Against media lynch mobs and the slurs against anti-racists
An open letter signed by scholars, activists, journalists, and artists in France against a witchhunt targeting political anti-racists.
First published in Libération. Translated by David Broder.
Defamatory accusations against the currents of political anti-racism have been coming down one after the other. The series of allegations is like a bad game of dominoes; and it is a squalid, and dangerous game. The cascade of accusations comes from afar: from the far Right, from the fasc-osphere, and from xenophobic sites like Fdesouche ["true-blood French"], but also from currents close to the Socialist "Left" like Printemps républicain, and press organs like Causeur, Valeurs actuelles, le Figaro, and Marianne. Political figures are staking everything on identitarian, authoritarian battlegrounds. This is a very serious matter; these figures are playing with fire.
Among these figures is [former Socialist prime minister] Manuel Valls, who hit rock bottom after his political destruction. Now here he is back in the saddle, brandishing his Islamophobic sword as a whole political programme. There is no surprise in seeing him polishing the same weapons as his fellow protagonist in identitarian reaction, Laurent Wauquiez [right-wing candidate for leadership of the Republican party]. These two now very much belong to the same ideological universe. This itself symbolises a confusion in which party labels no longer matter any more.
Few must still be fooled by this mask. Theirs is a universe of destructive policies and offensives against social rights; and they try to divert attention from it by adopting the hollow yet also terrible line of sabre-rattling against the "enemy within" and the supposed clash of civilisations. These neocons surf on the same wave that took Trump to power and which is also raging across Europe, from Hungary to Poland and Austria. The neoliberal steamroller is disastrous for most people, but its effects first of all fall on the working-class neighbourhoods, on the Black, Arab, Roma or Muslim populations, or those assumed to be such.
This is the putrid context in which for some years now, heaps of slurs have been dumped on the representatives of political anti-racism. Namely, those whose project is precisely to combat the apartheid that the populations of these neighbourhoods experience. This campaign has targeted the France Insoumise MP Danièle Obono ever since she was elected, demanding that she, too, cry "Vive la France!" Earlier there was the persecution of the organisers of the decolonial summer camp, and then the Nyansapo festival. This campaign sharpened over the last few weeks, and again went on the attack against Danièle Obono because she dared to recognise Houria Bouteldja as a comrade in anti-racist struggles. Houria Bouteldja is herself the victim of a witchhunt, and together with the Parti des indigènes de la République she has now become the target-figure of this assault. This lynch-mob atmosphere is brazenly taking advantage of the Tariq Ramadan affair. After the very serious accusations that have been levelled against him, justice has to be done. Both respect for the victims, and the concern that the future trial should play out in a calm fashion, demand that this affair not be exploited for ideological purposes. The fundamentally important fight against sexism and violence against women must not serve the agenda of those who promote identitarian hatred.
Those who have crossed paths with Tariq Ramadan or debated him are being subjected to this same witchhunt, from Pascal Boniface to Edwy Plenel and Mediapart, Edgar Morin, Alain Gresh, the Collectif contre l'islamophobie en France and François Burgat. We stand side by side with them, so that they might continue to maintain a consistent, courageous, tenacious position of argument and struggle in defence of the Muslim victims of stigmatisation, and moreover in defence of all those enduring racism, anti-Semitism, anti-Black hatred, Islamophobia, racial profiling and repression.
We do not understand why Jean-Luc Mélenchon has joined in this witchhunt. The accusations of anti-Semitism that he has levelled against Houria Boutedja are unacceptable. On one occasion when he was himself accused of being close to anti-Semites, Mélenchon declared that "anti-Semitism is a crime; it must be condemned as such. Wrongly accusing someone of anti-Semitism is also a crime."
This ill wind is a destructive force. Looking beyond the various figures who are being targeted and whatever disagreements that one might have with them, we must understand that this witchhunt is seeking to discredit political anti-racism itself, the fight against systemic forms of discrimination and Islamophobia. And these struggles are part of the fight for emancipation. That is why we need to unite against slurs, media lynch-mobs and defamation.
Signatories: Bams, artist, anti-racist activist; Ludivine Bantigny, historian; Maxime Benatouil, member of the Union juive française pour la paix; Judith Bernard, producer, teacher and journalist; Daniel Blondet, anti-imperialist and union activist; Alima Boumediene, lawyer, Femmes plurielles association; Rony Brauman, teacher, essayist; Déborah Cohen, historian; Ismahane Chouder, co-chair of the Collectif des féministes pour l’égalité; Thomas Coutrot, economist; Christine Delphy, sociologist and feminist; Eva Doumbia, producer, author, member of the Décoloniser les arts collective; Annie Ernaux, writer; Eric Fassin, sociologist; Bernard Friot, economist and sociologist; Sylvain George, filmmaker; François Gèze, editor; Nacira Guénif, sociologist; Michelle Guerci, journalist; Eric Hazan, editor; Nicolas Klotz, filmmaker; Stathis Kouvelakis, philosopher; Thierry Labica, teacher/researcher; Olivier Le Cour Grandmaison, lecturer; Laurent Lévy, essayist, anti-racist activist; Philippe Marlière, political scientist; Gustave Massiah, economist; Olivier Neveux, lecturer; Dimitri Nicolaïdis, teacher at the Brussels European school; Ugo Palheta, sociologist; Elisabeth Perceval, filmmaker; Nathalie Quintane, writer; Lluis Sala Molins, philosopher and essayist; Catherine Samary, alter-globalisation economist; Michèle Sibony, member of the Union juive française pour la paix; Julien Théry, historian; Rémy Toulouse, editor; Françoise Vergès, anti-racist feminist; and Bernard Stiegler, philosopher.[book-strip index="1" style="display"]