The colonial mask resurfaces
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.