The Toulouse killer who shot dead three Jewish children, a Jewish teacher and three soldiers of North African and Caribbean origin, was Mohammed Merah, a Toulouse mechanic, who was inspired by far-right Islamist ideas.
In a stand-off with the police which ended in his death, Merah claimed to be a supporter of Al-Qaeda and said that he was acting to avenge “Palestinian children”.
Shortly after Merah’s death, silent marches and rallies took place around France to commemorate his victims. In Toulouse, 6,000 people rallied to hear speeches, led by the Socialist Party mayor of Toulouse, the Jewish Scouts of France, the French Chief Rabbi Gilles Bernheim and the Imam of Drancy, Hassen Chalgoumi. In Paris, 20,000 joined a demonstration called by the Socialist Party, the mainstream anti-racist organisations MRAP and SOS Racisme (generally seen as linked to the PS), the French Union of Jewish Students and the French Scouting association. The march was headed by a banner reading “Republic united against racism, anti-Semitism and terrorism”.
Sarkozy has demagogically proposed new legal restrictions to make it an offence to repeatedly visit radical Islamist websites, and to further restrict the travel of radical Muslim preachers into the country.
The French New Anticapitalist Party has released a statement warning against making any “amalgam” of ordinary Muslims with fundamentalists like Merah; and declaring against “national union”.
Lutte Ouvrière, the other large Trotskyist organisation in France, has published a short piece describing Merah as a “madman” and a “psychopath”, and asking “what is the difference” between this slaughter and the killing of innocents in Afghanistan by French soldiers. The LO Presidential candidate Natalie Arthaud described him as a psychopath who had chosen to drape his madness in the banner of Islamism.
Merah may have been a madman, as Norwegian far-right killer Anders Breivik may have been insane, but in both cases their actions were also political.
The British SWP claims that Merah’s actions were “the bitter fruits” of French official racism and western imperialism. This simplification paints Islamists as not having independent views, but simply being mirrors of the West.
At best, it is unhelpful — at worst, it slips into offensive, essentialising nonsense, like SWP poet Michael Rosen’s awful comment on the bombers who struck in London in July 2005: “If… you bomb them/They will bomb you”.
“Bomb them”? Who? The 7/7 bombers were British-born men of Pakistani and Jamaican descent — does Rosen not know or care about their separate identity, let alone their own specific ideas? Or about all the Iraqis and Afghans who do not become suicide bombers?
This view flattens out the complex picture of distinct ideologies and national groups into one blurred, generalised stereotype of Muslims.
Merah was an Islamist, a devotee of far-right religious ideas. He was recruited into far-right Islamist ideas by Islamist activists and texts. He received training and instruction from organised religious fascists. The ideology that he served has its own logic and its own agenda. It is not a mental illness, though some mentally-ill people may act it out more than others do, and it is not just a blind reaction to something that the USA, France, or Britain has done.
Islamist groups have own positive programme for a religious state, crushing democratic, women’s, and labour rights. For some, the Islamic Republic in Iran provides a model, for others the Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan, for others the historical Caliphate of the 7th Century AD.
This political programme, its ideologists, its organisers, activists and armed fighters, must be defeated by the labour movement and the left. It must be fought against by our movement around the world, just as European-style fascism must be.
In last week’s article on the killings, written before all the facts on the matter were out, I speculated that the killer might be a white fascist. That speculation proved wrong — as our comrade Yves Coleman from Ni Patrie Ni Frontières explains in his article.