Book Discussion Series 4

Whites, Jews, and Us - Toward a Politics of Revolutionary Love

Houria Bouteldja

Political activist Houria Bouteldja speaks not as an academic, but an activist that is highly informed by decolonial critique and scholarship. In the introduction to the book, famous scholar and activist Cornel West summarizes the central point of Bouteldja’s attempt with the words: “[…] a politics that is unapologetically anti-patriarchal, anti-capitalist, and anti-imperialist grounded in the doings and sufferings of colonized people” (7). Bouteldja clearly situates herself as a political subject within a larger reading of history through decolonial lenses, and draws especially on the contemporary experiences of North African and what she calls “Arab-Berber-Muslim” immigration (17). But Bouteldja does not write this book to condemn or call out misdoings. She calls herself “not innocent” and reflects upon her own existence in France as being “white” (27). Two pages later, she makes clear what she means by that: “I am not exactly white. I am whitened. I am here because I was thrown up by History. I am here because white people were in my country, because they are still there (29-30).”

The book is structured in six chapters. In the first, the author discusses French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre’s stance towards the anti-colonial war, which she does not consider a fully-fledged argument, since Sartre on one side sees the armed struggle as the only way left to defend the oppressed, while he at the same time upholds the Jewish state as a project for an independent, free, and peaceful state. For Bouteldja, this is nothing but reflection of “white conscience” (21). She then moves to present Jean Genet as the figure who went beyond Sarte. She concludes this chapter by raising the question, what can persons of color offer the white man? The answer is seemingly simple: Peace through revolutionary love (32). In the second chapter, dedicated to white people, Bouteldja illustrates what she means by “peace through revolutionary love”: Peace is nothing but the absence of war. A peace that can only happen at “the crossroads of our mutual interests” and that builds on the premise of the white man to give up defending his racial interests that allow his domination and the disenfranchisement of persons of color. (49). In the third chapter dedicated to Jews, she redefines persons of color and their relationship to Jews, and calls them chosen people by the West for three reasons: in order to “solve the white world’s moral legitimacy crisis […], to outsource republican racism and finally to be the weaponized wing of Western imperialism in the Arab World” (55). The fourth chapter, dedicated to indigenous women, problematizes feminism as something contained within the framework of Western liberalism (90). She discusses Audre Lord and James Baldwin in rethinking the world (91-93), before her attempt to redefine the world (117- 18). In her conclusion, she draws on Malcolm X and presents him as a person who can teach what love means. Malcolm for her represented a complex means to find love and not become a hateful person. From there, Bouteldja goes to her proposal of a new “We” of revolutionary love (139-40).

By Dr. Farid Hafez


Islamophobia - Understanding Anti-Muslim Racism through the Lived Experiences of Muslim Youth

Naved Bakali

Naved Bakali’s first monograph, titled Islamophobia: Understanding Anti-Muslim Racism through the Lived Experiences of Muslim Youth (Sense Publishers, 2016), is an empirical contribution to the research on the social reality of Muslim minorities living in Western societies. The book investigates the experiences of Muslim youth in Canadian secondary schools in the aftermath of 9/11. Bakali’s fieldwork is based on the methodology of Critical Ethnography. He frames his analysis within Critical Race Theory, giving his study a politically motivated and value-oriented purpose to advocate for the emancipation of the Canadian Muslim minority. The empirical data in his work includes interviews and focus group discussions with young male and female Muslim adults, as well as Muslim and non- Muslim teachers.

The value of Bakali’s research is embodied in his discussion on how Islamophobia in Quebec is connected to the larger historical context of Quebecois identity-politics as an exclusionist, nationalist, separatists state in Canada. Bakali criticizes the policies of Canadian multiculturalism and argues that, as a concept, it entails a power hierarchy in which the nationalist subject has the power to tolerate the Other. Such attitudes are exemplified in the narrations of his interviewees who reported racist slurs such as “Go back to your country,” indicating the association of Muslim identity with foreign ancestry, and the way the presence of the Muslim subject is seen as a contamination of “Western” national space. Oppressive attitudes that Muslim students experienced during their school years were demonstrated further in the ways in which they were forced to accept negative narratives about Islam by regulating their speech in class to conform with the teacher’s views.

The book and its case study bring to light the fact that Islamophobia is a global, historical phenomenon, but makes it easy for the reader to follow specific Muslim localities, each of which has its own particularities shaped by social, economic, historical and cultural factors.

By Linda Hyökki