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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

 

Five misconceptions on terrorism

Sheher Khan

The popular imagination of terrorism doesn’t always correspond to the actual developments. One such a misconception is that most terrorist attacks in the West are committed by al-Qaeda, Daesh and the likes (from now on Takfiri terrorism). Whilst these violent incidents are very deadly indeed, they don’t constitute a majority of the attacks – especially in the West. Another misconception is that we’re supposed to be living in a so-called “golden age of terrorism”. These misconceptions exaggerate the impact of Takfiri terrorism (as well as the role played by refugees and newcomers therein), deflects from other relevant and related developments (such as the growing threat from the extreme right) and absorbs attention from regions that bear the brunt of terrorism (i.e. the Global South). In this piece, I’ll try to answer the following five commonly heard misconceptions with my own analysis:

  1. Most attacks in the western world are not committed by Takfiri terrorists;
  2. Terrorism is more of a problem for the non-western world than in the western;
  3. Terrorist incidents have been on the decline in Western-Europe, especially since 9/11;
  4. The underestimated increasing threat from the extreme right;
  5. The overrated role of refugees and newcomers in terrorism.

1. Takfiri terrorism: a minority of the attacks

This might come as a surprise to many, but: Terrorism in the west is not the exclusive domain of al-Qaeda, Daesh, and the like. In fact, when looking at it from a quantitative angle, an insignificant amount of terrorist attacks between 2006 and 2013 in the European Union (EU) was committed by the aforementioned groups, namely: 0.7%. The biggest threat, according to Europol, during that period came from separatist quarters.

Think hereby of groups such as the IRA, ETA and PKK. An example: the Irish separatist group Dissident Republicans, also known as the “new IRA”, made one deadly victim in March 2016 when they detonated an explosive that was put under a prison keeper’s van. Another: British Labour-politician Jo Cox was killed by a right-wing extremist, Thomas Mair, in June 2016 because of her position on Brexit.

A similar image can be seen in the United States (US). Figures from the FBI show that 94% of the terrorist attacks, in the period from 1980 to 2005, were committed by perpetrators that did not have an Islamic profile. A study conducted by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism concluded that between 1970 and 2011 only 7% of all attacks were committed by terrorists with a “religious conviction” (hereby referring to al-Qaeda and similar groups). The largest percentage (32%) came from groups motivated by an etho-nationalist or separatist agenda, followed by (28%) single issues parties (such as animal rights or anti-war), 22% from the extreme-left and 11% extreme-right. A famous example is the massacre committed by white nationalist Dylann Roof. The 21-year-old white supremacist unleashed his firepower on African-American churchgoers in Charleston and took nine lives.

The situation changed however after 2013. In 2014 one attack was committed by a Takfiri terrorist; by 2015 it rose explosively to 17 (out of a total of 121 attacks). In 2016 it dropped slightly to 13 (of the total 142 attacks). Even though Europol reiterated in her latest report (2017) that most attacks (i.e. 99 of 142) come from separatist movements , the attacks from Takfiri quarters were very deadly. Between 2000 and 2013 40% of all deaths by terrorism in Europe were caused by Takfiri groups. The violent acts in recent years such as Brussels (2016), Nice (2016) and Paris (2015) took respectively 32, 84 and 130 lives. Their share of the deadly victims of terrorism in Europe has risen in 2016 to include almost all (i.e. 135 victims out of a total of 142). More on this below.

In conclusion: Takfiri terrorist attacks are clearly very lethal, but not the only danger. Extreme-right, separatist and ethonationalist groups constitute also a major threat.

2. The size of the fatal consequences of terrorism in the non-western world

A number of pundits and commentators have highlighted the disparity in reporting on terrorist attacks in the west and non-western world. It seems that terrorist incidents in the Global South doesn’t receive the same exposure and attention as those in the West. As the Lebanese doctor Elie Fares wrote after the 2015 terrorist attack in Beirut (which occurred at the same time as the attack on Charlie Hebdo): “When my people died, no country bothered to light up its landmarks in the colors of their flag” wrote. He further wrote on his blog:  “When my people died, they did not send the world into mourning. Their death was but an irrelevant fleck along the international news cycle, something that happens in those parts of the world.”

This commonly heard statement is supported by a study conducted by sociologist Sean Darling-Hammond. The researcher collected data from each of the 300 reported terrorist attacks in November 2015 and compared the number of articles devoted to the violent acts. Darling-Hammond observed 392 articles dedicated to the terrorist attack in Baghdad; 1.292 to Beirut and more than 21.000 on the violence in Paris. The researcher concluded that Western victims disproportionately receive more attention than their fellow victims in the non-western world.

The underreporting doesn’t only feed into and sustains indifference of violence inflicted upon the Global South, but also obscures the real impact of terrorism on the non-western world.

A Washington Post research article gives insight in to the actual scale and size of impact felt by terrorism globally. As they write: “Since the beginning of 2015, the Middle East, Africa and Asia have seen almost 50 times more deaths from terrorism than Europe and the Americas” the Washington Post. The graph below visualizes the ratios:

Victims of terrorist attacks beyond Western Europe (period 2001-2014)

Source: Huffington Post (2015)

The top three consists of Muslim-majority countries. The first western country on the list is the US at # 7. When 9/11 is taken out of the equation, no single western country remains in the top ten. Even the total deaths by Daesh in the west wouldn’t earn a top ten spot (443 victims). According to the 2017 ICCT-report, 395 Western citizens died because of terrorist attacks by Daesh from June 2014 to June 2017. I’ve added the Manchester-attack (22 civilians killed), the following London-attack (8 killed), Catalonia attacks (16 killed) and Turku (2 killed).

Terrorist violence thus is mostly felt in the non-western world.

Another way to look at the above figures is through the lens of the Global War on Terror: the top ten consists of countries that were subject to or felt the consequences of the US-led antiterrorism project. This is shown better in the graph below:

Global deaths from terrorism

Source: economist.com

Take Iraq. The US invaded the Arab country in 2003 for two reasons: 1) The then leader, Saddam Hussein, was thought to have chemical weapons in his possession and 2) that he was providing shelter for al Qaeda – both claims turned out to be unfounded.

However, the consequences of the invasion were very real: eleven years after the illegal invasion, in 2014, more Iraqi’s became victims of terrorist violence than the total world number (!) In 2001 – that is, the year in which 9/11 happened and ignited the US-led Global War on Terror.

Iraq – where no suicide bombings were registered before 2003 –  has been completely destabilized by the illegal invasion and more than 40,000 casualties by terrorist violence have been recorded ever since.

The next question that then arises: why are these figures missing out in the public discourse? According to intellectual Noam Chomsky this is not just due to a lack of media-attention, but because of a political culture wherein victims are differentiated between worthiness – i.e. worthy and unworthy victims. Chomsky explains his thesis with the following example: in 2007, a poll was conducted among US citizens asked to estimate the total number of deaths in Iraq. The median was 10,000. The actual number then was between 150,000 and 650,000 deadly victims. According to Chomsky, the disparity is a consequence of a targeted campaign by the US: they aim to suppress media reporting on (deadly) civilian victims caused by their occupation of Iraq. The purpose is to diminish its role in and prevent a discussion of their occupation of Iraq.

And when are civilian casualties considered ‘worthy’ enough according to Chomsky? That’s when their deaths can further Washington’s foreign policy. This was demonstrated in 2014 when the former US president, Barack Obama, used the threat of Daesh to get “boots on the ground” in Iraq. In 2011, then President Nouri al-Maliki refused to extend the stay of the US Army. That led to dissatisfaction and resistance in Washington who preferred not to leave. When Daesh came on the Western radar in 2014 and threatened civilians worldwide, that danger was used as a pretext to increase the number of US troops in Iraq. The (potential) victims of Daesh were in this context seen as ‘worthy victims’ because they could help Washington’s regional agenda.

3. Downward trend of terrorism in Western Europe

Contrary to popular imagination, the years after 9/11 are marked not by an increase but decrease of terrorist violence, especially in Western Europe. This is in opposition to the doom scenarios painted by some pundits and their statements of a “golden age of terrorism”. A statistical analysis shows however a contrary image and depict an overall downward trend. See the chart below:

Kill by terrorist attacks in Western Europe (1970-2015)

Source: Datagraver.com

The figures above clearly show that there were significantly less fatal victims in the period after 9/11 than in the 21 years before. That trend began after the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989) and has continued ever since except for outliers like Madrid (2004), London (2005) and Paris (2015).

Furthermore, when deadly victims of terrorism in Europe are divided between west and east, the following picture shows up: the majority of the victims in the past 15+ years fell in the eastern part of the continent (see below):

Kill by terrorism per month: West versus Eastern Europe

Source: Washington Post

Experts explain it as a consequence of the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the conflicts resulting from it such as those in Yugoslavia, Chechnya and Ukraine. An important and lesser known example of such a deadly attack is the Odessa (Ukraine) clashes in 2014. During one of those confrontations, on May 2, 46 people were killed by the neo-Nazi-linked Pravy Sector because of their pro-Russian affiliations. The map below visualizes how these attacks are divided throughout Europe:

Geographical distribution of terrorist attacks in Europe between 1970 and 2015

 

Source: Washington Post

In conclusion, terrorist attacks before 9/11, especially in the 70s and 80s, exceeded today’s level of activity. Violent incidents have overall been on the decline since 9/11. Moreover, the impression that most deadly attacks occur in the Western-Europe cannot be supported by the actual distribution of violent incidents; that burden falls on the eastern part.

4. Growing threat of extreme right violence

The Charleston-attack – whereby a neo-Nazi linked extremist weaponized his car to plow into a group of anti-fascist demonstrators and thereby killing one woman and injuring many others – is one of many examples in the recent history demonstrating an increasing threat coming from the extreme-right.

Indeed, a recent study has shown that 1/3 of all so-called lone-wolf terrorists in Europe are linked to the extreme right. Research from the US shows that far right extremists are even of a greater threat than Takfiri terrorism. Think-tank New America found out that nearly two times more casualties have fallen, between 9/11 and 2015, by hands of white supremacists than by Takfiri terrorists. This study is supported by a recent investigation (2017) held by the United States Supreme Audit Office – a.k.a. the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The GOA concludes from their survey that the extreme right is responsible for the bulk of all fatal terrorist attacks: 73% versus 27% by Takfiri terrorism.

However, when terrorist attacks are ranked in terms of casualties, we can make the same observation as in Europe: Takfiri terrorist attacks are on average far more deadly. Nevertheless, this doesn’t negate nor diminish the growing threat coming from rightwing terrorism. The cases of Anders Breivik, the Dutchman Tristan van der Vlis and Dylann Roof are relatively well-known, but as the following examples show, the danger from the right-wing have been building up in recent years and on the rise throughout the western world:

  • In 2013, the 82-year-old Mohammed Saleem was stabbed to death by a terrorist with extreme-right affiliations while he came from a mosque visit. Saleem died soon afterwards. The same fate was inflicted upon to 81-year-old British Muhsin Ahmed two years later. In the following year, in 2016, Labor-politician Jo Cox was shot by an right-wing terrorist because of her political position on Brexit;
  • In the US, Muslims and African Americans have been killed – and in some cases even executed – by white racists because of their religious and/or ethnicity backgrounds. Other (religious) minority groups such as Hindus and Sikhs have also been subjected by a similar fate, often because the extreme right confuses and/or regard them the same as Muslims;
  • In the Netherlands a terrorist attack was committed in a mosque by a group of five extreme right-wing racists in 2016.
  • In Greece, a refugee camp was attacked in 2016 by a group of right-wing extremists;
  • In early 2017, an extreme-right terrorist attacked a mosque in Canada Quebec. The perpetrator shot on worshippers as they were praying and killed 6 civilians.

In short, this select overview makes clear that extreme right-wing terror is not only in the march but a phenomena to be seen throughout the West.

5. The overestimated role of refugees and newcomers in terrorism

A persistent myth spread (but not exclusively) by the (extreme) right is that the inflow of migrants and refugees leads to more terrorist violence. Studies, however, show that the role of migrants and refugees in terrorist attacks have been exaggerated.

The ICCT, a research institute in The Hague (Holland), investigated all of Daesh’ linked terrorist attacks in the west and found out that 73% of all attackers were citizens of the same country where they committed their act of violence. Another 14% were visitors or residents with a (legal) residence status. A further 6% remained in the country without documentation and only 5% were refugees or newcomers (see below).

Graphs of origin attackers

Source: ICCT (2017)

The vast majority of the danger (95%) comes from citizens or residents without a recent history of migration.

The findings from the ICCT report (2017) is broadly shared by other similar studies. British think-tank The Henry Jack Society (2017) found out that, in the case of Great Britain, more than two thirds of the attacks since 2005 were done by individuals “who were either born or raised in the UK”.  In an another research by The New America Foundation “every jihadist who conducted a lethal attack inside the United States since 9/11 was a citizen or legal resident“. This study is corroborated by a recent research conducted under the guidance of political scientist Robert Pape. They found out (2017) that there were zero refugees involved in the 112 Daesh-related crimes. Lastly, liberal think-tank Cato concluded that the role of immigrants and refugees in terrorist attacks is minimal. Virtually all dead whereby immigrants or newcomers were involved come from one single event: 9/11 (98.6%). Apart from that, fatal terrorist attacks by immigrants or refugees are extremely rare in the United States.

However, with recent attacks such as Berlin (2016), Ansbach (2016) and Copenhagen (2016), the proportion of newcomers in attacks has significantly increased. According to the ICCT (2017), the influx of refugees and migrants is not the problem per se, because “the number of criminals and terrorists in mass migration movements has been low” and “terrorists often have a criminal background to begin with”.

Moreover, Daesh focuses its operations primarily on the conflict in their home territories in Iraq and Syria; newcomers and immigrants are fleeing those places because they are against the terrorist groups. The researchers of the ICCT therefore argue that the focus should be on proper regulation of the inflow of newcomers.

Secondly, as Brookings Institute scientist Daniel L. Byman argues, the problem are not the immigrants or refugees, but to them in coming contact with local radicalization-hubs.

Indeed, we see that clearly in the case of the 22-year-old Syrian newcomer, Jaber al Bakr, who was arrested on October 2016 on grounds of planning to commit a terrorist attack.

Jaber al-Bakr arrived in Germany in February 2015 and received legal residence five months later. According to Al-Bakr’s brother, Alaa al-Bakr, Jabr was not politically active or interested in Germany before arriving there. That changed after. In Berlin, Jabr al-Bakr came into contact with extremists. A local imam is thought to have brought him into contact with and urged him to fight for Daesh in Raqqa (Syria).

In September 2015, Bakr left Germany from Syria through Turkey, where he spent about five months and then two in Syria. On his personal Facebook page, it appears that al-Bakr began to sympathize with Daesh from January 2016. About two months before Jabr wanted to commit his violence, he was arrested by the German authorities. He could be detained because another Syrian newcomer arrested and handed him over to the police (after which the suspect, Jabr al-Bakr, hung himself later in his cell).

To conclude, the vast majority of Daesh terrorists are citizens of the same country in which they have committed their violent act. Only a small number of IS-affiliated terrorists are newcomers or undocumented citizens. If then there the goal is to stop or reduce terrorism, more attention should be paid to local radicalized groups rather than border surveillance.

Decolonizing Literacy Instruction

Ashley Wolstein

Literacy instruction too often reinforces the inequities of imperialism, and as a Language Arts teacher, my research involves exploring how the Language Arts classroom can be used to decolonize the mind. While many educators possess both the passion and ‘ike (knowledge) to deliver a curriculum that decolonizes the mind, current assessment models often hinder the actual implementation of such curriculum. I believe that educational policy holds both students and educators in a yoke of high-stakes testing which works to endorse conformity and strengthen the hold of the oppressor, and this is why my research interests involves decolonizing the Language Arts classroom.

As is noted in the introduction of Freire’s book (2000), students should be allowed to study epistemology and understand who produces knowledge, who controls knowledge, and whose interests, in the case of high stakes testing, all this testing really serves. We need radicals, revolutionaries, and comrades to challenge our educational system, to either dismantle the power held by policy makers or at least inject within them a shred of doubt. Too many policymakers, in my opinion, can be classified as either the right sectarian or the leftist counterpart, one that hopes to maintain status quo and the other that believes the future is predetermined (2000, p. 38-9). This is a harmful agenda and not very empowering for anyone.

While Common Core is an improvement from the Hawaii State Assessment, it still expects all students at a specific grade level to have a specific skill and be filled with specific content. The banking notion of education, where a student is a vessel to be filled by the teacher, is still embraced, even though the vessel is supposed to be filled with some skills. The constant testing detracts from our ability to help our students develop critical consciousness, to engage in dialogue and problem-based learning. For this reason, one of my primary interests is exploring how we can decolonize assessment in order to decolonize curriculum, and then, the mind. How can be truly make education bottom-up instead of top down, and truly serve the students it is allegedly designed to serve?

In order to decolonize the assessment, I believe that we need to research how current assessments reinforce a colonial mindset and any correlation this might have with current achievement gaps. Additionally, I want to explore how a decolonial literacy curriculum might improve student literacy skills. For instance, does anyone know if students are better able to make inferences when provided texts from their culture or a similar culture (given they would have more background knowledge) and what does this mean for assessment? How do current state tests detract time spent developing student’s critical thinking, creativity, and problem solving? How does one assess these important traits, and what role can literacy play in developing them?

Changing assessment, of course, will require “how” literacy is taught and “what” text make up the curriculum. It seems that providing students with literature from multiple perspectives (indigenous authors, postcolonial authors) is an important step in decolonizing knowledge, and this is my second research interest. In order for students to be successful and prepared for what the future may bring, a reading literacy curriculum needs to be studentfocused instead of text focused, present multicultural perspectives, utilize both print and digital sources, draw from fiction and non-fiction, offer flexibility, and most importantly, lead students to think and understand deeply. I hypothesize that this deep thinking would be best facilitated by allowing students to see the world through a multiplicity of eyes, instead of jus a Western perspective. In particular, if literature can be used in a transdisciplinary way to discuss and work towards solving real world problems such as racism and poverty, I believe this Language Arts model would help to decolonize the mind and improve student thinking, reading, and writing skills. To do, we must first ask several questions: How can we challenge and imperial view of the world represented in most school books? What critical strategies can be employed and how can these strategies be used to strengthen analytical and disciplinary literacy skills? How does the way we interpret literature shape the way we see ourselves? Our community? The world we live in? How has literature played a role in colonizing the mind, historically, and how can this be reversed? How can literature, instead, by drawing upon the epistemological value of indigenous text, serve as a tool for decolonization?

And we cannot stop with reading. This literacy project also begs the question, how can we decolonize writing practices? How can writing be used to heal, as a voice, and a means to decolonize one’s own mind? As a teacher, I believe it starts by allowing student’s more power and agency when constructing text. We can no longer serve as “dominant” co-authors of our student’s writing, having them write the essays we want them to write, often for no clear purpose, and instead, view “writing as a mode of social action, not simply a means of communication” (Prior, 2006, p. 58). Students need more authentic writing assignments, and they need to understand the goals of writing (purpose). Too often, we dictate some assignment to them that lacks a clear audience or purpose. It seems the academic community needs to conduct more research regarding how to decolonize writing for the purpose of social justice, and I am hoping to connect with other educators seeking to decolonize literacy practices, and of course, think deeply about the world.

Contact: aweber8@hawaii.edu

References

Freire, P. (2000). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York, NY: Bloomsbury Academic.

Prior, P. (2006). A sociocultural theory of writing. In C.A. MacArthur, S. Graham, & J. Fitzgerald (Eds.), Handbook of writing research (pp. 54-66). New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

Video Links

Freire Project. (2012, April 30). Paulo Freire documentary seeing through Paulo’s glasses: Political clarity, courage and humility.

The European Left and Venezuela

“I have been following the Bolivarian Revolution from its beginning with critical attention and solidarity,” writes renown Portuguese scholar Boaventura de Souza. He continues: “Last May 26, I signed a manifesto prepared by Venezuelan intellectuals and politicians of various political tendencies and addressed to the parties and social groups engaged in confrontation asking them to stop street violence and start a discussion with a view to finding a non violent, democratic outcome without US interference.

After that, I decided I would not again speak about the Venezuelan crisis. Why do I do it today? Because I am shocked at the partiality of European media, including the Portuguese media, a bias resorting to all kinds of means to demonize a legitimately elected government, ignite the social and political fire and sanction foreign intervention of unforeseen consequences.”

There is a big contrast with the eighties when the European left had organized broad solidarity work with the revolutions in Central America. Now they are so intimidated by the capitalist press that they don’t even dare to speak out against the US-led campaign against the Bolivarian revolution. Boaventura de Souza is an example of that courage of the left, that is now lost in the 21st century.

Read the full text of his declaration on Venezuela and the Western media here.

A decolonial approach to color

 

Sandew Hira, July 22, 2017

 

The best way to develop decolonial theory is through discussing its application in real life situations.

Take the following situation from a Summer School. The Summer School attracts activists and academic across the world. The participants are from all part of the world: Europe, USA, Latin America, the Caribbean, India, South Africa etc.

There are white people and people of color, academics and activists.

Obviously in such a space you will have a reproduction of debates and approaches that exists in social movements across the world.

The purpose of the Summer School to exchange knowledge and engage in critical discussion on decolonial theory and practice.

A professor of color who is an expert on Frantz Fanon and his contribution to decolonial teaching invited participants to make a contribution based on their knowledge, experiences and expression. They could sing, recite a poems or share a story. One day a black South African participant shared her story. The next day a white South African participant shared her story. A black participant from the USA objected to her sharing her story because she was white and her story was an example of white saviour. The space of the Summer School should be limited to people of color. The white South African should have been silenced because there white saviour should not be tolerated.

I will use this incident to discuss to questions:

  • How do we deal with racism and color from a theoretical perspective.
  • How to we deal with racism and color from the perspective building social movements in the struggle against racism?

Racism, color and theory

In the lecture on a DTM (Decolonizing The Mind) theory of racism I explained our concept of racism. It is based on four propositions:

  1. Racism is institutional, not individual. It is based on institutions (economic, political, social, cultural, technological) that operate on a global scale and that shape individual experiences.
  2. Racism organizes human relations through these institutions along the lines of inferiority and superiority of communities, not of individuals.
  3. Historically the markers for organizing these relation have been and are religion (theological racism), race (biological racism) and culture (cultural racism). Islamophobia is a form of cultural racism.
  4. Racism was established and is maintained though various mechanisms in the different dimensions (division of labour in economics, violence and intimidation in politics). The colonizing of the mind of the colonizer and the colonized are important mechanisms in the cultural dimension.

 

So color is one of the different instruments in organizing communities along the lines of inferiority and superiority. Furthermore, the colonization of the mind means two things:

  • It shapes knowledge, attitude and skills of both the colonizer and the colonized.
  • It detaches the content of the markers of racism from its form (religion, skin color, culture). So on an individual level a black person can be colonized in his or her mind and a white person can be decolonized in his or her mind. The colonization of the mind means that (s)he reproduces the colonial knowledge.

So if a white South African women speaks in the Summer School we see her as part of a community that has institutionalized racism in South Africa, but on an individual level we still have to judge her in relation to her contribution to or struggle against these institutions. We don’t judge her on the basis of the color of her skin, but on the content of her arguments and her actions.

On these theoretical grounds I object to silencing her from sharing her experiences.

An argument for shutting her down is based on the theory of white privilege. This theory was invented by white liberals and has gained ground in activists of color. I have provided a decolonial critique of the concept of white privilege here: https://www.din.today/the-theory-of-white-privilege-why-racism-is-not-a-privilege/.

The argument for shutting her down is that white people are privileged and that they should listen rather than talk. I argue that racism is not an individual privilege, but an institutional injustice. So I judge the white individual on the basis of his or her contribution to or struggle against these institutional injustice, that is why she should not be shut down, but encourage to speak out so we can make this judgment rather that accepting that she can not make a contribution by definition.

In conclusion: from a decolonial perspective we judge a person not by definition, by but practice, not by belonging to an oppressive community by definition, but by judging their contribution to or struggle against this oppression.

The theory of white privilege can not deal with these questions.

Racism, color and social movements

There are practical and political reasons why I object to excluding the white South African participants for sharing her experiences in the Summer School.

We all come from social movements that are engaged in daily struggles against racism and the global colonial institutions. In these movements we help create different spaces with different purposes.

For example, we argue in Europe that we need organizations of people of color whose main purpose is to organize and empower the communities of color. We urge sympathetic white activists not to join our movement, but to go and engage in white organizations and bring the anti-racist struggle there. There is no place in our organizations for white people in organizing people of color. There is another space we create outside our organization where we work together in combining forces and devising strategies and tactics against institutional racism.

The decolonial movement in the global South might be organized in a total different way. There are many spaces possible.

The organizers of the Summer School have created a space in which academics and activists from different parts of the world and different ethnicities are invited and accepted to engage in critical discussion on decolonial theory and practice. Everybody has the right to express and share their views in this space and the organizers should ensure that this freedom of expression is guaranteed. It is rude and disrespectful towards the organizers if participants demand that th eyclose the space they have created for some participants and open it exclusively for other participants.

If we are in a space that someone else has created we will respect their rules and regulations as a matter of principal of decolonial ethics. We will not impose our rules on the people or organization who have created the space which we enter.

So from a practical and ethical point of view we can not accept shutting down a participant from sharing her views on the basis of her skin color or on the basis of her opinions. Her opinions should be heard and discussion like the opinion of anyone else.

There is also a political argument for creating the space in the way the organizers are doing. The Summer Schools are spaces where people are encouraged to engage in practical political work.  In the struggle against institutional racism the question of white allies is a crucial question. From our political philosophy we need to organize white allies in the struggle against institutional racism. Therefore we encourage white people to engages in political discussion and speak out so we can just their views and actions in the light of how the contribute or obstruct our struggle.

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Stop bashing Houria Bouteldja and the PIR!

The French daily, Le Figaro, started a series of articles aimed at criminalizing the Parti des Indigènes de la République (PIR) and its leader Houria Bouteldja. The PIR is a member of the Decolonial International Network. They are portrayed as racist, homophobic and anti-semitic.

They create an atmosphere of hate around Houria Bouteldja and the PIR. Progressive activists and intellectuals have rallied against this attempt by Figaro to criminalize Bouteldja and the PIR. The attack against the PIR is a typical example of the rise of the police state in Europe.

Freedom of speech under attack in the UK

On Sunday June 18th 2017 the Quds Committee in the UK organized the annual Al Quds Day. Al Quds Day is an international event to protest the Zionist occupation of Palestine and is held on the last Friday of Ramadan. For years this event has been organized in Britain and every year it attracts the criticism of Zionist forces. This year a particular vicious campaign was waged against the organizing committee by the Zionist Campaign Against Anti-Semitism.

They pressured the mayor of London Sadiq Khan to ban the event. His office bowed to the pressure and supported the call. The Zionists thanked him: “Both the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime have been very helpful in facilitating contact with the right people within the Metropolitan Police Service, and we are grateful to them for their efforts.”

But the London Police stood by the freedom of expression and allowed the event to continue.

Meanwhile Islamophobic pundits created a climate of hate around the event. Majid Nawaaz, the director of the Quilliam Foundation and LBC radio presenter, along with some niche media attacked the organizers, claiming they were terrorist sympathisers, and even focused on the Islamic Human Right Commission (IHRC), a member of the Decolonial International Network. IHRC has ledged several complaints with the BBC, LBC, and various press and media regulators, as well as the police, after this year’s campaign against Al-Quds Day.

The night of 18th June after the event, a white terrorist Darren Osborn, drove his van into a crowd of Muslims at a mosque in North London killing one and injuring eight people. It has been reported that his original plan was to attack the crowd at the Al Quds Day march.

The attack on the Al Quds Day failed, but it showed the concerted effort of Zionists, Islamophobic and terrorist forces to clamp down on the freedom of speech.

DENK (THINK) in Holland: First political party of people of color in parliament

A political party of people of color

Recently a unique development took place recently in The Netherlands.

In 2014 two Turkish members of the Dutch Labour Party in parliament, Tunahan Kuzu and Selçuk Öztürk, left the party because of its attitude towards racism and islamophobia. They started their own faction in parliament and eventually named their group DENK (THINK). Between 2014 and March 2017 they vigorously campaigned inside and outside on a platform against racism and islamophobia. The developed a program with radical demands, among others:

  • The focus in government policy should not be on integration but on acceptance of diversity.
  • The acknowledgement of institutional racism as the main problem.
  • The establishment of a racism-register of people, organizations and companies the openly promote racism so that government can act on prohibiting business with or subsidies to them.
  • Affirmative action and quota-arrangement in the labour market for people of color and women, starting with government jobs on a national and regional level.
  • A specific quota of 10% for people of color in the top of the major companies in the Netherlands.
  • Formal apologies and reparations for enslavement of black people in the former Dutch colonies and for the colonial wars in Indonesia.
  • Decolonizing history and renaming of streets, tunnels, bridges and museums and stop the celebration of villains.
  • Rewriting the history textbooks in the educational system that teaches about historic injustice committed by the Dutch.
  • Total abolition of Black Pete celebrations in the public and private domain.

The daring confrontation in parliament with the white parties and the smart use of social media to expose racism in parliament earned DENK a reputation of courageous fighters in the struggle against racism and islamophobia.

The campaign against DENK

The media, political establishment and the white left in Holland immediately reacted with outrage to DENK. The critique was not just about political positions. It was the whole idea that people of color would dare to be non-apologetic and confront racism directly in parliament was unacceptable. So a campaign of vilification was started. Kuzu and Öztürk are Muslim fundamentalism. They are the fifth column of Turkish president Erdogan in Holland. They are a divisive force that is dividing people rather than uniting them. They should denounce the Armenian genocide. They should speak out against Erdogan’s policy to arrest people involved in the military coup against Erdogan. They are anti LGTB and anti women, despite the fact that their program calls for banishing homophobia, closing the wage gap between men and women and a vigorous policy against sexual intimidation.

So the whole operation was directed at shifting the focus from racism and islamophobia to other issues.

Personal attacks, lies, framing them as irrational and attacking the whole idea of a political party for people of color had the opposite effect in the different communities of color. DENK was admired for their non-apologetic approach of racism and islamophobia. They attracted followers outside the Turkish community. They broadened their base to the Muslim community as a whole.

In May 2016 a well know black former TV presenter, Sylvana Simons, became a member of DENK. Although DENK already had black members, her entry into national politics via DENK created a big stir. It was symbolic for the unity of all people of colour, especially the Black-Muslim alliance. She became a target of a smear campaign. She received countless death threats. Immediately forces came into action to divide DENK. Simons was portrait as a radical, anti-white person, that had nothing to gain by allying herself with Muslim men, who are also patriarchal.

These forces were eventually succesfull. In December 2016 Simons left the party without prior notice or discussion. A few weeks earlier her supporters had secretly founded a new party, Article 1. This refers to the first article of the Dutch constitution that prohibits all discrimination. She announced that her parte was founded on the theory of intersectionality that does not divide people, but unites them. She used the argument of divisiveness against DENK to justify her split.

Leading white feminist Anja Meulentbelt and leading LGTB-scholar Gloria Wekker supported Simons and Article 1 in her split.

The elections

On March 15 the elections took place for the 150 seats of parliament. To the shock and surprise of the white community and the white political establishment DENK gained three seats. The Labor party went down from 38 to 9 seats. The extreme right won seven seats (the party of Geert Wilders won five and another extreme right party won two).

Article 1 did not gain a seat. She got half of the votes needed for a seat. Simons mainly got her votes from the black community. The hope that white women and white LGTB would support her did not materialize.

The victory of DENK energized many people of color who actively participated in the campaign and in the discussion on social media. A united front of Blacks and Muslims would have strengthened the struggle against racism and islamophobia. The split was more detrimental to the black community. If Simons had stayed in DENK she would now have been elected to parliament, because she would be number three on the slate of DENK.

Lessons

The first lesson is that in countries with large communities of color a political party that explicitly draws upon their support can have a major impact on the debate on racism and islamophobia, provided that they take a radical approach. Even if they get one seat, their voice in parliament has a major impact on the self-confidence of the communities of color and strengthens the struggle against racism and islamophobia.

The second lesson is that the unity of Black and Muslims is considered the most dangerous strategy by white power. That unity is a powerful force in bringing down institutional racism. That is why all forces of the white power structure (media, violent threats, politicians) are focussing on breaking that alliance. Unfortunately it succeeded for now, but hopefully activists from communities of color have learned this lesson and will work together to recreate this unity.

The third lesson is that the weakness of the theory of intersectionality has led to a shift in focus away from racism and islamophobia and has damaged the movement.

Hopefully these lesson will be valid for social movements in other European countries.

 

Sandew Hira

5-4-2017