The terrible migrant deaths off the Italian island have evoked horror across the continent. In a small camp in France, Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi talks to fellow countrymen and women who have survived: their hopes, dreams, and learning to feel unwelcome in Europe. (First published in October 2013)
In the context of escalating police violence and local
racism, the new day centre for migrants in Calais, France is an example of
increased, anti-migrant state control posing as humanitarian assistance.
On March 19, hundreds of thousands of Basque citizens will participate in an initiative that passes a baton from hand to hand without interruption; the same baton that has become a symbol of the Basque language itself.
The issue of home–grown terrorism, among other factors, is caused by a failure of governments to implement the republican idea of protecting citizens not only from vertical, but also horizontal power imbalances.
Most Europeans, at both elite and mass
level, have a grossly inflated idea of the extent of freedom of speech in
Europe, a direct consequence of the uncritical and self-congratulatory
discourse on the topic.
Since the touchstone of a free speech regime is in
how well it protects speech that most find revolting, its defenders have to be
willing to speak also for those whose opinions they don’t find respectable.
right to offend, which the French secular republic with its long tradition of
anti-clericalist satire holds particularly dear, is in everyday conflict with
the values of the republic’s second largest religion.
It has been exhausting having to confront the visceral divisions among us about the nature of what happened, the roles of religion, geopolitics, and racism. And the possibility that the west, thinking it ‘is Charlie’, has been spitting on their graves.
recent attacks in Paris were the latest round in a conflict of
violence, not of “values”. The primary perpetrators of this violence are western states, with Islamist terrorism representing an
The Danish cartoons were assembled to humiliate a
vulnerable minority. In subsequent debates, the idea of freedom of speech has been subverted to undermine the right of Muslims to speak up on their own behalf.
Those who hold Muslims accountable for
these acts, or demand that they apologize for them, are delusional. Beyond
Europe, Al-Qaeda has declared open war against most Arab and Muslim-majority
countries, especially those allied to the west.
European governments and civil
society can respond to terrorism by affirming and building democratic
institutions and thereby refusing the logic of war. Initially, this seemed to
be the French civic reaction.
Have we been
reduced to the 'clash of civilizations' where, in the name of security, a state
of emergency forces all to close ranks in a staged, imaginary conflict where all
possibility of dissent is erased? In memoriam.
We are facing a political threat, a totalitarian Islamist threat that manifests in terrorism. Journalists are defending something which is elementary to our democracy: our freedom to
breathe and to laugh.