Welcome to Free Radikal... a blog by Dr Ronit Lentin

When homophobia becomes Islamophobia

orlando-vigil-dublinWe are all still in deep shock after the brutal massacre at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida where 49 people were slaughtered by Omar Mateen, a Muslim American citizen. Since the massacre, wrongly described by some media as the ‘deadliest’ attack on civilians in recent American history, we are trying to fathom Mateen’s motives in carrying out this atrocious anti-gay crime.

In the current climate, where Muslims and Islam are tagged with ‘extremism’ and ‘radicalism’, it is deeply worrying that two of the US presidential contenders compete in describing Mateen’s atrocity as ‘Islamic’. It is particularly unsettling that the Democratic contender Hillary Clinton has seen fit to say just a day after that the event that she was not afraid to say ‘radical’ Islam as she countered attacks from the Republican contender Donald Trump that she’s too politically correct to use the phrase. ‘From my perspective, it matters what we do more than what we say,’ Clinton said on CNN. ‘And it mattered we got bin Laden, not what name we called him. Whether you call it radical jihadism or radical Islamism, I’m happy to say either. I think they mean the same thing.’ Compare this outburst with President Obama’s reasoned argument that using the meaningless term ‘radical Islam’ tars millions of believers with a racist religious brush: ‘There is no magic to the phrase “radical Islam”. It is a political talking point. It is not a strategy’.

Apparently Mateen was not only a violent husband whose wife escaped his marital brutality by the skin of her teeth, but also a frequent user of the same gay nightclub he attacked and of gay dating websites, so clearly someone with a conflictual sexual orientation. Having also worked for the security firm G4S he was clearly a complex character, whose motives were anything but simply attributable to ‘radical Islam’, despite the rush by many racists, including representatives of the state of Israel, to use the massacre to further incite against Muslims and Islam.

Read the rest of this entry »

Increasing extreme right wing threat for Ireland

antipegida-rally2On February 6, a broad coalition of Irish anti-racist, migrant-support and political groupings, now calling ourselves Solidarity Alliance against Racism and Fascism (SARF), staged a peaceful anti-racism rally aiming to secure a safe space for anti-racism on the streets of Dublin against the rise of anti-Islam and anti-immigrant groupings. We managed to succeed in preventing the extreme right group Identity Ireland from launching the Irish branch of Pegida. Apparently undeterred, and having failed to launch Pegida Ireland, Identity Ireland is now planning to organise a conference of ‘Fortress Europe’, a coalition of anti-immigrant parties across Europe, whose main aim is to stop the so-called ‘Islamisation’ of Europe.

The intentions of Pegida, a German group, whose name stands for ‘Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West’, are totally explicit: ‘We must succeed in guarding and controlling Europe’s external borders as well as its internal borders once again,’ PEGIDA member Siegfried Daebritz has recently told a crowd in one of the group’s many German rallies, to the chants of ‘Merkel must go!’

Media and many mainstream politicians across Europe have recognised Pegida as an extremist right wing group that uses rhetoric reminiscent of National Socialism. Pegida has been demonstrating against what it calls ‘criminal asylum seekers’, and its leader Lutz Bachmann has had to resign after calling immigrants ‘vermin’ and ‘trash’. Together with other extreme right groupings across Europe, Pegida and its Irish allies – Identity Ireland, which had a very poor showing in the last general elections, receiving just 183 votes and clearly representing an insignificant minority – is using Europe’s current refugee crisis as an opportunity to broadcast their anti-immigrant and anti-Islam message. Read the rest of this entry »

No foothold for racists

antipegida-rally1I was thrilled to stand on O’Connell Street on Saturday 6 February as part of a large coalition of people, Irish and migrants, who congregated in front of the GPO to say no to racism and Islamophobia and to counter Pegida Ireland’s plans to hold its inaugural meeting. Pegida stands for ‘Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the Occident’ (in German Patriotische Europaer gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes). It was established in October 2014 in Germany, where thousands of neo Nazi fascists have since marched in opposition to Muslim migrants, though the ‘Islamisation’ of the West is of course a figment of the racists’ imagination as Muslims remain a small persecuted minority throughout the West.

Like all far right groupings, including Identity Ireland, Pegida presents itself as defending European values and providing a legitimate opposition to migration. However, it’s worth remembering that the German term Abendlandes derives from The Downfall of the Occident, a 1918 book penned by one Oswald Spengler, whose racist ideas about the division of history into discrete cultures fed Nazi racial superiority that led to the extermination of millions. Read the rest of this entry »

Criticising Israel is not the same as being anti-Jewish

An op ed article David Landy and I wrote for The Irish Times

livingstoneThe recent calls to expel former London mayor Ken Livingstone from the British Labour Party have created a worrying alliance between those who use accusations of anti-Semitism to silence critics of Israel and those who use them to attack supporters of the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn. The calls for his expulsion came after Livingstone said in a BBC interview that Hitler had supported Zionism “before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews”. The claim itself was clumsy but based on historical fact – Hitler originally sought to expel rather than exterminate European Jews. As part of this, he negotiated the Haavara Agreement with Zionist organisations which allowed some Jews to escape to Palestine with some of their property in return for Zionist opposition to the global boycott of German goods. This was hardly “support for Zionism”, but Livingstone’s critics went further with fellow Labour MPs accusing him of anti-Semitism.

In response, Livingstone cautioned against “confusing criticism of the Israeli government policy with anti-Semitism”, and defended Corbyn, who had been accused of not taking firm enough action against anti-Semitism in the party, which, he said, was part of a smear campaign against the party leader.

Europeans need to face their history of anti-Semitism that culminated in the Nazi Holocaust. Ireland has its own part in that history, the Irish government only admitted 60 Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi persecution between 1933 and 1946. Anti-Semitic sentiments continue – this was clear during the attack on the Hyper Casher supermarket in Paris after the Charlie Hebdo murders. Read the rest of this entry »

Race counting and the Irish census

census-raceThe Irish census of population is upon us again, asking us to divulge information about home ownership,  room numbers, employment, transport to work,  age, birth place, gender, children,  and so on.

But what are census statistics about? According to the French theorist Michel Foucault, the collection and analysis of statistics, also known as ‘science of state’ and ‘political arithmetics’, reflect a growing governmental interest in the population, its health and illness, life and death, poverty and wealth. Statistics grant state knowledge about the population, and far from enabling the state to improve its services, statistical knowledge allows the state to differentiate between various population types – men and women, young and old, healthy and ill, rich and poor, native and immigrant, settled and Traveller, and thus exercise greater control depending on which type of population you belong to.

Perhaps the most contentious census questions is the ‘ethnic question’, the impetus for which came from Traveller organisations hopeful that enumerating Travellers and locating them in different regions would improve their access to accommodation, health, education and other services. However, in asking us to identify our ‘ethnic or cultural background’, the so-called ‘ethnic question’ is actually a race question. Read the rest of this entry »

06/26/2016 Migrant Activism and Integration from Below in Ireland

Edited by Ronit Lentin and Elena Moreo Palgrave MacMillan, 2012...read more
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June 2016
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