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Aug 08 2012

‘Racism is a refuge for the ignorant’.

‘Racism is a refuge for the ignorant. It seeks to divide and to destroy. Its the enemy of freedom, and deserves to be met head-on and stamped out.’ – Pierre Berton

I feel bad whenever I think of the day I spent with people from the an extreme right wing political party. I marched alongside them all over Paris. It was 19 years ago. I was in Paris and I wanted to celebrate May Day, the 1st of May. In our country everybody celebrates May day. I had no idea May day was celebrated and Joan of Arc was honored by no other people but the extreme right wingers in France. Not only I marched with a bunch of neo-nazis, skinhead, racist white supremacists wearing heavy boots, I applauded like them when their leaders were giving racist speeches. I did not know French. I thought they were talking about the workers rights. I had no idea that their speeches were hate speeches against non-white immigrants. They laid down flowers in front of a statue of Joan of Arc, I did the same. I was the only non-white among tens of thousands of whites. I noticed they were staring at me with strange eyes. I thought French eyes were strange. Next day when I told my friends about my May Day celebrations, they were shocked, they told me that those people were France’s far-right Nationalists, there were many skinhead white supremacists among them. I was lucky that I was alive, that I did not get beaten up or killed.
But I am an invited guest in France! I said. My French friends said, ‘They didn’t know that you were a guest. They didn’t know that you would stay only for a few days! They definitely thought you were an immigrant! You should know that those people do not want to see any black or brown in this country.’ Since then, I stay at home during May day in Paris.

I lived in the West for more than a decade. I was treated as a V.I.P. or a distinguished resident. I was respected and honored by the governments and many reputed institutions and organizations. I had armed police protection round the clock. But still I experienced racism. If I had to experience racism, I can imagine how much racism ordinary people experience everyday!

Recent Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin reminds me of racism I face and other non-whites face in the West. Mr Page, the white supremacist skinhead racist probably wanted to kill Muslims but killed Sikhs because he mistook turbaned Sikhs for Muslims, or he just wanted to kill a bunch of brown immigrants, no matter in which god they believe in.

Mr. Wade Michael Page served in the US military. I have been thinking whether American soldiers get specially trained to be angry at black and brown people in Asia, Africa and Latin America during their overseas operations. Some of them, I am sure, think, that, the little poor people in the little poor countries are not Americans, they must be terrorists or they must be enemies. We know what kind of brutality prisoners witnessed at Abu Gharib prison in Iraq.

Mr. Page was like one of the racist US soldiers in Abu-Gharib or the soldier who at 3 p.m. in Afghanistan woke the civilians up and killed them. That was an intentional killing of innocent men, women and children. The difference between those soldiers and Mr. Page was, Mr. Page didn’t have his Military job but they had while they were killing and torturing people.

8 comments

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  1. 1
    smrnda

    Interesting comment on May Day, which is completely unobserved in the US except by socialists. I live in Chicago and I don’t believe there was even a monument to the Haymarket Martyrs until quite recently.

    On racism – it’s probably much more pervasive than people think, because plenty of racist people don’t want to admit they are racist unless they are around people that will likely agree with them, so they go undetected, but with the internet they can more easily network with each other or reach frustrated, isolated white people eager to blame some non-white group for all the problems in the world, or in their own personal lives. (Not that I’m an anti-internet Luddite.) In the States part of this might be part of a kind of cultural panic among some white people who fear a multicultural society. Part of the trend towards extremism among some white racists might be that they can no longer count on as many white people agreeing with them.

  2. 2
    Brian

    In Australia, both the major political parties score points by being tough on ‘illegal immigrants’ who arrive on boats. They are said to be ‘queue jumpers’.

    This is a dog whistle. Most illegal immigrants in Australia are white, and arrive on planes. A lot are English/Irish backpackers who overstay their visas a few months or years. They fit in with the backpackers easily and speak the language. But no one every refers to them as ‘queue jumpers’ or ‘illegals’.

    The reason the phrases ‘illegal immigrants’ or ‘queue jumpers’ is a dog whistle as the people who arrive on boats firstly are seeking asylum, and Australia has ratified the UN law on asylum seekers, so they’re definitely doing nothing illegal in seeking asylum, no mater how they arrive, and secondly there is no queue. Australia can accept as many refugees and skilled migrants as it chooses. Setting an arbitrary figure, which is very low by world standards, then saying anybody who doesn’t come on an plane or apply from a camp and stay in year long limbo is ‘jumping the queue’ is just a political game.

    In reality, as asylum seekers arriving on boats are almost invariably poor refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and the horn of Africa. It’s just a way to be racist and have deniability. After all, Australia sends troops to Afghanistan and Iraq because it’s so bad, the inconsistency of then saying that these people are not true asylum seekers because those places aren’t so bad is staggering. But we can’t have those little brown muslims (or whatever they are) coming here.

    If it were English kids arriving on an old boat, there’d be no question of them getting 5 star service and permanent residency.

    1. 2.1
      Winterwind

      On this issue, Coalition members always go on about how Australia has a right to protect its national borders. I’ve always wondered why “Stop the Boats!” is a Coalition slogan, but not “Stop the Planes!”

      Last year the Coalition ran an advertisement in which ominous music played while a montage of Iraqi, Indonesian, Sri Lankan, Afghani and Sudanese faces flashed on the screen, followed by “Vote Liberal. Stop the Boats!” I wondered why they didn’t show a montage of English, Irish, French, Polish and Italian backpackers overstaying their work visas… I guess white people aren’t scary enough to provoke people into voting Liberal.

  3. 3
    Winterwind

    Oi Ms Nasreen, I noticed that your post about racism in the West only attracted two or three comments. Maybe you should do another post about how silly and violent Muslims are, I’m sure that’ll be much more popular. ;)

  4. 4
    tony goddard

    I lived in Paris from 1978-80, and remember several demonstrations. One of these was quite a large march in support of the ‘sans papiers’ or undocumented immigrants, and it was supported by French trade unions at the time. A leftist view of racism usually puts racism in a class war context where colonialist or imperialist ventures use racism to divide the working class. This was the theory that inspired many white people to support the struggle of the Vietnamese in the 1950s and anti-apartheid in the 1960s.

    There was also a MayDay assembly. Liberation had mentioned place near Rue St. Michel and I went along hoping to meet people from the “Legalise Marijuna” group recently formed in Paris. Liberation had also suggested Corsican and Breton nationalists go there. I arrived late. All sorts of people were milling around and it turned out that these were “flics en civil” or secret policemen. They had in fact arrested several people at gunpoint that afternoon. Many of the detainees happened to be Arabs.
    A few days later I went to a support meeting for one of these Arab detainees. Most of the people there seemed to be students or young professionals in social work etc. (but not finance). These people were against the Giscard Stoleru Barre government of the time.
    This was in 1980.

    Fast forward to 2005-6. Sarkozy was more rightist than any of those 1980s politicians. It seemes that Fortress Europe has become pervaded with even more racist rhetoric than before. If Taslima says racism is the refuge of the ignorant, then this ignorance seems to be moving upwards in mainstream political parties as they seek to reassure their electorates that they will keep darker coloured people out. Leftist parties are often afraid to appeal to class solidarity, so there is a moral vacuum which sees narrow minded ethnic policies replace efforts to improve the lot of the working class.

  5. 5
    Taslima Nasreen

    Thank you all for your valuable comments.

  6. 6
    Green_swan

    Well, racism against white folks is much more an issue in France and other european countries than racism from white people.

    Of course, it is a good thing far right groups are rejected and fought, but I think politicians and journalists should no longer remain silent about the hate against native french citizens and jews. Each kind of racism has to be combated no matter the source and the victims.

  7. 7
    anita

    As a south Asian, the racism sexism and castism of our lands, I won’t find time to complain about the racism of whites. Whites that are accepting non-white millions in their country legally and even more illegally. Californis became from 100% white to 40% white in last few decades without a peep, any non-white countries this will be causing riots. How sick of you to choose a mentally sick person’s mass shooting as a proof of West’s racism, you very conveniently choose to forget the other mass shooting of same kind in a movie goers, all white victims.
    Deranged people are all over doing deranged things, except in West they have no outlets like becoming a taliban or naxalite.

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