Massive attacks against Houria Bouteldja and the PIR

Individualized attacks against PIR representative Houria Bouteldja have been systematic and have grown to an unprecedented level of violence. Despite all evidence to the contrary, this campaign hinges on a deceitful triptych: that of the antisemitism, homophobia and ‘reverse racism’ of which Houria Bouteldja is supposedly guilty. However, nothing in her speeches or written works supports these serious accusations.

These very virulent attacks come from diverse media-political areas which benefit from near monopoly of the public forum in France. Insults and slander are relayed complacently by media platforms to which Houria Bouteldja is never invited, whether it be to their columns or to their sets. This is a matter of pure defamation, intended to demonize and muffle her political discourse.

This rampage is dangerous, as it offers up an easy target to all the French racist spheres that have specifically rallied in an uninterrupted islamophobic offensive for several years.

Faced with French politicians’ failure to act, and against these threats, it is of the utmost importance to offer this decolonial activist, and political antiracism, international support and attentive protection. Supporting and defending the values of freedom of speech, which are objectively being called into question in France by an increasingly oppressive State, is an emergency and a priority, as, behind Houria Bouteldja, the whole of the decolonial movement is being targeted, and with it, all the hope it inspires.

UK Labour Shadow Education Secretary has wrong end of stick in anti-Semitism claims

IHRC has written to the shadow education secretary Angela Rayner criticising her involvement in attempts by the Daily Mail to paint as anti-semitic the launch of a book by the Palestinian-American academic Dr Hatem Bazian.
In an article dated 17 November on the alleged rise of anti-Semitism on university campuses the Mail quoted Rayner, the Labour MP for Ashton Under Lyne, as saying she would speak to party leader Jeremy Corbyn about his attendance at the launch last December of a book whose author the Mail described as ‘extremely anti-Semitic’. The event was hosted by IHRC.
Dr Bazianís book Palestine…it is something colonial frames the creation of the Zionist state as the last settler colonial project to be commissioned in the late 19th early 20th centuries. In locating Palestine’s modern history around settler colonial discourses Dr. Bazian’s book provides a context to understand and relate to the Middle East conflict, highlighting how Zionist settler colonialism shares many features with other colonialism such as the normative deployment of violence, religious justification, garrison state sponsor, transformation of the land and geography, and the constitution of a new colonial epistemology as well as the expulsion of an indigenous population and negation of its very existence.
IHRC refutes any suggestion that we are anti-Semitic or provide a platform to those who are. IHRC has never, and will never, platform any speaker who espouses racist views, including anti-Semitic views.
We view Angela Rayner’s intervention as an attempt to muzzle any criticism of Israel under the pretext of anti-Semitism.
“To describe Professor Bazian’s work or this event as anti-Semitic is deeply worrying. Either you have not read the work or you view all criticism of Israel to be illegitimate and should be silenced. In either scenario, your intervention is extremely damaging for free speech and political debate in the UK,” states the letter. “We find it deeply troubling that a democratically elected official like yourself should seek to demonise pro-BDS political opinions that are critical of Israel by labelling it anti-Semitic.”
Dr. Hatem Bazian is a lecturer in the Departments of Near Eastern and Asian American and Asian Diaspora Studies, Editor-in-Chief of the Islamophobia Studies Journal and Director of the Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project Center for Race and Gender at the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Bazian is also a co-founder of Zaytuna College, the first accredited Muslim Liberal Arts College in America, the National Chair of American Muslims for Palestine, Board Member of Islamic Scholarship Fund, and Board Member of the Muslim Legal Fund of America.
The letter also clarifies that Mr Corbyn never attended the event. He was passing by, on his own personal business, and members of the audience asked him for photographs, to which he kindly agreed.

Notes to editors:

The full text of the letter can be read here

For more information please call +44 7958 522196 or email nadia@ihrc.org.

Islamophobia conferences in Europe

In December across Europe events are being organized on islamophobia.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom two events have been organized.

Edinburgh

On Friday 8 Dec 2017 from 6:00pm to 9:45pm SACC will host an event in Edinburgh. A recent survey by Samena Dean found that more than half of Muslim school students interviewed in Edinburgh had experienced Islamophobia. Anti-Muslim racism is commonplace and growing. It is reflected in hate crime, unlawful discrimination, discriminatory and hostile social attitudes and institutional racism. Schools, colleges and universities are not immune to this trend.

Islamophobia has assisted and driven the growth of other forms of xenophobia that are now being felt across the UK by EU citizens threatened by Brexit. It has paved Donald Trump’s path to the White House. Across Europe it is fuelling the growth of far-right parties that, once empowered, threaten Jews, LGBT people and disabled people.

Our educational institutions are uniquely well-placed to shape social attitudes and community relations in tomorrow’s Scotland. It is an opportunity we cannot afford to miss. If you care about education, whether as an educator, a student or a member of the wider community, please come along to the conference. It’s a chance to learn about the experiences of others and discuss the way forward.

There are two parallel workshops from 6-7 pm.

A: “Can we talk about Islamophobia” – workshop mainly for young Muslims, but open to everyone

  1. “Radicalising anti-racism” – round-table discussion on how to move towards radically anti-racist education

There is a break for food from 7.00-7.20pm followed by two plenary session:

7.20-8.30pm: Plenary I. “What is Islamophobia?”

8.40-9.45pm: Plenary II. “Decolonising Education”

Speakers include: Arzu Merali (co-founder and head of research, IHRC, and leading member of DIN), Tasneem Ali (MWAE), Richard Haley (SACC), Sofiah MacLeod (Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign) and Yahya Barry. Chaired by Zahid Ali.

The event is at Augustine United Church, 41-43 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh EH6 4BY. Admission is free. Donations are welcome.

Facebook: http://www.sacc.org.uk/events/2017/islamophobia-conference-2017 / https://www.facebook.com/saccRights/

London

On December 10 IHRC, member of DIN, will host an event to discuss the rise of islamophobia.

Last year’s Islamophobia conference discussed the creation of a police state in the UK. While the policies aimed at surveilling, criminalising and extraditing Muslims, refugees and migrants have continued unabated, we have seen alongside this the alarming growth of nativism in the UK and around the world.

Nativism is the political policy of promoting the interests of “native” inhabitants against those of “immigrants”. It is racism masquerading as patriotism.

This racism reared its ugly head during the Brexit debates. Anti-immigrant sentiments were fanned to ensure a victory for the leave camp. Since then, incidents of racism and Islamophobia have been on the rise. Following the vote, people were attacked on the streets and told they now had to leave the UK since the leave vote was successful. The ‘leave’ result has further legitimised the environment of hate we already exist in.

The election of Trump in America has allowed nativism to enter mainstream politics. He branded Mexicans as lazy and as rapists, Muslims as terrorists and imposed a ‘Muslim Ban’. His anti-immigration stance and his plan for a wall on the Mexican border has resonated with people who feel they have been marginalised and silenced by immigrants, foreigners, the ‘other’ who are destroying their way of life. Trump’s rise to power mirrors a rise in hate crimes against minorities. Black communities continue to struggle against systemic violence, as well as racism from their fellow citizens, while Trump publicly undermines any criticism voiced by black communities. Trump’s presidency has emboldened Nazis to openly march on the streets again, galvanised the so-called alt-right and fractured community relations across America.

Across Europe we see a similar trend; the rise of the far-right has been fuelled by nativist sentiments. Ideas of foreigners taking over, of destroying indigenous cultures and imposing their own alien way of life have been the main talking points for the likes of the Afd in Germany, Marine Le Pen in France and Geert Wilders in the Netherlands. Recent elections in Germany, Austria, France and the Czech Republic saw major electoral gains for far-right parties / candidates. Europe’s shift to the right signals a new era of nativist policies, and foreshadows a future of uncertainty and instability for minority communities.

Location: P21 Gallery, 21 Chalton St, Kings Cross, London NW1 1JD (nearest stations: Kings Cross St. Pancras / Euston / Euston Square).

Date and time: December 10, from 10.30am – 4.30pm

Speakers:

  • Dr Luis Manuel Hernandez Aguilar
  • Arzu Merali
  • Amrit Wilson
  • Hatem Bazian
  • Phil Miller
  • Martjin de Koning

Website: http://www.ihrc.org.uk/events/11979-islamophobia-conference-2017-the-rise-of-nativism

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Islamic-Human-Rights-Commission-109724959498/

Spain

In Madrid, Spain, Kale Amenge, member of DIN, and uMMA in collaboration with Bruselles Pantheres will host an event to confront the growing racism in the Spanish context and to build a Roma-Muslim alliance to fight together both islamophobia and anti-gipsyism as forms of structural racism in the Spanish state. The event will be held at La Enredadera de Tetuán, C/ Anastasio Herrero 10, Madrid on December 10 2017 (start 17.00 hr).

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/1858522374459001/

France

In France a coalition of organizations are organizing an event on December 10th in Saint-Denis. The coalition consists of the following organizations: AFD International, Association Commission “Islam & laïcité”, CCIF, CFPE, CCI, Femmes plurielles, Fondation Frantz Fanon, Identité plurielle, IJAN, NPA, PIR (member of DIN), PSM, UJFP.

This years conference is entitled “Macron or the permanent state of emergency”.

There are three plenary sessions :

1st plenary session: 9.30 a.m. to 12: Are antiterrorist law efficient in the fight against terrorism?

2d plenary session: 1.30 p.m. to 3 p.m.: The identity attack against public liberties: attacks from everywhere.

3d plenary session: 3 p.m. to 4.30 p.m.: Silencing political antiracist activists: the other face of the identity attack.

The are followed by two workshops from 4.45 p.m. to 5.30p.m.

  1. The struggle against discriminations on the workplace and the consequences of the labor law.
  2. Stigmatisation of territories: from Saint-Denis to Molenbeek

A fourth plenary session from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. concludes with a discussion on the perspectives for the future.

The location is : Bourse du Travail, 9 rue Genin, Saint-Denis (France).

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Conf%C3%A9rence-Internationale-contre-lIslamophobie-137999883520915/

Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/243921642807102/

Sweden

A three day conference in Sweden will present a decolonial analysis of islamophobia.

The conference aims:

  • To create a space for dissemination of decolonial knowledge ;
  • To raise the question of islamophobia and discuss it on local, national and international levels ;
  • To create awareness of Morayma, member of DIN, and facilitate networking between organizations and activists.

Program :

  • Friday Dec 15th (evening) – Workshop, 2 hours
  • Saturday Dec 16th – Conference, 6 hours
  • Sunday Dec 17th – Workshop/lecture, 2-4 hours

Speakers are : Ramon Grosfoguel, Hatem Bazian and Sandew Hira.

The conference will be held in Götenborg, Sweden.

Registration : www.morayma.se

 

The Balfour Declaration: 1917-2017 100 years of colonialism/100 years of resistance

Aya Ramadan & Selim Nadi

On November 2d 1917, Arthur Balfour (1848–1930)—former Prime Minister of Britain and Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs—wrote a Letter to Lionel Walter Rotschild in order to explain his sympathy with the Jewish Zionist project: “His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object.”

This promise toward the Zionist movement became way more concrete with another project: the San Remo Conference (in 1920) that made Palestine part of the British Empire. Nevertheless, the Balfour-Declaration of 1917 not only was a sort of “first step” toward the creation of the Zionist State in 1948. It was also part of a wider treason of European’s power towards Arab nationalists. Indeed, one year earlier, in 1916, the Sykes-Picot Agreement between the UK and France defined several “sphere of influences” in order to control a whole part of the Ottoman Empire after its defeat during World War I. Hence, Balfour’s sympathy toward the establishment of a national home for Jewish people in Palestine paved the way for the Zionist colonial project. And indeed, one year later, there was a parade in Jerusalem by some Zionist groups in order to celebrate the first anniversary of this declaration.

No wonder that 100 years later Zionists still want to use this anniversary in order to legitimize the colonial system that Israel is. This is why, in several countries, anticolonial activists are organizing events in order to remember this declaration in another way: through the racist and colonial project it represents and how it fits perfectly with European colonialism. Hence, some anticolonial voices have responded to the call of Palestinians in order to denounce the celebration of the Balfour-Declaration by the Zionists and their accomplices. This is why we call all the Friends of Palestine to meet in the Parisian region on November 5 in order to commemorate rather than to celebrate the centenary of this declaration. Indeed, on November 5, at the Bourse du travail from Saint-Denis, the voices of the resistance toward colonialism will be heard through 4 speakers:

  • Ilan Pappe: Professor at the University of Exeter and author of, among other books, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (2006).
  • Joseph Massad: Palestinian Professor of History at Columbia University and author of The Persistence of the Palestinian Question (2006).
  • Rabab Abdulhadi: Palestinian Professor of Sociology at the University of San Francisco and head of the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Initiative.
  • Alain Gresh: French journalist and specialist of the Middle-East and the author of Israel, Palestine: Truths of a Conflict (2007).

This event is a very important one since France is probably one of the most loyal accomplice of Zionist colonialism. During the 75th commemoration of the raid of the Vel d’Hiv in Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron invited Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahou and declared that Antizionism is the “reinvented form of Antisemitism”. This fallacious attempt to delegitimize any antizionist effort is not very new. The consequences of this logic, that has shaped the French policy toward Israel for several years, had an devastating impact on the anticolonial movement with the criminalization of the BDS Movement. This political context poses with increasing urgency the necessity of continuing to resist despite the attempt to silence anticolonial voices in France.

The meeting of November 5th is organized by decolonial organizations and Immigrant organizations — like the Parti des Indigènes de la République, the Association des Travailleurs Maghrébins de France, the Fédération des Tunisiens pour une citoyenneté des deux rives – and some organizations from the French radical Left, like NPA, Ensemble, Attac. Hence, this common work has permitted us to organize, on a national scale, against the racist and colonial celebrations of the Balfour-Declarations that want to erase any anticolonial voice from the French political Landscape. But the organization of such an event in France is just a part of a more global organization of antizionist forces who are trying to show their support to the Palestinian people. The anticolonial bloc that has resulted from this anti-Balfour project will continue to support Palestine after November 5th. This meeting is part of a broader attempt to organize against colonialism and racism on an international level with every single force that shares our aim to raise our voices against the racist and colonial system that underlies the Zionist project since more than 100 years.

Sources

IHRC has complied the following sources on the Balfour Declaration.

Articles

  1. The Balfour Declaration: Palestine’s British and Zionist Colonial Legacy – Hatem Bazian
  2. The Balfour Declaration Destroyed Palestine, Not the Palestinian People – Ramzy Baroud
  3. Israel simply has no right to exist – Faisal Bodi
  4. Balfour at 100: A legacy of racism and propaganda –  Dan Freeman-Malloy
  5. Remembering Balfour: empire, race and propaganda – Dan Freeman-Malloy

Videos

  1. Independent Jewish Voices: 100 Years After Balfour FULL FILM (24 min)
  2. David Cronin discusses his book Balfour’s Shadow at IHRC (1 uur en 20 min)

BOOK (PDF):

Towards a New Liberation Theology – Reflections on Palestine  – eds Arzu Merali and Javad Sharbaf

 

Furthermore, there are two new books that are interesting for decolonial thinking.

ON THE SOCIOLOGY OF ISLAM: http://shop.ihrc.org/on-the-sociology-of-islam-ali-shariati-3

AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM, EUROCENTRISM AND OTHERISATION OF MUSLIMS: http://shop.ihrc.org/american-exceptionalism-eurocentrism-and-otherisation-of-muslims-saied-reza-ameli

Decolonizing Dutch colonial historiography

The Dutch government has funded a project of 4,3 million Euro’s to rewrite the Dutch colonial history in Indonesia in the period 1945-1949, the period in whic the Dutch sent its army to crush the liberation struggle of the Indonesian people. Rather than acknowledging this crime their colonial historians put a framing based on the concept of “extreme violence”, implying that both parties committed extreme violence.

Activists in Holland are mobilizing against this colonial project. On October 20th Histori Bersama organized a meeting to discuss Decolonizing Dutch colonial historiography. Click  here for English language videos of the meeting.

See the English introduction of Ethan Mark of Universiteit Leiden for critical analysis of the project.

Activists consider the possibilities to set up an alternative research project into colonial violence in the whole period of Dutch colonization of Indonesia.

 

Venezuela does not bow down to anybody …we are born anti-imperialists

Jesus Chucho García

Maintaining our sovereignty during these eighteen years of the Bolivarian process has not been easy. Even with all our failures, we have broken, after Cuba, the record of independence and anti-imperialist sustainability,in Latin America and the Caribbean.

We have refused to be the United States backyard or chess piece from the ultra-right sector of the European Union.

We dared, under the leadership of President Chávez, to change the geometry of power in our America, including to the people of the United States showing our solidarity to more than two million impoverished people in that country with our policy of giving it warmth in winter time through the mixed company CITGO.

Sovereignty has a very high political cost as it has been demonstrated by Haiti in the eighteenth century, when it dared to be the first Republic of the African diaspora to achieve its independence from French and American imperialism, and then it was blocked. The same would do Bolivar following the Haitian example and also suffered blockade of Europe and the United States. Then, they also blocked us in 1902 with the government of President Cipriano Castro, and we already know the history of Cuba with more than half a century of blockade and there is with his head high 90 miles from the empire.

The history of any country in our America that has dared to fight for its true autonomy, without military bases in its territories, without obeying the mandates of the great club or the whims of the pentagon or the fascist leaders disguised as democrats in Europe , have run the risk and we continue to run the risk of being a perfect target of blockades, media manipulation, isolation of international bodies, asymmetric wars, covert operations of the CIA, Israeli intelligence, in order to create a climate for military intervention as might happen in Venezuelaon the part of countries with miserable governments such as that of Santos in Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Argentina, among others that have been pronounced against the legally constitutional government of the current president Nicolas Maduro that until July 27th called the opposition to sit down to dialogue, but this one with its historic and bourgeois hatred and the feeling of being supported by the extreme right Internationally refused to dialogue despite the prayers of Pope Francis, as they would say in my land Barlovento….. they have the devil on the shoulders (they heated the electoral situation using violence facts). IF THEY ACCEPT THE CONSTITUENT ; THEY WILL GET FUCK UP.

We entered definitively in the circular delirium of disrespect of a group of countries of our region blindly obeying the script of some ultraright congressmen of the United States, to express that if President Maduro did not paralyze the constituent we fuck, saying it popularly. Look, we do not have nuclear arsenal as in the case of Iran, we do not have a conflict as it exists between the United States and North Korea, we do not have the international conflict as Mexico has with more than fifteen thousand assassinated in the last five months or the selective murders of more than one hundred Colombian leaders, after the signing of the peace treaty. It is not enough that they have made Luis Almagro look ridiculous this week when he again asked for the intervention of the OAS in our affairs, and he only got thirteen votes out of thirty-four he was looking for, it was not enough that Caricom did not allow himself to be blackmailed by the United States in its last assembly to vote against Venezuela and even more he failed despite the efforts of the indecent president Macri and the coup Temer in their attempts to make that Mercosur, censored Venezuela. In the ground of the international organisms these options have been rejected against our country. Now they have no choice but to issue sanctions on the part of the United States and on the other hand to call the violent outcome of the radical and racist sector of the opposition. But the Venezuelan people will not bend their sovereignty or their decision to be anti-imperialist and independent.

C.K. Raju: decolonizing science

Prof. C.K. Raju in Cape Town South Africa on Decolonizing the hard sciences.

See another video on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/uct.src/posts/1605143072870270

For an impression at the university of Kwazulu-Natal:

His talk at Kwazulu-Natal is here.

See the panel discussion here

Here are the sildes of a lecture on decolonizing mathematics that Raju gave in Amsterdam: http://ckraju.net/papers/presentations/critical-collective.pdf.

The lecture and discussing in Amsterdam is here.

And here is the lecture in Berlin on decolonizing time:

Decolonial Summer Schools in Spain

Decolonial Summer Schools in Spain

Dialogo Global, a Center of Study and Investigation for Decolonial Dialogues, is a non-profit and non-governmental organization promoting research, knowledge-making, education. Dialogo Global organizes two Summer Schools in Spain.

In Barcelona the Summer School is on “Decolonizing Knowledge and Power”. The Summer Schools looks into questions of epistemology, activism, decolonizing the mind and power.

In Granada the Summer School is on Critical Muslim Studies: Decolonial Struggles and Liberation Theologies. Critical Muslim Studies is inspired by a need for opening up a space for intellectually rigorous and socially committed explorations between decolonial thinking and studies of Muslims, Islam and the Islamicate. Critical Muslim Studies does not take Islam as only a spiritual tradition, or a civilization, but also as a possibility of a decolonial epistemic perspective that suggests contributions and responses to the problems facing humankind today. It offers an opportunity to interpret and understand Muslim phenomena in ways that does not reproduce Eurocentrism, Islamophobia or takfiri exclusivism.

In the framework of SISUMMA and in collaboration with the Critical Muslim Studies Summer School, the Euro–Arab Foundation hosted the conference “Debates on “Critical Muslim Studies” in Granada (July 2017), video provided by SISUMMA

Video: Hatem Bazian (UC-Berkeley)

Video: Salman Sayyid (Leeds University)

Interview with Salman Sayyid at the Critical Muslim Studies Summer School, Granada

Video: Claire Lienart (Journalist/France)

Interview with Houria Bouteldja at the Critical Muslim Studies Summer School, Granada

 

Preface of Cornel West in Houria Bouteldja’s book

Houria Bouteldja is a French-Algerian political activist and writer focusing on anti-racism, anti-imperialism, and Islamophobia. She serves as spokesperson for the Parti des Indigènes de la République (Party of the Indigenous of the Republic), a member organization of the Decolonial International Network (DIN).

Houria has published a book in French titled: Les Blancs, les Juifs et nous: vers une politique de l’amour révolutionnaire. It is now translated in English and will be published at MIT press in November 2017 under the title: Whites, Jews, and Us – Toward a Politics of Revolutionary Love.

For more information see: https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/whites-jews-and-us

Cornel West, philosophy professor at Harvard and Princeton, public intellectual and activist, wrote a preface. This is the preface.

Cornel West

This book is a courageous and controversial act of revolutionary love. Houria Bouteldja’s bold and critical challenge to all of us—especially those who claim to be leftists or progressives—builds on the rich legacies of Malcolm X, Jean Genet, Aimé Césaire, Audre Lorde, James Baldwin, Frantz Fanon, and Chela Sandoval. This challenge consists of a powerful intellectual case against imperial innocence and a poignant cry of the heart for an indigenous revolutionary politics—a politics that is unapologetically anti-patriarchal, anti-capitalist, and anti-imperialist grounded in the doings and sufferings of colonized peoples. It comes as no surprise that our present moment of escalating neo-fascist regimes, tightening patriarchal practices and neoliberal free-market ideologies have thrown the left and progressive voices into a panic. And such a panic makes it difficult to have a robust and painful dialogue about whiteness, Zionism, patriarchy, and empire.

Does not the end of imperial innocence entail the rejection of social democracy or neoliberal politics—with their attendant “white good conscience,” top-down feminism, bourgeois multiculturalism, and refusal to target a vicious Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and people? Do not the precious lives of hundreds of thousands of Muslims killed by U.S. and NATO Armed Forces (including immoral drone strikes) have any moral weight in how we understand the ugly forms of xenophobia spilling out of control in the US and Europe? What does a candid and compassionate indictment of Zionist practices on the West Band and Gaza look like that avoids anti-Jewish hatred and contempt? How does a “decolonizing internationalism” proceed in the face of entrenched nationalisms or neoliberal cosmopolitanism? Can a “decolonial feminism”—with its echoes from the work of the visionary bell hooks in the very belly of the US imperial beast—lead toward a “concrete emancipation” that resists patriarchal religions and elite feminisms? As the “genocides, ecodisasters, and ethnocides” continue to surface, “wedded to new secular hierarchies,” either a new “great We of a decolonized majority” rooted in visions beyond empire, capitalism, whiteness, and patriarchy and grounded in a revolutionary love can guide us or we all succumb to the “ancient forces of human greed and violence.” These questions and issues demand the best of who we are—and none of us have a monopoly on the truth and justice they require and solicit. There is a genuine humility in this book—and its sense of urgency and dire emergency behooves us to wrestle with its rich contents.

Paroles d’honneur: interview with Louisa Yousfi

Louisa Yousfi is a decolonial journalist and activist. For the past 7 months she has been hosting the online broadcast Paroles d’honneur (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCTth6-5ZiCD_CUJ6xOMug_w).

First, would you mind tracing back the emergence of the show?

The idea of this show emerged in a specific context; the presidential campaigns were coming up and we knew it would be painful as usual for postcolonial and poor neighborhood populations. We knew that the media mechanisms that frame the political discourse would prevent the rise of an autonomous voice that would take into account this special category of the population ; this of Blacks, Arabs, Muslims and poor neighborhood residents. This phenomenon engenders a situation that might be comical if It did not hold drastically negative consequences; while we are omnipresent in the media, endlessly debated in « expert » mouths as objects of study, of both fascination and repulsion, we are however never really present as producers of discourse and meaning.

The presidential campaign is a time where these media processes become exacerbated, where the main TV channels struggle to hide the propaganda dimension of their editorial line. Some would debate it as the « Ideological apparatus of the State ». But it is a fact; we are the ever-absent members of the party, and absent people are always wrong. The show thus takes its origins from the activists of the « political antiracist » or decolonial movement, from journalists and intellectuals who chose to answer an ambitious challenge. They are striving to give visibility to this activist, political and social reality that blossoms, struggles, thinks and moves strategically forward within the French political space, while holding for sole media projection a deforming mirror that only mutes it or demonize it to discredit its existence. Yet we are convinced that we have often more to say about our dominant themes such as racism, imperialism, police violence than professionals of public speech, but also on a wider array of societal themes. That is why our slogan is « by us for all ». It makes a clear statement in regards to our lens on the history of the immigration struggles while targeting the rest of society that wishes to join or to be confronted to a new way to debate politics in France. In sum, it is a new form of radicalism, an opportunity to invent a new political space. That space materialized perfectly within that café called “La Colonie” where we film our shows, which was created by Franco-Algerian artist Kader Attia, himself acquainted with decolonial issues. That highly symbolic space was inaugurated on Oct. 17th 2016 in memory of the Algerian victims of Oct. 17th 1961. During the first and second round of the French elections, it quickly became a true “decolonial headquarter”; in other words a space where those who do not find resonance in the current political offer can hear about original and off the beaten track analyses, and openly react to issues that remain little debated. Close to 300 people were present during both electoral nights, and almost 50 000 others watched live the online videos we posted, demonstrating that we guessed right! Undoubtedly Paroles d’honneur answers a real need of thoughts reflection and confrontation in a respectful yet frank framework.

Finally, I must admit having particular affection for this format that we call “Great debates”, in which I invite philosophers (Etienne Balibar, Tristan Garcia, Norman Ajari) to converse on issues at the crossroads of philosophy, politics and other human sciences. We have, among others, organized debates on “political dignity” or on “universalism”. These are beautiful high-level debates that have the capacity to bring another level of abstraction and intelligibility to social movements. This is certainly less accessible and less fitting to the general public, but not less important. This is where we are able to develop, enrich and experiment the intellectual production of postcolonial topics, in contact with other thoughts from a different political culture. Knowledge also entails a stake of power. We need to invest it without shame, to occupy all fields that produce meaning and systems of truth. In other words, at Paroles d’honneur, we are home everywhere!

Why did you create a specific show instead of imposing decolonial issues into more “traditional” media?

Because that space is a minefield for us! Traditional media mechanisms are so locked that the rare television appearances of those from our ranks are systematically set up as trials. Their arguments are either discredited on account of irrelevance because not fitting the national republican model, or they are required to defend themselves from a list of accusations made up for the occasion. They are almost never invited to contribute to the debate but rather turn into the popular scapegoat. For instance, I am thinking about the intervention of CCIF (Group against islamophobia) ex-president Marwan Muhammad on the stage of the Salut Les Terriens show. While he was officially invited to present his upcoming book, he was instead freely insulted by Lydia Guirous and Sonia Mabrouk. Let us contemplate in the meantime the orchestrated set up that consists in placing Arab women who represent the quintessence of integration to face an Arab man and unapologetically call him an islamist, a communautarist, a manipulator, etc. Have we even talked about the content of his book? Of course not! Same record for Houria Bouteldja and Maboula Soumahoro when they got invited on the stage of Ce soir ou Jamais. Thomas Guénolé did not engage any debate, he simply prevented any opportunity to do so by pouring down dishonest and preposterous accusations that hit the nail on the head to an audience little acquainted with decolonial theses. How do you make your voice heard in such conditions? That is why it is important for spaces like ours to exist in order to bring back meaning to debates. That being said, I completely respect those who have the courage to carry a different voice and remain uncompromising amidst traditional shows. It is an ambitious strategy that demonstrates a slight evolution of power dynamics into our favor, but which also seems insufficient to me if it is not accompanied by the appearance of new independent media such as Paroles d’honneur.

What conclusions can you draw from this first season?

A very positive result! On all accounts! First and foremost, I sincerely believe that few shows in France can praise themselves on such quality in terms of political content and in depth reflection. Guests who accepted to come to the show all brought an original, audacious and informed point of view. Among them you could find intellectuals, activists and artists such as Françoise Vergès, Farida Alamazani, Olivier Le Cour Grandmaison, Norman Ajari, Nacira Guénif, Na Boakye, Marwan Muhammad, Amal Bentousi, Danièle Obono, Ulysse Rabaté, Omar Slaouti, Étienne Balibar, Tristan Garcia, Laurent Lévy, Maboula Soumahoro, Michèle Sibony, Michelle Guerci, Stella Magliani-Belkacem, Patrick Simon etc. Besides, thanks to the format of the “QG” show that privileges free speech without time constraints -some shows lasted up to 3 hours-, guests were able to carry out their meaning to its conclusion and develop it without any presenter threatening them to turn off the microphone. The latter always mutilates the complexity of the discourse, and thus its richness and relevance. As far as I am concerned, I have always found exasperating that habit of TV hosts to systematically interrupt their guests when they are barely starting to develop their argument. “Time is running out”, yes, but we end up wondering what was the point of organizing a debate altogether if none of the guests was given enough time to explicit the argument they are there to make. I have thus tried to set up a more flexible, less conventional style but with an interactive dimension where members of the audience can intervene at any point and ask questions to our guests. It works a little like in the show Droit de reponse from Michel Polack, which brought fresh air into the French media landscape. The result is conclusive in many regards, but I am quite proud of what we were able to accomplish with so little means.

Looking back, I would say that the first two “QG” shows were important because they offered a real visibility to the decolonial political field at a time where a true electoral catastrophe was taking place. But the following show entitled “Mélanchon est il notre pote?” (Is Mélanchon our friend?) came out as a real upgrade in quality. This is when we managed to come out from the “decolonial inner circle discourse”. This show was far from being consensual and allowed the expression of real political and strategic disagreements, mostly thanks to the presence of representatives of the “France insoumise” (unsubmissive France) movement such as Danièle Obono and Ulysse Rabaté, who had the courage to come defend their perspectives on a field where they knew they would not be done any favor. We wish to pursue our mission towards this type of debates, by inviting people who do not necessarily share the decolonial political lens, but who have the courage to question and confront it “fairly” as I like to say.

Could you tell us more about this second season?

We already have several topics and themes: Does French soccer wash whiter? Is rap universal? Can we politicize treason? And so many other ideas that we will soon expose. They will share the fact to be sensitive, very rich and all crossing decolonial issues in some way or another. We will not forget to touch at topics that will be dictated by current political updates of the coming year.

Paroles d’honneur claims to be a 100% autonomous media; how is the show funded?

Paroles d’honneur is a pure activist product. It does not depend on any public or any obscure funding. It mostly relies on the free volunteering work of a few committed persons who dedicate a significant amount of their energy and time to move things forward consistently with their political ideals and convictions. This is a very important aspect because it demonstrates how Paroles d’honneur does not emerge from the middle of nowhere, but from the struggles from which it gets its legitimacy and its moral and intellectual integrity. However, the technical quality of our shows induces expenses. We need to pay for material, technicians, the floor manager, the sound engineer and cameramen. All of that combines into a consequent sum that we have precisely determined in the funding campaign we started a few days ago on the Kiss Kiss Bank Bank platform. We fixed a first security cap of about 13 000 euros, but that cap would only allow to fund three shows. In reality, we hope to double that sum to fully secure a full season of shows. That is why we are calling for financial support to all those who recognize themselves in the claim of decolonial politics. By that, we mean those who support it, those who love it, those who doubt it but give it legitimate existence in the media, those who wish to better know it, frame it, join it, tweak it here and there or clearly challenge it without consciously maintaining misunderstandings. Finally, we address our call for support to those who care for real debates and for a real and honorable exercise of politics.

Interview by Selim Nadi

Translation by Aude Chesnais

Decolonial International Network