Antifascist Action (AFA) condemns the Paris attacks. We understand that a proclamation like this does not soothe the pain of the families or bring the attackers to justice. By this proclamation, we just want to express our solidarity and symbolically stand with the survivors and the families of victims.
But the reason behind the attack and its conseqences are far from being symbolic. We don’t have all the info about the attackers, their background or motives, but we can witness how islamophobic groups across Europe that are spreading hoaxes, lies and whatever comes in handy for their agenda are using the current situation in their favor and making a connection between the attacks and the refugee crisis. There is one important fact to remember. Neither the Charlie Hebdo attacks nor the Toulouse attacks of 2012 had anything to do with refugees. In these cases, the attackers were people born in France to families of Algerian descent. Let’s just note here that Algeria was considered an integral part of France way until 1962 (not a colony) and Algerians were French citizens in the eyes of France. The only inkling that could lead to some connection to current refugee crisis is a fake Syrian passport found on a site of the suicide attack. All the other attackers, including the alleged mastermind behind the action, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, are French and Belgian citizens. The information about the life of the first identified attacker Omar Ismail Mostefai also show the same traits as the attackers described previously. Closing the borders, Schengen space or creating Fortress Europe would therefore hardly do anything prevent the attacks.
Is there anything that could prevent such events? To answer this question, we must look for the roots of the evil that ends up in such attacks. The reasons leading to Paris attacks and other that took place (and will, sadly, most likely take place in the future) can be found in three areas – colonial and post-colonial politics of Europe, social frustration among some Muslims and radical interpretation of Islam.
Many European countries participated on colonization of the so-called Third World in the past. The direct military rule and physical enslavement turned into a relationship of economic dominance over time with Western economic centres draining wealth from the periferies. Among French colonies were African countries such as Gabun, Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Chad, Mauretania, Senegal, Mali, Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, Niger, Burkina Faso and Benin. Tunisia and Morocco enjoyed a special status (protectorate) as well as Algeria that was a part of France since 1830. But the benefits of Algeria being integrated into France worked only one way. The colonists with French citizenship had a bigger country to enjoy, but the majority of Muslim residents in Algeria had no rights, couldn’t vote, had no status of citizenship (which they acquired in 1947). But the process worked both ways and many of the “colonized” moved into the countries of the colonists. This movement remains even after the colonial empires are dismantled. It is therefore quite natural that there are 6 milion Muslim currently living in France. It is no Islamist conspiration to overthow Europe but a mere result of French colonist politics.
While Algerians were granted access to France by their French passports, they were not granted an equal status of French citizen. That became obvious during the so-called “Massacre of Paris” in 1961 when French police shot between 100-200 protesters from Algeria, threw their bodies into Seine and successfully covered up this incident for couple decades. The first generation of people coming from Algeria accepted the fact that they are second-class citizens and accepted the menial jobs, but their children refused this situation. French integration programmes often failed and the result was suburbs full of poor, displaced and frustrated people who had very little chance of escapong poverty. This resulted in ghettoization with all the negative aspects. Violence, low education and unemployment along with unemployability.
Islam in its radical form represents a way to gain self-respect and create an identity opposing the mainstream for many of the marginalized descendents of Algerians and Moroccans. Radical imams are well aware of this fact and try hard to identify and influence the frustrated youth. Daesh (formerly known as Islamic State) and its elaborate propaganda represent a desirable mark many of them see as an authority. But couple things need to be said at this point.
First, we refuse to repeat the mantra that Islam is a religion of peace. No organized religion in the history of mankind was ever a religion of peace. Any abstract religious interpretation allows to be abused and to justify any kind of action, however heinous, and this becomes the backbone of fundamentalism and violence inflicted on innocent people. While the visible part of Christian violence is declining (even though it is embodied in power structures that continue to influence our everyday lives), the violence in the name of Islam is more contemporary and easy to see and grasp for people in Europe. We need to look for the roots of violence within Islam, along with the reasons for unequal treatment of women in some of the interpretations of the religion. We need to stand against the wave of islamophobia, but at the same time we cannot be blind to the problems within the Muslim communities. It is true that radical Islamic fundamentalism poses an equal threat on the lives of people of free will as other fascist groups. We are pointing this out for years.
It is however important to stress out that we refuse to apply collective guilt based on religion. We are willing to stand up against radical Islamic fundamentalism just as much as against fascism and neo-Nazism. That means without applying collective guilt, and that is what differentiates us from islamophobes. The Paris attacks go in their favor. Prime minister Sobotka already said that the state will recruit thousands of new policemen and strenghten the army. Ex-president Klaus is one of the many who didn’t even wait for the blood to dry and started to feed his own agenda. Nationalists would like to stomp all refugees to the ground and Klára Samková (czech lawyer, politician) suggested that cellphone roaming from Turkey, Syria, Libya and Saudi Arabia should be blocked and internet should be blocked as well. Let’s just remind ourselves that regimes in these countries (mainly Turkey) are blocking internet connection and social networks because they fear the democratization and loss of power. Do you find it surprising that those who fight for “freedom and European values” are actually calling for the same things the Islamists are already implementing? We are not surprised at all.