Dyab Abou Jahjah & the Arab European League
furuhashi.1 at osu.edu
Sat Mar 1 16:27:28 MST 2003
***** New York Times March 1, 2003
An Outspoken Arab in Europe: Demon or Hero?
By MARLISE SIMONS
ANTWERP, Belgium - He is pacing the room like a trapped panther,
lithe and restless, as calls are coming in from the street. Thirty
miles away, a large protest march is under way, but its organizer is
This is the man known as Belgium's Malcolm X, the country's most
famous immigrant who is frightening many Belgians, including the
government, with his radical plans and fast-growing following.
He is Dyab Abou Jahjah, 31, born in Lebanon, the founder of the Arab
European League, a new immigrant protest movement.
On this day in February, he is working his cellphone in his sparsely
furnished home in Antwerp because by order of a judge he is banned
for three months from public events. But the news from the street
cheers him. Marchers carry his photograph, some wear masks that show
"I hate this, being stuck here," he said. "The police probably wished
I was there so they could arrest me."
Well, perhaps not. In November he was held for five days on charges
of incitement to riot but released for lack of evidence. Belgium's
prime minister, Guy Verhofstadt, called him a "threat to society."
It quickly turned him into a demon, and a hero. The result has been a
flood of television appearances, newspaper articles, magazine covers
and new recruits for his Arab European League.
"Recruiting is not hard," he said. "We're a civil rights movement,
not a club of fundamentalist fanatics who want to blow things up.
We're different because we are neither apologists nor extremists. We
have such an appeal because we are filling a gap."
Mr. Abou Jahjah says he is part of a new generation of Muslim
activists who are speaking out, frustrated with what they call
discrimination, the lack of hope of finding a job, the problems of
renting outside immigrant ghettos and, since Sept. 11, the distrust
and even Islamophobia they feel.
Older immigrants who arrived from Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and
Turkey some 30 years ago, these activists say, have been too meek,
too passive, co-opted by government funds or divided by ethnic or
The Arab European League, founded by Mr. Abou Jahjah two years ago,
aims to empower Muslim immigrants. He demands affirmative action in
schools, in the workplace, in housing. His premise: Arabs in Europe
will only be taken seriously if they are proud and strong.
"In Europe, the immigrant organizations are Uncle Toms," he said. "We
want to polarize people, to sharpen the discussion, to unmask the
myth that the system is democratic for us."
The league's program calls on Muslim immigrants to resist pressures
to integrate. "Assimilation is cultural rape," he said. "It means
renouncing your identity, becoming like the others."
He finds inspiration in Malcolm X and his movement in the United
States for racial pride. "Of course the context is different," he
said, "but Malcolm X was also against assimilation. He fought for
civil rights and he was also inspired by Islam."
Mr. Abou Jahjah's followers are hard to quantify. Hundreds of young
men and women have shown up at street rallies. A few dozen have
participated in the so-called video patrols to film the Antwerp
police, who the league says abuse Arab youths verbally and
physically. They have distributed fliers saying: "Bad cops, the Arab
European League is watching you." There is no headquarters; regulars
meet at an Antwerp Internet cafe.
Critics say the prime minister and the minister of interior have
overreacted. Mr. Abou Jahjah's influence is overrated, they argue,
yielding more publicity than sting.
But Mr. Abou Jahjah says his Arab pride movement is already echoing
elsewhere. His group has recently set up chapters in three Dutch
cities, and he says he has been invited to France and Britain to
Articulate, fast-talking, self-assured, he is indeed different from
many Muslims here, who have largely come from the interior of
Morocco, Turkey and Algeria....
Mr. Abou Jahjah's demands - Islamic schools, bilingual education for
Arab children, hiring quotas for immigrants - are resented in this
small nation of 10 million that struggles with its own identity.
Belgium's long linguistic conflicts have been tentatively settled in
the Constitution, which recognizes Dutch, French and German as
official languages, though they still coexist uneasily. So there was
an outcry when Mr. Abou Jahjah demanded that Arabic be added to the
"People freaked out over that," he said. "Why not," he added, with a
quasi-innocence. "There are 70,000 German speakers and more than
300,000 Arab speakers." That mix, he has been told, grew
historically. "I say history is not over."
Indeed, Mr. Abou Jahjah makes a point of causing consternation, above
all in Antwerp, the country's second largest city, where he lives.
Depending on who is talking, this city of half a million people is
either an exemplary ethnic mix, a cauldron or a wake-up call for
Antwerp is the base of the far-right Flemish Bloc, a party that won
one-third of the seats on the City Council with the slogan, "Our
people first." It is also home to Belgium's largest group of Jews,
many of them linked to the diamond trade.
Add to this a large immigrant population, up to one-third of them
unemployed, said Mr. Abou Jahjah....
At home, with his brother Ziad, a businessman, Mr. Abou Jahjah said
the police had recently searched their homes and taken their
computers, bank statements, "even Ziad's wedding pictures." There is
nothing to hide, he said. Money comes from members in Belgium and
several private donors in Egypt, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, whose names
he has posted on the League's Web site, arabeuropean.org.
In May, he will run in the Belgian parliamentary elections. No, he
will not support any of the six Muslims - Turks and Moroccans -
already in Parliament. "They never defended the rights of
immigrants," he said. "They don't want to rock the boat. We do. We're
not guests here. We are citizens."
***** AEL to fight Belgian election
7 February 2003
BRUSSELS - The Arab European League (AEL) and the extreme-left group
PvdA will together fight the 18 May general election in Belgium under
the name Resist, it was revealed Friday.
Agalev Antwerp district councilor Koen Calliauw, a co-founder of
Resist, said the organisation would fight oppression, discrimination
and racism. Other founding members are Zohra Othman (PVDA) and AEL
members Dyab Abou Jahjah and Ahmed Azzuz.
Newspaper De Standaard reported on Friday Resist intends nominating a
candidate list for the Antwerp Province and will also compile a
Senate candidate list. Resist will hold a congress in Antwerp on 9
March to determine its policy programme and election candidates.
But a ten-point statement of principles has already been released,
indicating that Resist wants to introduce compulsory measures
enforcing companies to employ people from minority groups. In regards
housing, the organisation is demanding a stronger anti-discrimination
law, reversing the so-called burden of proof.
Resist has proposed a major revamp of the education system, with the
main goal of adjusting the sector to the "multicultural reality". It
demanded that the Islamic community have access to its own school
network, and said it is opposed to a war against Iraq....
The PvdA aims to represent Belgian workers and migrants in Flanders,
Brussels and Wallonia, and fights against capitalism and imperialism.
It campaigns for a socialistic Belgium.
The Arab European League: <http://www.arabeuropean.org/>
Partij van de Arbeid van België/Parti du Travail de Belgique (Workers
Party of Belgium): <http://www.pvda.be/> & <http://www.ptb.be/>
* Calendar of Events in Columbus:
* Student International Forum: <http://www.osu.edu/students/sif/>
* Committee for Justice in Palestine: <http://www.osudivest.org/>
* Al-Awda-Ohio: <http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Al-Awda-Ohio>
* Solidarity: <http://solidarity.igc.org/>
PLEASE clip all extraneous text before replying to a message.
More information about the Marxism