France: Revised Dictionary Elevates Colonialism and Critics Fume
Catholic Information Service for Africa (Nairobi)
September 23, 2006
PARIS, September 22, 2006 (CISA) - A definition of colonialism in the new edition of a French dictionary has stirred yet another debate on how France views its past.
The new edition of Le Petit Robert that appeared this month defines colonialism as "valuing, enhancing, and exploiting the natural resources of foreign territories. "
The definition in the widely consulted French dictionary has provoked angry reactions from groups representing the French black population and groups that fight racism, reports IPS.
"This definition aims at justifying colonialism, " the Movement against Racism and for Friendship among Peoples (MRAP, after its French name) said in a statement.
"Le Petit Robert's choice of words conveys a racist view of history and contempt towards the former colonies," MRAP president Mouloud Aounit told IPS.
"We consider this definition a new attempt to glorify colonialism, " Aounit went on. Other French dictionaries, he said, "offer a technical, non-controversial definition of colonialism. "
In a letter addressed to the dictionary's editor Alain Rey, president of the newly founded Council of French Black Organizations (CRAN), Pascal LozPs said such a definition aims at comforting those who profess racism. "With this choice of words, (you are) granting bail to colonialism, " LozPs said.
In a statement, the dictionary editors turned down demands to revise the offered meaning. "Nothing in the definition justifies the attacks made by CRAN and MRAP," the editors said.
Speaking to media representatives, Rey said he shared the general views of CRAN and MRAP on racism. "But I am surprised by the lack of economic culture their complaints express. If we are not allowed to speak of the positive aspects of a globally negative phenomenon, then we are facing a form of revisionism. "
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