Trouble In France’s New Anticapitalist Party

Ilham Moussaïd, a candidate for France’s New Anticapitalist Party (NPA – the result of a merger between the Fourth Internationalist Revolutionary Communist League and other forces) famous for her choice as a Muslim woman to wear the headscarf has apparently walked out on the party. She has also it seems taken close to a dozen others with here. 

The incident, sparked by opposition within this supposedly revolutionary party to Ilham’s choice to express her Islamic faith in a way that seems fit to her as a socialist, raises a number of questions about the French “left’s” obsession with militant secularism (a microcosm of the rest of French society). It also raises questions about women’s oppression, Islam, the representation of religion within the global revolutionary movement and whether we the people of the colonized can truly peruse our liberation in blocs dominated by the colonizers and their imperialist worldviews.

Twelve activists from Olivier Besancenot’s New Anticapitalist Party (NPA) have walked out on the party in protest.

“The numerous acts of defiance and hostility against us have become intolerable and it was time to put an end to the stigma and the witch hunt.” This is what twelve activists from Avignon have written in an internal statement to explain their departure from Olivier Besancenot’s Anti-Capitalist Party.

Among them is Ilham Moussaïd, the recent regional candidate who wears a headscarf.

Her candidacy caused a split within the party due to her wearing of a headscarf and the ongoing debate regarding the veil. She is a practicing Muslim and identifies herself as a pro-choice feminist.

Since that election, the headscarf issue has remained unresolved. Outvoted in a recent internal vote, the activists chose to leave. “We did not want the next Congress to be confrontational. We want to allow for a calm debate. Some were afraid of us, but we did not want to Islamicize the party,” said Abdul Zahir, who had not previously made a public statement.

His statement alludes to the fact that some other members of the party accuse Ilham Moussaïd and others of seeking to Islamicize the NPA.

“Some people are torn between anti-capitalism and the political representation of Muslims, which is not the NPA project. We are a feminist party, emancipatory and secular. The representation of the party should be too,” argued Pierre-François Grond, member of the national executive.

Ingrid Hayes – a national political board member and open opponent of the headscarf who calls it a “sign of oppression of women” – warned: “We’re not an atheist party. But religion divides rather than unite.”

She said the debate is progressing. “Their departure is linked to the debate and turmoil that rocked our organization following the candidacy of Ilham Moussaid – a debate on the question of of religion, feminism, secularism. That debate will be decided at the national convention.”she added.

Abdul Zahir regretted “the expectation of a conference (which seems never to happen) to decide if we have our place in this party. This is neither right nor worthy of a mass revolutionary party.”

The question embarrasses the NPA. Its national congress originally to be held in November, was postponed until December, and recently the month of February has been announced.

For her part, Moussaïd asserts that she is a feminist who wears the headscarf out of choice: “We need to concentrate on what unites us, on the fight for equality between men and women, and not to say we should all dress the same way, that you can’t wear a headscarf because otherwise you’re not a feminist. I think that shows a lack of respect. I don’t feel represented by feminists who say that the headscarf is always a question of obligation. There are a lot of feminists who agree with me, who see that I’m fighting the same battles as them, and they support me.”

The party’s leader and founder agrees. Besancenot said when Moussaïd was nominated as a regional party candidate: “A woman can be a feminist, can uphold secular values and wear a [Islamic] headscarf at the same time.”



Posted on December 3, 2010, in Europe, Religion & Spirituality, Socialism, Women's Liberation and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. “I’m scared of Islamization” often means “I’m scared of immigration”. Seriously. The second a Muslim identifies as a prochoice feminist or secularist, you should already know for a fact that she is NOT for Islamization, whatever that means. It’s almost embarassing for the when so many people continue confuse friend for foe.

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