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For the Muslims: Islamophobia in France

A piercing denunciation of Islamophobia in France, in the tradition of Emile Zola
At the beginning of the twenty-first century, leading intellectuals are claiming “There is a problem with Islam in France,” thus legitimising the discourse of the racist National Front. Such claims have been strengthened by the backlash since the terrorist attacks in Paris in January and November 2015, coming to represent a new ‘common sense’ in the political landscape, and we have seen a similar logic play out in the United States and Europe.

Edwy Plenel, former editorial director of Le Monde, essayist and founder of the investigative journalism website Mediapart tackles these claims head-on, taking the side of his compatriots of Muslim origin, culture or belief, against those who make them into scapegoats. He demonstrates how a form of “Republican and secularist fundamentalism” has become a mask to hide a new form of virulent Islamophobia. At stake for Plenel is not just solidarity but fidelity to the memory and heritage of emancipatory struggles and he writes in defence of the Muslims, just as Zola wrote in defence of the Jews and Sartre wrote in defence of the blacks. For if we are to be for the oppressed then we must be for the Muslims.

Reviews

  • “Thank goodness for this humane, civilized and morally brave book. It speaks important truths which these days are much too rarely heard.”
  • “A powerful call to address the empathy deficit and intellectual poverty which underlies the “obsessive Islamophobia” of much French public discourse. Noting that Islamophobia now performs the cultural function once assigned to anti-Semitism, For the Muslims is a polemic against indifference. Plenel resurrects France’s heritage of critical thought to call on his fellow citizens and others to develop a competing imaginary to the one established by rampant xenophobia.”
  • “An important book about one of the most pressing issues facing modern Europe. Insightful, historically grounded and detailed, it’s required reading.”
  • “An urgent and necessary warning cry against hatred and the politics of fear and indifference that fuels it. From the Dreyfus affair to the aftermath of the Paris attacks of 2015, Plenel shows how the normalization of a far-right narrative of rejection, exclusion and otherness will have consequences for us all.”

Blog

  • Post-fascism: a mutation still underway

    This interview with Enzo Traverso was first published in L'humanité. Translated by David Broder. 


    June 2015 press conference of far right 'Europe of Nations and Freedom' bloc within European Parliament. 

    In his Les Nouveaux Visages du Fascisme, historian Enzo Traverso analyses the mutations of the European far Right movements that have emerged from "the fascist matrix."1 According to Traverso, the Left has to "offer political perspectives again" in order to occupy "the immense void" that is today being filled by both jihadism and a "post-fascism" that excludes Muslims.

    Are Europe’s far-Right movements (the AfD in Germany, the Front National in France, Jobbik in Hungary…) adopting the same codes as fascism or Nazism?

    Enzo Traverso: First of all, these movements do share common traits, including their rejection of the European Union, their xenophobia and their racism, in particular in its Islamophobic dimension. Beyond these markers, we can see notable differences. There are clearly neo-fascist or neo-Nazi movements, like Golden Dawn in Greece, Jobbik in Hungary, etc., whose radicalism is often linked to the extent of the crisis, even if in Greece the rise of Syriza did put a lid on this dynamic. As for France, the Front National does have a fascist matrix, and there are certainly neo-fascists in the party, but its discourse is no longer fascist. After all, it has made a considerable effort at ideological mutation, and that is one of the keys to its success. If it still advanced neo-fascist arguments it would not get a hearing, and could certainly not hope to reach the second round of the presidential election.

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  • Perry Anderson and Suleiman Mourad: Islamism and the Contemporary Arab World

    At no other time has the image of Islam gained so much public attention. Yet, this image is replete with misinformation and ignorance about the theology, history and practice of Islam.

    In the Mosaic of Islam Perry Anderson and the acclaimed historian of Islam Suleiman Mourad aim to introduce the long history of Islam and its reception, from Muhammad to the present, in an open and accessible manner. In this extract from the book, Anderson and Mourad discuss the antagonism between Shiʿis and Sunnis, the causes and effects of the Arab Spring, Israel's place in the Middle East, and the history of Pan-Arabism.



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  • Perpetual War and Permanent Unrest: The Battle of Algiers After 9/11

    This essay is excerpted from Sohail Daulatzai's Fifty Years of The Battle of Algiers: Past as Prologue, published by the University of Minnesota Press. A new 4K restoration of The Battle of Algiers is currently touring theaters across the United States. 



    Though it is both troubling and telling, the screening of the film by the Pentagon in the aftermath of 9/11 and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan is only the latest chapter in the afterlife of The Battle of Algiers. In many ways, the film is a battleground and a microcosm of the enduring struggles between the West and the Rest, whiteness and its others. But in a post- 9/11 moment, it’s hard to ignore the ways in which the centrality and omnipresence of the figure of the Muslim and the “War on Terror” have not only coded and shaped every aspect of social life but have also sought to undermine the power and politics of The Battle of Algiers.

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