The colo­nial mask resur­faces

CityPress - - Voices - ZAAKIR AHMED MAYET voices@city­press.co.za

The re­cent de­plorable state­ments made by UK Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron un­der­score the colo­nial mind-set much of the global south has sought to dis­lodge within the cur­rent age.

Cameron is quoted by The Guardian UK news­pa­per as say­ing: “If you’re not able to speak English, not able to in­te­grate, you may find you have chal­lenges un­der­stand­ing what your iden­tity is and, there­fore, you could be more sus­cep­ti­ble to the ex­trem­ist mes­sage com­ing from Daesh [the Is­lamic State].”

His state­ments also sought to tar­get women. The link­ing of ci­vil­ity, pro­gres­sion and iden­tity to the lan­guage of English is em­broiled in the colo­nial discourse of sub­ju­ga­tion and the cul­tural-su­pe­ri­or­ity com­plex.

The ar­gu­ment put forth that the fail­ure to learn English re­sults in an in­abil­ity of an adult to de­fine their per­sonal iden­tity and de­nies any hu­man be­ing fall­ing into this cat­e­gory the right of agency. It is pre­cisely this right of agency that was de­nied to slaves on plan­ta­tions and farms in the US.

The ex­cuse fur­nished was that the slaves were ei­ther too cul­tur­ally de­prived or un­e­d­u­cated along Western lines to pos­sess their own agency. Thus the op­pressed, co­erced and oc­cu­pied should be grate­ful to their colo­nial masters for their lib­er­a­tion from back­ward­ness.

It is this very thought process that has given rise to the racist pol­icy that Cameron is pro­mot­ing and es­pous­ing. In a South African so­ci­ety, where colo­nial his­tory and the ef­fects it has on so­ci­ety and so­ci­etal struc­tures is still present, it would be wise if Cameron took heed of our strug­gles.

When the apartheid govern­ment sought to im­pose a lan­guage on peo­ple, the youth of this blessed land rose up. They re­fused to be de­nied the right to be ed­u­cated in their in­dige­nous lan­guages, and re­fused the de­struc­tion of their iden­tity and her­itage.

It was the topic of lan­guages that served as a cat­a­lyst for change that flowed from the 1976 stu­dent up­ris­ing. Our coun­try em­braced the demo­cratic val­ues of mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism with our 11 of­fi­cial lan­guages. To deny peo­ple their right to their self-de­fined iden­tity, and im­pos­ing the re­quire­ment of sub­servience to colo­nial masters and cul­ture, is a grotesque im­ple­men­ta­tion of colo­nial­ism.

Fur­ther­more, it un­der­mines the demo­cratic prin­ci­ples of mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism, the right to iden­tity and the right to dig­nity.

The con­cept of the Euro­cen­tric saviour, lib­er­at­ing peo­ple of colour from pa­tri­ar­chal back­ward­ness was a means of jus­ti­fy­ing in­va­sion and con­quest.

It was this same nar­ra­tive that was used to con­quer the Middle East un­der Ge­orge W Bush, when he said in 2005: “And by help­ing Iraqis build a democ­racy, we will bring hope to a trou­bled re­gion…”

We wish to re­mind those en­trenched in the colo­nial mind­set that the first fe­male doc­tors emerged out of the Mus­lim world in the 12th cen­tury, while much of the colo­nial world stum­bled in the ig­no­rance of the Dark Ages.

We also wish to re­mind them that the world’s first de­gree-giv­ing univer­sity was es­tab­lished by an African-Mus­lim woman, Fa­tima Muham­mad Al-Fihri in Morocco, and that Africa had fe­male rulers from as early as 1 000 AD in the Nige­rian city of Ile-Ife.

It seems ironic that the colonis­ers deem it ap­pro­pri­ate to lecture the rest of the world about pa­tri­archy while this his­tory is avail­able for all to pe­ruse. The ar­gu­ment that if th­ese “for­eign­ers” are not will­ing to as­sim­i­late, they should go back home, is flawed. Those es­pous­ing this ar­gu­ment con­ve­niently for­get that it was the very same colo­nial pow­ers that in­vaded, plun­dered, pil­laged, raped, ran­sacked and en­slaved the peo­ple of the global south. Many were brought over as slaves and as amuse­ment, such as our sis­ter Saartjie Baart­man.

It should not be for­got­ten that the Western world in­vaded Afghanistan, Iraq, Ye­men, So­ma­lia and Libya, and is as­sist­ing in the desta­bil­i­sa­tion of Syria and Africa.

If you want us to leave your coun­tries, con­trary to demo­cratic prin­ci­ples, kindly leave ours and re­turn the wealth you have plun­dered from our lands.

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