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

Afro-Descendants before and after Bolivarian process

Jesus Chucho Garcia, Fundacion Afroamerica y de la Diáspora Africana

In these 19 years of the Bolivarian process, Afro-Descendant Venezuelans have been dignified in an unprecedented way in Venezuelan history.

The process of social transformation with which Venezuela has experimented in the past 18 years has not only been an economical, but also a political process, where president Chavez played an essential ideological role as the leader of this humane option, of solidarity and participation.

The Afro-Descendant communities of Venezuela have benefitted in ways never before seen under previous socio-political processes. Before, the land of Afro communities was in the hands of latifundistas and agrarian bourgeoisie. One the worst cases of discrimination was reflected in the Farriar municipality, where Cuban supporters of Batista, with the help of the [pre-Chavez] government, dispossessed thousands of hectares of ancestral land, including Cañizos, Palo Quemao, Farriar, Palmarejo, and El Chino. Numerous witnesses tell of how the Batista supporters hired armed bands to assault community inhabitants at night, threatening them and burning their cane crops. This lead to persecutions, and a youth was murdered when people protested these events.

When Chavez arrived, on an episode of “Alo, President” filmed in Palmarejo (January 2004), he declared himself Afro-descendant, and handed over 11 thousand hectares along with agriculture credits. He decreed the land communal property of the Afro-Descendants of Yaracuy. In other words, the sacrocracia (owners of the cane growers) were expropriated in defense of the defenseless.

Additionally, in the subregion of Barlovento, thousands of hectares were in the hands of the cacaocracia (cacao plantation owners) who had turned our grandfathers and grandmothers’ into hunchbacks from bending over to sow the riches of the hacienda owners. They would pay them a hundred times less what each basket of cacao was worth. Today in Barlovento we are experimenting with the socialist cacao companies and the chocolate manufacturers to work with cacao derivatives. And the six autonomous municipalities of Barlovento have voted in favor of the Bolivarian hope. In the Southern area of Maracaibo Lake (Bobures, Gibaltar, El Batey, and San Jose de Hera) people placed their faith in substantial change, in the hopes of eradicating the latifundio of the cane fields owned by the Brillemburg.

This is why it doesn’t occur to us to join the guarimbas (street barricades) like they are doing in Altamira or in upper-class areas of Caracas and some inland cities. The Afro-Descendants of this country have achieved a dignity without precedent in Venezuelan history.

The Gods Are with Peace and Dignity

We used the internet to make some inquiries about the climate of destabilization in our country. The Revolutionary Afro-Descendant Youth (JARAV) directed by Freddy “Pollito” Blanco, has been strongly against the “commotion” fomented by the bourgeoisie to return to power: “We have already publicly shared our position about  the racist and fascist uprising. We have participated actively in the manifestations in Barlovento and those convoked on a national level, especially by the Youth Ministry.”

The pastor of the evangelist church La Voz de Dios, of San Jose de Barlovento expressed to us via internet: “God wants peace, he does not want more violence generated by an anarchic sector of our society. It is necessary to consolidate the advances in our Barlovento that Chavez left us with. The evangelists are people of peace… we ask that violent people control themselves, as they will find it difficult to find peace in their souls in the face of the damage they are inflicting upon the country.”

From Yaracuy, Williams Sequera and Gustavo Suarez said that the “havoc caused by a sector of the opposition is causing them to close themselves in…We ask them to come to consult with us on the mountain of María Lionza to withdraw the racist, terrifying, imperialist spirits from them.”

José Chucho Garcia is an educator and founder of the “Miguel Acosta Saigne” Center for Afroamerican Studies at the Universidad Cental de Venezuela (UCV). He is also the editor of the magazine AFRICAMERICA and the author of several books.

Email: jesuschuchogarcia@gmail.com.

A decolonial critique of the racist case for colonialism

A white racist scholar, Bruce Gilley, from Portland State University, Oregon, USA, published an article in Third World Quarterly with the title “The case for colonialism”. Third World Quartely is a monthly academic journal published by Routledge. The article begins with the following sentence: “For the last 100 years, Western colonialism has had a bad name.”

It was widely discussed on the internet. For people who have been the victim of colonialism and for civilized people in general the title and the first sentence contains a shocking insult, as is the rest of the article.

Imagine an article with the title: “The case for Hitler and Nazism” and the first sentence being: “For the last 80 years, Hitler and Nazism have had a bad name.

Sandew Hira has written a decolonial critique of Gilley. Read his critique here.

Venezuela Solidarity Campaign: a profile

I am Dr Francisco Dominguez, National Secretary of the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign and also Head of the Latin American Studies Research Group at Middlesex University.

Below is a sketchy presentation of the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign (VSC), a UK-based organization of which I am the National Secretary.

The Venezuela Solidarity Campaign was established in May 2005 in order to develop a broad based solidarity movement with the central aim of defending Venezuela’s right to self-determination and her national sovereignty, which is constantly threatened by the United States and its allies. The statement below, which is on our website, sums this up: The Venezuela Solidarity Campaign brings together a wide range of people and organisations who are against external intervention and support self-determination for Venezuela and the nations of Latin America more broadly. Within this broad coalition, people have a wide range of views with regards to political developments within the country itself. Articles on this website represent the view of the author only, unless otherwise stated.

The VSC has a democratic structure with a 30-strong Executive Committee (EC) that is elected at the VSC’s Annual General Meeting by its membership. Among the EC there are national leaders of the most important trade unions, journalists, activists for the Caribbean, lawyers, student activists, and many others. About 20 of the largest trade unions in the UK are affiliated to VSC, among which there are UNITE, UNISON, GMB, CWU, etc.

In fact, the 2017 AGM will take place on October 7th this year: http://www.venezuelasolidarity.co.uk/vsc-agm-2017-registration/.

The VSC also seeks to tell the truth about Venezuelan developments and events primarily to drum up support for that nation’s national sovereignty and self-determination. It is also countering the intense media demonization the Bolivarian government is subjected to by informing about the myriad dimensions of social progress that has been taking place since the onset of the Bolivarian process with the coming to office of Hugo Chavez Frías in 1999.

VSC produces briefings about Venezuela. Key VSC activists write informed articles about Venezuela developments and make regular appearances on TV (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bQx1C_5MgjA) and Radio (https://store.counterpunch.org/dr-francisco-dominguez-episode-92/). VSC publishes statements signed by the great and the good in support of Venezuela in the mainstream press. VSC activists regularly travel up and down the UK to speak at public meetings. It hold shows of videos relevant to Venezuelan contemporary reality.

VSC plays a key role in the organization of the national conference of solidarity Latin America 2017 Adelante! which is normally held in Congress House at the British TUC’s HQ in London. This event normally attracts over 600 activists and deals with issues related to all the Latin American nations. Latin America Adelante! has become the biggest solidarity event with Latin America in Europe: https://latinamericaconference.wordpress.com.

To spread the message VSC uses its own website (http://www.venezuelasolidarity.co.uk/), Facebook and Twitter (VSC (@VenSolidarity), video talks and other means. Below, I include a small sample of the kind of material VSC has produced in order to fulfil its commitments.

Pamphlet Venezuela: how democracy and social progress are transforming a nation (http://www.venezuelasolidarity.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/vsc-pamphlet-june-2012-free-to-download.pdf). Right Wing Majority in Venezuela’s National Assembly: The Constitutional and Political Stakes (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-francisco-dominguez/right-wing-majority-in-ve_b_9069350.html).

Venezuela’s Right Wing Confesses to 17 years of Political Delinquency: The Amnesty Bill (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-francisco-dominguez/venezuelas-right-wing-con_b_9401644.html).

Venezuela’s Rightwingers Are No ‘Beleaguered Democrats’ (https://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-fc5c-Venezuelas-rightwingers-are-no-beleaguered-democrats#.WcDVea2-JBw).

Left Labour And Socialists Slam Media Bias Against Venezuela’s Government (https://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-2661-Left-Labour-and-socialists-slam-media-bias-against-Venezuelas-government#.WcDV662-JBw).

And, finally a key recent briefing on the National Constituent Assembly (http://www.venezuelasolidarity.co.uk/q-a-the-national-constituent-assembly-in-venezuela/).

And this on Cuba, We will keep faith with your legacy, Comandante Fidel Castro! (https://www.opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/francisco-dominguez/we-will-keep-faith-with-your-legacy-comandante-fidel-castro-0).

We think it is very important to tell the truth about Venezuela in English and we believe that it would be fruitful to collaborate and, where possible and appropriate, jointly circulate and distribute specific articles, briefings and other material that can help towards this objective in the English-speaking world. In this regard, collaboration with friends in the Caribbean is indeed important.

Finally, people may be interested in the more academic material that as an academic I have published in the recent period.

https://www.zedbooks.net/shop/book/right-wing-politics-in-the-new-latin-america/

https://www.prruk.org/13-may-launch-event-for-transform-a-new-journal-of-the-radical-left/#prettyPhoto

https://www.lwbooks.co.uk/soundings/66/trump-latin-america

https://www.amazon.com/Perspectivas-Asiáticas-Portuguese-Marcos-Costa-ebook/dp/B01NCQ1B6C  (article on China- Latin America relations)

There is, of course, much more, but the above will give an idea of the kind of organization we are. If you were to need any further information, please do let us know

Email: Francisco Dominguez: depaula_frank@hotmail.com

Summer School in Granada: Critical Muslim Studies

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.

Toward a Roma Decolonial Emancipation

Kale Amenge

Over 600 years of persecution, systematic oppression, social control and attempts at genocide and epistemicide in Europe have given rise to a system of anti-gypsy domination constitutive of the civilizing project of Western Modernity. Despite this, up to now, Roma issues in the European nation-states have been created and problematized in two fundamental ways. On the one hand, Roma communities have been treated as a social policy problem, on the other, they have been managed as a matter of identity politics. However, none of the social policies – articulated on the basis of the colonial logics of integration and assistance – have significantly improved the existential conditions of the Roma community, nor the problematic and uncritical so called to defend “Our culture” has contributed to the political mobilization and transformation of a State racism.

The politics of identity are, in fact, an effective way of assimilating the questions of the so-called moral anti-racism. This dynamic consists in adding subjects that represent “diverse” identities with an intellectually related profile. Such subjects are epistemically decentered from their status as racialized and are thought unconsciously through the liberation narratives of the white left, so they construct their projects of emancipation centered epistemically, politically and emotionally on the white  modernity.

Therefore, in order for a political project to not lead to merely identitarian or culturalist positions, it is necessary to offer something to those social segments interested in a real transformation of the society. Out of sheer necessity and strategic intelligence we can not afford to turn our backs on alliances, but for the same reasons we can not further postpone the creation of an autonomous and strong organization with a vocation to serve a broader movement. Anti-gypsism, as a form of racism, is a structural, systemic problem that forms part of modern societies and that is solidified from the institutions of the Western Nations. Therefore, the anti-gypsism is not an interpersonal problem related to certain prejudices or stereotypes that the majority society is harbouring about the Roma difference. There are prejudices, stereotypes we do not deny them, but these are only psycho social symptoms of state racism that uses different markers to put into action what Ramon Grosfoguel, based on the Fanonian philosophy of the Caribbean, calls “a hierarchy global superiority and inferiority on the line of the human”.

Racism is an organizing principle of the materiality of oppression in the modern world and it is impossible to destroy it if the civilizing project in which it emerges is not strongly questioned. Every truly decolonial critique is based on a fundamental premise: it is impossible to destroy one of the heads without attacking the heart of the monster. It is here that all the warnings of liberal Western consciousness are generated, this is where the accusations of rigor are produced: “anti-modern”, “essentialist”, “dangerous”; It is here that the true matrix of racism is questioned, where moral anti-racism fades. It is here that Houria Bouteldja calls “political anti-racism” can emerge. If racism is a political problem that determines in a structural way which is the materiality of domination in the societies of modernity, the struggle to be undertaken against it must be political.

Although, according to the liberal opinion, the long stay of the Kalè in the Spanish territory, which officially reaches from 1425 to the present, had to guarantee the inclusion of the demands of our communities, the reality is far from representing such naive ideal. The long Spanish anti-Romani tradition of persecution, systematic oppression, attempts at genocide and epistemicide has materialized in the implementation of 250 laws during 479 long years initiated in 1499 and apparently closed in 1978. This history has been invisibilized by the racist state and its institutions, which represents only a link between the pathological oblivion of Spanish domestic racism and the neurotic negation of its colonial legacy in the so-called Global South. The absence of reparation policies aimed at resolving the severe damage inflicted for centuries, coupled with the current expressions of state structural racism such as violence and police harassment, school segregation, social control and discipline through the so-called “community agents”, labor discrimination or the violent conformation of the racialized ghetto, the over-representation of Roma in the Spanish prisons made the Roma community of our territories a radically subalternized population based on the racial paradigm of the modern colonial power.

What could have been

In the 1970s, notable figures emerging from the incipient Roma movement of the Spanish state managed to introduce: the introduction of anti-gypsy racism in the Spanish public agenda from a Roma perspective. Artists and activists articulated their voices in a coherent way based on the demands of justice, dignity, freedom, civil rights and towards the end of racism. Although the germ of the mobilization was sown, we must recognize that its final germination has remained in a state of lethargy for more than 30 years. The 78 regime placed the Kali population in the most vulnerable situation compared to the collective rights granted to other nations of the Spanish State.

On the other hand, in the existing social movements, we find that anti-gypsy racism has not been taken into account, even in the context of its vertiginous increase throughout Europe. In this political space where all the ties of union of the different social struggles began to be constructed – the form of racism that the Roma people resisted for centuries did not occupy any place in the public agendas of the lefties, despite being the biggest racialized human community of the Spanish State. On the contrary, from the lefties to the right wing parties, everything that has to do with the so-called “gypsy question” has been confined to an anti-political spectrum of folklore and culturalism perpetuating the political and mental colonization to which our communities are subjected to. That is why we consider that no Spanish political party, has succeeded in overcoming the modern anti-gypsy logic and therefore conceiving, understanding, supporting or developing Roma emancipation in Spain.

Concerning racism, the weak strategy of the Spanish left-wing – when it exists – is to develop, consolidate and solidify the idea that decolonizing their organizations consists in slightly “coloring” their militancy with the intermittent presence of racialized faces. Conquering spaces of power for the Roma populations or other racialized communities, when in fact they are working to reach the priorities of the white political agenda and justify its model. In fact, this process, described on countless occasions, provokes the birth of a political culture of containment for any critical movement that advocates for emancipation and Roma self-organization. Therefore, as Frantz Fanon lucidly explains, no matter how many white shells you use to hide your being, the system of ethnic domination always places you within the same system.

These experiences show a profound inability to understand the role of racism and its interaction with social class, which ends up having direct consequences for the Roma political aspirations, and unfortunately we are still observed in the current left. Even at the risk of being overly categorical, we can affirm that there are no political initiatives in the Spanish state capable of overcoming the moral paradigm and articulating political anti-racism in all its dimensions.

Kale Amenge

It is in this climate that Kale Amenge is born. Kale Amenge is defined as an independent Roma organization which, from a decolonial perspective, aims to contribute to the collective emancipation of the Roma people. Through the production of critical knowledge and the confrontation of narratives and racist practices, the incipient organization will make its contribution to put in crisis the mechanisms of racist structural domination that underpin the discrimination of our people.

Our desire to be integrated into modernity, inoculated by what José Heredia Moreno calls “subsystems of legitimation of the anti-gypsy domination system” represents the greatest impediment to political links with other pedigrees of resistance and other struggle built from below the line of the human. We urgently need to interrogate our political references acquired within our societies, to question the identities and rhetoric of liberation through which we not only struggle but through which we define ourselves. And this implies looking for horizontal alliances, to stop thinking about the target, to acquire other paradigms. Look at the genealogy with other eyes. The main objective is to focus on our condition as racialized subjectivities.

For all this, it is the will of this group to build bridges of solidarity with other peoples who, like the Roma, are immersed in the struggle for their emancipation, thus contributing to the construction of spaces for antiracist dialogue towards the articulation of a decolonized society. Our situation on the European continent, as a racialized nation without a state, places us in the zone of not being with the postcolonial subjects of the diaspora in the Global North. Despite not belonging to any physical colony, we have been transformed into a racialized inner point within the continent from the beginnings of what Enrique Dussel calls “early modernity”: the sixteenth century. The relationship of the organization with different movements originated to develop a frontal fight against racism will function as a political link of the kaló movement with other organizations and anti-racist groups led by racialized communities that will lead to a state alliance against institutional racism.

Kale Amenge is an organization formed by Roma people with an interdisciplinary formation and a trajectory of militancy and activism in different social movements. All this means that one of the fundamental intentions of the organization is the creation of a new Romano activism, supporting fraternally its current representatives, without generating bankruptcies within the Roma associations. We, Roma people need to develop new narratives articulated from a critical anti-racist perspective that will put the underdeveloped state of the Roma cause on the political spectrum.

Email: kaleamenge@gmail.com

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.