Thursday, October 29, 2009

Michel Ofrey (the "post-anarchist") as a racist?

Emilie sent me everything I need to know about Michel Ofrey (I cite with her permission):
"I've just read your blog entry about Michel Onfray and as a French leftist, I have to react: Michel Onfray might have started off (a loooong time ago maybe ?) as a true anarchist, i.e. someone radically opposed to religion but also to any kind of social domination. That would have led him to criticize Islam as a religion but 1. not to become an atheist bigot looking at Islamic history and Muslims as vile or looking at Islam as more dangerous than any other religion, 2. to be able to analyze trends toward emancipation within Muslim social groups themselves and to be intelligent / knowledgeable enough about social movements to know that when we get on the path toward justice and fighting for radical equality, we all start from somewhere, and that somewhere doesn't have to be White, male, atheist, French and anarchist... I strongly believe that he uses the overall libertarian guise of "ni dieu ni maître" / "I dislike and criticize all religions" to actually specifically target Islam and Muslims. Or... a thought has just crossed my mind as I'm typing. Maybe, like some stupid anarchists I've heard, he actually says dumb, ignorant or racist things about all religions equitably, he's as uneducated about Christian or Jewish histories, and this time he happens to write about Islam ??? Who knows ? Either way, if he's an ignorant or dumb anarchist, to me the only part of it that sticks is the adjectives, not the "anarchist" part... I'm all for criticizing and mocking faith, religion, superstitions and rites in each and every variant of them. But I never find blanket statements like "Muslims are this" or "Islam is that [with no time frame or geographical reference or theological reference]" acceptable.
Long story short, here are links to a preface Onfray has recently written about Islam and then two leftist-anarchist websites that demolish the guy's imposture (and do so with arguments, mind you, not with the same kind of messy, sweeping generalizations as Onfray's).
1. Onfray's preface to an anti-Islam book:
Enjoy sentences like: "ce livre assassine l’idéologie islamique comme jamais encore." (what is "the islamic ideology" ??? Not islamist, no, really islamic !) and
Critiquer l’islam, aujourd’hui, en France, relève du devoir pour tous les esprits libres et pour tous les révolutionnaires. (okay, phrasing is ambiguous, so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and not assume that he meant specifically criticizing Islam compared to other religions...)
Comme le dit l’auteur, il faut appeler un chameau un chameau, et, donc, ceux qui adhèrent à l’amputation, à la circoncision, à la flagellation, au statut inhumain des femmes…, des obscurantistes religieux fascistes." (Ha ha ha, you have to call a camel a camel - the original is to call a cat a cat - because you, Islam, Arabs... well, the next image is camel, of course; nothing orientalist about that, right, because no anarchist could harbor orientalist prejudices, right ? And these last two sentence come
straight one after another, making for nasty implications and generalizations, so here no benefit of the doubt !!!).
Once you read about the contents of the book he so praises (see last article I mention below), any ambiguity left will have been lifted about Onfray's racism.
The book in question was published by this house:
2. Now two critical views of Onfray by true leftist anarchists (e.g. they strongly opposed the exclusion of female students wearing a hijab from French public schools on anarchist grounds, i.e. "we still don't like religions, but it is totally sexist, classist and racist to exclude them, plus it is wrong to claim to emancipate people forcibly - people emancipate themselves through education, economic independence and common struggles, all things we deprive these women of when we exclude them from schools").
- Great website "Les mots sont importants" (search results for Onfray):
Key article on the issue you wrote about:
Full disclosure: I am acquainted with the two website owners (through common activism).
You should know that Onfray gets invited on mainstream TV quite a bit and seems to enjoy the attention. He is also very popular with anti-Muslim leftist movements, i.e. the failing, traditional left (and sadly traditional feminists who help defeat the Vatican and now think the next big threat is Islam...) in France (the article I suggest above deals with that:
- Funny anarchist columnist Sébastien Fontenelle in one of the last leftist weeklies with a readership of more that 3 people:
I copied the full blog post below.
By the way, your and his writing style and political ideology are very close, I think you would really like that guy's blog (he also likes to post pictures of "serious" people and make something funny out of it, like you !). He is great with ironical understatements and destructive flattery. His thing is also to mix everyday, sometimes rude language and old-sounding or very formal, very educated French to talk about current events, which makes the persons he attacks seem even more ridicule than they already are (case in point: instead of writing "Musulmans" for Muslims, he sometimes uses the weird, pre-20th century "Mahométans", which makes for hilarious effect and makes Sarkozy and the coward left sound like the backward colonialists they are).
Hope all this clarifies the Onfray thing..."