First published 2017-02-10 Pascal Bruckner | Le Figaro
Anti-racism has become a judicial market
INTERVIEW : For the philosopher, Pascal Bruckner, the concept of ‘Islamophobia’ is “a weapon of mass intimidation” whose twin objectives are to gag the West and hobble reformist and liberal muslims.
LE FIGARO : In Un racisme imaginaire [An Imaginary Racism], you try to deconstruct the concept of ‘Islamophobia’….
Pascal Bruckner : Yes, to speak of ‘Islamophobia’ is to practise a double conflation [amalgame]: to confound hatred with fear, and the persecution of believers with the challenging of their beliefs. [Persecution] is an offence, [to challenge beliefs] is an absolute right. The critique of religions is an achievement of the Enlightenment: particularly in France, where a large corpus of literature and philosophy testifies over four centuries to the satirical treatment of the clergy and the Church. And yet, some would like to re-establish the offence of blasphemy, abolished in 1791.
‘Islamophobia’, that old word taken from the colonial lexicon and re-employed by British islamists during the Rushdie affair (1989), fulfils a double function: to stop the mouths of westerners, who are guilty of propagating freedom of thought, but above all to fashion a tool for the internal policing of reformist or liberal muslims. The [muslim] faithful who claim the right to believe or not to believe, to leave the faith or to convert to another confession, are singled out for condemnation by their co-religionists in order to stifle all hope of change in the Islamic world. And that, with the unctuous collaboration of useful idiots of the Left and extreme Left, some standing foursquare with Islam as History’s latest victim of oppression.
In a column that recently appeared in the press, the Canadian philosopher, Charles Taylor, accused those who contest the notion of Islamophobia of preparing for the mass murder of muslims. This recalls the old Stalinist argument during the time of the Cold War, according to which to criticise the USSR was to play the game of American imperialism.
LE FIGARO : Doesn’t the attack against the mosque in Quebec bear witness to the reality of anti-muslim racism?
It’s been twenty years since fundamentalists began stepping up their attacks in the name of Islam. What’s amazing, is that western chauvinist groups haven’t reacted earlier. Although, the day after 9/11, some American citizens reacted in a brutal cowboy manner, beating up Sikhs and Indians in the street. But generally, and above all in civilised France, people in the West have not fallen prey to the pogrom mentality. The risk of reprisals lies in wait for us at any moment. If further atrocities were to take place, I couldn’t speak for the continued restraint of some of our compatriots.
The killer in Quebec, who invoked, amongst others, Marine Le Pen, is in all but name an ally of Daesh, which wants to sink ditches of blood between muslims and the rest of the population. An intelligent policy is one that avoids civil war. To criticise fundamentalism is not to open the gates to murderers, it is on the contrary to facilitate the reformation of a religion that is tempted, at the global level, by a worrying drift towards fanaticism. Besides, the principal victims of this drift are the muslims themselves. In this sense, the true ‘islamophobes’ are none other than the members of Daesh or of al-Qa’eda, who massacre their co-religionists by the thousands. If the anti-islamophobe associations were coherent, they would be prosecuting Daesh, al-Qa’eda, the Muslim Brotherhood, or Boko Haram.
LE FIGARO : Precisely, so why were French muslims so quiet after the attacks of 2015-2016?
A number of intellectuals, leaders, imams, spoke out with courage. However, in a global context, French muslims found themselves trapped between the accusation of treachery from their own extremists, and the accusation of duplicity from the rest of French society. Their situation is difficult. They are suspected of being the moles of radical Islam even as they intone against fundamentalism, and the radicals accuse them of playing the game of the “French” and of betraying their “community of origin”. An intelligent policy on religion in France should both mercilessly repress the fundamentalist mosques and fake imams, and extend a hand to the reformers.
It is urgent to settle in law an Islam of France.
For years, we’ve been genuflecting before the madmen of God, while baling up our own free-thinkers. Let’s not forget that the goal of the Salafists is to isolate muslims from the rest of the population by repeating to them that they are oppressed by the “infidels”. It is urgent to settle in law an Islam of France.
LE FIGARO : What do you make of the comparison between “Islamophobia” and anti-Semitism?
“Islamophobia” is a weapon of mass intimidation, a means of stifling all controversy within Islam by imposing omertà. These tactics reach their conclusion with the establishment of an equivalence between “Islamophobia” and anti-Semitism. For the islamists, it’s all about tracing a line from the status of muslims in 2017 back to that of the Jews in the 1930s and 40s, the better to gain entry to the ultra-privileged club of victims. But a religion is not a race. Anti-Semitism has always addressed the Jews as a people. It is not the religion of Moses that antisemites castigate, but those whom they consider as the “Jewish race”.
LE FIGARO : Two associations that brought actions against you for defamation following some comments on Islamism, have been dismissed by the courts…
This case relates to some comments I made on 28 Minutes on the Arte channel, after the Charlie Hebdo attacks. I said that we should be tracing the history of those responsible for the assassinations, and quoted, amongst many others, the Indigènes de la République and Les Indivisibles, saying that they had prepared the ideological ground for the murder of twelve journalists. Zineb El Rhazoui, a journalist at Charlie Hebdo, who was also on the programme, agreed with this analysis. Six months later, I received two summonses, alleging defamation, to appear before a court. A trial involves the shame of having been singled out; it’s also a form of financial pressure, because hiring a good lawyer is very expensive; and again, it’s a psychological grilling. We brought in numerous high-quality witnesses: the then director of Charlie Hebdo, Riss; the grand master of the Grand Orient de France [Masonic organisation], Patrick Kessel; the political scientist Laurent Bouvet; and the philosopher Luc Ferry.
The testimony of the former president of Ni putes ni soumises [Neither Whores Nor Doormats, feminist organisation], Sihem Habchi, who has seen at first hand the effect of these radical narratives on the “youth of the suburbs”, was very strong. This young woman described a “green fascism”, aided by a third-world-orientated Left that spreads “the ideology of the oppressed and insinuates the idea that these young people will never leave their situation, and that those responsible are the Republic and France”. She recounted her real-life experiences, the insults and the threats made against her, including that of being a “traitor to her race”.
I repeated before the court that words can kill like bullets, that the ideas of these associations, deemed ‘antiracist’, had been taken as encouragement by the assassins of Charlie, because they branded the journal’s editorial team as “islamophobic”. A number of “progressives” have equally accused Charlie Hebdo of “humiliating an oppressed minority”. And yet the press has pointed out that only a tiny proportion of Charlie’s cover pages took aim at Islam, while the great majority derided Christianity, Judaism, and Buddhism. There’s a double standard here: can we mock any religion, laugh at Moses, Jesus, the pope, the Dalai-Lama, but not Islam — on pain of incurring the ultimate punishment?
LE FIGARO : Has the debate unleashed by this trial turned out to be salutary?
By nonsuiting Les Indivisibles and the Indigènes de la République, the judges recognised that my statements were in the nature of an opinion, and were not defamatory. They remained within the bounds set by the rule of law and by free discussion, which underpin democratic states. One must be free to express opinions without being hauled before the courts — it’s “juridical jihad” — or physically threatened. The accusation of “Islamophobia” can get you killed, and lead to fanatics carrying out justice themselves, in the name of God.
LE FIGARO : After your trial came that of Georges Bensoussan, who was also accused of “Islamophobia”…
Anti-racism has become a judicial market, where even microscopic associations can acquire some visibility by suing indiscriminately.
Georges Bensoussan’s only crime was to misquote the social scientist Smaïn Laacher, on Alain Finkielkraut’s programme Répliques [Rejoinders]. Laacher had in effect explained in a documentary for France 3, that anti-Semitism was often transmitted down family lines in Arab communities. For having said that “in Arab families in France […] you take in anti-Semitism with your mother’s milk” — the same idea as formerly expressed, Georges Benssoussan had justified the accusation of “biological racism”. When one is acquainted with the specialist work on the Shoah of this historian of relations between Arabs and Jews, this [manner of expression] becomes just an aberration. And yet, not only did the court decide to move on the accusations levelled in the CCIF controversy [Collectif contre l’islamophobie en France], but the anti-racist associations, including SOS Racisme and LICRA [Ligue Internationale Contre le Racisme et l’Antisémitisme], wanted to bring civil actions, too.
Anti-racism has become a judicial market, where even microscopic associations can acquire some visibility by suing indiscriminately. Were he to lose, Georges Benssoussan would suffer the weight of ultimate opprobrium and social death. Here again, there’s a double standard: when Houria Bouteldja, spokeswoman for Le Parti des Indigènes de la République, writes “The Whites, the Jews, and us”, nobody protests. Imagine a militant of the Front national publishing “The Blacks, the Jews, and us”, and the outcry, justified, that would follow.
Big ears are listening to us, eager to pick up the slip or the ill-chosen word that could catapult an honest man into hell.
Anti-racism is a movement that has become mad, and a true thought-and-language police. Nowadays, when one speaks in public, it is necessary to weigh each word in the balance, avoiding for example the definite article, and using instead the indefinite, so that one cannot be accused of “essentialising”. Juridical newspeak [novlangue] could finish up as a bar to freedom of speech and even of thought. Everyone is under the surveillance of everyone. Big ears are listening to us, eager to pick up the slip or the ill-chosen word that could catapult an honest man into hell.
How do you explain anti-racism having lost its way, as it appears to you?
Anti-racism has become the civil religion of our century, because it replaces the class-struggle with the race-struggle. The theory behind this phenomenon was developed in a report from the leftist institute, Terra Nova, in 2010: observing that the working class had become conservative and gentrified, it recommended that the Parti socialiste form an alliance with the bobos [bourgeois-bohèmes] of the inner cities, and the youth of immigrant origin in the suburbs [banlieues]. In this way, the Left, abandoning social struggle and the defence of the nation, espouses a communitarian vision of France, understood as a collection of minorities from which votes could be collected during elections. With the result that these demographics are wooed explicitly as “victims”.
What we’re witnessing is a sort of hereditary transmission of the status of victim: we now have only the descendants of slaves, the once colonised. At the other extreme, we have the hereditary transmission of the status of oppressor: “the White” becomes suspect by nature, as we saw last summer with the “decolonialisation camps” forbidden to Whites. Here, we’ve arrived at the precise inverse of supremacist or Nazi logic: anyone not a “chalk-face” belongs to a superior echelon of humanity, while all palefaces are decried or depreciated.
The absurdity of political correctness is that it does nothing concrete to assist the people supposedly “oppressed”, merely laying on a kind of linguistic glaze.
Let’s also quote professor Enzo Traverso: he explains that it was the Jews’ misfortune, after the creation of Israel, to have been “rendered white”, forfeiting the position of outsider that they had formerly occupied. This position would then be filled by the “Arabs” and the “Blacks”. Anti-racists dig up almost every day a new category of discrimination. The latest [discriminatory phobia] is “fear of the poor”. To speak ill of the poor can now expose you to consequences. Yet the poor in question above all aspire to leave their condition behind. The absurdity of political correctness is that it does nothing concrete to assist the people supposedly “oppressed”, merely laying on a kind of linguistic glaze. It’s a poultice to avoid treating real problems. It captures this very particular moment, in which one is content to reclassify problems, rather than do anything about them. ◼︎