Is it racist to oppose a religion?

Manifesto for a political anti-racism

Could the Kouachi brothers and Amedy Coulibaly have won the battle of ideas after all? Since January 7, 2015, the public debate has been oriented towards wrong alternatives. For or against terrorism? Of course, everyone is against it (to the point that even the progressive expansion of its definition is accepted). For or against freedom of expression? Mind you, everyone is in favor, or at least almost (except in the case of the students who are accused of glorifying terrorism). The result: Six months after the Anti-Terrorism Act, the Intelligence Service Act follows, which also tries to significantly impair our freedoms. And the litany continues. For or against the republic? Everyone is in favor, in the name of a patriotism that (according to Manuel Valls) must be held against all those who “no longer believe in France”. The proof? The UMP [Union pour un mouvement populaire] is again using the term “Republicains” and the Front National is patenting that of the “Patriots”. The new name of the Socialist Party is eagerly awaited: why not “Seculars”? After all, we are constantly being asked: For or against secularism? Everyone is for it, or almost ...

Such unanimity provokes desperate reactions: the fine words must not make one forget reality. One can criticize “the fraud”; still oppose the “spirit of January 11th”, right? But can we still take part in this debate if the terms are not ours? The prime minister, who comes to the arena to defend the holy covenant, is not deterred. Let us rather accept the challenge of taking the initiative: do not react, but act with our own words. We must refuse to be locked up in false debates. Now the point is not to answer, but to enforce our terms. It's time to talk about something else. Democracy is threatened by those who disintegrate French society. And that is not what religion (and not even one) does; this is what the racism does, which some of us - migrants from Africa or Roma and Romnia from Europe and also French, heirs to slavery, colonization and migration with black appearance or Maghreb origin - describe as racized "others".

If you wave the flag of secularism today, it is rarely to denounce the public funding of Catholic schools, the Concordat in Alsace-Mosel or the pressure of the bishops against “marriage for all”. Usually it is about worrying about Islam. What should alarm us, however, is Islamophobia. Let's stop talking around the bush and let's take a look. In a country where the former president could nominate a “Muslim prefect” and speak of “French Muslims”, the issue is less about religion than euphemizing racialization. Marine Le Pen understood this very well: her father attacked the Arabs, she is looking to Islam to blame. Under anti-Judaism we recognize anti-Semitism, which - regardless of their religion - is directed towards Jews. The same applies to Islam: you don't have to be a Muslim to fall victim to Islamophobia, or to identify yourself as such, willy-nilly.

Certainly, our rulers condemn “racism and anti-Semitism” (even if they oppose them). But are they really fighting it? Moral anti-racism, which is outraged by a phenomenon the causes of which it ignores - because it does not see it, that is, because it does not want to see it - must be overcome. We urgently need to get back to political anti-racism. In the 1980s, it was believed that racism was limited to one ideology and one party. In the 1990s it was understood that the systematic and systemic discrimination forms a structural racism: Racist or not, one participates in social logics, the exclusionary effects of which turn out to be racist. The intellectuals, the politicians and the journalists - they all strive for anti-racism and almost all of them are white. Racism is measured less in terms of the alleged intentions of those who otherwise defend themselves, but rather in terms of the demonstrable consequences it has on those to whom it happens.

But there is more: since the 2000s, the state has shown itself to be less and less a legal remedy against racism. On the contrary, he is turning out to be the main actor of an institutional racism. This is undoubtedly not new: In fact, we are heirs to a story - from the colonial empire to post-colonial France, from the colonies to Outremer and from Outremer to “metropolis”, from slavery to negrophobia, from the Muslim French of Algeria yesterday to the Muslims of France today and from the internment of the “nomads” (between 1940 and 1946) to the Roma barracks settlements. It's not about repentance. The past is undoubtedly irreparable. Nevertheless, reparation is all the more urgent as it continues to weigh on our present: how can “racist inequality” be understood differently? But the role of the state has recently become very clear - from the debate about national identity to the attacks on Muslims, without forgetting the hunt for the Roma and Romnia, which was intensified under François Hollande.

First of all, the state creates the objective conditions for racism, segregation and exile through its urban, housing, transport and school policies as well as its institutions such as the police and the judiciary. Then he supplements these with subjective conditions: He legitimizes racism by assigning different definitions to two categories of people - “you” and “we”. “They” are those who are left to die, or rather killed, in the Mediterranean, but also on Mayotte, and those whose life is made unbearable in the Roma and Romnia barracks or in the “jungle” of Calais. The xenophobia that feeds racism also affects those French people, for whom it is considered much more natural to let them live without dignity or let them die with impunity - despite our common nationality, they should not be like "us". They are compatriots who are constantly being asked to integrate in order to give them such a better understanding that they will never really belong to us.

To be anti-racist today does not only mean fighting against the nation-state; it doesn't just mean rejecting the racist stereotypes that fuel systemic discrimination. It also means fighting the policies that racist French society. That one does not say that this anti-racism is a departure from the class problems, as if the “question of racialization” were covering up the “social question”. Discrimination based on origin or appearance increases socio-economic inequalities. Resisting them means, above all, falling into a trap. Just as the European Union is “fortress Europe”, neoliberal policies in France and elsewhere are also linked to state racism: One is played off against the other, the “popular classes” against the “racialized”, just as if they were the latter do not mostly belong to the former.

It is a matter of shaking resentment in order to turn away from one's object the anger aroused by the injustice experienced by one and the other. Those who engage in political trade with xenophobia, romaphobia, negrophobia and Islamophobia like others with anti-Semitism, follow a logic: one is played off against the other in order to ultimately disqualify those who are upset, that with double standards is measured while the "old anti-Semitism" persists, which rejects "Jews and Arabs" alike. The recent investigation by the CNCDH [National Advisory Commission on Human Rights] shows that the racisms are linked. But the competition that some are trying to establish between white workers and their neighbors of “foreign origin” or between Muslims and Jews, while inciting the one and the other against the Roma and Romnia, prevents the questions that urgently need to be raised . It is not the fault of the Roma and Romnia, not even the migrants from Africa, the blacks or the Muslims, if inequalities arise, any more than it is to the detriment of the Jews when these racists of all kinds are victims of social and state discrimination.

Fight against discrimination, against economic inequalities, against Islamophobia or against anti-Semitism? These are still false alternatives that prevent any coalition, which divide all those who should band together and unite those who should be divided. In order to combat this, this question must be answered: What is the purpose of racism politically, beyond real or proclaimed intentions? It is time to hold the political leaders accountable and show them their responsibility. That means building the foundations of a renewed, repoliticized anti-racism. Taking the initiative against policies of racialization: this work started on May 9, 2015 at the Gennevilliers Forum. It will continue with the first people affected, the women and men who pay the price. And this struggle will also be waged with all of us who reject this political nightmarish phantasm of a white France. It really is time, but there is still time, to respond to racialization with politicization.

The manifesto can be signed here: