Hanan Benammar’s work “Desert Ideology” is a series of installations based on materials she has collected over thirteen years of travels to desert areas and investigations of archival material that deals with stories and history from these areas. The documentation that shapes the installations is found on the shelves for geography, geology, anthropology, botany and political science. The idea for these installations grew out of reflections on the term “desert ideology” that the far right uses to describe Islam. The term should refer to an ideology that comes from a place where nothing grows; an intellectually dry and sterile place, far from culture, history and civilization; a place stuck in a physical and mental state that is not only described as primitive, but perhaps also violent. This description of course applies to everyone who lives in, or can be considered to be able to come from a desert area.
In the comments section of the Human Rights Service (a Norwegian far right platform subsidised by the State), Benammar herself was described as one of the supporters of this ideology after discussions about one of her earlier works of art:
“Bullies are found in many contexts, but when it appears that they part of an ideology, it probably originates from an area where sand is not in short supply.”
One of the leading figures in the theory of a desert ideology conspiracy is the Dutch businessman and leader of the political party “Partij voor de Vriihejd”. In a parliamentary debate on the state budget in 2010, he said: “Time to thoroughly clean up our streets. If our ‘new Dutchmen’ are so keen on showing their love for a seventh-century desert ideology, go ahead and do it in some Islamic country, but not here, not in our country.” (watwilwilders.nl/WildersbeledigtgroepenEN.html)
After countless travels to desert areas and the search through archives that have been moved from former colonies in the Middle East and Africa to their former European colonial powers, and thus made inaccessible to those who were the subject of this story, Benammar says: “My definition of the desert ideology is the layers of history of migration, forced displacement, genocides, endless horizons, sudden cold nights upon the sunsets and series of miracles.”
Text by Aksel Høgenhaug