This is an edited version of an article first published in French at Causeur.
In December, the Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project (IRDP) at the University of California, Berkeley, hosted an event in Paris, titled 'Islam and Politics: the Great Discord.' Participating organizations include Parti des Indigenes de la Republique (PIR), as well as the Collectif contre l'Islamophobie en France, which is aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Berkeley's IRDP director is Hatem Bazian, a widely-denounced anti-Semite and a key official in America's Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood networks. His counterpart in France, meanwhile, is notorious French Algerian activist Houria Bouteldja, PIR's spokesperson and co-founder.
Bouteldja was extensively criticized in France after the release of her 2016 book, Whites, Jews, and Us. The book, which she presented as an act of "revolutionary love," presents the dismantling of Israel as a priority, praises Ahmadinejad for declaring that there are no homosexuals in Iran, and expresses unambiguous antisemitism.
Now, despite her severely damaged credibility in France, she has somehow successfully managed to build a new reputation in the United States as an inspiring activist and brilliant academic.
Bouteldja begins her 2016 book by adopting the French nationalist call for the shooting of philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre because of his opposition to French colonial control over Algeria, with Bouteldja wishing he could instead be shot for his Zionism. According to Bouteldja, Sartre "prolonged the anti-Semitic project in its Zionist form and participated in the construction of the greatest prison for Jews."
One of Bouteldja's chapters is addressed to "You, the Jews." She claims that Jews made a deal with the West "to be the weaponized wing of Western imperialism in the Arab world."
Bouteldja recounts that when her Algerian cousin asks who Hitler is, she thanks him for his "precious words," which taught her that "for the South, the Shoah [Holocaust] [...] is nothing but a 'detail.'"
She then generously offers a deal to Jews: if they "lay to rest these ideologies that glorify [them] as supreme victims" and "[..] recognize that Nazism's origins lie in the "trans-Atlantic slave trade and colonialism," then she will ally with them and recognize that the Holocaust "will never be a detail."
Bouteldja announces that former Iranian President Ahmadinejad is her "hero" for his infamous declaration at Columbia University that there are no homosexuals in Iran – Bouteldja called the scene "sublime" and saying she is "exalted" by his words. She attributes denunciations of Ahmadinejad to the fact he was an "arrogant indigenous man" speaking at "a transitional moment in the history of the West: its decline."
In another chapter, Bouteldja states unambiguously "My body does not belong to me." This is not a metaphor. Bouteldja explains that as a child her thigh was scarred with a razor blade during a "patriarchal rite" while her mother cuffed her wrists. Bouteldja welcomes this practice – praising it as an indelible symbol of her belonging "to Algeria, to Islam." Bouteldja praises her ancestors for winning this "game" against France, which is accused of wanting to colonize her body. (This "rite," which still takes place in some rural areas of eastern Algeria, is decried by the majority of Algerian women.)
Several years before publishing the book, Bouteldja defended Toulouse gunman, Mohamed Merah. In 2012, Merah killed three French soldiers, a rabbi and three children at a Jewish school. Merah later said he only regretted "not having claimed more victims." Shortly after the murders, Bouteldja gave a speech where she said "I am Mohamed Merah", cited the evils of "islamophobia" as justification for his actions, and said that he may have been a French intelligence official.
Astonishingly, Bouteldja has enjoyed a great deal of support from American scholars. Harvard academic Cornel West wrote the preface to her book, describing it as a "courageous and controversial act of revolutionary love." According to West, "there is a genuine humility in this book—and its sense of urgency and dire emergency behooves us to wrestle with its rich contents."
In the Los Angeles Review of Books, UCLA PhD student Ben Rastkoff, praises Bouteldja's vision as "remarkably inclusive", even declaring that her ideas "hold[...] tremendous promise for [the] American left." Ratskoff concludes that "we must have the patience to listen to, the tenacity to challenge, and the humility to learn from the work of this colonized woman."
In 2014, Bouteldja was invited by the University of California Berkeley to discuss "The European Extreme Right and Islamophobia: A Decolonial Perspective." At the time, she thanked Islamist Hatem Bazian for his "dedication and commitment", and expressed her hope that "this collaboration between Berkeley and French antiracist circles will continue and grow." With the event in Paris in December, it seems to have done so.
In March 2019, Brown University invited Bouteldja to lecture at its Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women. Bouteldja was introduced as a scholar coming to talk "About White Innocence in General and French Innocence in Particular." While the University stated she will be drawing from her book, Whites, Jews, and Us, no mention is made of the widespread French condemnation of Bouteldja. In fact, Brown University knew of her vile reputation in France, with Ariella Azoulay, the lecturer who invited Bouteldja, claiming that those horrified by Bouteldja's ideas simply didn't "understand" her work.
Today, Bouteldja's book continues to be sold on the website of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where it is described as a "scathing critique of the European Left from an indigenous anti-colonial perspective," calling for "a militant anti-racism grounded in the concept of revolutionary love."
Whites, Jews, and Us has even been assigned to students studying "Post-Colonial Europe" at the University of Texas at Austin.
Bouteldja knows very well that she would never receive such fawning treatment in France and for good reason. In fact, she dismisses French "demonization" of her and her book as evidence of the country's rigidity and "arrogance." In contrast, Bouteldja declares that, "The academic Anglo-Saxon world agrees to be challenged. Because of this, I am considered a voice that must be respected. Cornel West's preface to the English version of my book is very significant from this point of view."
But it is Bouteldja who refuses to be challenged. The "respect" she enjoys outside of France is unthinking servility. When American academics lend credibility to Bouteldja, they support an "activist" who calls for supporters of Israel to be shot, refers to the Holocaust as "less than a 'detail,'" and proclaims her admiration for the hatreds held by theocrats and tyrants. How is it possible that the Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women embraced a "scholar" who celebrates, as an anticolonial statement, a misogynistic tradition of mutilating little girls?
Academics in the United States have lavished praise upon a woman whose hateful statements marked a rare consensus in France in which all political wings overcame their differences to condemn her extremism. In the United States, it is perfectly acceptable to offer Bouteldja a platform; but it is outrageous to provide that platform, disseminate her works and preface her books, without offering the slightest challenge to her hatreds.
Martha Lee is a research fellow at Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.