21 avril 2013

For a broad, mass-based campaign against the islamophobic offensive

 My translation of the text published on the influential website Mediapart by 'Left Front militants against islamophobia':

Following the increase in discrimination against mothers who wear the Muslim headscarf wishing to accompany school trips, the reactions to the decision of the Cour de Cassation in the case of the Baby Loup crèche (1) and the proposal to extend the ban on wearing the Muslim headscarf,

We, members, sympathisers and voters of the Left Front, wish to make heard the public and collective expression of an alternative voice - that of real equality of rights for Muslims (and those taken to be Muslims) and more generally for all discriminated persons.

With France already condemned by the UN Human Rights Committee for its law of 15 March 2004 banning the wearing of religious symbols in schools, the offensive against Muslims in France (whether of French nationality or not) has intensified. This has contributed to a growing climate of islamophobia and racism and reinforced a more general system of discrimination (by the police, and in the fields of employment,  housing, and education) against an ever-increasing number of inhabitants - with the State being in the front line. Racism affects not just Muslims, but groups who have lived in Europe for centuries, such as the Roma who are subjected to stigmatisation and institutional discrimination.

These attacks, while having specifically French roots, must also be seen in the context of the logic of an international "clash of civilisations" fostered by the ruling classes.

In a situation of growing economic crisis and a loss of faith in the institutions of the Fifth Republic, racism, as in previous periods, is used to widen the divisions in the ranks of ordinary people through the creation of scapegoats. In the 1930s, this mainly took the form of antisemitism. Today, reactionary politicians and intellectuels try to convince French citizens that immigration, especially from outside Europe, represents a danger for  the whole of society.  

The state and its institutions have played a key role in this process. Today, some are planning a new liberticidal law banning the wearing of religious (or supposedly religious) symbols in private companies and associations, especially by employees who look after young children. Such a measure would represent an attack on workers' legal rights, reinforce their subordination to employers and constitue a new form of discrimination in employment.

A further ban on the Muslim headscarf would lead to the exclusion of more women from the education system and employment. As such, it would constitute an infringement of women's rights, denying them access to that which, historically, has made their integration into society and their emancipation - however partial - possible. Such exclusion would increase the degree of ghettoisation, undermining the fraternity which is one of the pillars of the French Republic. It is inconceivable that such a measure be introduced by the Left.

As long as no credible alternative seems possible, the weakening of social ties and collective solidarity engendered by capitalism encourages groups of the population to coalesce exclusively on the basis of a shared identity. The social and economic conditions imposed upon them strengthen the sentiment of belonging to the group, which is seen as a means of self-protection against discrimination and segregation.

The tradition of secularism to which we are attached is already protected by the 1905 Law separating the French state and the Catholic church. In its original conception as represented by [French socialist leader] Jaurès, secularism was until recently considered to be the guarantee that all individuals, of whatever fiath or none, could live together in harmony and enjoy freedom of conscience in complete equality. However, it is now being used as a means to reject citizens with complex identities and as a weapon of mass discrimination. It is used as a screen for launching hate-filled attacks and passing discriminatory laws !

Islamophobia is part of a general system of discrimination. We must fight all forms of discrimination through theoretical and political work and practical campaigns. To succeed, we need a broad, mass front. Our aim must be to build a social block, uniting the exploited and the oppressed, including salaried workers, the unemployed and those working in conditions of precarity, in order to change the balance of forces and advance towards a Sixth Republic which will accord an equal place to all citizens, with their multiple identities.

We need to work towards political convergence. One of the founding principles of the Left Front is the degree to which the diversity of its members and components is accepted. It is vital to build unity between the exploited and the oppressed, and to unite forces going beyond our own members in order to defeat the numerous attempts to divide us.

In response to the islamophobic offensive,

We, Militants and sympathisers of the Left Front against islamophobia, will pursue the debate within our own organisations. We will also act publicly, for example by intervening in the Citizens' Assemblies organised by the local committees of the Left Front. We wish to engage in dialogue and action with intellectuals and movements who have been working in this field for more than thirty years, in particular the autonomous movements in the popular districts and immigrant communities. Today as in the past, political action is primarily carried out by and with those directly concerned.

We call for a national meeting on the 18th May in order to continue the discussion, elaborate plans and set up a form of organisation. We will, of course, contribute to the Left Front's working group on immigration and racism.

We call on all those who support our aims to take part in the rally called by Maman Toutes Egales, the network which is known for its battle to protect the rights of all mothers and fathers to accompany school trips.


(1) France's final Appeal Court, the Cour de Cassation, ruled that the dismissal of an employee from her job in a privately-run crèche on the grounds that she wore the Muslim headscarf was illegal. The verdict led to widespread protests by politicians and in the press. President François Hollande then announced that he would consult with party leaders with a view to changing the law, effectively extending the ban on the headscarf from public-sector jobs to those in the private sector working with young children.

List of signatories

The text is signed by the following persons, all in an individual capacity. The organisations to which they belong or which they support are given for information. The Left Front is an umbrella organisation. The other organisations mentioned are all members of  the Left Front. The numbers indicate the geographical location.

FdG (Front de Gauche - Left Front)
PCF (Parti communiste français - French Communist Party)
FASE (Fédération pour une Alternative Sociale et Ecologique - Federation for a Social and Ecological Alternative) which includes ACU (Association des communistes unitaires - Association of Communists for Unity)
GA (Gauche Anticapitaliste - Anticapitalist Left)
Les Alternatifs
PG (Parti de Gauche - Left Party)
C&A (Convergences et Alternative)

Alima Boumédienne Thiery, FASE
Stéphane Lavignotte, ecologist and Christian
Daniele Obono, C&A
Frédérick Gauvin-Dupont, PCF, Plonéour-Lanvern (Finistère)
Nolwenn Neveu, FdG
Veronika Daae, Alternatifs, Toulouse
Pierre Zarka, ACU
Catherine Samary, GA and NPA, Paris 18
Benoît Geraud, ex-PG, Alfortville (94)
Danielle Carasco, FASE, feminist
Capucine Larzillière, feminist, GA, Montreuil (93)
Razmig Keucheyan, FdG, Paris 19.
Sarah Al Matary, PG

First signatories :
Diane Adam, trade unionist, GA, Paris
Etienne Adam, FASE
Mathieu Allain, GA, Marseille
Janie Arneguy, Alternatifs, Gard
Grégory Bekhtari, GA, Paris 10
Gilles Boitte, ACU
Bernadette Bouchard, Alternatifs, Alpes-Maritimes (06)
Antoine Boulangé, GA, Vitry sur Seine (94)
Jean Brafman, FASE
Pantxoa Caussarieu, FASE, 64
Patricia Cavalera, Alternatifs, Ardèche
Florence Ciaravola, Alternatifs, Alpes-Maritimes
Mathieu Colloghan, Alternatifs
Renaud Cornand, GA,13
Hendrik Davi, FdG Marseille
Martine Dejean, FASE 43
Bruno Della Sudda, Alternatifs, Nice (06)
Christian Delord, Alternatifs, Gard
Carole Eldin, GA, Marseille
Colin Falconer, GA, Saint-Denis (93)
Pierre Gayral, Alternatifs, Paris
Vincent Gay, GA Montreuil
Guy Giani, Alternatifs, Pays de Grasse
Cécile Gobbo, GA, Paris 10
Geneviève Huchet, Alternatifs 06
Michèle Kiintz, ACU/ FASE
Valérie Lafont, FdG
Arthur Leduc, Alternatifs, Alpes-Maritimes
Christophe Lemasson, Alternatifs, Saint Brieuc
Laurent Lévy, FASE
Jean Marie Lucain, Alternatifs 06
Roland Mérieux, Alternatifs
Henri Mermé, Alternatifs
John Mullen, GA, Montreuil (93)
Richard Neuville, Alternatifs, Ardèche
No Neveu , GA, 13/ FdG Marseille
Pierre Nouzarède, FASE, 24
Rémy Querbouet, Alternatifs, Loire Atlantique
Marc Rebuschi, FASE
Florian Rideau, Alternatifs, Paris
Cécile Rigaldiès, GA, Paris 10
Lisbeth Sal, GA
Laurent Sorel, GA
Sarah Tiano, GA, Marseille
Jean-Louis Touton, GA
Nikou Tridon, Alternatifs, 06
Daniel Ullman, Paris 18, supporter of FdG
Nicolas Verdon, GA, Paris 19
Thomas Vescovi, supporter of FdG, Saint-Denis (93)

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