France: Imperialism, War and Islamophobia
Originally Published November 1, 2020.
France’s president Macron and the government attacks French Muslims by, among other things, closing mosques, banning organizations, and making a number of arrests on weak legal bases. Caricature images are being used propagandistically to wound the country’s Muslims with enormous pictures being posted on public walls.
The newspaper Klassekampen writes that “Marine Le Pen from the far-right party Rassemblement national [National Rally] demanded that ‘martial laws’ must be put in place, because the attacks were, according to her, ‘acts of war’,” after recent killings in Nice.
In the aftermath of the murder of history teacher Samuel Paty, the so-called “caricature controversy” has again become topical. Anyone imagining this is about mere drawings and a series of irrational responses to these must think again. Then one has not understood the context. Part of this context is France’s history, their wars and their current attacks on Muslims.
France is an old colonial power and one of the world’s leading imperialists. The country has had a number of colonies in North Africa, and they have waged a number of bloody wars in order to hold on to these colonies. Of these, the war over Algeria stands out. Millions of people with Algerian backgrounds live in France today, and they comprise a large proportion of the country’s Muslims. In addition, France is currently waging a war on Muslim Mali, and it is long since they bombed Libya. They rival Turkey in the Caucuses (France supports Armenia against Turkish-allied Azerbaijan), in Libya, and in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Domestically, France has been a leader in Islamophobic attacks on Muslims. Under the guise of “secularism”, they have banned the wearing of headscarves in public buildings, and in this way have barred Muslim women from several professions and even from schools. Many Muslims in France have for several decades—many of them for their entire lives—felt the oppression of the state on their bodies. They are also subject to police violence and harassment, and most of them belong to the proletariat and live in the poorest neighborhoods.
In recent years, there have been a number of targeted attacks on Muslims. Many focus on Jihadist violence, but few focus on the long history of terror against North Africans. One of the bloodiest examples is the Paris massacre of 1961, where an unknown number of sympathizers of the National Liberation Front (FLN) in Algeria were attacked by French police and chased down the Seine, whereafter dozens of corpses through a prolongued period of time were pulled from the river. The massacre was denied for 40 years before a half-hearted apology came from the state. It is claimed that between 100 and 300 people were killed in here, not to mention France’s wars in recent years and to this day in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Mali, the Central African Republic, Nigeria (against “Boko Haram”), Somalia, and Chad. This in addition to the aforementioned rivalry with US lackey Turkey. France is one of the world’s largest imperialists, one of the world’s largest military forces, which it has been for a long time.
The wars demand great resources, claim many lives, and are of course motivated by the interests of French imperialism—but they require legitimation. The wars must be justified, and hence the “struggle against terror” or the “struggle against radical Islam” becomes a fitting history. On the other hand, wars create resistance. French bombers and the French Foreign Legion of course arouse fierce rage among the world’s Muslims, including Muslims in France, when they massacre, liquidate, and torture tens of thousands of people in countries with many Muslims. So-called Islamist terror in Europe is impossible to understand if one does not see the European great powers’ and Yankee-imperialism’s havoc-wreaking in the Middle East and North Africa in the last 100 years. This is also the question that is most frequently used in the recruitment propaganda of Al Qaeda and IS.
This is the context we must understand if we are to understand anything at all about Islamophobia and terror today in general, and in France in particular. Furthermore, we must also understand that the caricatures has nothing to do with the “critique of religion” or “freedom of speech”, but with a massive hatred and harassment of Muslim in Europe. It goes hand in hand with xenophobia and the imperialist wars. It is absurd to view these things entirely separate of each other. It is absurd to compare a drawing of the Pope, one of Europe’s most powerful figures, with a drawing made to injure the most oppressed peoples of Europe, people who to a large degree are the children of refugees from Europe’s wars in the third world and who today are over-represented among the deepest and poorest layer of the proletariat.
We also emphasize that the communist position is to respect the religious feelings of the masses. Marxism-Leninism-Maoism is materialistic, but communists defend the masses’ freedom of religion and the masses’ right to not have their religion trampled upon. This is especially the case considering imperialist states with the blood of the masses on their hands and demanding the right to injure and harass people with a faith.
Our French comrades in La Cause du Peuple writes of two Muslim women who were stabbed under the Eiffel Tower, and that this may be the start of a new wave of racism:
They also write that the reactionary French Macron government has seen the murder of Paty as a golden opportunity to marginalize, isolate, and demoralize the part of the French working class that is of Arabic or African origin. These are viewed as Muslims, and reactionary politicians talk about the “Islamo-left” and wants to ban organizations that has nothing at all to do with “jihadism”. Labor union leaders with Arab or African origins are being fired, and the comrades claims it is the strategy of the ruling power to isolate those who are at the forefront of the coming social explosion from the proletariat.
On October 18, two women were stabbed under the Eiffel Tower, without any particular attention in the media, the comrades report. They were called “dirty Arabs”, dogs were unleashed at them, and then they were stabbed with knives. The harassment thus becomes tangible.
Yet again we note that when white people are killed in France and are referred to as “jihadism”, it leads to much coverage and official protests, but when French fighter jets drop bombs on African cities, or when the French Foreign Legion rapes and tortures African masses, it is not even mentioned by Norwegian press. Do not think that this is coincidental, or merely an expression of geographic distance. It is about the character of imperialism and what kind of a country we live in.