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Africa and Aboriginal Tuesdays: The Veil is Lifted in France as Black and Arab Youth Rebel by Akbar Muhammad

In the 1960’s and 70’s, the cities of America were burning under the weight of Black rebellion. The American media called these rebellions riots, but it was Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael) and other progressive leaders who preached to the Black community, that what was happening in the streets of America were not riots, but in fact they were rebellions. They were an oppressed people rebelling against an unjust authority.

The dictionary definition of riot states, “(1) A wild, violent public disturbance or disturbance of the peace by a number persons – usually in terms of three or more assembled together. (2) An unrestrained outburst; a wild, loose living debauchery.” When you define the term riot and compare it to rebellion, it has a different meaning altogether. The dictionary states, “(1) An act or state of armed and opened resistance to authority or government; defiance or opposition to any control. (2) Open resistance to the authority of a government in power.” When this is applied, in an historical context, it denotes the failure to answer the needs of a people and therefore they rebel. For example, the Americans did not call the American Revolution a riot; it was called a rebellion against the oppressive authority of the British. A rebellion can be any movement that brings about a drastic change in society.

As I am writing this article the rebellion in France has reached its eleventh day. The rebellion was ignited when two Black teenagers whose parents have roots in Africa were electrocuted while fleeing police. The demonstrators – in particular, the youth who protested this action and started the rebellion, which will now sweep across France, is only a sign of people who are dissatisfied and cannot take it anymore.

The French have prided themselves as being liberal and not having what is termed a race problem. However, they do have a race problem. This problem is now sweeping across Europe. It is an indication of the boiling hatred toward an oppressive authority that gives the world a smiling face while placing tremendous pressure on its immigrant population in an attempt to drive them out of Europe.

France and Europe have a long history in Africa and when these doors opened up after World War II Africans and Arabs migrated to help in the rebuilding of Europe. The next wave came in the late 1960’s and 1970’s after independence came to most of these African states. The French thought that they would do it different from the Americans by allowing the minorities to settle outside of their major cities, while in America the Blacks and the Hispanics moved into the inner cities. Now there is a drive in America to drive us out of the inner cities into the suburbs. France allowed their hoods (ghettos) to be built outside of their major cities in what they called a controlled area for immigrants who are mainly Black Africans and those from the Arab world. In these hoods, (ghettos) drugs, unemployment, and the lack of decent schools are abundant – all of the things that we have experienced in America as an oppressed people.

Statements came from Nicholas Sarkozy, the Minister of Interior calling those who are rebelling against the oppressor scum. Mr. Sarkozy said he would sand blast the scum, wash them down with power hoses, and added that there is a need to eradicate the gangrene in the suburbs. He has been accused of not helping the situation and could have in fact fueled it to the point that it is now. In the 1960’s we witnessed an America where our young people rebelled against the oppressive foot of those who wanted to keep us in segregated quarters, who mistreated us because of the color of our skin, placed us in inferior schools, and struggled to make sure we looked up to our former slavemaster as to not disturb his peace. America did all this while she built her world and benefited herself on the backs of the poor. The oppressor could always find Black leaders who would come to the young people and tell them to cool out, everything is going to be alright, don’t rebel against the authorities, and to be good Negro's and let white folks handle things. This is what you see happening in France as the French government has now reached out for older and more moderate leaders to try to quell the rebellion of the youth.

According to news reports the French authorities have arrested and detained hundreds of young protestors. The history of our struggle in the south shows that by arresting and locking up those who rebelled only fueled the struggle to a greater intensity.

This has the potential to sweep across Europe due to the oppression of the Africans, Arabs and Turks in Germany, the oppression of the Somalians and other Africans in Italy and in the UK the oppression of Blacks and Arabs before and after the London subway bombing in July, 2005. You can also add historically liberal Dutch oppression of its Muslim and Black community, due to the killing of the filmmaker who produced a film, which was derogatory of Islam. This is spreading across Europe and into Russia where Black and Arabs are also constantly persecuted.

If France is successful in the next few days or weeks in stopping this rebellion, it will still be a fire that has already been ignited and it will affect all of Europe. This now becomes an opportunity for African leaders to ask for more than debt forgiveness from the European powers who have exploited and become wealthy from the human suffering, the mineral wealth of Africa and the tremendous oil of the Middle East. We must create a social order in Africa and the Middle East where our young people will stay home, receive a quality education, and earn a decent living to support their families.

The struggle that many Arab and African societies have taken on today is to build a middle class society. This notion is a myth. A middle class society only feeds the idea that what we need in our society is a capitalist agenda where people will become extremely wealthy at the expense of the poor. These Arab and African leaders must say to Europe, you now have a responsibility to help us build a society where our young people will not try to escape to Europe. It is a tragedy that ideally, they perceive greener pastures, but all the while, the fire of persecution awaits them.

Akbar Muhammad is the International Representative for the Nation of Islam and Minister Louis Farrakhan. After living in Ghana for 12 years and visiting 37 African countries, his focus is contemporary African history. Comments can be sent to

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

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