On the Internet in the spring of 2000, the first disinformation campaign aimed at giving credence to the idea of religious racism in Europe was developed. It made a strong contribution to the about-face of some left and ultra-left militants. These militants didn’t hesitate in renouncing a project, a thought and a language rooted in three centuries of revolutionary battle.
The refusal of their history in the name of anti-colonialism is only explained by the abandonment of the anti-clerical universalism of this history. They no longer defend a cause with conviction as masters of their choice, but rather defend the cause that others have chosen for them. Why should they raise doubts, in an unusual manner, about the reasons for their solidarity? Has this world truly changed? Aren’t the forms of domination the same everywhere? Hasn’t capitalism been a pure, unchanging negativity for some time now? Mincing in their certitudes, they judge their moral rectitude to be incontestable. Like in the Victorian era, they have their poor, and they have found the truly guilty once and for all. They even judge those whose critiques don’t spare the social, cultural and religious practices of the victims that these militants claim to defend unfailingly to be suspect or reactionary. How could they admit that their systematic support facilitates the very specific interests of certain victims who aspire to become new masters? In the final analysis, what must be understood is the way that the language of these militants has been falsified to the point where they confuse the anti-clerical and the religious; why, for example, have they been born along from support of the Palestinian cause to defense of Muslim associations, going from the denunciation of racist aggression and police violence in urban ghettoes to the denunciation of anti-muslim racism?
In the name of an “ethnic redefinition of culture”, relativism has become a conceptual jumble that allows any question of the integralist tendency of religion or any specific critique of the fate reserved for women in the urban ghettoes, to be described as racist. In an upside-down world, the critique of religion is no longer a prelude to every critique; it is downright hostile to it. The effects of such a theoretical shift can be measured by the wretched reflections of a leftist, post-feminist writer: “When the economic level is right and social mixture is assured, no threat – real or imagined – comes to bear; religions are respected and assume the most inoffensive form, coming back by themselves to the doghouse.” It isn’t easy to specify which is the most dismaying aspect of such a statement: the bad faith, the idiocy or the flagrant absence of historical memory. In this so very natural way of hastily repeating the worst counter-truths, one recognizes the effectiveness of those who have all the time in the world to think them up and spread them. Seeing the excellence of the result, one might fear that, from now on, religious integralism1 has all the means for transforming society, on the basis of its advantage. Analyzing religion in terms of cultural relativism and a post-modern ideology of diversity denying that the natural tendency of every religion is integralism renders religion and its foreseeable consequences unassailable.
The struggle for freedom has always been carried out against religion, against its self-evident desire to control society and impose its ways and customs with violence. In Europe, it was through merciless struggle that religion was put aside in the sphere of private life; that the freedom of blasphemy was able to prefigure the refusal of any censorship; that the opposition to the religious fetish preceded the attack against commodity fetishism. The democratic simulacrum that is the supposed improvement of the standard of living doesn’t get rid of the religious question at all, and the example of the United States provides evidence of this every day. So-called “secular society” has no reason to renegotiate the separation that it has imposed between church and state, nor to dialogue with religions in the name of religion. Defending the excluded by identifying ourselves in a centrally totalitarian religion is subjecting society to an attack with fatal consequences: its dissolution.
In the name of the right to difference, of parity between all cultures, all critique of religion gets transformed into a racist crime. It has gone so far as to equate the refusal of the Islamic veil to xenophobia or colonial nostalgia., not to the critique of a religion that oppresses women. One can measure the expected effects by the surprising declarations of some post-feminists for whom “the ease with which European women make love from the first encounter can attack women of other cultures for whom the gift of their body is a spiritual and irreversible experience.” This sudden cultural tolerance in fact implies a cultural vassalage and a condemnation for the fault of sexual freedom that would thus no longer be a universal conquest. It teaches us about a certain basic ambiguity regarding the religious question. The depreciation of atheist positions prepares the terrain for a high-pressure return to moral values, through an opportune media overkill.
When blasphemy takes on the pope, it is thought of as an “obsolete practice”, whereas when it attacks the prophet of Islam , it becomes colonial aggression. Here we see how, through a sort of “deconstruction of discourse”, north African and black African immigrants, including youths and new-born babies, get reduced to their mere religious origins. It is necessary to convince them that their history and their culture are summed up in the passive role as victim of the colonial European past. In this way, they are bullied into becoming one of the faithful and submitting to a Muslim nation that doesn’t exist anywhere, but that imposes its freedom-killing project everywhere. Their only “positive” existence passes through religion. They are kept away from any anti-Islamic culture2 within the Islamic world, since recognizing the existence of such a thing would imply that Europe didn’t have a monopoly on Enlightenment.
For the defenders of political Islam, the attack carried out against Houelleberq’s novel, Platform (he is reproached because one of his characters describes Islam as the stupidest religion in the world) has been the beginning of a campaign that is always in its preliminary stages, aimed mainly at transforming the freedom of blasphemy into a racial crime and preparing public opinion for a new surprise attack. As the signal of an early victory, the media would speak from that time on of anti-Moslem racism. The Houellebecq trial was followed by the affair of the Danish cartoons, coming in to remind the most skeptical of what is really at stake in this semantic war. The other monotheistic religions have clearly understood where their interests lie and have aligned themselves with the Moslems.
In less cowardly times, Luis Buñuel filmed a Christ who survived a bloody orgy of 120 days and the execution of a pope; Benjamin Peret spit on priests; Spanish acratics3 distributed a flyer in the midst of the church and throughout Franco’s dictatorship that proclaimed: Christ is in the shit!
Like Salman Rushdie, Taslim Nasreen rightly observes that the condemnation of religious ideology restores to the men and women that this ideology alienates their status, no longer as believers, but as human beings. Defending this point of view today means risking a fatwa, as in other times it meant the Inquisition’s executioners. In a world where people speak more and more commonly about the Christian West, where politicians lay claim to secularity to preserve, if not strengthen , the privileges of Christianity, the humanitarian and revolutionary message can still be heard in the clear identification of its two enemies: capitalism and religion (two forms of the same fetish?) Can one still assert the struggle of those who still consider atheistic thought as one of the forms of the battle for liberation; who hope that the cult of man replaces that of heaven; who curse the cassock because it teaches submission, maintains superstition and favors exploitation? Yes, the histories of Islam and of Christianity are made of cruel and misogynist practices; and yes, the fight against religion is a fight for freedom and not the expression of a colonialist desire to impose the model of the white man everywhere.
The last few generations have underestimated the return of the religious. In their opinion, from the beginning of the 20th century, the religious question was obsolete and its critique, having become out-dated, served no purpose. Not only was the Islamic influence underestimated, but people often felt a sense of guilt that they could not cast off or understand where it came from. This blindness resembles that of the “moral” left. To avoid making the repressive play of the right and being accused of xenophobia, i.e., racism, one adopts a position of principle favorable to immigrants and urban youth by refusing to analyze the religious subordination of many of them. While violence against immigrant is inexcusable, this does not at all justify the humiliating religious vassalage of women that is far too often present in their lives.
The “moral” left can be recognized by its lack of historical culture. What it confronts always seems new. It is convinced that the presence of believers in leftist and ultra-leftist organizations is a recent phenomenon, specifically linked to the development of Islam in France. A superficial study of the organizational practices of proletarian movement of the second half of the 19th century prove otherwise.
In Spain, the militants of the founding cells of the International Workers’ Association had to convince and organize workers and peasants whose daily life was blindly submitted to the dogmas of the violently reactionary Catholic church. These militants, noting that religious obscurantism was universal, radically cut to the heart of the problem by prohibiting any religious manifestations in the proletarian organizations and transforming this ban into a daily critique of religious alienation in social life and state organizations.
Their developmental strategy was ruled by a cultural and educational practice that, alone, might liberate the people from superstition.
It’s difficult to imagine militants of the AIT participating in meetings where militants of Islamic organizations could defend Koranic dogma. It is difficult to imagine them presenting petitions and preparing actions together with religious associations that exclude women from social and political life. They would never put up with the lie, which has gone on too long, that there is such a thing as anti-islamic racism. In their day they would have responded in the way that we can respond today: there is such a thing as anti-Arab racism that needs to be fought, but there is no anti-Muslim racism. Islam is an ideology, and must be fought as an ideology, in the same way as capitalism, Nazism, Hinduism, Catholicism. What we have conquered through hard struggle cannot be compromised by making peace with any cult.
1 I have chosen to translate “integralismo” as “integralism” rather than “fundamentlism” in order to make it clear that the problem is not one of a literal interpretation of scriptures, but of trying to bring the whole of society under religious control, to integrate all of society into a religious body.–translator
2 For example, Qadarism in the 7th and 8th century, whose refusal of divine fatalism led to the execution of Ma’bad al-Jahuni in 699 and Ghaylan al-Dimashqi in 743 by the Caliphs; or rationalist Mutazilism in the 9th century with the famous “House of Wisdom” in Baghdad where Nestorian physicist Hunayn ibn-Ichaq (called Joannitius) translated Plato’s Republic and Aristotle’s Categories and Physics. Qadarism and Mutazilism were judged as heretical by orthodox Islam and condemned. In 922, the well-known mystic al-Hallaj was whipped, mutilated, hanged on the gallows, beheaded and his corpse burned.
3“Acratic” is a term that anarchists in Spain and other places have often used for themselves. It indicates that they are for acracy—no government—rather than democracy—government by the people. If only more present day anarchists would get this.–translator