Remembering Mahfoud Bennoune

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Commémorons Mahfoud Bennoune,

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Joe Stork, Human Rights Watch

It’s a great privilege to be able to salute Mahfoud Bennoune at the time of his birth 80 years ago, and thanks to Karima for reminding us of his great legacy. Mahfoud was a dear friend, a regular contributor to MERIP’s Middle East Report magazine which I edited until 1995. We published this memorial to him after he left us all.

and here is what I think was his first article for MERIP, on the origins of the Algerian proletariat

Amin Khan

Aujourd'hui Mahfoud Bennoune manque terriblement à son pays. Mahfoud était un Algérien des profondeurs de l'histoire de son peuple; histoire tourmentée dont il a eu l'honneur de participer, tout jeune, à son évènement le plus héroïque et le plus glorieux: celui de la libération nationale du joug colonial.

Après l'Indépendance, il a continué à combattre, contre l'ignorance, le sous-développement, la soumission politique et intellectuelle qui est souvent aujourd'hui le lot des "élites" de nos pays dominés. Il a mené ce combat avec courage, avec acharnement, et parfois, dans la solitude, dans un pays déjà atteint par le délitement des consciences et l'inévitable déclin que causent la perte du patriotisme et la corruption.

Mais je pense que bien au-delà de cette crise tragique que connait actuellement notre pays, envahi par le doute et la confusion, Mahfoud gardera sa place dans le coeur de ses compatriotes car c'est un Algérien comme les Algériens les aiment: un homme habité par la soif de connaître la vérité et de combattre sans relâche l'injustice et le mensonge.

Zineddine Kharchi

مساء الخير... علمت بالموقع بعد قرائتي للمقال الذي خصص للتعريف بالانثروبولوجي السي محفوظ بنون... لقد قرأت له قبل سنوات كتاب النساء الجزائريات ضحايا الابوية المستحدثة... كان لهذا الكتاب ان فتح عيناي على الواقع القاسي للمرأة الجزائرية والعربية .... اقتنيت قبل ايام الطبعة الجديدة للكتاب المشترك مع علي الكنز والذي موضوعه مقابلات مع بلعيد عبد السلام

شكرا لكم على هذا الموقع

ورحم الله فقيد الجزائر

Nabeel Abraham

The tenth anniversary of Mahfoud's passing brings up sad memories of his
final years, how he struggled with the illness that brought his
vibrant life to a premature end. I considered Mahfoud an older
brother, mentor, and companion. He could be funny, serious, and
witty. He fought his way into the citadel of the western
academia, admired its industry and scholarship, but drew a line at
the continuation of colonial and neo-colonial rule and exploitation
of what was known back then as the Third World. Mahfoud had his
feet in the two worlds that were pivotal in his formation –
colonial and post-colonial Algeria. He seemed to take refuge in
escaping the cauldron of that dialect when he came to the Anglo-Saxon
world, first the United Kingdom and eventually the United States.

Eventually he was equally at home in Algiers as well as in London or Detroit.
He empathized with the downtrodden in both worlds. He
believed that the peoples of the South could rise up and take charge
of their lives through governments free of corruption, cronyism, and
cynicis. He was adamant that fellow Arab academics take their
studies seriously, eschewing short cuts. One of his favorite
words for those who did not measure up was "buffoon."
Mahfoud was a serious intellectual who was proud to build on
the works of European and American scholarship so long as the works
were free of racism, sexism and cultural elitism, as well as free of
apologetics for political and economic imperialism of countries of
the post-colonial world. He also drew inspiration and enlightenment
from the works of Arab philosophers and thinkers as well as leaders
of the anti-colonial struggles. He had no use, however, for
demagogues who would enlist religion, especially bogus and invented
tradition, to turn personal prejudice and sanctified ignorance into
instruments of political rule.

Mahfoud was a militant, who fought his way out of colonial rule, and
continued fighting neo-colonial and imperialist domination. As an
intellectual, he believed in ideas, and the power of ideas to change
the world. He was not deterred in that struggle as he battled in his
final years the debilitating illness that eventually silenced his
voice. The arc of his life illuminated an otherwise dark sky
spanning a critical juncture in modern times.

Abd-El-Qader Sahraoui

Si Mahfoud est unique par son engagement politique et scientifique . Nouri d'une culture de l'amour de la justice et de la lutte pour la justice . Il a ete dans tous les combats au service de l'humanite et au service de son pays .. Al Jazayer pour laquelle il a tant donne. Ses travaux publies et non publies ont marque une generation de jeunes intellectuels et militants de base et pour moi qui etait un disciple , sur le domaine de l'enseignement superieur . Une etude comparative sur les divers types d'enseignement et son apport a l'enseignement superieurs. Ca fait 10 ans qu on ne le voit pas mais on pense a lui et mon espoir est que l'hommage qui lui a ete fait en Mai 2005 se renouvelle . Les rares rencontres qu'on a eu a Alger les annee 2000 sur presentation d'un ami commun reste un souvenir du militant du "libre usage de la Raison". Beslama Si Mahfoud .

Baha Abu-Laban

"I first met Dr. Mahfoud Bennoune at an Association of Arab-American University Graduates (AAUG) conference in Cleveland, Ohio in October 1974.

"It was clear from the beginning that Dr. Bennoune was a fully engaged scholar — a representative of a generation of young, optimistic and idealistic Arab intellectuals who were committed to the justice of the causes for which they were fighting. Mafoud Bennoune was deeply embedded in anti-colonial and post-colonial struggles particularly in Algeria, but also elsewhere. Uniquely, Dr. Bennoune’s concerns were not single-issue as he was sensitive to and had an abhorrence of many of the ailments afflicting both Eastern and Western societies. Thus, anti-colonialism was coupled in the mind of this outstanding man with the still pressing ideals of human rights and human dignity, women’s rights, workers’ rights and the ending of exploitation and oppression. It is in this sense that Dr. Bennoune was an icon of his generation, whose message, intellectual output and humanitarian contributions still resonate today. He is missed not only by his family, but also by his students, readers, colleagues and friends, for whom he was a role model to emulate."

Baha Abu-Laban, C.M., Ph.D.

University of Alberta

Dr. Arezki Ighemat

Through this modest contribution, I wanted to pay tribute and honor to Dr. Bennoune who, for me and for a lot of people, was a true “intellectuel engagé”. During his lifetime, Dr. Bennoune fought three great battles. The first was the battle of the liberation of Algeria, one
of the longest and fiercest anti-colonization wars in history (132 years), what Alistair Horne calls "The Savage War For Peace", which ended with Algeria’s independence and during which he was emprisoned for four long years. The second battle that he fought was
against illiteracy, ignorance, intolerance , injustice and for democracy and human dignity, not only for Algeria, but also for the Third World in general. This battle was exemplified through his numerous and diversified publications and presentations as a great sociologist and anthropologist at both the national and international level, using three of the most important practiced languages in the world (Arabic, French, and English). This battle was also revealed through his interest in the causes related to what we used to call the « Third World » and his fight for justice, women’s rights, the poor, and people of races and faiths. His third battle was against a disabling disease. In spite of the personal suffering that he went through, he did not stop his work but instead was even more willing to work harder in spite of the death threats that he received from people who claim to defend Islam but who were in reality not Muslim at all. Today, his daughter, Karima Bennoune, is not only following his path, but additionally has succeeded in becoming one of the most renowned Professors of International Law and the most ardent advocate of human rights in the world. Algeria is certainly proud to have people like her, with worldly expertise and a breadth of experience and Dr. Bennoune would have certainly been proud of her accomplishments. To conclude, I want to say that we wish Dr. Bennoune could be among us today to share the political and
intellectual fruits that he has contributed not only for his country, but for the world as a whole.

Dr. Arezki Ighemat, Retired Professor
of Economics.