The creation of Islamophobia in Western imperialist countries
There has been a huge increase in violence and discrimination against Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim in France since the attack on Paris by Belgian Muslim terrorists. The fact that the increase is huge is in itself hardly surprising as a hatred of Muslims, especially black and Arabic Muslims, in France was already at a very high level among the French masses, the media and particularly the government. Many point to the attacks on the offices of Charlie Hebdo and the Kosher supermarket in January of 2015 (after those attacks, a 281 percent rise in anti-Muslim incidents was registered in the first quarter of 2015 compared with the first quarter of the previous year, according to the National Observatory Against Islamophobia), followed by the attack on an American-owned chemical factory near Lyon in June 2015, as the reason for the high level of anti-Islamic violence and discrimination – but of course those attacks didn’t spring from nowhere.
France is an old imperialist power whose history is steeped in invasion, oppression and massacre within Asian, African and Middle Eastern countries. The French Foreign Legion didn’t after all exist primarily as a refuge for the scum of Europe! France fought a brutal and murderous war against the Algerian people in the 1950s and 1960s to keep that country chained to France, and during the subsequent civil war, the conflict often spilled out back home. Nor can its present activities in Africa and the Middle East be seen as anything less than oppression for the sake of French imperialism. In January 2013, France launched an operation in Mali which then encompassed neighbouring African states. Several thousand French troops continue operations there, with airstrikes that regularly kill indiscriminately. Furthermore, since 2014, France has been part of the so-called anti-Isis coalition in Iraq; while this year it widened its military operations to include airstrikes on Syrian territory, on the excuse of the Paris terror attacks.
The treatment of immigrants and French people of African and Middle Eastern descent in France has always been at variance with the claimed national ideology of ‘Liberty, Equality and Fraternity!’ In 2005 in the Parisian suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, one of the country’s most deprived areas, two young men of African descent were chased by police, wrongly it later emerged, to the point where the youths ran into an electricity substation in an effort to evade the beating or possible death that would follow their being caught. The very least that these two frightened young lads could expect was being fitted up for some crime or other with the jail time that follows. In the end the entering of the substation itself sealed their fate and they were both fatally electrocuted. There followed riots among the oppressed black (mainly Muslim) communities across France who could relate only too well to the injustice and racism that led to the young men’s deaths.
In a report on hate crimes in 2008, Human Rights First, claimed that ” In France, according to official statistics, people of North African origin-largely of Muslim background-are the object of the majority of hate crimes classified as ‘racist’ by the authorities. One French NGO, the Collectif contre l’Islamophobie en France, reported a 20 percent rise in hate-motivated acts (including violent incidents) against Muslims: in 2007, there were 65 such acts, compared with 54 and 53 incidents in 2006 and 2005, respectively. ”
In 2004 France passed a law that reasserted the right of the government to exclude “conspicuous” religious symbols such as crosses, skullcaps and headscarves from public schools. In 2011 the law was extended to ban the wearing of full-face veils in all public places, not just schools. The full-face veil is not worn universally by Muslim women and no one who does not want to wear one should have to. However, it should also be the case that what is a religious/cultural piece of clothing should not be banned from use by those who do want to wear one. The cowl of many types of Christian nun can be just as unrevealing, never mind the face altering properties of make-up. However, such arguments apart, the whole point of the French government decision was to gather the support of the non Muslim majority behind what was essentially a slur upon Islam that somehow Muslim women whose faces were covered were ‘hiding something’ or acting illegally in some way.
Research from INSEE, France’s national statistical agency, indicates that in 2013, the unemployment rate for all immigrants was approximately 17.3%, nearly 80% higher than the non-immigrant rate of 9.7%, and descendants of immigrants from Africa have a significantly more difficult time finding work regardless of their abilities.
In May 2015 France passed a wide-reaching surveillance law intended to improve the ability of the country’s intelligence services to identify potential terrorists. These laws will initially be used against Muslim communities but as the imperialist crisis deepens all French citizens will feel the sharp end of them.
This is the background to the increased anti Muslim fear and attacks which is just as important to understand as the terrorist attacks by the brain-washed jihadi suicide squads. In fact it is this background of deprivation and discrimination that is more of a recruiting sergeant for the ISIS/ISIL/IS/Daesh (the name seems to change in the bourgeois press every other week) than the various so-called hate preachers. Without that never-ending oppression and discrimination how many young French Muslims would want to give their lives to ‘fight back’?
The increased attacks on Muslims in France include one that took place on 18 November when a young woman wearing a veil was attacked in Marseilles. She was leaving a metro station in the centre of the city when she was approached by a man in his 20’s who called her a terrorist, making reference to her wearing a hijab before he punched her in the neck and sliced her breast with some sort of razor.
Yasser Louati, a spokesperson for The Collective against Islamophobia in France (CCIF), has said that he has been inundated with reports and complaints since the November terror attack including one Muslim woman saying she had been rammed by a shopping trolley, while another had been punched by a male stranger. In Nanterre, a woman with a 5-month-old baby was pushed and cursed at by an old man. Louati also said that many of the individuals who were targeted were women wearing items of clothing that marked them out as Muslims. He revealed that he had also received many calls from Muslims worrying, not without good reason, whether it was safe to send their children to school.
France’s six million-strong Muslim minority is Europe’s largest and it makes up about eight-nine percent of the population. Apart from the attacks on individuals across the country, mosques, shops and family homes too have been targeted with graffiti attacks, fire bombs and threats.
The alienation and demonisation of Muslims is sweeping the Western imperialist counties. Attacks against Muslims in London alone have more than tripled since the Paris terrorist atrocity, with the majority involving violence/harassment.
Released figures show that; the Metropolitan police claim that they had received 24 reports of Islamophobic incidents in the week ending 10 November, three days before the massacre in the French capital. That figure rose to 46 in the week ending 17 November, four days after the attacks. There was a further rise of reported attacks in the week ending 24 November, when the tally reached 76. These figures were roughly mirrored across Britain with the main targets of violence/harassment against individuals being women. After the 2005 London bombings, police reported that the rate of hate crimes in the city – mostly targeting Muslims – rose six-fold. In the USA the anti-Muslim hysteria is much the same with mosques being threatened, shot at and fire-bombed. In the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, anti-Muslim crimes in the U.S. jumped 1,600 percent. In Germany fire-bombing of mosques and Muslim shops has become a regular occurrence -along with attacks on refugees, of course.
The media’s portrayal of events also helps to colour people’s perceptions of, and conclusions from, those events. Editors/journalists control the importance and substance of readers/viewers’ beliefs about the event. If we compare news coverage of the January 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, France, and Borno, Nigeria, we can see significant variance in the overall coverage, headline style and discourse usage regarding the two events. In particular, the British and American news coverage positively framed France through detailed, sympathetic coverage and negatively framed Nigeria by overgeneralising and placing blame. Basically, people (read majorities) in imperialist countries matter more, especially when you are trying to mobilise those majority populations in those imperialist countries for war.
Donald Trump is seen as a bumptious oaf with his call to ban Muslims entering the USA while expelling those living there to ‘Muslim’ countries, but people like him are used to give voice to things that wouldn’t be said by ‘respectable’ bourgeois politicians until, of course, someone like Trump introduces it and then it’s fair game for general discussion. In Britain we have the former English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, announcing that he was launching the UK branch of the rightwing group Pegida. He said he would campaign to ban all Muslim immigration to the UK for five years, prevent the building of new mosques and ban the funding of mosques abroad. In France the job is being done by Robert Chardon, mayor of Venelles, a town in the south of France, who has said; “We must ban the Muslim faith in France.” He has also called for the country to remove a secularism law dating back to 1905 and to “promote the practice of the Christian faith“. Chardon’s utterances also include; ” We also need a Marshall Plan to send Muslims to countries where the religion is practiced.”
There are those who, understanding that IS/ISIS etc. is a product of imperialism and an instrument of imperialist aggression against legitimate governments in the Middle East, believe that the November terrorist attacks in Paris were a false flag event. We don’t, but either way, they served imperialism. If it had been a false flag operation, imperialism, having planned it, would make use of it to divide the working class at a time of imperialist crisis and the imposition of deep austerity measures that considerably lower working-class living standards. Equally, if, as is more likely, it was not a false flag operation, the imperialists were as ever quick to jump on it to make the same use of it as if it had been. Can we suggest that instead of trying to find evidence and argue about whether it is a false flag or not we should concentrate on the fact that our real enemy is trying to divide us further at a crucial time and that we need to alert people to that danger.
As if to prove the imperialist willingness to use any and every excuse to promote its own interests, the British government is putting forward the idea that the rules covering prosecution of armed police who shoot people should be dropped so that our wonderful policemen won’t be put off firing when confronted by nasty terrorists! And what is the justification that is being claimed for this very sinister move? The attacks on Paris! Hopefully the vast majority of people will see through this, but just in case: since 1995 a total of 55 British police officers have opened fire on and killed members of the public yet not one of them has ever faced prosecution – and in only two cases have the names of the officers been revealed.
We are not here to promote any religion but nor do we go along with the bourgeois oppression of minorities either. We must oppose anything that caused the deviation of workers, whatever their beliefs re deities, from the necessary unity that they need to defend their interests and to carry out the historic task of socialist revolution that will save our planet for future generations to live in real peace and plenty.