Not many
European or North American countries could say the same, when poor
people still die at the doorstep of hospitals, for lack of resources
to pay for their treatment.) In other words, in Algeria, not having
anything to do with the 'kofr state' was a fundamentalist command that
was impossible to comply with, in a country where everything was
controlled by the state. The number of victims that received their
'punishment' from extreme right Islamist armed groups skyrocketed; the
estimated number is 200,000 victims in the decade of the nineties.

In France, Algerian refugees from the nineties, who had already lived
through this whole process, kept warning about similar developments in
France. We were never heard. Moreover, we were deemed anti-Islam, as
if armed Islamist groups were the sole true representatives of Islam;
or we were deemed henchmen of the Algerian government, when most of us
had already been persecuted by the State for being part of the
progressive opposition.

International human rights organisations were at the forefront for
welcoming Islamists as the victims of the State and shunning us as
'Islamophobic' – a concept quickly coined by the Muslim extreme right,
which has now spread worldwide. Human rights organisations will carry
the stigma for their inhuman political choice: I am convinced that
history will judge.

During the nineties, when ordinary people tried to flee Islamist
extreme right violence, they were denied visas to France on the ground
that they were not persecuted by the government but by non-state
actors. We all bitterly remember that and maintained full files about
it – while prominent Islamists, some of them with blood on their
hands, were welcomed as political refugees everywhere in Europe and
North America.

In a way, France's deliberate policy of welcoming far right Islamist
opponents to the Algerian State now bears fruit. They now have
developed into a full political force within France, that shows muscle
in order to bend laws and democratic principles to their own
theocratic ideology.

Since the nineties, there were many warning signs in France of the
rise of a Muslim extreme right (as is clearly the case in the UK, as
well as in other European countries); for instance: various attempts
by Muslim fundamentalists to change laws, or cultural habits: for
instance an attempt to have a clause on the virginity of the bride
included in the law as a precondition of the validity of a marriage;
several attempts to legalize the total separation of sexes (in
education, in hospitals, in swimming pools, etc…); several attempts to
change the curriculum in schools ( no art class, no gym for girls, no
biology classes unless creationism was taught instead of Darwinism,
etc…). Within France, many girls and young women were assaulted and
some of them killed since the nineties, for 'un-Islamic behavior'.

Such warning signs were ignored, despite attempts by
anti-fundamentalist Algerian refugees to alert the authorities and the
media, and human rights organisations as well. In vain.

Interestingly, progressive people and human rights organisations in
Europe explain the crimes and violations committed by the Muslim
extreme right by the racism they face in Europe. (In the case of
Charlie Hebdo's journalists and cartoonists, many on the left and
within human rights circles actually justify the killings,
shamelessly declaring that they deserved their fate for insulting
'Muslims'.) Indeed there is racism in France (or in the UK for that
matter) and there is clear discrimination at the level of housing and
employment; but there are also anti-racist organisations to defend the
victims. And the state itself is not racist: there are no
discriminatory laws (free education and health benefit all).
Discriminatory practices which, of course, unfortunately exist at the
level of individuals, are condemned in courts. This is more than what
we can offer to foreigners in our own countries of origin, as can be
seen with the waves of migrants being terribly ill treated when, on
their way to Europe, they cross the North of Africa – where being
black is still equated with being a sub-human.

In many ways, we are privileged, those of us coming from so-called
Muslim countries: we are spared the justification of the Muslim
extreme right's crimes through racism, and we know for sure that
religion per se is not at stake. Take Algeria, where virtually 99%
people are officially declared Muslims by virtue of being born in a
Muslim majority country, in a Muslim family; where ethnicity (Arab
only, till recently), religion (Islam) and citizenship (Algerian) are
conflated and virtually synonymous. Like in other countries in South
Asia, Middle East or Sub Saharan Africa, it is 'Muslims' killing
'Muslims '. Religion is the cover up for extreme right political
forces; like nazis with the Aryan 'race', the Muslim extreme right
believes they belong to the upper religion in the world; like Italian
fascists invoking the Glorious Past of Rome, they justify their
self-proclaimed highest status with reference to a mythified past: the
Golden Age of Islam. Like fascists and nazis, they believe this
superiority grants them the right and the duty to physically eliminate
the untermensch (the sub-humans), which, strangely enough – seem
quite similar, from WWII to now: Jews and other 'inferior races',
communists, etc… to which our home brand of fascists and nazis add the
Kofrs. Among many other similarities, they all assign women to their
place: the kitchen, the cradle and the Church/in our case, the mosque.

One of the many problems in the analysis of crimes such as the one
committed day before yesterday in France against a history teacher,
whose only crime was to teach the official curriculum on freedom of
expression, is the lack of an adequate vocabulary to name the
perpetrators. We need to qualify them in political terms, not in
religious ones as is currently done in France.

The crimes and violations we witnessed in Algeria during the nineties,
which are still currently perpetrated today in so many predominantly
'Muslim' countries, could not possibly be defined as perpetrated by
'Muslims' in our contexts; we were forced to identify them as
political forces of the extreme right.

Naming these political forces is essential. This is the conceptual
blessing I wish for France and for Europe, if we don't want to face
here as we did in Algeria, another 'war against the civilians'. That
is why I say, we have to stand up and be counted, now.

Posted by: Harsh Kapoor <>

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"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it".
-Beatrice Hall [pseudonym: S.G. Tallentyre], 190

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