The high ranking Dutch University of Amsterdam (UvA) had been occupied by unsatisfied students for months (since February 25th) before being violently cleared out by the riot police last week. Students were camping in the occupied “Maagdenhuis” which is the main administrative building of the university. Critical students and university professors unified themselves in a new movement called “De Nieuwe Universiteit” (English: The New University) criticizing the university management for their neo-liberal policies and focus on financial revenue. Some of the main demands of the occupiers are more democratization in the university and more influence in the decision making process and university policies for students and teachers. After the violent clearing out by riot police the movement’s latest demand is for the university management to vacate their positions. UvA professor of politics Jean Tillie was interviewed by the Dutch newspaper Het Parool. In the interview Tillie makes comparisons between radical students and Muslim radicals. What follows is a full translation of the Dutch interview. To read the interview in Dutch follow this link:
“Muslim radicals and radicalized students are almost the same”
Jean Tillie, professor of politics at the UvA, expects a radical group will unify itself in the student protests. And he warns. “In radicalism we can observe democratic phenomenon but it can also be innovative.” If students radicalize we all [trans. i.e. prominent figures] visit them in order to profile ourselves. But when Muslims radicalize we view that as a security threat.
The joy over the “Maagdenhuis” started when Jean Tillie (54) saw a picture of parliamentary members Mei Li Vos (Partij van de Arbeid / Labour Party) and Jasper van Dijk (Socialistische Partij / Socialist Party) in conversation with students in the occupied administrative room of the UvA college-chairman Louise Gunning. On the picture you can see someone in the background looking at books about administrative thought.
Tille has been doing research on radicalism for years. When thinking of radicalism people mostly think of Muslim radicals. This is not fair, he thinks. Student who are occupying the “Maagdenhuis” should also be seen as radical. So what then is a radical? “A large amount of distrust towards established elites, combined with an interest in their thought.” This is symbolized by the person in the background of the picture studying the bookshelves.
Do politicians then associate with radicals?
“I can say so because I used to be a radical anarchist. Aside from that radicalism may exist in a democracy right? It is not the same as extremism. But behind radicalism may lurk potential innovative changes. If students radicalize we [i.e. prominent figures, trans.] all visit them because we want to profile ourselves. But if Muslims radicalize we view that as a security threat.”
You think that is hypocrite?
“Radicalism can have something in and of itself that can be revitalizing and innovative. But it also contains democratic phenomena, even if the persons involved claim to be autonomous. I have never experienced democratic people as with the anarchists.”
“The terminology that is used I also find embellishing. My colleague professor Ewald Engelen pleads for the establishment of a “commission of truth” at the UvA [‘waarheidscommissie’ in Dutch. A term used for the commission responsible for the research on the infringement on human rights during the Apartheid regime of South Africa, trans.]. ‘Exactly!’ I think at such a point. Because through that you are actually saying that the UvA college board – just like the regimes of South Africa and Uganda – should be taken to account for their past mistakes, should get out of their position as an elite with an us-and-them mentality, and should reconcile themselves with those who actually give them their worth. In that way you can also see the value of the radicalizing professor, dangerous for powerful elite that operates in the shadow!”
Must politicians always associate themselves with groups that are radical?
“The offices of the management board should always be open. Even for students. And especially for radical renewers. As a politician you should get excited by such means. You must be able to connect aims and means.”
How did such things happen in your time?
“I’ve been a squatter and an anarchist for eight years. I participated in the crowning riots [i.e. the riots during the crowning of the former Dutch Queen Beatrix in 1980, trans.]. When I became 24 years old I stopped. Now I am 54. So I have had thirty years to think about it. And this is my conclusion: leftist radicalism is the same as rightist radicalism is the same as Muslim radicalism. But if it is from the Muslim community, from low educated youth, we tend to act hypocritically and untrusting. If it is about right-radicalism it already becomes much more complicated – take the examples of Breivik and Hans Janmaat [a former extreme rightist Dutch politician, trans.] – and if it is from the leftist community then listening is suddenly seen as a value…
The reasoning of activists is: the elite does not want to listen. Sometimes more radical actions are necessary to be able to achieve something.
“In my time as an activist we also we also organized rather firm actions. And did it have a result? Yes. If we take a look to the anarchist movement – that got little money and support – the profits were not minor. We were against nuclear energy and a further development of nuclear power station did not come to pas. We were against cruise missiles but unfortunately we stumbled upon deff ears there. You could say the housing has improved but not that squatters have been stigmatized as extremists and isolated their public support and because of that their engagement has been lost.
The occupiers of the “Maagdenhuis” say that it has not been up until now that they are being heard. Before the protests there was no serious discussion going on at the universities.
“If you want to be really effective it takes a much longer process. Then you should have a look at educational programs and departments. And you should translate the radical movement into renewed and better politics. It is not until then that the movement becomes meaningful. So the students should above all be persistent.
Must the students leave the “Maagdenhuis?
“No. My proposition is that if you can warrant your own sympathetic aims you don’t have to go away. It was not up until now that serious conversations took place with the college board. I expect a slow recuperation of the communicative trust between the elite who at first did not want a conversation and the group of radicals who are careful of an all-to-quick settlement without the political renewal I just spoke about. If they will leave de “Maagdenhuis” a new divide will come into existence between the elite and the people and a disappointed ever more radicalizing group of students.”
What will happen with such a hardened group?
“It is a very uncomfortable story. Such a hardcore group could be further stigmatized, which was already seen during the student demonstrations and for which a ritual from 1969 was criminalized. Then it becomes extreme. It remains attractive to fight for justice. It is the attraction of democracy, dissimilar to what the racist and aristocratic Le Bon claimed about the mass. Something you get from beautiful human things such as sex of dancing but also through commercial surrogates such as drugs and violence – opium of the people – to obstruct them from real democracy.”
You eschewed violence. Why did you yourself stop being an activist for peace?
“I became a father. But a few years before that another incident happened. We were at a big party in the squatting house “De Groote Keijser” and supporters of the extreme-rightist Hans Janmaat – who just won a seat in parliament – were also present. They celebrated this by beating up a black friend of mine. It became a huge fight and I almost died: I was hit in the face with an iron rod. When I was recovered and returned into the movement people reacted as if I was whining. I was simply the victim of an international struggle. Romanticism withers away in such an activist movement.”
– Translated by Jeroen Vlug –
February 28, 2014
A book review of The French Intifada: The Long War between France and its Arabs by Andrew Hussey (publication date March 6, 2014)
‘’ Going well beyond news reports, the book shows just how hot and fierce a vein of hatred for France runs through the Muslim populations that have experienced French rule. More than half a century after the North African states achieved independence, France remains an object of deep loathing for many of their citizens, who often associate the former imperial overlord with oppressive French-speaking elites. Even the Moroccans who carried out the 2004 train bombings in Madrid, Hussey argues, ultimately linked Spain with these elites, and thus with “the hated nation of France”. Meanwhile, in the book’s striking opening scene, Hussey describes how young Muslims he encountered at a riot at Paris’s Gare du Nord in 2007, most presumably born on French soil, broke into a chant in colloquial Arabic: “Na’al abouk la France” – “Fuck France!”
Source and Full Text: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/feb/28/french-intifada-review-andrew-hussey
A month after the two day riots of July 19 to 20, the French daily Le Monde re-narrates the story of France’s second suburban riot of the 21st century. The violence started following the stop and search of a 21-year-old Muslim woman in a niqab in the priority neighbourhood of Mersiers in Trappes (Yvelines). Her 20-year-old husband intervened when the police is alleged to have insulted the woman and was taken to the station for having attempted to strangulate one of the officers. Like many other suburbs in the vicinity of Paris, the tension between youths and the police has been well established, but what made this summer’s riots however distinct from others was the religious identity and solidarity which mobilized people and remained absent in previous episodes of urban violence. The paper continues to reason this religious force as the result of the growth of Islamophobia in front of the eyes of many of the neighbourhood’s residents who are of North African and Sub-Saharan origin. Few weeks prior to the 21-year-old Muslim woman’s stop and search, a number of stop and search actions of Muslim women have shocked the Muslim community and left deep traces of anxiety and anger amongst people.
Aggravated about the officer’s conduct and the arrest of her husband, the 21-year-old Muslim woman contacted her local mosque. Rumours about the most recent law enforcement against veiled Muslims women started to circulate amongst the community following Friday prayer. The local mosque is described by Le Monde as ultraorthodox in its preaching and tremendously popular amongst young Muslims who find ‘cohesion’ in the religious community. After Friday prayer, a group of 20 people, including the female victim, went to the police commissariat to demand the release of the husband. In the meanwhile, the Ministry of Internal Affairs interprets the chain of events differently. According to them, a group of Salafist were to be found in front of the commissariat. ‘Half of them’ were known to the police and are said to have threatened the authorities with actions
The tension couldn’t be ceased and the police ordered reinforcements. By 5 PM, representatives of the mosque arrived at the commissariat to calm the community in vain. A new protest was announced by 8.30 PM via SMS. It is believed that many of the protestors were mobilized by a number of SMS which circulated throughout the hours following the arrest. No calls for violence were, however, made. At 8.30 PM some 150 people gathered in front of the commissariat which included residents of Trappes but also people from other areas of the Greater Parisian Region (Ile-de-France).
Anti-riot police arrived when the tension reached its climax. Three people approached the police when one police officer insulted men wearing traditional clothing. Mortar fireworks started to be shot from the crowds landing at the feet of the police. The riots suddenly began and took place over two days leading to multiple injuries and immense material damage.
For many residents of Cherries, the clashes of that night are the result of an almost inevitable social slippage. Since August 13, few weeks after the riots, a new path of approaching the Muslim community of Trappes has been introduced in local authorities
News Agencies – August 7, 2012
A French Muslim woman has been charged with assault and inciting a riot after she refused a police ID check because she was wearing a banned full-face veil. The 18-year-old is to appear in court in the northern city of Lille charged with assault, insulting police and inciting a riot after police tried to take her to a station for refusing to provide identification. A French law passed in 2011, the first of its kind to be enforced in Europe, banned the wearing of the full-face-covering Islamic veil. The law came into effect at an already fraught moment in relations between the state and France’s Muslim minority − the largest in Europe − with then president Nicolas Sarkozy accused of stigmatizing Islam to win back votes from a resurgent far right in this year’s election.
Supporters of the law have defended it as a measure aimed at supporting women’s rights although the text makes it clear that a woman cannot choose herself to cover her face in public. The woman, arrested on Saturday, was stopped by officers in Roubaix, outside northern France’s largest city of Lille. She allegedly said she did not have time and did not want to show her ID card and covered herself up with another veil as she walked away, the police source said, asking not to be named. When police tried to take her to the station, she allegedly grabbed hold of a vehicle and started kicking, punching and screaming, the source added. She allegedly tried to bite police and scratched one of them before being taken into custody. None of the officers were hurt. In a similar incident on July 24, three officers in the southern city of Marseille sustained minor injuries after they stopped a fully veiled woman by a mosque. The woman, two men and a minor are due in court over the alleged assault.
25 May 2012
Police intervened to break up an impromptu camp established by failed asylum seekers near Ter Apel, the Netherlands. Riot police arriving in 20 minibuses used force to dismantle the site and arrested about 110 individuals at the site, failed asylum seekers from Iran and Somalia who claim that they will come to harm if returned to their country of origin. A group of Iraqi asylum seekers, involved in the camp’s original set up two weeks ago, had been removed earlier to an apartment complex where they were guaranteed housing until June 15 as the Dutch and Iraqi immigration ministers negotiate next steps.
Meanwhile a judge in Groningen determined that the level of response and force in the deconstruction was “disproportional”. The defended actions claiming that it was a necessary measure due to the health concerns at the impromptu camp.
30 October 2011
Following tensions last week between Turkish and Kurdish communities in Amsterdam, Turks demonstrated peacefully in The Hague on Sunday. The protest was under tight security; some 200 riot police watched the gathering, though wearing no helmets and minimal gear. Organizers had predicted 4,000 participants, but estimates of attendance are placed at between 500 and 700 individuals.
In an event separate from the rally, a dispute between members of the two communities resulted in the arrest of two pro-Turkish demonstrators.
News Agencies – October 19, 2010
Masked youths clad in black torched cars, smashed storefronts and threw up roadblocks, clashing with riot police across France as protests over raising the retirement age to 62 took a radical turn. In the overwhelming majority of cases, the vandals are students, as young as 12 years old. These youth, says the official, are opportunistic and unstructured, forming sporadic groups. The most destructive are armed with makeshift weapons found on the way: a snatched post, or a stolen bicycle are used to smash store windows and then loot them, says a police agent in Seine-Saint-Denis. One of the ‘rioters’ even forgot his notebook in a shop in Seine-Saint-Denis which was looted by 40 people. Fifteen years old and without a police record, he was arrested six hours later at home.
The proximity of the ‘trouble suburbs’ to the marching routes complicates the job of the police, for example, in Nanterre, where rioters gathered to harass the riot police. At the departmental directorate of public security in Essonne, a police officer says that during the protests, high-school and college students from the underprivileged areas (“difficult neighborhoods”) turn into rioters. They put on a hood and start to pelt the police, or burn garbage, or even cars. Then they melt back into the protest march, some changing their clothing so as not to be recognized by the police videos.
A series of confrontations have erupted in recent weeks between Moroccan and Mollucan communities in the central Netherlands town of Culemborg.
Conflict between youths of the two communities began on New Years Eve and have continued, with police making several arrest, erecting physical barriers between the communities, and banning public gatherings of over three people for a period of two weeks.
Although tensions continue, the city held a march of reconciliation on January 7, which was attended by 250 people.
News reports address a number of sources for the conflict. NRC assigns the responsibility for the “race riots” to competition among young men, while Radio Netherlands Worldwide stresses ethnic divisions, though also noting that most Moluccans in the Netherlands are Christian while the Moroccan community is predominantly Muslim.
Hundreds of French riot police were deployed on Wednesday night to help quell the violence in tense Paris suburb of Villiers Le Bel, after the death of two boys in a motorcycle accident triggered violent clashes last week. Despite isolated incidents of a few burning cars, the suburb returned to a general calm as security and law enforcement increased their presence. French officials pointed to a host of causes in the eruption – including poverty, unemployment, the influence of criminal gangs, and racism. Most of the rioters come from immigrant and Muslim backgrounds, and while most of them are simply described as youth, their vulnerability to poor living conditions is of significant concern. Anger and distrust over racial profiling fuel already brewing tensions in many of Paris’ suburbs.