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A strategy for the struggle for reparations for colonialism

Introduction

The article takes up the arguments pro and contra reparations, links the discussion to the colonization of the mind, provides an economic model to calculate the amount that has to be paid to colonized countries for reparations and develops a strategy for the struggle for reparations. [1]

What are reparations?

There are two types of reparations. One type is about material (monetary) and immaterial compensation for historical injustice. That is how reparations are conceived in the current popular discourse. But there is another one which has the opposite meaning: imposing monetary payments on parties that were defeated in war; in many cases the wars were acts of historical injustice.

In the latter case the parties that are involved in reparations are states. Reparations are paid by the state that has lost the war to the state that has won the war. There are three rationales behind these reparations. The first is to repair of the damage caused by the war. The second is the punishment of the defeated state. The third is the amount due for the costs of keeping an occupying army and administration in the defeated state to ensure payment of reparations.

The rest of this article deals with the first form of reparations: compensation for historical injustice.

The arguments against reparations

Whenever victims of crimes of colonialism, especially the black communities, bring up the issue of reparations, there is a list of arguments produced by adversaries against reparations. This is more or less the list.

  1. There is no direct relationship between harm and compensation: the victims are already dead.
  2. A person cannot inherit the guilt of the perpetrators of a crime.
  3. Black people owe reparations to white people for the civilizing work of white people.
  4. Blacks should pay whites for reparation because whites abolished slavery.
  5. Africans should pay reparations to blacks in the Americas for their role in the trans-Atlantic slavery.
  6. The amount for reparations is so huge that it is not worth considering.
  7. There is no use in giving money to the former colonies because of corruption and inefficiency.
  8. There are more important issues in the world than reparations.
  9. Reparations should address modern day slavery and not the slavery of the past.
  10. It took place a long time ago: let us forget it.
  11. Let us forget the past and focus on the future.
  12. The issue of reparations creates divisions in society.
  13. A call for reparations is emotionally devastating because it raises false hopes that will never be fulfilled.
  14. Reparations have already been paid (in the case of the USA with the Civil Rights Act)
  15. The West has already been paying for reparations through decades of development aid programs so there is no need for a new program of reparations

These arguments were never invoked when reparations were paid to the perpetrators of historical injustice. Some examples:

  1. The Haitian revolution (1791-1804). The French never accepted the victory of the Haitian Revolution. In 1825, the French came with 14 warships and 528 cannons and presented Haiti with the choice: pay 150 million gold francs as reparations and get recognition of Haiti as a free nation by France and other European nations or face economic blockade, starvation, war and the reinstatement of slavery. The amount was equivalent to a whole year of Haiti´s revenues. Haiti accepted unwillingly. They were forced to borrow the amount from French banks who charged a 6% interest rate for their loans. Haiti finished paying reparations to France in 1947.
  2. The British, French and Dutch enslavers got reparations with the legal abolition of slavery in the Caribbean. In the UK it amounted to 20 million British pounds. The criminals got compensation for their so-called loss of property.
  3. Another case where criminals got compensation was the case of the Opium Wars in China. British drugs dealers with the help of the British state forced China in the Opium Wars (1839-1842/1856-1860) to import drugs and get millions of Chinese addicted. China had to pay for the costs of the wars: US$ 21 million.
  4. When Indonesia won their independence from the Dutch in 1949 after a bloody war in which the Dutch killed 150.000 Indonesians, the Indonesians under the pressure of the Americans had to pay NF 6,5 billion to the Dutch. Indonesia paid NF 4 billion between 1950 and 1956, which is more that the aid of the Marshall plan that the Dutch got from the United States after World War II.

Reparations and Decolonizing The Mind (DTM)

These cases of reparations are not brought up in the public debate whenever there is a passionate discussion about reparations. The facts are not well know. Why? It is a matter of the colonizing the mind.

Colonialism is a global system of oppression, exploitation and dehumanization in five dimensions: economic, social, political, cultural and geographical. The mechanisms for setting up and maintaining this system are diverse and vary from brutal violence, military occupation and repression to cultural and educational institutions that produce lies about inferiority and superiority of people along the line of race and culture. One mechanism in the colonization of the mind is the organization of amnesia for historical injustice committed by colonialism. Organizing amnesia means that historical injustices committed by the colonizer are intentionally pushed out of the public memory and replaced by discussions on either the benevolence of colonialism or on the ridiculousness of bringing historical injustice to the table. In the case of reparations the constant repetition of the arguments against reparations are combined with the intentional silence on cases where reparations have been paid to whites. It is also a form of intimidation by ridiculing the arguments for reparations for the crimes of colonialism.

The arguments for reparations

The DTM concept of historical injustice

There are two aspects to the DTM concept of historical injustice. The first is the aspect of injustice. There are crimes committed by one community or groups of communities (the perpetrators) that impacted other communities (the victims). A community can be a state or groups of states. It can also be a nation: an ethnic group with common historical, social, cultural and in some cases biological traits. The crime is not related to an individual as a perpetrator (Hitler) but a community or state as a perpetrator (Nazi Germany). The injustice is inflicted not upon individuals as individuals, but on a individuals as part of a community. The injustice was related to their community to which they belong.

The second aspect of the concept of historical injustice is the nature of the historical legacy of the crimes that have been committed. The legacy of the crime has different dimensions:

  • Economic dimension: the gravest crime is the theft of land. Since the start of colonialism (with 1492 as a marker) Western nations have occupied and stolen land of communities of colour all over the world. In many part of the world where land was stolen from the indigenous communities there are struggles going one to recover that land, in some cases with success. In Canada the indigenous people are called the First Nations. They are engaged in a long struggle to regain their land titles. In 1996, the Canadian government had received 745 claims. Some were settled by negotiation, some by litigation and some were rejected. Subsequently, First Nations and the Canadian government are still fighting on the issue. In 1999, the First Nations Land Management Act was enacted as a federal law. It transferred administration of land to First Nations. This includes the authority to enact laws with respect to land, the environment, and most resources. It was the first step for a First Nation to assume control over its reserve lands, resources and the environment. Its great value became clear when oil and gas companies wanted to build pipelines. They had to deal with the First Nations.
    In Africa many Africans have lost their land to white Europeans and are still in the process of reclaiming their land. In Zimbabwe a major land reform program in 2000-2002, distributed large tracks of land from white farmers to the local Black population.
  • Social dimension: The genocide committed in the Americas against the indigenous people changed the social structure of their society. Settler colonialism brought alien communities from Europe and constructed a racially hierarchy that exists till today. The kidnapping and forced migration of Africans during the trans-Atlantic slavery deprived Africa of its young labour force and contributed to the underdevelopment of this continent. In the America’s slavery and institutional racism have created communities of colour that are treated as second class citizens in the USA, Brazil and the rest of North and South America.
  • Political dimension: the political legacy of historical injustice is the use of instruments of control which exist until today such as disenfranchisement, police brutality and the prison industrial complex.
  • Cultural dimension: this is probably the most complex and most lasting legacy of historical injustice: the colonization of the mind. It impacts the mind of the communities of perpetrators and the communities of victims. It involves a broad range of aspects from the production of knowledge and lies to the dissemination of knowledge and lies through education, media and culture. There are mechanism in the colonization of the mind that are used in the arguments against reparations.

Evaluating the arguments against reparations

Let us evaluate the arguments against reparations with the DTM concept of historical injustice. Many arguments use mechanisms of the colonization of the mind.[2]

The following arguments uses the concept of an individual instead of a community.

  1. There is no direct relationship between harm and compensation: the victims are already dead.
  2. A person cannot inherit the guilt of the perpetrators of a crime.

From the DTM concept of historical justice reparations regards the living communities, not the dead individuals. There is a direct relationship between harm and compensation because the communities are not dead. A community can inherit the guilt of the perpetrators because the perpetrators are not individuals but economic, social, political and cultural institutions that still exist.

One mechanism of the colonization of the mind is the presentation of a crime as a benefit. Arguments 3 and 4 use this mechanism.

  1. Black people owe reparations to white people for the civilizing work of white people.
  2. Blacks should pay whites for reparation because whites abolished slavery.

The argument that colonialism was a civilizing mission of white Europeans and whites abolished slavery is a misrepresentation of historical facts. The abolition of slavery by Europeans was not an act of benevolence. It is like saying: “Thank you for not raping me anymore”.

The next argument uses the mechanism whereby the guilt of the collaborators of a crime is put on the shoulders of the victim.

  1. Africans should pay reparations to blacks in the Americas for their role in the trans-Atlantic slavery.

In the case of the trans-Atlantic slavery the perpetrators are white Europeans that have set up a system of kidnapping Africans for the plantations in the Americas. This system made use of African collaborators. During the Holocaust Jewish collaborators were used by the Nazi’s in organizing the arrest and transport of Jews in occupied Holland, France and Belgium to the killing fields in Eastern Europe. It would be shocking and immoral to argue that because of these collaborators Jews should pay reparations for other Jews.

Arguments 6 to 13 use the mechanism of shifting the focus from relevant to irrelevant topics.

  1. The amount for reparations is so huge that it is not worth considering.
  2. There is no use in giving money to the former colonies because of corruption and inefficiency.
  3. There are more important issues in the world than reparations.
  4. Reparations should address modern day slavery and not the slavery of the past.
  5. It took place a long time ago: let us forget it.
  6. Let us forget the past and focus on the future.
  7. The issue of reparations creates divisions in society.
  8. A call for reparations is emotionally devastating because it raises false hopes that will never be fulfilled.

The relevant topic is: how to deal with historical injustice. Argument 6 explicitly states why the focus should be shifted. Argument 7 uses a possible fear not as a means to discuss proper ways of paying reparations, but as an argument for not paying it at all. Arguments 8 to 13 just shift the focus without explaining why.

The last two arguments require a model for the calculation of material reparations:

  1. Reparations have already been paid (in the case of the USA with the Civil Rights Act)
  2. The West has already been paying for reparations through decades of development aid programs so there is no need for a new program of reparations

A model for calculation

How much should the Western states that were the perpetrators of the crimes of colonialism pay to the victims? I have developed an economic model to make a rough calculation.

This model can be used by the researchers supporting the communities of color to calculate the amount that a specific state has to pay to the communities they have colonized.

The calculation consists of five elements that everybody with common sense can agree upon:

  1. If you build an enterprise on land that is not yours, you should pay rent

You don’t set up a business  on a property in London, Paris or Amsterdam without asking permission  from the person owning the land and without negotiating about the rent you should pay. Colonization was the conquest of land that did not belong  to the Europeans. In our model we take the areas in km2 that the colonizer has occupied without paying for rent and specify the rent that should be paid per year.

  1. If you take goods that are not yours, you should pay for them

You don’t steal, you buy. This principle is vested in religion and morality of all civilizations, including the West. One of the ten commandments of the Bible is: “Thou shalt not steal.” We should draw up a list of commodities in the colonies that have been stolen or not properly paid for. We should make estimates about the volume, price and value per year of the amount that has been stolen or not properly paid for.

  1. If somebody performs labor on your behalf, you should pay a proper wage for his or her services

If a painter comes to paint your house, you give him of her a decent payment. What is decent is negotiable but the principle that labor is not free is generally accepted, even in the West. The colonizer has used forced labor in the colonies. Make an estimate per year of the number of people who had to perform forced labor in that year and the number of hours they had to work per day. Check what the average wage was in Europe for the type of labor that was performed and the averaged number of working hours per day. With these data you can calculate the amount of unpaid or underpaid wages that the colonizer owes to the people they have colonized.

  1. If you intentionally (or even unintentionally) cause injury to an individual or a community, you should pay financial compensation for the injury

In the case of an individual the injury can vary from emotional injury (stress from forced labor or kidnapping) to injury in property and body, and even death. In the case of a community, the injury consists in the annihilation of social institutions, the destruction of human dignity and the suppression of basic human rights. Under point three the data were collected on the number of people that were forced to perform forced or underpaid labor per year. We can add to these numbers the number of the total population they represent and make an estimate based on the number of persons per family. We have the total number of individuals per year that should receive compensation for injury. Look at the practice of the law in the colonizers country and take the court cases that paid financial compensation for injury. Make an estimate of what the colonizer has to pay per year for compensation for injury.

  1. If you have a debt, you should pay interest

This is an accepted principle in economics and morality in the West. If you are a Muslim, you might argue that interest is forbidden in Islam, so no interest can be charged. But the European states are Christians or atheists. In the case of reparations for Haiti the French used 6% as the interest rate.

Base on these assumptions I drew up the following economic model to calculate the amount of reparations.

(1) rRent(y) = (qRent(y) * pRent (y))*(1+i) ^(cyear-y)

(2) sRent= SUM(rRent(y))

(3) rGood(x,y) = (qGood(x,y) * pGood(x,y)) *(1+i) ^( cyear-y)

(4) sGood(x)= SUM(rGood(x,c))

(5) sGood = SUM(sGood(x)

(6) rWage(y) = (Wage(y) * wPerson(y))*(1+i) ^( cyear-y)

(7) rWage= SUM(rWage(y))

(8) rHumsuf(y) = (Humsuf(y) * hPerson(y))*(1+i) ^( pyear-cyear)

(9) rHumsuf= SUM(rHumsuf(y))

(10) rTotal(y) = rRent(y) + rGood(y) + rWage(y) + rHumSuf(y)

(11) rTotal = SUM(rTotal(y))

Explanation of the variables:

  • y = a particular year.
  • i = interest rate (%).
  • qRent(y): the surface in km2 in year y.
  • pRent(y): the price per km2 in US$ in year y.
  • cyear: the year of today (2020) to calculate the current value of the amount.
  • rRent(y): the rent that had to be paid in year y in the current value
  • sRent: the sum of the rent of all the years
  • qGood(x,y): the quantity of a good x that was stolen in year y.
  • pGood(x,y): the price of a good x that was stolen in year y.
  • sGood(x): the sum of the amount of good x for all the years in the current value.
  • sGood: the sum of the amount of all goods.
  • Wage(y): the annual wage that was not paid in year y per person per year.
  • wPerson(y): the number of persons that should have received the annual wage in that year.
  • rWage(y): the amount of wages that should have been paid to all persons in a year in the current value.
  • rWage: the sum of all unpaid wages in the current value.
  • Humsuf(y): the amount that should have been paid for human suffering to a person in one year.
  • hPerson(y): the number of persons in a year that should have received compensation for human suffering in the current value.
  • rHumsuf: the sum of the total amount for human suffering for all the years and all the persons
  • rTotal(y) = the total of the amount for rent, stolen goods, unpaid wages and human suffering in a year.
  • rTotal: the total amount that pas to be paid for reparations.

These formulas can be used in a spreadsheet or in a computer program. Whatever means we use, the resulting amount is astronomical.

I developed a computer program that used the following values for the variables:

  • Rent: for the rent of land and water I used US $ 10 per square km at the start of colonization and an increase of US $ 0.50 per year till the end of colonization. The periods of colonization differed per region.
  • Stolen good: for stolen goods I have only taken figures for gold and silver that were stolen from Latin America. The start production of gold was 8,000 kg per year with an annual increment of 2 kg, a starting price of US $ 3,000 per kg and an increment of US $ 10. For silver the starting quantity was 300,000 kg with an annual increment of 200 kg, a starting price of US$ 80 per kg and an annual increment of US $ 1.
  • Unpaid wages: for unpaid wages I used US $ 0,01 per hour for a working day of 10 hours and 313 working days in a year) at the start of colonization. That is US $ 31,30 for a whole year. The increase per year of the annual wage is US $ 0.01.
  • Human suffering: for the compensation for human suffering I have US $ 1,00 per person and an annual increase of US $ 0,01.
  • Interest: in one variant I used an interest rate of 0% (variant I). In another variant I use the interest rate of 3%, which is half of rate that France imposed on Haiti for reparations (variant II).

For the purpose of simulation the values of the variables can be chosen randomly. How would be the result of the calculation if put the value to X or Y? But the values can also be based on specific research, for example the goods that have been stolen or the demographic development of specific communities.

I have made a reference point to assess the amount that has to be paid by the colonizers: the total GDP of the colonizers countries in 2013, which was US $ 30,980,662,000,000 (US $ 30 trillion) for Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, United Kingdom and USA.

The result is that in variant I (interest rate is 0%) the amount for reparations in 2013 was US $ 10,759,777,102,101 (10 trillion dollars); that is 0.3 times the total GDP of the colonizers in 2013. In variant II (interest rate is 3%) the debt grows exponentially to US $ 321,090,670,376,971,000 (US $ 321 quadrillion), that is 10,364 times the total colonizers GDP.

The significance of the simulation is twofold. First, it shows the inconceivable damage that colonization has caused upon the colonized communities and the unimaginable debt that rests on the shoulders of the colonizer as a legacy of colonialism. Second, some writers argue that colonialism was a burden rather than a profit for the colonizer. It does not take into account the crime of stealing land, products and labor and the compensation for human suffering. Our model shows that if colonizers would have acted as decent human beings rather than as criminals it would have been impossible to develop their wealth. The global world system would be radically different with the West ending up being poor and the rest would have developed their economy and society to a higher level.

Immaterial reparations

Reparations for historical injustice has an immaterial component. The damage that colonialism has inflicted on the colonized communities has to do with the quality of life that cannot be expressed in statistics. One example is the question of identity. In the African American community the issue was addressed by the Nation of Islam. They have rejected the enslaver’s names and replaced them with an X, the symbol for the unknown variable in mathematics. Malcolm X is a famous example. Eventually the “X” was replaced with an Arabic name that is more descriptive of a person’s personality and character. Malcolm X took the name El-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz. The process of reclaiming one’s African identity is a form of repairing the damage inflicted upon the identity of individuals from an community.

Colonialism has created a superiority complex in white people and inferiority complex in people of color. That has far reaching consequences in the economic, social, political and cultural dimensions of society. How do we repair the damage that was done in knowledge production where racist theories were propagated about the superiority of white people and the inferiority of people of color? How is racism expressed in education of public memory (statues) and what does reparation means? Bringing down the statues of superiority? Changing the text books in the educational system? Redesigning museums?

A strategy for reparations

Premises

I present an outline for a strategy in the struggle for reparations that is based on the following premises:

  1. The struggle is not a tea party where people chat cozily with each other. It is a process of confrontation with structure of power in all dimensions of society. How to deal with power structures is a crucial part of the strategy.
  2. The process of the struggle is more important that the goals. Obviously, it is very important to set goals, but at the end of the day the process of creating awareness and empowering communities of color is what the struggle for reparations is about.
  3. The struggle for reparations is part of a larger struggle, the fight for a new world civilization that effectively settles the legacy of colonialism.[3]

Goals

I define three main goals in the struggle for reparations:

  1. To force the colonizer states to pay material reparations for historical injustice. Obviously, the amount that should be paid is astronomical. The amount that will be paid will depend on how strong communities of color are in changing the relationship of power between the colonizer and the colonized.
  2. To create global awareness about the historical injustice inflicted by white European states and communities on communities of color that have been colonized in the past five centuries.
  3. To introduce the concept of a new world civilization. The basic tenet of this concept is that colonialism has created a global system of economic, social, political and cultural institutions that threatens life on planet earth, has brought death, misery and despair to the majority of the world population and is filled with in justice. The struggle for reparations is not only about repairing, but also about rebuilding a new world society based on the belief that another, better, world is possible in which the human community can live in peace, harmony, justice and welfare.

These three goals are interrelated.

I will develop a strategy for reparations based on my experience with communities of color in Venezuela. In 2019 I had the privilege to be invited to Caracas to give a course on decolonizing the mind and reparations. The ideas which I present here are a result of the discussions I had with the participants.

Statistics as a flag ship

The material component of reparations provides us with a flag ship in the struggle: a statistic. This is the outrageous amount that is on the table as a representation of the magnitude of the historical injustice that was committed by the West. Suppose that the indigenous and black communities of Venezuela make a calculation of reparations that Spain should be paying. Suppose that the calculation is based on work of historians that have collected the data for the economic model that I have explained above. Suppose that the resulting number is 100 times the GDP of Spain (US$ 1,5 trillion in 2018).

The figure of US$ 150 trillion will become the flagship of the struggle. The communities of color of Venezuela can put the demand on the table in the form of a request to the state of Spain to US$ 150 trillion as reparations for historical injustice. This number will become ingrained in public memory as the representation of the magnitude of the historical injustice that was committed by Spain during the colonization of Venezuela. Of course Spain cannot pay this amount, even if there is a willingness to pay at least some amount. So this request should be followed by an understanding that Spain will not be able to pay the whole amount, so it is now a matter of public negotiation. Spain has to make a move and state what amount it can and will pay.

One might argue that we should put a realistic number for a reparation claim, a number that can actually can be paid, which might be a few million dollars. This sounds reasonably if the primary goal is to get monetary payments. The downside of this argument is the acceptance that the amount that is actually paid is an accurate representation of the magnitude of the historical injustice that was committed. That would be really outrageous and go against the other goal of creating awareness about the nature of the crimes of colonialism.

Probably the most likely response from Spain will be to neglect the request and a refusal to discuss any claim.

Then other means of resistance will come in place.

Law fare

Law is an expression of the moral principles and power structures in a society. In 2006 the then prime-minister of Britain, Tony Blair, expressed his ignorance about this principle, when he declared the government’s position on the trans-Atlantic enslavement: “It is hard to believe that what would now be a crime against humanity was legal at the time.”[4] It is not hard to believe that a crime was legal if you concede that criminals can make laws. Law is not made by nature or gods, but by human beings. At that time criminals were in power in Europe as heads of state and in government administrations. These criminals had a different moral than their victims. So it is not a case of different morals in different times, but different morals at the same time for different human beings. If criminals get state power, naturally they will constitute a legal system that enables them to sustain their criminal acts and make it legal to kidnap, enslave, exploit and oppress people. In Europe it was illegal to enslave white people in Europe, yet at the same time it was perfectly legal to enslave Black people in their colonies.

Law can be an instrument of struggle and a form of warfare: lawfare. When the colonizer controls the judicial institution it uses them do deny justice to the victims of colonialism. However, the pretense that the judicial system is not biased, can sometimes create avenues to use the court as an instrument to put the struggle on the social and political agenda.

In the case of Venezuela the first actor to be brought to the court is the Spanish state. But because its monarchy was the head of the state and the monarchy still exists in Spain as well as in other colonizers country such as Britain, Holland and Belgium, it is logical to also bring the monarchy to the court.

The court case can start locally like the case of Israel’s former Defense minister Ariel Sharon in Belgian courts. Sharon led the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. On September 18, 1982, 2,000 – 6,000 Palestinians were systematically murdered in Sabra and Shatila by Lebanese extremists with the support of Israel. In 2001, 23 Lebanese and Palestinian survivors of the massacre filed a law suit against Ariel Sharon in Belgium. Under a Belgium law, Belgian courts could prosecute foreigners for certain offences committed abroad. The case looked promising, but then the USA stepped in to support Israel. They told the Belgian Government that if their legal authorities were planning to continue with the process, the NATO headquarters in Brussels would be moved out of Belgium. This shocked the Belgians. The Belgium parliament hastened to change the law. It adopted changes that created barriers for future plaintiffs, such as provisions that a plaintiff or victim should have lived in Belgium for a minimum of three years.

The whole process was a big distress for the Zionists, the imperialism powers and its advocates. That process was already a big gain for the social movements against the Zionist occupation of Palestine.

If the Spanish king is brought to court in a trial in Venezuela and the court would decide to rule in favor of the social movements, the conviction is a big distress, irrespective of the fact whether the king well ever go to prison.

Uniting the plantations

Much discussion on reparation was focused on the African-American community in the USA. It has a long history in that country. At the end of the Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman issued a famous military order to confiscate 400,000 acres (1,600 km2) of land along the Atlantic coast of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida and divide it into 40 acres (0.16 km2) parcels to 18,000 freed slave families and other Blacks living in those areas. The order could not be enforced because President Andrew Johnson, who succeeded Abraham Lincoln after his assassination, revoked the order. The idea is known as forty acres and a mule.

In 1992, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) set up a body of eminent persons to explore the modalities and strategies of an African campaign for restitution similar to the compensation paid by Germany to Israel and to survivors of the Nazi Holocaust. The group’s work has not borne much fruit.

In 2004, the African Union adopted an Action Plan 2004-2005 with a recommendation on reparations to debate the issue of slavery in all African parliaments with the objective to declare slavery a crime against humanity and discuss the nature of reparations. In 2009, the then president of the African Union Muammar al-Qadhafi stated in a speech during the 64th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, that Africa deserves reparations, which amounts to US$ 7.77 trillion for the resources and wealth stolen in the past. He also declared that colonization should be criminalized and that people should be compensated for the suffering endured during the reign of colonial powers.

In July 2013 the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) made a call for reparations as an integral element of the Community’s development strategy. The Commission declared that it seeks reparatory dialogue with the former slave-owning states of Europe, which were enriched by these crimes, with a view to seeking their support for the eradication of the legacy that serves to subvert the development efforts of national societies. And although the Commission states that this dialogue should be conducted in a diplomatic, conciliatory, and morally uplifting fashion, consistent with the reparatory search for social justice and human decency, they also have hired a British law firm Leigh Day to sue their former colonizers.

In 2015 Shashi Tharoor, an Indian member of parliament for the Indian National Congress, argued the case that Britain should pay reparations to India in The Oxford Union debate that was held on 28 May 2015. His argument received wide attention. India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, declared in parliament on July 23 2015: “Tharoor’s speech reflected the feelings of patriotic Indians on the issue and showed what impression one can leave with effective arguments by saying the right things at the right place.”[5]

As the question of reparations is not limited to one part of the colonized world it is makes sense to connect these struggles. Europeans have set up plantations in the colonized world and kept the colonized communities divided. The struggle for reparations is a struggle to united the plantations. That is a core part of the strategy for reparations.

Historiography, consciousness and a new world civilization

The struggle for reparations is a struggle for redressing historical injustice. A big part of the struggle is about how the canon about colonialism is being written. Colonial historians have presented colonialism as the white man’s burden and an attempt of Europeans to civilize the uncivilized world. Colonialism was called modernity, a phase in which human civilization reached its apex thanks to the work of white Europeans and their role in the rise of science, technology and economic growth.

The decolonial movement that have risen during the last two decades across the world regards colonialism as the nadir of human civilization. Colonialism is the downfall of human civilization with genocide, occupation, enslavement and atrocities committed by white people. It transferred massive wealth from the colonies to the colonizer and create a world full of injustice, crime and the colonization of the mind.

Reparations is not only about repairing a world of injustice, but also about rebuilding a new world civilization. The historiography, the canon of history, will be radically different from the current canon that is taught in the educational system and is based on the lies that European historians and their coloured disciples have produced. It does away with amnesia. It celebrates the resistance against colonialism. It rebuilds a new decolonial knowledge and new economic, social, political and cultural institutions on a global level. This vision of a new world civilization is a crucial part of a strategy for reparations.

Organization

Finally, a strategy for reparations is not based on a single organizational framework. State institutions of the colonized countries can play a role. Social movements can play a role. Academics can play a role. A decolonial strategy should be based on encouraging all forms of organization and promote cooperation, debates and discussion among the peole and organizations fighting for reparations. As in all other social movement there is a general agreement to fight for something but many differences about specific goals, strategy and tactics. By working together in an atmosphere of dignity and respect it is possible to create a broad front in the struggle for reparations.

Sandew Hira

Secretary of the DIN Foundation

The Hague, 14-3-2021

[1] This article is based on the book that I have published on reparations. Sandew Hira: 20 Questions and Answers on Reparations for Colonialism. Amrit Publishers. The Hague, 2014. The arguments on Decolonizing The Mind is based on the forthcoming book: Sandew Hira: Decolonizing The Mind. Imagining a new world civilization. Amrit Publishers. The Hague, 2021.

[2] The mechanisms of the colonization of the mind are developed in the forthcoming publication Sandew Hira (2021).

[3] The concept of a new world civilization is elaborated upon in my forthcoming publication.

[4] https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2006/nov/26/race.immigrationpolicy. Accessed 18-10-2020.

[5] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/24/indian-prime-minister-modi-endorses-britain-paying-damages-for-colonial-rule. Accessed 18-10-2020.

Different perspectives on the Uyghur question

A big issue in the confrontation between China and the West is the question of the Uyghurs.

Here are some links with different views.

China’s points to an organize plan by the CIA to destabilize China through the Uyghur question: https://youtu.be/Q9R7ac0B9w0

See the video of a US State Department official confirming the role of the CIA: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ZgL2ehzADY

CNN journalist Christian Amampour presents the Western perspective: https://youtu.be/ddo20Y0dPMo

An imam from the Philippines gives a view from the region: https://youtu.be/OMu53bpXuAI

 

Police intimidation in Finland: the attack against Dr. Faith Mkwesha

Dr. Faith Mkwesha, Chief Executive Director and Founder of www.sahwira-africa.org, an anti-racist organization and partner of the Decolonial International Network, has been intimidated by the police in Finland. Her son, who is black was with his friend who is white, at the train station when the security service violently attacked her son. The Finnish friend took a video that Dr. Mkwesha shared on her own social media-  Facebook. Dr. Mkwesa started a campaign against the racist treatment of her son by police and security services on her own social media.

She was summoned  to appear before the police on Febraury 22 2021 for interrogation. She was accused of slunder of the police and security services. Mkwesha: “l see this as intimidation and harassment by the security and police to silence me as a mother and an active activist in Finland. I need support  to tell the police to stop that investigation on a victim of racism, racial violence and bullying. We call the Finnish government to stop racism, racial profiling and and protect immigrants, ant-black hate, racism to all people of colour and religions like Moslims.  Free speech and equality and human rights must be protected for all.”

The Decolonial International Network denounces the intimidation behavior of the police and security services. We call upon members of the Finnish parliament to defend freedom of speech. We will closely follow the proceedings against Dr. Mkwesha and will call for mobilization of democratic forces in Finland and internationally against repression of black people and their democratic rights.

Dr Mkwesha is seeking legal support to defend herself against these accusations. Help her with a donation: https://www.gofundme.com/f/solidarity-with-faith?member=9145618&utm_campaign=p_cp+share-sheet&utm_medium=copy_link_all&utm_source=customer

Sandew Hira

Decolonial International Foundation

Come for one of us, come for us all!: Anticolonialist Jews to G.W. Goldnadel

It has come to our attention that the French-Israeli lawyer, G.W. Goldnadel, has threatened to take the decolonial activist Houria Bouteldja to court for having written ‘it is not possible to be innocently Israeli’ in a text condemning antisemitism and discussing how it is produced and spread. Some interpreted this as fallacious and others incorrectly deemed it to be essentialising. From the vantage point of the anticolonial literary and political tradition, the application of this expression to Israelis has nothing to do with any ethnic or religious essence but is produced by collective social and power relations. As anticolonialist Jews of different nationalities, including Israeli, we agree with Bouteldja’s words which speak for us as it did for several generations of anticolonialists before us. It is because one cannot be innocently Israeli that Avraham Burg requested that the record of his Jewish nationality be effaced from the national registry of the State of Israel after the passage of the Nation-State Law.[1] It is because one cannot be innocently Israeli that brave Israeli citizens struggle against the colonial politics of the state and stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people. It is because no one can innocently accept the reality of colonialism that sixty young Israelis have just refused to serve in the occupying army.[2] It is because it is impossible to be innocently Israeli that the human rights organisation, B’Tselem, recently denounced Israel’s ‘regime of Jewish supremacy’ and Apartheid.[3] As the Tunisian Jewish writer Albert Memmi wrote, ‘the colonial reality is not a pure idea: it is an ensemble of real-life conditions. Refusing to see this means either physically surrendering to these conditions or fighting to transform them.’ The responsibility of Israelis in Palestine in the face of this colonial reality is obvious to the anticolonial activists there who bear witness to the fact that neither it nor the murderous identities it produces can be overlooked. Committed to freedom, this responsibility paves the way to the dignity that each human being aspires to. In a world drifting ever further into more authoritarian and inequitable rule, the fight for dignity comes at an increasingly higher cost. The rancid atmosphere that has been created powerfully penetrates a growing number of political schools and media organisations. The campaigns of intimidation and defamation such as those targeting Houria Bouteldja should be alarming to anyone worried about the retreat of democracy. The tactics of censuring an activist they wish to silence and of isolating and discrediting her, both within and beyond the public sphere, reminds us of those of our antisemitic oppressors. These are the methods of those brown-shirted forces of tragic years past. The onslaughts they wage in the media leave no one out, including members of the French Union of Jews for Peace, who they call ‘shameful Jews’ and who they try to have excluded from public debate. We French, Israeli, Belgian, US-American, British, Australian, and North African Jews, walking in the footsteps of the warriors of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, of the workers’ movement, of the European Resistance fighters, or of the struggle for anticolonial liberation reject these cabals who, in the name of defeating antisemitism, are in fact involved in obscuring its understanding as a form of racism. Instead they generate an antisemitic amalgamation of Jews and Israelis. It is because the decolonial movement takes the fight again antisemitism seriously, without disconnecting it from the anticolonial struggle, that it is denounced today by the biggest reactionaries in the French political sphere. But it is for this very reason that the decolonial movement is a part of our family and vice versa. We therefore demand that, if G.W. Goldnadel wish to pursue any legal proceedings against Houria Bouteldja that he come for us as well.

 

 

Gil Anidjar, professeur, Columbia University, New York / Etats-Unis

Simon Assoun, militant antiraciste, éducateur spécialisé / France

Ariella Azoulay, Professor of Modern Culture & Media and Comparative Literature / Etats-Unis

Rudi Barnet, metteur en scène, créateur de «Une Saison au Congo» de Aimé Césaire en 1967 et du festival “50ème Droits!” / Belgique

Haim Bresheeth, Professorial Research Associate, SOAS University of London / Israélien, Royaume-Uni

Rivkah Brown, Vashti Media, London / Royaume-Uni

James Cohen, professeur d’université, /France

Laurent Cohen, Ijan / Espagne

Liliane Cordova Kaczerginski, Ijan / Espagne

Jordy Cummings, lecturer and Trade Unionist,  York University / Canada

Sonia Fayman, UJFP / France

Caroline Gay, comédienne / France

Henri Goldman / Belgique

Jean-Guy Greilsamer, UJFP, issu d’une famille victime des nazis et de la collaboration / France

Ramon Grosfoguel, professeur d’université / Etats-Unis

Georges Gumpel, Militant anticolonialiste, Partie Civile au procès de Klaus Barbie / France

Gabriel Hagai, Rabbin / Israélien, France

Aaron Jaffe, Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Liberal Arts, The Juilliard School, New York / Etats-Unis

Sara Kershnar. Coordinatrice internationale de IJAN

David Landy, Trinity College Dublin / Irlande

Ronit Lentin, Trinity College Dublin (retired) / Israélienne, Irlande

Alana Lentin, universitaire / Australie

Zachary Levenson, Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of North Carolina / Etats-Unis

Les Levidow, Senior Research Fellow, Open University / Royaume-Uni

Daniel Levyne, UJFP / France

Yosefa Loshitzky, SOAS University of London / Israélien, Royaume-Uni

Joëlle Marelli, traductrice / France

Anat Matar

Jean-Claude Meyer, Juif alsacien et antisioniste, dont le père a été fusillé par les nazis le 14 juillet 1944 et dont la famille a été déportée et tuée à Auschwitz, UJFP / France

Nicholas Mirzoeff, Professor of Media, Culture and Communication, NYU / Etats-Unis

Dominique Natanson, animateur du site Mémoire Juive & Education / France

Atalia Omer, Senior Fellow, Religion, Conflict, and Peace Initiative at Harvard Divinity School / Etats-Unis

Charles Post, City University of New York / Etats-Unis

Ben Ratskoff, Editor-in-Chief of PROTOCOLS / Etats-Unis

Michael Richmond, Jewish writer, London / Royaume-Uni

Brant Rosen, Rabbin, Tzedek Chicago / Etats-Unis

Simona Sharoni 

Richard Silverstein, journalist, Tikun Olam / Etats-Unis

Santiago Slabodsky, Jewish Studies Professor / Argentina / Etats-Unis

Stephen Suffern, avocat aux barreaux de Paris et de New York / France

Marianne Van Leeuw-Koplewicz, éditrice / Belgique

Michel Warschawski, militant anticolonialiste / Israël

[1] Https://www.francepalestine.org/Un-descendant-de-l-aristocratie-sioniste-veut-quitter-le-peuple-juif-Israel-le

[2] https://ujfp.org/nous-prenons-nos-responsabilitessoixante-jeunes-annoncent-leur-refus-de-servir-dans-larmee-israelienne/

[3] https://www.btselem.org/sites/default/files/publications/202101_this_is_apartheid_e ng.pdf

 

DIN ZOOM Webinar: Geetanjali Srikantan – Identifying and regulation religion in India

Dr. Srikantan published a study with the title: Identifying and regulation religion in India. Law, History and the Place of Worship (Cambridge University Press, 2020). She aims to rethink regulation of religion by building on the existing insights within post-colonial theory and religious studies through legal theory and legal history. According to her the impasse around the regulation of religion does not lie in the insufficiency of legal reasoning or the failure of the Indian secular state but has its roots in the methodologies and frameworks used by British colonial administrators in identifying and governing religion.

Srikantan will discuss her study with Sandew Hira from DIN on Sunday March 14 2021 from 14.00-15.00 Amsterdam time.

Register here:

ZOOM Webinar: Geetanjali Srikantan - Identifying and regulation religion in India
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Webinar C.K. Raju: Decolonisation, Islam, and science

Webinar C.K. Raju: Decolonisation, Islam, and science: Eliminating the anti-Islamic biases in mathematics and science: Monday February 15, 2021, 14.00-15.00 Amsterdam time.

How can you decolonize mathematics. What is the relationship between decolonizing math and Islam? Prof. C.K. Raju deals with these questions in a conversation with Sandew Hira, secretary of the Decolonial International Network Foundation.

Click here to download the PDF with more about the content of the Webinar.

Click here for the lastest article of Raju on the subject.

Click here to register for the webinar.

A decolonial view on the storming of Capitol Hill

Sandew Hira,
January 8, 2021[*]

Introduction

The storming of Capitol Hill, the seat of the US government, on January 6 2021 by Trump supporters is a historical event that tells us a lot about where we stand in world history. Many analysts focus on the unprecedented nature of the action and the role of Donald Trump in sabotaging the American democratic system. Van Jones, a CNN political commentator, explained one of the techniques of sabotage in his TED talk titled What if a US presidential candidate refuses to concede after an election?. If Trump would decide not to concede, this might open the door to violence, which is what happened on January 6 2021.

Two months earlier, Ramon Grosfoguel and I, spent two sessions in our decolonial dialogues (session 4 and session 5) to put the 2020 presidential elections in a historical perspective. This article builds on that analysis.

In the dominant media the storming of Capitol Hill is narrated as a crazy action of extremist followers of a lunatic president. I will argue that this event is not an incident but a rational expression of a process of the rise of an extreme right-wing political class in the USA in the context of the decline of USA as an imperial power that is willing to risk extreme violent means to stop this decline. That class is not only located in the Republican Party, but is also there in Democratic Party. The storming of Capitol Hill is just a prelude of worst things that will follow in the coming decades.

The rise of the US empire

The US empire took off after the war with Spain in 1898, whereby America got control over Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines. It dealt the final blow to the Spanish empire. But much the world was still controlled by the old empires: England, France, the Netherlands, Portugal and Germany with England and France as the main protagonists. After World War II these states lost their power to the USA and became subservient to the new master of the universe.

The American empire developed an enormous economic power based initially on agriculture and industry but later more on technology. Its multinationals roamed the world for raw materials and minerals. America became the largest economy in the world. It had the highest income per capita. It had the best institutes for research and development.

With its economic power came its military and cultural power. The empire established 800 military basis across the globe. The military industrial complex in cooperation with the tech-companies built the most advanced weapons systems and infrastructure for intelligence services. They engaged in wars and military coup to crush popular resistance against imperialism and ensure the establishment of loyal regimes.

Its cultural elite in cooperation with the cultural infrastructure of media and educational institutions were successful in colonizing the mind. American textbooks are used in all westernized universities in the whole world.  American fast food and cultural icons (music, art) have become global food and global icons.

It was all realized in less than a century and it lasted for less than a century. Because in the last quarter of the 20th century the decline of the American empire had began. Compared to other empires that lasted for hundreds or thousands of years the American empire is one of the shortest living empires.

The decline of the American empire

The decline of the American empire is manifested on four terrains:

  1. The relative decline of its economic and cultural power compared to other countries in the world, the rise of the rest notably China. China is rapidly surpassing as the largest economy in the world. American media are not the only media in the world. There CNN-type of media in all parts of the world. Scientific knowledge is produced outside of the West.
  2. The absolute decline of its economic and cultural power. American technology is now lagging behind Chinese technology. The educational of level of American students has declined in terms of their math and reading scores.
  3. The decline of its military power. Different countries were able to defy American military power for a sustainable period of time. The empire suffered its first loss in its backyard with the Cuban Revolution of 1959. In 1975 the national liberation movement of Vietnam chased the American army out of their country. In 1979 the Islamic movement under the leadership of Khomeini brought down America’s biggest client state down. In Venezuela the Chavistas took and hold power since 1999.
  4. The decline within the country of white power. The total population of the USA will grow from 323 million in 2016 to 355 million in 2030 till 404 million in 2060. The share of non-Hispanic whites (the descendant fro the European colonial powers) will decline from 61% to 44% in 2060. Within forty years whites will become a demographic minority in the USA! The fastest growing group are the Hispanics. Their will increase from 18% in 2016 to 27% in 2060, which is larger than the share of African Americans (from 13% to 15%). The demographic changes bring social and political changes that result in a decline of white power in the US.

An empire in decline create a crazy world

What happens when an empire goes into decline? Basically there are two scenario’s:

  1. The ruling class accepts the decline and thus accepts the authority of the new power that replaces the empire.
  2. The ruling class refuses to accept the decline and ultimately uses all means necessary to ensure its hegemony, even the most crazy means than can endanger life on the planet.

We are living in the second scenario. The rise of Trump should not be seen as the rise of an individual with crazy intentions. It is the rise of a section of the ruling class, a fascist section, that is willing to go where nobody else dared to go.

Currently there are four regions in the world where the US empire is engaged in a struggle to maintain its hegemony:

  1. China with the Chinese South Sea Island, Hongkong and Taiwan as areas of confrontation.
  2. West Asia (the so called Middle East) with Iran, Syria, Yemen and Israel as areas of confrontation
  3. Eastern Europe with Russia and Ukraine as areas of confrontation.
  4. Latin America with Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia as areas of confrontation.

In all these area the US starts actions that set fires of confrontation. There is a logic behind these actions: if all regular means of control fail, then it is legitimate to use new means that were once beyond imagination. What goes for the struggle outside of the US, also goes for the struggle in the US. That section of the ruling class in the United States that has come to the conclusion that its hegemony cannot be maintained by regular means, is now prepared to take steps that defies common imagination.

They bring new elements into the confrontation. In Venezuela they used a new form of coup d’état. Guaido declare himself an unelected president and subsequently the US empire and it vassals acknowledge this man as president. This was unheard of. A ferocious economic boycott tries to bring down the elected government. The assets of the legitimate government were seized and brought under the control of the unelected president. In West Asia the US is provoking Iran to an all-out war by killing Iran’s most beloved general: Qasem Suleimani. The US wanted Iran to start an all-out war and hoped that the murder of Suleimani would achieve that. Given the status of Suleimani it seemed unthinkable that the US would ever try to actually assassinate him. And yet they did.

Inside the US Trump – as the most outspoken segment of the fascist section – is leading the struggle under the banner “Make America Great Again”. They took control of the Republican Party. In 2016 they succeeded in gaining state power. They set in motion a series of policies that linger on the border of all-out wars, but because of the war weariness in the American population they must be careful in how far they can go. In 2020 they lost control of the government and were prepared to go where no political force in the US dared to go: to bring the possibility of war, in this civil war, to the capital of the nation in order to regain control of state power.

The storming of Capitol Hill was an outcome of the logic of ultimate confrontation. It backfired for the fascist section of the ruling class, because it failed in its objection. But the logic is still there and the processes that have created this logic are still working.

That is why I predict that the storming of Capitol Hill is a prelude of things to come that we cannot image now. For the coming years maybe things might calm down under the presidency of Biden. It will create the illusion that normalcy has been regained. But watch the underlying processes at work in the decline of the US empire. Then you will not be surprised if events unfold which we would not dare to image.

[*] Sandew Hira is secretary of the DIN Foundation. This article is based on the last chapter of his forthcoming book: Decolonizing The Mind.

Webinar Genocide Memorial Day 2021 Netherlands: Famine as an instrument of genocide

Decolonial International Netwerk and International Institute for Scientific Research in The Netherlands are organizing a webinar on the famines in India during colonialism in the context of Genocide Memorial Day on January 17th.

In her lecture Dr. Mehta will give a short chronology of famines that took place during colonial period and then focus on 1943 famine. She will show some photographs and paintings and play music related to 1943 famine. And most importantly she will talk about people’s response to the famine in terms of famous Tebhaga movement in Bengal.

The webinar is organized in the context of Genocide Memorial Day (GMD). This day is a day to remember “man’s inhumanity to man”. GMD was started in 2010 by the Islamic Human Rights Commission, founding member of the Decolonial International Network, as an annual tradition to commemorate the Zionist attack on Gaza in 2008. Some 1,400 Palestinians, mainly citizens, were killed without any intervention by governments. GMD aims to create awareness about the factors leading up to genocide and what we can do to prevent them.

Speaker: Jaya Mehta
Host: Sandew Hira
Sunday January 17, 2021, from 14.00-15.00 Amsterdam/Paris time

Registration: https://din.today/202101-2

Jaya Mehta

Dr. Jaya Mehta is a senior economist who has been working since 2009, in Joshi-Adhikari Institute of Social Studies. It is a research institute based in New Delhi.
She has been a senior fellow at the Institute of Human Development, New Delhi, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi and Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, Shimla. Before that she worked as a Reader in Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics, Pune. Dr. Jaya Mehta is a founder member of Alternative Economic Survey Group and has been contributing regularly to its annual numbers.
She has been engaged in studying the agrarian crisis in Indian economy, poverty measurement, women’s issues and theory and praxis of socialist systems. In the year 2009, she coordinated a primary survey on marginal farmers across 8 states of the country, delineating their production and marketing pattern.
Eight volumes were prepared presenting the agrarian scene in the country. After that she has conducted a study on collective farming by women in the state of Kerala. The book related to this study is with the publishers.
She also made a study on working class movement in pre- and post-independent India. Recently, she edited a book, ‘The Russian Revolution and Indian Freedom Struggle” to commemorate 100 years of Russian revolution. She also wrote a booklet on ‘Revolutionary potential of women workers in agriculture’ in 2019 on the occasion of 100 years of death anniversary of Rosa Luxemburg.
She has directed plays and made a few documentaries on various topics related to working class and oppressed groups.

French intelligentsia and Little Tom Thumb: the questionable ethics of the ‘100’ French academics

A response to the Open Letter from ‘100’ French Scholars, which singled out the author for special mention.

Houria Bouteldja

France is no longer a light among nations.

Sartre, Beauvoir, Foucault, Deleuze or Bourdieu are from another era. As for the ultra-white elites who offer themselves as their replacements, they increasingly deserve the name ‘Pale’, as given by the Native Americans to their torturers. Their radiance, now reduced to the dim halo of waning lanterns at a funfair, impresses no one outside their cliques and courtesans. As Rokhaya Diallo noted recently, ‘thanks to the great marketing of a few white intellectuals, “the birthplace of Enlightenment” is sold as an example of peaceful coexistence devoid of all racial tension.’

Therefore, in a strange version of events that only they subscribe to – and which in many ways sums up their entire world view – a significant number among the intelligentsia in France is completely perplexed by the dismay expressed by international onlookers. Faced with the view from outside France, where there is little understanding of their devotion to the myth of French republicanism, and where secularist fundamentalism or the obsession with the veil are met with puzzlement, these French intellectuals insist that foreigners ‘do not understand our values.’ Anyone who dares utter the words ‘race’, ‘whiteness’, or ‘Islamophobia’ is accused of doing the work either of the extreme right or of Jihadists. And if one persists and goes on to mention racial discrimination or social Apartheid, the accusation is none other than treason to universalism!

The right of reply of which they availed themselves in openDemocracy in response to the Open Letter signed by many scholars justifiably worried by the appearance of a form of French McCarthyism within French academia, is a perfect illustration of this attitude. The crudeness of this attempt to save face before an English-speaking public, which understands perfectly the extent to which France’s reputation has been sullied by lies and myths, is obvious to all. I could ignore the sophistry involved in its recalling the existence of other forms of slavery in order to deny the specificity of the transatlantic slave trade or of the colonialism which inaugurated western racism. I can also skip over the minimisation of far right-wing violence under the pretext that it causes few deaths when we are aware that this violence is often ignored by police and other institutions. And I can even let pass the term Islamogauchisme (Islamic-leftism), used by neo-conservatives to dismiss any critique of Islamophobia, and which reminds us of the slur of ‘Jewish-Bolshevism’. In sum, I don’t wish to get bogged down in the extreme poverty and fallaciousness of the letter’s argumentation which stands in for real thinking. Instead, I will address its defamatory nature which targets me as a decolonial activist. This is not because my case deserves the particular attention of the English-speaking public, who doubtless have bigger fish to fry, but because it is representative of the way in which dissent to the gospel of republicanism is treated in the land of Charlie Hebdo and freedom of speech.

It is representative of the way in which dissent to the gospel of republicanism is treated in the land of Charlie Hebdo and freedom of speech.

Habituated to the complacency of the French mainstream media which writes them infinite blank cheques to speak with impunity (French media only allows a tiny number from among the privileged class a right to reply), the ‘100’ signatories of the response hope to be able to drag me through the mud in the foreign press as they do regularly in the pages of French newspapers such as LibérationLe Monde or Canard enchainé.[1] They write,

‘The “Parti des Indigènes de la République” is a case in point, standing as the main “islamist-gauchiste” movement in France. The former spokesperson of the movement, Hourija Boutelja (sic)., even endorsed Mohamed Merah, the 2012 jihadist killer: ‘Mohamed Merah is me and I am him. We are of the same origin and of the same condition. We are post-colonial subjects. I say tonight that I am a ‘fundamental’ Muslim’. We remind the signatories of the letter that Merah killed not only French military men of Muslim ancestry but also Jewish children in a school in Toulouse.’

If anyone was reading this without having any knowledge of the context, they would be justified in thinking that someone as damaging as myself should rightfully be behind bars, especially if they had read the terrifying profile of me published a few days earlier by two eminent French intellectuals in Libération. In fact, Alain Policar and Alain Renault, doctors of political science and philosophy respectively, wishing to be reassuring, explained to a public terrified by the spectre of decolonial thought, that it should not fear the impact of my ideas on the university because everyone knows well that ‘the effect of the racist, antisemitic and homophobic theses of Houria Bouteldja amounts to no more than zero.’

I assure you that I have no intention of throwing myself at your feet and begging you to believe that I am neither an admirer of Jihadism nor a patented antisemite, as our keyboard inquisitors would have it. This is firstly because it would be humiliating, second because it is an illusory exercise (what does my word count for?), and finally because I prefer to trust your intelligence rather than your noble sentiments. I also will not make any attempt to clear my name. I will simply provide a few signposts that, like the breadcrumbs sprinkled by Little Tom Thumb, will direct you, not to me and to who I really am, but to them and to who they really are.

– Breadcrumb 1: in France, apology for terrorism is a crime. However, the speech I gave during a meeting a few days after the mass killing in Toulouse titled ‘Mohamed Merah and I’ did not lead to any legal case being taken against me (despite my detractors’ thirst for one). Those who truncate the text and cite only the first part – ‘Mohamed Merah is me’ – without mentioning the second – ‘Mohamed Merah is not me’ – are thugs who do not deserve the label of an intellectual.

– Breadcrumb 2: In 2015, the Licra, a pro-Israel ‘antiracist’ organisation, mounted a legal complaint against me for ‘incitement to racial hatred’ (antisemitism) due to a text I wrote on philosemitism in which I accused the state of disguising its new modes of antisemitism. The response of the Attorney General, not one known for his ‘Islamogauchiste’ tendencies, was to draft the following opinion: ‘There is no justification for a legal pursuit as the offence does not appear to be sufficiently well-founded, the investigation not having led to the gathering of sufficient evidence.’

– Breadcrumb 3: Many well-known people who identify as Jewish, who obviously have no time for Nazis, have no hesitation in lending me their unconditional support because we have a shared analysis of colonialism, be it that of Israel or elsewhere.

– Breadcrumb 4: In France I am published by La Fabrique, in the US by Semiotexte(e) and in Spain Akal, all of which are antiracist, anti-fascist and progressive publishing houses.

– Breadcrumb 5: The preface to my book Whites, Jews and Us: Towards a Politics of Revolutionary Love was written by Harvard University Professor Cornell West while the preface to the Spanish version is by the Berkeley Professor Ramon Grosfoguel.

– Breadcrumb 6: Our events, demonstrations, and meetings in France are sponsored by renowned personalities including Angela Davis, Mumia Abu Jamal and Tariq Ali.

I could continue adding factual accolades of this kind, but it would be presumptuous to do so. Nevertheless, even if this trail of breadcrumbs does nothing to prove my innocence, it might plant some seeds of doubt about the basis for the accusations against me and about the questionable ethics of those who spread them. It is not that my detractors are unaware of these facts. They knowingly lie, distort and manipulate them. I was going to write ‘with impunity’ but this right of response means that this time they have drawn a blank, thanks to the international media. I could also shame those who defame me by remarking that when I call myself a ‘fundamental Muslim’, I am not referring to any form of religious fundamentalism but to Aimé Césaire who, in refusing to renege on his negritude, famously declared himself a ‘fundamental Negro’. I will stop here because the shame I feel on their behalf is turning into pity and it would take away from what I intend to be a more incisive conclusion.

Indeed, I advise my detractors to take a leaf out of my book. Why not paraphrase the text that they say incriminates me – ‘Mohamed Merah and I’ – and write their own: ‘White Supremacists and Us’. Part 1 could be titled ‘white supremacists are us’ in which they analyse their belonging to whiteness and their connection to state racism. Part 2: ‘white supremacists are not us’ where they explain how to break with the nationalist and imperialist logic they call ‘universalism’ by firstly making an attempt at humility and secondly, proposing a roadmap for abolishing race and creating the conditions for unifying the working class. But this is only fantasy. How could I ever imagine them being counselled by decolonial activists, evolving in their thinking, or going against the grain? To be sure, Little Tom Thumb has helped us uncover who they really are, but unfortunately, he does not have the power to turn lead into gold.

This article was translated into English by Alana Lentin.

[1] These newspapers consistently refuse me the right of reply even though I am continually defamed in them:

http://indigenes-republique.fr/droit-de-reponse-refuse-canard-enchaine/

http://indigenes-republique.fr/droit-de-reponse-dhouria-bouteldja-refuse-par-le-journal-le-monde/

Webinar: The attacks on civil, human and political rights for Muslims in Europe

Din Webinar Sunday December 13th
18.00-20.15 Paris time, 17.00-19.15 UK time,

Background

In 2011 the British government introduced the Prevent Policy that aims to prevent young people to get attracted to radical ideologies, especially radical Islam. The instruments of the government is surveillance  of Muslim youth in schools, universities, mosques and the health system and repression (arrest, interrogation, imprisonment).

In France Muslim leaders are required to sign a declaration that states that Islam is a religion and not a political movement. Muslim parent who complain about Islamophobic caricatures that are show to their children in the classroom are committing a criminal offence and can be deported from the country. Publishing images of police violence will be a criminal offence.

Austria want to ban political Islam by law. People convicted for violating this law could be imprisoned for life of if they are released earlier they could be subjected to electronic surveillance after being released. Associations and mosques that are suspected of adhering to political Islam will be shut down. A central register of imams will be created.

All across Europe there are increased attacks on the civil and human rights of Muslims by governments and are indications of the rise of police states in Europe. This puts important questions on the agenda:

There are two sets of questions we will deal with in the webinar:

Bloc 1: political Islam

  1. What is political Islam?
  2. Who is defining it?
  3. Is it a single monolithic idea or a plurality of views?
  4. Is attacking political Islam a means of shutting down dissenting voices among Muslims?
  5. What is the meaning of political Islam in comparison with political actions based on other ideologies such as Christianity, Judaism, Liberalism, Socialism?
  6. How do Islamic sources articulate political actions of Muslims compared to the sources of other ideologies?

Bloc 2: civil rights, human rights and the rise of fascism in Europe per country

  1. What is the role of zionism in the depoliticisation of Muslims?
  2. How is anti-semitism used by national and EU governments to silence Muslims and their organisations?
  3. What is the relationship between civil liberties such as freedom of speech and political rights of Muslims in Europe?
  4. How will the repression of civil liberties and human rights in Europe effect the position of Muslims and non-Muslims?
  5. How can we fight the rise of the police state in Europe?

 

Video’s to watch

 

In the past few years affiliates of DIN have organized Islamophobia conferences in December. Because of the Covid-19 crisis physical meetings are not possible. Instead DIN will organize a webinar on December 13th from 17.00-19.15 UK time, 18.00-20.15 Paris/Amsterdam time.

The webinar consists of:

  1. Short contributions
  2. Discussions
  3. Panel discussions

Hosts: Sandew Hira and Narges Mobaleghi

Links:

The program of the webinar is as follows:

  • Bloc 1: Hakimeh Saghaye-Biria and Mohamed Al-Asi
  • Bloc 2: Abed Choudry  (on UK), Massoud Shadjareh (on Austria), Houria Bouteldja (on France), Sheher Khan (on Netherlands) and Amanj Aziz (on Sweden