Hind Meddeb & Federica Matta: “Face à l’horreur”

Yesterday I received a letter — an outcry, really, and a cogent reflection on the Paris massacres — from Hind Meddeb, the daughter of Abdelwahab Meddeb, written in collaboration with the painter Federica Matta who also contributed the drawing. Moved by her outcry, I asked her for permission to reprint it here on Nomadics, first in French, and later, when I’ll have a moment in English translation.

MattaIllustration

Face à l’horreur

La mort n’a jamais été aussi proche de nous. L’horreur des conflits qui déchirent le Moyen Orient et plus particulièrement l’Irak depuis l’invasion américaine en 2003 et la Syrie de la révolte du peuple contre son dictateur en 2011 s’est invitée jusque dans nos rues. Les attentats qui assassinent quotidiennement des civils à Bagdad, Alep, Bassorah, Kobane, Beyrouth, Sanaa, Abuja, Nairobi ne pourront plus nous laisser indifférents.

Compassion et responsabilité. Ces mots me hantent depuis ce vendredi funeste. En solidarité avec les peuples d’Irak et de Syrie qui sont en première ligne de cette guerre sans nom. Les terroristes veulent semer la haine et la discorde dans nos sociétés. Mais ils n’y parviendront pas.  Parmi les rescapés et les témoins de l’horreur, c’est la compassion et la solidarité qui l’emportent. La colère aussi. Mais tout sauf la haine de l’autre.

Je suis à New York avec mon amie peintre Federica Matta. Notre réflexion commune engendre ce texte et ce dessin que je partage avec vous.

Je pense à mon ami Raphaël Lauro ancien étudiant de mon père Abdelwahab Meddeb qui a été témoin de l’horreur ce vendredi 13 novembre alors qu’il dînait avec des amis dans un restaurant situé à quelques mètres du Petit Cambodge et du Carillon. Voir la mort en face, les balles qui tuent au hasard, l’impossibilité de donner du sens à ce qui nous arrive. En échangeant avec Raphaël qui s’est retrouvé pendant quelques minutes en présence de la bête immonde, j’ai pensé à mon père Abdelwahab qui exprimait quotidiennement sa souffrance et sa colère impuissante face à la destruction de l’Irak, de la Syrie, et désormais du Yemen, ces pays qui ont été le berceau de la civilisation. Sur son lit d’hôpital, il me disait : le cancer qui me ronge est à l’image du cancer qui ronge le Moyen Orient. Un cancer contre lequel il s’est battu toute sa vie, prêchant dans le désert quand il y a plus de quinze ans, il interpellait déjà nos politiques, les invitant à prendre leurs responsabilités, à identifier l’ennemi, à ne pas le laisser proliférer, à ne pas faire alliance avec les islamistes, où qu’ils soient. Je ne comprends pas que ses textes ne soient pas étudiés dans nos écoles, repris par nos politiques, par nos journalistes. Je ne comprends pas que les livres de Tariq Ramadan soient en pile dans nos librairies.

Alors à mon tour, j’interpelle notre président et ses alliés en Europe et aux Etats-Unis : quand comprendrez vous que vos dispositions sécuritaires ne suffiront jamais à endiguer la prolifération jihadiste qui infeste le monde ? Quand ferons nous enfin tomber les masques ? Quand admettrons-nous qu’il ne suffit pas de bombarder les positions d’ISIS, qu’il faut mener une politique de long terme et s’attaquer à la racine du mal : Erdogan qui soutient ISIS contre la rébellion turque, le roi Abdallah qui arme les jihadistes pour conserver la prédominance sunnite dans la région,  dans sa guerre contre Assad et le gouvernement chiite irakien, eux-mêmes soutenus par la Russie, l’Iran et le Hezbollah. Derrière les attentats qui assassinent chaque jour des civils, il y a des intérêts qui nous dépassent auxquels nos hommes politiques n’ont jamais voulu s’attaquer. Et pourtant il va falloir identifier et affronter nos ennemis, bien au-delà des rangs d’ISIS. L’organisation bénéficie de tout un réseau de soutien qui dépasse la simple ramification terroriste. Arrêtons de nous indigner devant l’horreur jihadiste, menons une politique globale, venons en aide à ceux qui sur le terrain combattent les terroristes. Pourquoi ne pas avoir apporté notre soutien aux Syriens qui manifestaient pacifiquement pour demander la fin de la dictature? Notre désengagement pour soutenir l’émergence de la démocratie syrienne en 2011 est aussi lourd de conséquences que l’intervention américaine en Irak en 2003. Pourquoi les Américains n’ont-ils pas soutenu les opposants à Saddam Hussein lorsqu’ils se révoltèrent dans le sud du pays au début des années 90?

L’Occident a toujours préféré adouber les dictatures en place plutôt que de soutenir des citoyens ordinaires militants pour la démocratie. Sans doute par paresse, peut être aussi par cynisme (les Africains, les Arabes ne seraient pas faits pour la démocratie, on a souvent entendu ce genre d’ineptie dans nos ambassades). Partout au Moyen-Orient, les peuples se retrouvent coincés entre deux alternatives : la dictature ou l’islamisme. Mais ils sont de plus en plus nombreux à vouloir autre chose. Les Egyptiens qui manifestaient par millions contre les frères musulmans et leur président Mohammed Morsi en 2013 ne s’étaient pas mobilisés pour ramener la dictature militaire au pouvoir. Ils ont été pris au piège et leur mobilisation récupérée par le général Sissi mais cela n’enlève en rien leur rejet du programme islamiste.

L’Europe et l’Amérique parlent au nom de la démocratie et de la liberté, mais depuis des décennies, le discours de nos politiques est en décalage total avec la réalité sur le terrain. Au Moyen-Orient, ce sont toujours les intérêts économiques qui l’emportent. Deux poids, deux mesures, sur le conflit israélo-palestinien. Irresponsabilité criminelle des Américains après l’invasion irakienne en 2003, laissant le chaos s’installer, laissant les lieux symboliques de la culture et de la civilisation irakienne se faire piller.

Quand comprendrons-nous qu’il faut faire le travail de déconstruction de la propagande jihadiste, investir les réseaux sociaux, les télévisions satellitaires et soutenir tous ceux qui font ce travail dans l’ombre depuis des décennies mais qui ne sont relayés ni par nos médias, ni par nos politiques ? Quand comprendrons-nous qu’il faut reconnaître le legs de la civilisation islamique à notre histoire européenne, célébrer nos tirailleurs sénégalais, nos anciens combattants algériens et accepter que les enfants de la colonisation ont toute leur place en France ? Tant que nous ne prendrons pas au sérieux la blessure identitaire qui gangrène le cœur de nombreux jeunes d’origine arabe ou musulmane, tant que nous ne comprendrons l’importance de la reconnaissance symbolique de l’Autre dans notre société qui se dit judéo-chrétienne, nous n’avancerons pas. Il n’y a que la reconnaissance de l’autre en tant que sujet qui peut mettre fin au ressentiment et faire reculer le nombre de candidats au jihad. 

Il ne suffit pas de condamner les attentats jihadistes. Nous devons nous remettre en question. Repenser l’identité française. Obliger nos politiques à reconnaître leur responsabilité. Ne pas se contenter une fois de plus de mesures sécuritaires. Accepter que le chemin est long, qu’il n’y a pas de solution à court terme et que nous devons aussi nous battre pour combattre l’ignorance, se placer sur le front éducatif, utiliser les médias pour relayer d’autres voix que celles des jihadistes omniprésents dans nos médias. Tout le monde connaît « El Bagdadi » il fait la une de nos journaux, personne ne connaît le nom des chefs de l’armée syrienne libre ou des combattants kurdes irakiens. Pourquoi ?

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8 opinions on “Hind Meddeb & Federica Matta: “Face à l’horreur””

  1. Hind Meddeb’s passion is sincere, heart felt and moving. Still, I can’t find myself blaming the media, capitalism or Christmas for the acts of psychopathic killers who need hugs.

    Life is a 4 letter word where very little is black and white in spite of many efforts to make it so. I like to read from both sides of the ledger so in the spirit of ‘liberté, égalité and fraternité, not to mention free speech, permit me to express another view.

    I am sick and tired of flowers, candles, hand holding and songs each time innocents are slaughtered. The psychopaths laugh and cheer when they see it. It encourages them. They live for it. I do not want them to live, period. Osama bin Laden and Abdelhamid Abaaoud are dead? Fine with me. Who’s next?

    Terrorist attacks now seem perversely routine. Almost as routine as the ease with which Hind Meddeb can seemingly trace the root of it all by referencing that 4 letter word, ‘Bush.’ Not mentioned by name of course, too vile, but by period, say 2003, forgetting the World Trade Center bombing in 1993, the American embassy bombings in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi in 1998 and the USS Cole bombing in Yemen in 2000. Must be America’s fault then. That and our collective failure to understand groups that want to live in the 7th century with their 21st century toys after killing us all.

    But what’s in a name? ISIS, Al Queda, Boku Haram, Haqqani Network, Hezbollah or Hamas, a terrorist is a terrorist, no matter where or when. There were others, just as demented, that came before them. Islamic terrorist attacks have occurred globally. They did not begin in 2003. Many of the names have been different but the philosophy remains the same. Methods have varied too from arson to bombings, shootings, stabbings, hijackings, kidnappings, burnings and beheadings. Charming stuff. Does anyone actually believe you can negotiate with these guys?

    Let’s take a moment to look at other terrorists that are pre-2003. How about the attack on a Vienna synagogue that left 2 dead and 30 injured on August 29, 1981? Kind of pre-Bush, pre-Syria, pre-Iraq. With machine-guns and grenades they bravely attacked people attending a Bar mitzvah service at the Stadttemple. I guess that’s politically correct as the dead were ever-wrong Jews and the terrorists were politically chic Palestinians, members of the Abu Nidal Organization.

    Or the attack in Rome on October 9, 1982 at the Great Synagogue of Rome that left a 2-year-old toddler dead and 37 injured. Again the attack was carried out by armed Palestinian militants. They called themselves “militants” then. Pre-2003, Bush, Syria and Iraq again but Jews and Palestinians once more. Who cares that it was in Rome?

    In Lebanon in 1982 and 1983, Hezbollah led 2 suicide truck bombings against the Israel Defense Forces’ headquarters building in Tyre. The blasts killed 103 Israelis, 59 Lebanese and wounded some 95 of both. Yep, the Israelis were in Lebanon fighting an Iranian sponsored terrorist group. Think Hezbollah. Since their creation, Israel has been under constant attack and they fight back. Imagine!

    Like the Americans the Israelis are not always right but “right” is the first casualty when bullets and bombs go off. The second casualty is plural as in the lives of the innocent, the well-meaning, the protesters and the resisters. We do not do enough there. In this Hind Meddeb is correct.

    But the US, who are responsible for everything the Jews aren’t, were attacked in Lebanon too, on April 18, 1983. The U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon was bombed leaving 63 dead and 120 injured. The Islamic Jihad Organization first claimed responsibility but Hezbollah was found guilty in court. Some difference. Like I said, “what’s in a name?”

    Later that same year, again pre-2003, on October 23, 1983, the U.S. Beirut barracks was bombed by the Islamic Jihad Organization leaving 307 dead and 75 injured.

    While not equal in any way, Islamist terror attacks have occurred in New York and Washington in 2001, Bali in 2002, Istanbul in 2003, Madrid in 2004, London in 2005, the Toronto in 2006, Algiers in 2007, Bombay in 2008, Fort Hood in 2009, Moscow in 2010, Marrakesh in 2011, Benghazi in 2012, Nairobi in 2013, Brussels, Saint-Jean-Sur- Richelieu, Ottawa and Sydney in 2014, Paris in January 2015 and the most recent horror show in Paris, November 2015.

    Please excuse that I have failed to include Islamist terrorists that happily kill dozens every week in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria, Israel, Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan. I’m sure I have forgotten some and I am sorry. Families have lost loved ones and there is no forgetting that.

    It is nonsense to blame American or Allied incursions for terrorist atrocities. They have a bearing no doubt but just look at the other countries listed. What did they do?

    I don’t know why we can’t do more to support the resistance movements other than the quite natural fear of who gets the weaponry. In future I hope we only send sneakers to the Iraqi army.

    We have no idea when or where the jihadists will strike next. We only know that they will and that many will die. That is reality and no amount of flowers, candles, singing or goodwill will stop it.

    I would like to think that ‘Love is All You Need’ but it isn’t, not as long as the Wahabist and Salafist Mullahs are allowed to preach hate and death to 3 year olds.

    Love and good intentions will never stop that.

  2. I can’t read this and look forward to the translation.

    I know it’s bad form to go back to an old post but I find the words, “Prayers & monotheisms are the roots of this evil” troubling but also, in a perverse sense, oddly fascinating.

    I’m stunned that someone of such poetic sensibilities and such humanistic impulses could write that. I mean: not *radical* interpretations of Islam (for that’s what you’re really talking about, surely? I don’t think, sitting in Paris, you would be able to link radical interpretations of Judaism with the violence of occupation!).

    And not monotheism as it is currently understood.

    And not: monotheism is a *part* of the problem, but the *root*.

    Dunno, Pierre, all sounds a bit too extreme to my mind. I get the feeling that half of Isis’ work is already done here: corruptio optimi pessima.

    Pooh, you make lots of interesting points. Perhaps you could explain why western governments have supported the autocrats and dictators that have sponsored this pernicious, cancerous growth (Pakistan-where I’m from (sort of), Saudi and Qatar).

    That is not to say, of course, that Muslims shouldn’t look at the growth of fanaticism and honestly reflect on *their own* failings.

    Your one sided portrayal of the violence is also rather extreme, I’m afraid. Doesn’t just ignore the bombings and terrorist attacks by ‘Israelis’ pre-WW2 or the violence of occupation.

    The bigger picture, which you can choose to ignore if you wish: the violence of the 20th century was largely committed by secular states (think: the Camps, the Gulags, the Trenches, the Bomb.. Saddam gassing the Kurds, the Pak. army in East Pakistan, the Indians in occupied Kashmir).

  3. Well Khalid, as I said at the outset, I was presenting “another view” as I felt one had already been sufficiently covered. Also, I was only looking at the Islamic Extremists in light of the current horrors in Paris.

    Of course, few countries remain completely innocent if the history of wars, persecutions and atrocities are fully examined. That’s a book, even as you outlined it and beyond me and this space but you make a fair point.

    The Israelis are completely surrounded and have been at war since the UN granted them a country. I have ranted about this at length in the past. Frankly, as bad as they have been at times, I have always been surprised by their restraint. 1,000 rockets a year dropping indiscriminately would illicit a much larger response virtually anywhere, even here (Canada) and surely from my neighbor to the south (U.S.).

    I cannot really explain why the west has propped up so many horrible governments the world over other than to offer the guess that it is easier, safer and cheaper than what we achieve when fully engaged. Now that I think about it, I believe that is the answer.

    You are right that the Muslim world should deal with their own problems. Maybe we should stay home. That wouldn’t bother me but the problem seems to be easily exported so we are drawn in. Clearly, we would prefer to fight over there, wherever over there might be.

    As I have said many times, we would always be there for Israel so it seems right and fair that we show up for the Syrians, Iraqis and the rest in the Mid East if they want us. But we’ll leave if they don’t. At least I am sure Canada would. That said, we aren’t doing a very good job.

    And for the record, it is ‘Poo’. Winnie the Pooh is a famous bear. I do have all his books inasmuch as he really was a Canadian bear. You can Google that. I am not a bear. I am not famous either!

  4. Some fair points, Poo (sorry, I thought it would be rude to use this name and was not sure if you are a ‘Mr.’ Carson or not-whence Pooh).

    Of course you’re right to highlight the Islamist (or what you call ‘Islamic’) terrorism pre-2003. Not to dismiss the death of a toddler in any way, but do you see how partial a picture you’re painting by mentioning that without, say, mentioning all the many thousands of kids whose death was a “price worth paying” (Madeleine Albright)?

    Or the 500 kids killed by Israel in the summer?

    Just asking.

    It’s not a question of numbers or talking in terms of “our” kids vs “yours” (your use of the word “we” troubles me, Pooh).

    The other attack you cite, Lebanon, was an attack on a military installation. That is surely only questionably, therefore, a terrorist attack?

    The wider point remains, I think: there has been a real and significant *escalation* in terrorism after the invasion of Iraq.

    Again, this is not about “blame” but trying to take what-I think-is a more realistic stance: it’s a bit more than simply saying “they have a bearing”.
    (To re-iterate: there is a need by Muslims to look at how conservative and backward parts of their societies have become and look at the *internal* reasons for that).

    It might be cheaper, easier and safer for “you” but I’m afraid for the rest of us poor buggers we have to pay the price of you supporting military dictators (General Z or Musharraf).

    And it continues to be “exported” as long as “you” prop up Saudi and the other fanatic regimes.

    *So* we are drawn in? So?!? Yeah, like that’s why “you” were drawn into Iraq, to combat extremism/terrorism?

    The “Mid East”? By that you mean the Middle East, I presume?

  5. Khalid. We are dangerously close to having our own blog.
    I never attempted to paint a total picture with “another view.”
    Clearly in war, terrorism or fighting of any kind there are innocents sacrificed and I would never quote Albright for anything. War, if this is what it is, as they say “hell.”
    The 500 number included combatants, young though they may have been and I most certainly would never make a body count of kids. I do not support the killing of children in any form but grimly realize what happens when things go boom. I further think body counts of any kind are disgusting and rarely accurate. They never seem to stop wars or terrorist acts so what is the point? Who is counting and why? I should say that firing rockets from roof tops, hospitals and schools kind of risks those inside, especially the children. The Israelis shoot back and often they give warnings with knocks on the roofs. Who else does that? Terrorists? Hamas rockateers?
    I say “we” as a member of the West and the Coalition though I make no claim to speak for anyone but me. I’m a Canuck, eh?
    The Lebanon attack was on a military installation. I believe I said that. It was a terrorist attack because they were suicide bombers. I’m not even sure that blowing yourself up in a truck even qualifies as an attack.
    There is a list available of all terrorist attacks and the resulting death tolls. I have trouble, without political bias, picking an escalation point. There were some pretty horrific attacks prior to 2003 with rather large death tolls. No need to look.
    The blame game is a mug’s game. They tell me we, Canada included, are at war. Forgive me if I tend to dislike the other side. It comes with the territory. We, Canadians, have had our deaths too, not as many as others but they still matter. “We” do not provide suicide belts to women and children. That does not make us good or even right but certainly different in our approach. I know. We bomb from the air. I cannot make a case for which is better, braver or more moral. I won’t even try.
    I did not defend the “cheaper, easier, safer” position. I merely offered it as my guess answer to your question. It was not a justification.
    Frankly, I am as concerned about politics in my own country as you are about yours and don’t feel our actions, other than through trade, are having much of an impact. The export of terrorism was clearly my point. We will fight that, preferably over there, wherever that is.
    For the record, Canada was not in the Iraq war, a mistake in my view but there it is. “We” does not always mean us and the U.S. People often confuse that.
    By “Mid East” I do mean the Middle East. I suppose I’ll write M.E. next. My bad. Also, whether by Islamic or Islamist I mean solely the terrorists. I have seen both used in our print media and elsewhere. No offence meant nor should one be taken.

    Cheers!

  6. Poo, I leave the last word to you since this isn’t really getting anywhere.

    It would be nice-just once-if you could say that the attacks on Jaffa or the King David Hotel were also terrorist attacks. Are you allowed to criticize Israel in Canada?

    I think that in you’re one-sided use of the word ‘terror’ you give yourself away. The terror of ‘shock and awe’ or ‘infinite justice,’ the firebombing of Tokyo..Vietnam..does that count as ‘terror’?

    I know that, like Rumsefeld, you might not like counting, but in what you call “over here” the bodies are piling up my friend.

    We” do not provide suicide belts to women and children.

    Sure, but by providing arms to Saddam who gassed the Kurds, or military and economic aid to military governments (some of whom have funded terrorists..e.g. the ISI) what are you really saying? (And let’s leave Latin america out of this, since “you” have backed some very nasty people there as well).

    Tell me, Poo, do you think your “coalition” knocks on rooftops when they drop drones on wedding parties, or when they blast through hospitals? Was there a knock on the door before “you” incinerated so many people in Hiroshima? Just asking.

    “My bad”

    I feel we’re making some progress here.

    Anyway, all I would ask is that-even for a moment-you step aside from this ridiculous tribal mentality of “we”, ignore the “territory” for a hundredth of a second, and breathe and think like a free human being, y’know, the way a cloud’s a cloud (as Denise would say).

    Keep well and salams,

    K.

  7. Briefly, you insist on confusing Canada and the U.S. and while I support the U.S. in general my country does not participate in all their skirmishes and wars.

    You seem to want to pick out the U.S. and Israel for your sharpest criticism. That is fair. I seem to defend them. I guess it depends to some extent on where you were raised. I am very much a product of here. My club is smaller than yours on this blog!

    I am a “we” only in that I am of the West, perhaps I should say North America. And oh yes, the coalition. I heartily support it.

    We also signed up for both World Wars before the U.S. I missed them and Korea and we were not in Viet Nam. The draft dodgers came here. We skipped the first Iraq too.

    I did make the point of not speaking for anyone other than myself and I’m pretty sure I have never quoted Rumsfeld anymore than I have quoted Albright.

    Yes, we do criticize Israel here quite a lot actually(most especially our largest paper, the Star, and our national network, the CBC). Me? Not so much. On balance though and with all things considered, since sides must be chosen in this life, like it or not, Canada has chosen Israel. As I said, when asked, we have also appeared in the Middle East and elsewhere. We leave if asked also.

    You are intelligent enough to know that a list of world wide terror attacks can be supplied with a flick of a Google search but we started with Paris, remember? I chose only the top 5 on the list plus the World Trade Center (1993), the 2 American embassy bombings in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi (1998) and the USS Cole bombing in Yemen (2000) as they were all similar to Paris in that they were acts of terror perpetrated by Islamist/Islamic extremists and pre-2003. Such radicals didn’t get to us until 2006 and 2014. Of course, we did have the FLQ Crisis in 1970 but they were home grown and political. Makes a good Google if you are unfamiliar with it.

    I think you made my point about the “knocks” on roof tops. Only Israel does. We don’t and I’m pretty sure the U.S. doesn’t either. Does Hamas?

    As I reach my dotage I realize that I am very much of my “tribe” even though they tell me I’m not. As I am fond of saying, I was an only child and wasn’t the favorite.

    I learned in my teens that no matter how many similarities we all share our differences can be quite stark and difficult, not worth a war but they generate them all the same. My grandfather was Orange Lodge but wouldn’t let his Canadian son join thinking it not right for a young lad in a new country. My Dad became a Mason instead. I never joined anything other than a couple of clubs but that was years, hell decades ago.

    I think Ireland will always have their “troubles” and the Arabs and Jews will always have theirs as will the Flemish and the Walloons and so it goes. None worth a bullet or a life but…………..They may be all the same but they seemingly cannot tolerate their differences.

    I guess I’m a cynic. Some would say a realist. Does it really matter when the result is the same?

    We have taken too much of our host’s hospitality. For that I apologize. I enjoyed your comments.

    Be well. Be safe and be Happy…………..Cheers…….Poo

    P.S. “Over There” was a patriotic song popular with US soldiers in both World Wars. It was picked up by the Canucks, Brits and Aussies as well. “Over There” is where we all want skirmishes to be, if they must be at all. I am sure Syria, Iraq and Lebanon have an “Over There” in mind.

  8. Miss Hind Meddeb,
    1. I started counting the number of times you uses “w””, the gave up, there are son many. Who are the “we” , sitting in NY, you are talking about
    2 What do you mean by “nos anciens combattants algériens”. You mean they “belong” to whoever is the “nos” by the very fact of having been forcefully drafted. Maybe you should ask them if they have this sense of belonging (unhapilly, most of them are dea now)

    3. Your reading (a resume of the media’s reading of events) beats naivity itself.
    4. Have you ever counted the number of civilians killed in the desctruction of Irak, Lybia, Syria, Mali
    5. Shame your learned father did not teach you enough about the evil that is “le droit d’ingérence”
    6. You draw pretty well. You think of designing some original, outstanding package to wrap up “Western democracy” to be shifted to the reamining countries that have not yet been destroyed in is -supposed- name.
    7. very personal point of view. I can understand you wonder why your father’s books are not sold in wherever you speak about (Tunisia, I guess). To my knowledge he did not sell much more in his beloved West. Interesting, but too boring to read and extremist in its own way.

    MD

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