Book Reviews

The Minority Concept in the Turkish Context: Practices and Perceptions in Turkey, Greece and France, by Samim Akgönül

SA Samim Akgönül's book is a blend of sociology, history and political science.The author is a professor at the University of Strasburg and a researcher at the French National Scientific Research Centre (CNRS). In his new book, Samim Akgönül questions the term “minority”, focusing specifically on France, Greece and Turkey. This concept of minority is approached by the author very much in the same vein as the French sociologist, Marcel Mauss did, i.e., as a total ‘social fact’. ‘Socials facts’ are conceptual tools for studying different social situations. The author considers the Muslim minorities in Greece as products of the Ottoman Empire's former supremacy, and the Turkish minorities in France as the consequence of the arrival of Turkish immigration in France during the 1960s. Samim Akgönül claims that the issue of minorities in Turkey arose during the 1923 Turkish revolution, simultaneously with the state’s will to obliterate all differences between them.

Read more: The Minority Concept in the Turkish Context: Practices and Perceptions in Turkey, Greece and...

Secularism, Religion and Multicultural Citizenship by Braham Levey Geoffrey, Modood Tariq (Sidney 2005)

ChoiceHow can secularism and religious pluralism be thought about oday? Can secularism accommodate changing social contexts and more importantly: the challenge of Islam? The contributors of this volume bringing their expertise in various fields of social, religious and political sciences to bear on the study of these questions agree that the answer to the second of these questions might be “Yes” - or rather “Yes, if…”.

The book is the result of a symposium held by the University of New South Wales in Sidney 2005 on Religion and Multicultural Citizenship. The editors are two renowned scholars, Geoffrey Braham Levey in the field of political theory and Tariq Modood in Sociology and Public policy and especially the latter can look back on a large number of publications on the subjects of this volume. In their inquiry on how to conceive liberalism, citizenship and its relation to secularism in a contemporary context, the contributors make the solution they suggest also their guiding principle: Reassessing secularism and religion in the light of the pragmatic question: How are multicultural democracies to be made to work?. The volume tries to break out of a discussion on the circular relationship between religion and the liberal state that simply opposes secularist to anti-secularist views. It attempts to re-think secularism from different angles and discuss its usefulness and possible forms in contemporary political and social contexts.

Read more: Secularism, Religion and Multicultural Citizenship by Braham Levey Geoffrey, Modood Tariq (Sidney...

Nine Parts of Desire, The Hidden World of Islamic Women (1994)

Brooks 2Geraldine Brooks is an Australian journalist and writer. She was born in 1955. After graduating, she worked as a correspondent for The Wall Street Journal in several countries undergoing conditions of war or civil conflict, for instance Bosnia or Somalia. In the 1990s, she spent six years in the Middle East, where she became famous for her coverage of the Gulf war.

Nine Parts of Desire, The Hidden World of Islamic Women is a first-hand account , written in dashing, journalistic style. It is a testimony, based on her own direct experience in the Middle East. Although it is considered to be a non-fictional story, it might have been somewhat fictionalized mainly to meet editorial requirements. As the book was first published in 1994: we can easily imagine that 20 years later, the situation in the Middle East must have changed. That is why we may wonder if the issues raised by G. Brooks are still as relevant as they were then.

Read more: Nine Parts of Desire, The Hidden World of Islamic Women (1994)

The Copts and the West (1439-1822), by Alastair Hamilton

The Copts 9












The Copts and the West est un livre d’Alastair Hamilton, fruit de ses recherches sur les relations scientifiques, culturelles, ecclésiologiques entre les Coptes et l’Occident, sur la période 1439-1822

 Au moyen d’une narration riche en anecdotes biographiques, l’ouvrage aborde les tentatives d’union, le développement de l’Eglise Catholique Copte, la concurrence entre protestants et catholiques dans le développement des études arabes et coptes, les biographies d’humanistes coptes ayant enseignés en Occident et finalement le rôle des études coptes dans le développement de l’égyptologie.

Read more: The Copts and the West (1439-1822), by Alastair Hamilton

Lydie Salvayre, d’une langue à l’autre…

indexLydie Salvayre a écrit le livre qu’elle devait écrire,  certainement un des livres – sinon le livre – de sa vie. Ce livre, Pas pleurer,  intensément, presque fébrilement habité de bout en bout, lui permet de remonter enfin triomphalement, mais aussi avec un certain détachement, aux origines, à l’aurore de sa vie, de son destin : en amont du moment où son devenir personnel allait être irréversiblement délité et en même temps comme encodé à rebours par un des événements historiques majeurs du XXème siècle : la révolution noyée dans le sang de la République espagnole de ‘36. Le sens de l’être, de notre sujet, est sans doute toujours déjà enfoui, occulté par l’histoire familiale, politique et sociétale, marquant à tout jamais notre subjectivité d’une empreinte collective dont nous luttons pour mettre à jour le sens. Mais chez certains individus, venus au monde à des moments charnières de l’Histoire, cela reste encore plus vrai que pour les autres. Ces êtres, lorsqu’ils accèdent à la parole, à la création, sont comme des paroles vivantes de l’Histoire. On pourrait dire qu’à leur insu – et même peut-être contre leur propre gré – ils ont pour destin de porter une parole censurée, mutilée, qui n’est pas seulement la leur, mais qu’ils ont comme charge paradoxale d’incarner et de transmettre en la dénouant enfin. C’est peut-être là ce qui fait la différence entre un(e) écrivain(e) et un lettré ou un idéologue gratte-papier.

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Book Review : Le syndrome islamiste et les mutations du capitalisme, par Ahmed Henni











English Abstract: Political Islamism is usually considered to be an ‘exotic phenomenon’ but is seldom explained in the light of economic dynamics and contemporary policies. Ahmed Henni has based his work on a wide range of statistical and historical data and sought to show how that trend is not so much the result of the Koran as it is that of petroleum-related activities and of the transformations of capitalism. The battle that is being fought for the underprivileged by political Islamism is no longer directed at property and the economic power that is derived from it; political sovereignty is the new target. Judicial claims and egalitarian aspirations do not aim to solve problems that are related to the improvement of standards of living of individuals: their goal is the equal redistribution of the income that comes from other entities. When wealth is based on income, it is granted in accordance with social status, not economic activity. That is the reason why social competition for status and position happens in redistribution rather than the production process. This form of Islamism that is commonly presented as political has expanded tremendously in the Gulf States, where oil income has enabled the latter to accumulate wealth and to become a major hub for consumption over the past few years.

Perçu comme un « phénomène exotique », l’ « islamisme politique », n’est que rarement expliqué à l’aune des dynamiques économiques et politiques contemporaines.

Read more: Book Review : Le syndrome islamiste et les mutations du capitalisme, par Ahmed Henni

Book Review: Camille Tarot – Le Symbolique et le Sacré. Théories de la Religion

Photo4244What’s at stake in the definition of Religion? Why should one feel the need today to devote 910 pages to this subject and its evolution during the 20th century in France? Camille Tarot’s Le Symbolique et le Sacré: Théories de la Religion [The Symbolic and the Sacred: Theories of Religion] answers these questions through a fascinating and pedagogical approach. His big book on the debate about the status of religion in French social thought sets a high standard for future discussions in the field.

A Close-up on French Sociology of Religion

In order to provide a general overview on the sociological debate evolving around the term of religion in the 20th century, Tarot makes use of what he calls the “scholastic mode of reasoning”. This translates into the quadripartite structure of his book: exposition of the problem, presentations of existing opinions on the subject, discussion of their validity, and finally, the establishment of the author’s own theory in the final part of the book.

Read more: Book Review: Camille Tarot – Le Symbolique et le Sacré. Théories de la Religion

Book review: Marc Bordigoni, Gypsies, Tsiganes, Roma : received ideas about the Travel World

Roma 2Not a day goes by without seeing the Roma issue portrayed in one way or another on the news. On TV, on computer screens, on paper, the word seems to have spread everywhere. In cities such as Marseille, it’s nearly impossible to walk the streets without being asked for some food or money by people in all likelihood originating from Eastern Europe, and who may or may not be Roma..

  But who are the Roma? What does the word « Roma » even mean and what reality lies behind it?

Read more: Book review: Marc Bordigoni, Gypsies, Tsiganes, Roma : received ideas about the Travel World

Beyond extremism: towards a Modern Islamic theology?

RB 2Nowadays, the perception of Islam in the Western world is often reduced to its most radical anti-modernist interpretations. But there is more to discover in an Islamic world whose plurality is unfortunately mostly underestimated in the media. Islam has more to offer than a conservative retreat from modernity. Radical thinking is not a privilege of traditionalistic mullahs but is also at the core of some of the most interesting research projects in the academic discourse on Islam. These radically modern interpretations of Islam are not without risks for the persons defending them. Their persisting determination merits a larger recognition of their work in the European discourse on Islam.

Introduction to a new Islam

Way before the Arab Spring revolutions and the outburst of liberal hopes in many Muslim dominated countries, Rachid Benzine devoted a work to these courageous commentators of the Islamic tradition. Presenting basically eight of these new thinkers, Benzine introduces us to a universe that is highly worth the discovery. Benzine who studied mainly under Mohammed Arkoun has published several works on Islam and the interpretation of its foundational texts. His book on the new thinkers of Islam has been translated into German but still awaits its translation into English.

Read more: Beyond extremism: towards a Modern Islamic theology?

Symbolisme et Franc-Maconnerie/ Jean-Charles NEHR

NehrEnglish language abstract: Symbolism and Freemasonry / Jean-Charles NEHR

Publisher: A l’Orient, Paris 2008

Jean-Charles Nehr’s book confronts the rise of an obscurantist “symbolatry”. Considering the symbol as a tool, the author proposes a certain analysis of the function of symbolism in the frame of a progressive Freemasonry.

But this perspective doesn’t lead to any reduction of the symbol. It is rather an extension that puts its emphasis on the object being symbolized. The author shows that the freemason symbolism is a phenomenon sufficiently serious not to be lefts at the hands of the usual panegyrists of an ambiguous and obscurantist symbolism:

“A simple symbol is a tangible object that replaces or represents something else with the intention of a better understanding. So it’s an elevation of the importance of the object being symbolized (L. M. Sherwood) – without forgetting about the essential: the symbolism is a way to improve man as well as society.”

If symbolism plays a fundamental role in the history and the work of Freemasonry, it isn’t by any means an end or a goal in itself. It’s only a means, a tool at the disposition of a group of people who share the same ideal in a certain manner. Viewed from this angle, it’s the cement that binds the freemasons together in time and space. It binds them together and, at the same time, differentiates them from the strictly mundane order. The particularity of the masons’ symbolism is to reveal to the intelligence and to the heart that a better world is within reach.

Accordingly, the fundamental question is the following: Does Freemasonry still have something to offer? What is its project? Indeed, what would be the use of a symbolism, as beautiful as it may be, if it was based on an out-dated way of thinking and an empty humanism?

Read more: Symbolisme et Franc-Maconnerie/ Jean-Charles NEHR

Cairo 678: Egypt, a country plagued by sexual harassment

 Image Caire 678« I am going to ask you three questions. Have you been sexually assaulted ? How many times ? How did you react ? » .

          This is Seba - one of the main characters in Mohamed Diab's movie Cairo 678 - speaking. She gives courses to a group of Egyptian women who wish to react facing sexual assault. Indeed, according to a recent study published by the Egyptian center for women's rights 90 percent of Egyptian women report undergoing sexual harassment in public spaces. The writer Ghada Abdel Aal shares her experience. She says that whenever she rides the bus to Cairo she always buys two tickets to make sure she will not be assaulted by a man sitting next to her. The movie Cairo 678 addresses the issue of sexual harassment in public spaces in modern Egypt.

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Raphaël Liogier's 'The Religion to Come'

raphael-liogierRaphaël Liogier has written a big book, not of course only from the point of view of length–sociologists and futurologists have long accustomed us to still more doughty blockbusters-but definitely from the point of view of its scope and in-depth perspective.This of course can be partly traced back to Liogier’s self-imposed turbo- charged training curriculum: he simultaneously studied philosophy at the university and political science and sociology at Sciences Po, Aix-en-Provence, before going on to run the gauntlet of transplantation from the ‘continental’ to the ‘analytic, so-called anglo-saxon’ schools of philosophical method, daring to spend one or two fairly embattled years in the philosophy departments of Edinburgh and Oxford. This ‘irregular’ trajectory – or still often considered as such by Europe’s jealously guarded national academic establishments – has enabled him to develop some decidedly original angles of approach to  - and depths of insight into  - a subject which might well have spawned just another exercise in pseudo-scientific extrapolation of current trends and technologies, or even just yet another luddite pamphlet  against the dangers of liberalism and its demon child, individualism.

Read more: Raphaël Liogier's 'The Religion to Come'

"God Bless America" - Politics and Religion in the United States: a reassessment

US Religion 2We, as Europeans, are deeply convinced that in the United States religion never stands apart from political life, being an essential component of the latter. From the role of the Christian right in the Republican party's electoral successes to the emergence of a Democrat left-wing religiosity, some have gone so far as to label the United States a “Theo-democracy”. Yet, things often turn out to be much more complex than they appear at first sight. In this respect, Camille Froidevaux-Metterie aims at showing that the U.S. on the contrary, is a firmly secular republic reposing on two deeply rooted constitutional principles: the freedom of religion and State neutrality in terms of religion. Furthermore, this wall of separation has been strengthened by a clearly separatist jurisprudence of the Supreme Court (even if challenged during recent decades).

In order to fully grasp the contradictory dynamics characterizing this curious idiosyncratic configuration, the author suggests we explore the intricacies of American history, from the ages of Puritanism to today’s multidenominational America symbolized by President Barack Obama.

Read more: "God Bless America" - Politics and Religion in the United States: a reassessment

A commentary on David E. Campbell and Robert D. Putnam, “God and Caesar in America, Why mixing religion and politics is bad for both”

US religionThe article “God and Caesar in America: Why mixing religion and politics is bad for both” (Foreign Affairs – March/April 2012) was written by two important political scientists; Robert David Putnam and David E. Campbell. The material in the article comes from the authors’ highly informative book American Grace: How religion divides and unites us (published in 2010 by Simon&Schuster).The book is based on many surveys, but central to its analysis is the Faith Matters Survey which was conducted in 2006 on behalf of Harvard University, the second survey in 2007 with 3100 Americans. On the other hand; the article contains some statistical data from a 2011 survey and certain data from Gallup surveys.

Read more: A commentary on David E. Campbell and Robert D. Putnam, “God and Caesar in America, Why mixing...

The New Heretics of France?

Susan PalmerThe New Heretics of France: Minority Religions, la République, and the Government-Sponsored “War on sects”, by SUSAN J. PALMER. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011, 251 pp.

Considering the extreme difficulty of undertaking any serious research on such a topic in France, where positions remain highly polarized, Susan J. Palmer’s work is impressive, both in terms of field work and of its fundamental orientation. Here in the Hexagon, the scientific, social and media-related obstacles are still such that a French religious sociologist would be hard put – or would not be able at all - to produce so well-documented a study.

In many respects, Palmer’s work takes the form of a pedagogical chart of the situation of minority religions in France. The reader is guided through a panorama of the relations between cults and anti-cult movements rather than provided with any deep theoretical explanation of the latter. That being said, the work remains highly relevant for anyone interested in the status of minority religions in contemporary France.

Read more: The New Heretics of France?

Edouard GLISSANT ou l’éloge de l’interculturel

GlissantEdouard Glissant nait le 21 septembre 1928 à Sainte-Marie en Martinique.Il suit des études de philosophie à la Sorbonne et d'ethnologie au Musée de l’Homme, à Paris. Poète, romancier, essayiste, auteur dramatique et théoricien de la littérature, Edouard Glissant se révèle être le penseur d’un nouveau Monde. Son activité de militant en faveur de la cause antillo-guyanaise et contre le système colonial lui vaut dans les années 1960 quelques déboires avec la justice française. Il est alors assigné à résidence en France. En 1965, il retourne en Martinique. Directeur du Courrier de l’Unesco (1982-1988), il se trouve à un poste d’observation idéal pour développer sa relation autour des thèmes de la relation au monde et du métissage culturel… Edouard Glissant est le père spirituel des écrivains du mouvement de la créolité, il est le premier à avoir théorisé le concept de créolisation perçue comme un processus imprévisible et comme « un métissage conscient de lui-même ». Désormais professeur à New York, Edouard Glissant s’affirme avec des romans et essais comme  ‘’Tout-Monde’’  ou encore  ‘’Poétique de la relation’’  comme le penseur majeur du monde actuel. Edouard Glissant meurt le 3 février 2011 à Paris à l'âge de 82 ans.

Read more: Edouard GLISSANT ou l’éloge de l’interculturel

Ajami, a film by Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani

images 2The scene takes place in Jaffa, an ancient commercial port connected to Tel-Aviv since 1950, once the 1948 war had emptied it of most of its Palestinian population. The district of Ajami, origin of the film’s title, has retained that flavor of heterogeneity. Indeed, Jews, Muslims and Christians live side by side. Yet the Judeo-Arab conflict still poisons the atmosphere. However, the conflict is never made explicit in the usual way. Here, the central conflict of the area is tackled indirectly through the problems of everyday life: Jewish police officers carrying out a search in the apartment of an Arab Christian Israeli, the same guy, the Arab Christian Israeli, in conflict with his Arab friends because they reproach him his going to live in Tel-Aviv with his Jewish girlfriend. There is also a Jewish policeman who wants to know the truth about the death of his brother, killed by an Arab guy during his military service, and more surprisingly, the movie shows us Arab Israelis who appear to be superior to Palestinian Arabs and are exploiting them.

Read more: Ajami, a film by Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani

A Cross-cultural Book Review: Touching by Adania Shibli and Kneller's Happy Summer Camp by Etgar Keret

51Id2Uc1mKL. SS500 Our objective here is to comparatively review two books: Kneller's happy summer camp, by Etgar Keret, 1998, and Touching, by Adania Shibli, 2002. Our main reason for operating a comparative analysis on these two works of fiction is linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: the books both provide examples of the new literary scene in the two countries concerned. Indeed, there is a departure from the classical form of writing, which consists in not taking the conflict into account, or at least, in not making it the main focus of their story. Moreover, this comparative analysis aims to highlight the emergence of what we believe may be a new literary movement.

Read more: A Cross-cultural Book Review: Touching by Adania Shibli and Kneller's Happy Summer Camp by Etgar...

"The Parthenon as a metaphor"

Christos Chryssopoulos, La destruction du Parthénon, Actes Sud, 2012.

In 1944, surrealist poet and secretary of the ASAS (the Society of Aesthetic Saboteurs of Antiques), Yorgos Makris wrote a manifesto entitled “Let’s blow up the Acropolis!” On Friday the17th of this month, in The destruction of the Parthenon, Ch. K., the anti-hero of the novel actually blew up the Parthenon. A part of the Acropolis was obliterated to be replaced by the immensity of an empty sky. The astonished Athenians watched and commented on the scene, asking themselves plenty of questions: Who could have done such a thing? Who could have damaged their symbol? Why? Was it real, or were they just dreaming? This doubt persists throughout the novel: it becomes hard for the reader to tell reality from fiction. Christos Chryssopoulos constructs his work, The destruction of the Parthenon, on these questions. Several voices mingle in an attempt to understand the incomprehensible. The Parthenon has been profaned, someone has to be punished. Ch. K., who will be arrested, will have to pay for “the destruction of the symbol” (p. 57).

Read more: "The Parthenon as a metaphor"

Raphaël Liogier, Le mythe de l'islamisation

mterestch2Il n'est peut-être pas de nation qui puisse subsister sans la distinction de l'ami et de l'ennemi, du citoyen et de l'étranger, sans la délimitation de frontières et d'un espace clos sur lequel s'exerce la souveraineté de l'Etat.

A quoi s'ajoute la fabrication d'un récit, plus ou moins fictif, qui vise à souder les citoyens dans le sentiment d'une identité partagée et d'une histoire commune. Mais qu'advient-il à une telle société si les ressorts de l'unité nationale et du patriotisme se nourrissent, chez un nombre croissant de citoyens, de l'imaginaire d'une menace qui conduit à stigmatiser une catégorie d'individus en raison de leur appartenance à une religion particulière ? Est-ce là un facteur de vitalité ou au contraire le symptôme d'une pathologie sociale ?

On l'aura compris, c'est la seconde hypothèse qui a toutes les chances d'être la plus exacte. Encore convient-il de prouver qu'il s'agit bien là d'un fantasme se développant au sein d'une société en proie à une profonde crise identitaire. Tel est le diagnostic que porte le sociologue Raphaël Liogier dans son dernier ouvrage, Le mythe de l'islamisation. Essai sur une obsession collective (Paris, Le Seuil, 2012).

Read more: Raphaël Liogier, Le mythe de l'islamisation

The Daughters of Allah: towards an open discourse on faith...

livreIn his novel, Nedim Gürsel relates his childhood. After the death of his father and the departure of his mother, he is raised by his grandparents. The grandfather is a Muslim landowner and a jurist. He is a disabled war veteran who tries to instill Islamic principles into his grandson. As for his grandmother, she used to tell him stories from the Koran and traditional Turkish legends. Building on this education, the child created his own imagination, haunted by questionings about good and evil and Mahomet’s life. On reching adulthood, among his grandfather’s documents, Nedim Gürsel discovers a diary in which his the latter had written about his war experience in Arabia during World War I. He explains how he fought against the Arabs, who were allied with the British, in order to defend Medina. Nedim Gürsel also tells us about his friend Ismaîl, murdered by his own father, the baker Ibrahim. This autobiographical part of the novel is blended with another form of narrative. Nedim Gürsel has the pre-Islmaic idols Manat, Uzza and Lat speak about the emergence of Islam and Muslim faith. These three idols were considered to be Allah’s daughters, intercessors between Allah and mankind.

Read more: The Daughters of Allah: towards an open discourse on faith...

La Religion à venir (ou vers une Bobo-isation du monde ?)

Souci de Soi, Conscience du Monde

Quelques questions et réflexions intempestives pour accompagner le débat autour de ‘Souci de Soi, Conscience du Monde' de Raphaël Liogier.

Pour Raphaël Liogier, le fond de l'air de notre époque n'est ni rouge, ni brun, ni même vert (sauf peut-être au sens écologique), ni pourpre, ni encore safran, mais d'un bleu profond, amniotique, planétaire, qui contiendrait en même temps la chatoyante multitude des nuances individuelles de l'arc-en-ciel. En tout cas, dans son nouveau livre, il nous annonce brillamment deux ou trois bonnes nouvelles (sans majuscules). La première, très bonne déjà pour les sociologues et autres spécialistes du religieux (croyants ou non, bien sûr), c'est que la Religion (ou du moins la Religiosité.. ?), malgré une mort annoncée de longue date et préparée de longue main, n'est ni moribonde, ni entrain de dépérir d'une lente phtisie laïque et moderniste.

Read more: La Religion à venir (ou vers une Bobo-isation du monde ?)

"God and Caesar in America"

US religionThe article "God and Caesar in America: Why mixing religion and politics is bad for both" (Foreign Affairs - March/April 2012) was written by two important political scientists; Robert David Putnam and David E. Campbell. The material in the article comes from the authors' highly informative book American Grace: How religion divides and unites us (published in 2010 by Simon&Schuster).The book is based on many surveys, but central to its analysis is the Faith Matters Survey that was conducted in 2006 on behalf of Harvard University, the second survey from 2007 with 3100 Americans. On the other hand; the article contains some statistical data from a 2011 survey and certain data from Gallup survey.

Read more: "God and Caesar in America"

Religion, Civil Society and Peace in Northern Ireland, John D. Brewer, Gareth I. Higgins and Francis Teeney

The three authors of the sociological essay Religion, Civil Society and Peace in Northern Ireland are scholars who graduated from and/or taught at Queen's University Belfast and with a direct experience of the Northern Irish peace process. John D. Brewer has written extensively in the sociology of religion in Northern Ireland (The Mote and the Beam: Anti-Catholicism in Northern Ireland, with Gareth I. Higgins, 1998...) and on comparative peace processes (Peace processes: A Sociological Approach, 2010). Gareth I. Higgins is a Belfast-born sociologist and currently the manager of the American independent arts Wild Goose Festival. Francis Teeney is a social psychologist and teaches currently at Aberdeen University. This book was conceived by John D. Brewer as the third instalment of a trilogy on violence, peace and religion, after C. Wright Mills and the Ending of Violence and Peace Processes.[1]

Read more: Religion, Civil Society and Peace in Northern Ireland, John D. Brewer, Gareth I. Higgins and...

Reflections on the revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam and the West


By Christopher Caldwell

We are going to present you our review of “Reflections on the revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam and the West” written by Christopher Caldwell in 2009, a book which was recently translated in October 2011 into French by Johan Frederik Hel Guedj under the title “Une révolution sous nos yeux, Comment l’Islam va transformer la France et l’Europe”. Moreover, the French version of the book was prefaced by Mrs Michèle Tribalat, a famous French demographer working for the French National Institute of Demographic Studies. But contrary to what happened in Great Britain and in the USA in 2009, there has been almost no publicity about this book when it first appeared on the shelves of French bookshops last year, because the questions of Islam and immigration have become very sensitive issues in our country.

Read more: Reflections on the revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam and the West

Blasphemy on trial: Church and Mosque united against freedom of speech?

Jean Boulègue was a historian and former scholar at the University of Panthéon Sorbonne. He specialized in the History of Africa, especially in the medieval and modern history of the great western African empires. He recently died, in March 2011. “Blasphemy on trial” (Le blasphème en procès) was published a year before , in January 2010.

 His book studies the recent history of a discrete, but constant and powerful action, led by religions against freedom of speech in religious matter. As a matter of fact, from 1984 to 2009, 20 lawsuits were filed in different courts of secular France, against speeches, written documents or images considered as insulting and defamatory toward a religion. In 18 cases Catholicism was in question, in the other two it was Islam. The first offensive was launched in 1984 by  catholic right-wing extremists, when a suit was brought under the aegis of Mgr. Lefebvre against a film poster. Then  fundamentalist associations were supported by the episcopate.  Muslim associations followed the movement and tried to influence the debate, and the culmination was reached with the open claim to the President of the Republic made by the French Council of the Muslim Faith to modify the French legislation to reestablish the offence of blasphemy.

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Youakim Moubarac, un homme d'exception

Pour la 18ème édition des Rencontres d'Averroès, un hommage est rendu à Louis Massignon, éminent islamologue français ; l'occasion pour nous de présenter l'oeuvre d'un de ses élèves les plus brillants : Youakim Moubarac. Cet auteur libanais nous invite à l'ouverture via un travail d'analyse historique et théologique rigoureux. Georges Corm, qui a choisi et rassemblé les textes de l'ouvrage en question, qualifie Moubarac de "cheville ouvrière du dialogue islamochrétien, un pacificateur de la scène libanaise durant les années sombres de violence, un défenseur inlassable des droits des Palestiniens", "à la pensée élégante et humaniste".

image_2Youakim Moubarac – Un homme d'exception is a collection of some of the author's works written between 1972 and 1993. It is in a tribute perspective to this “man of exception”, to his peaceful message and historical analysis, that Georges Corm undertook to gather together and to publish these texts which are still highly topical and relevant today.
Youakim Moubarac was a Maronite priest born in 1924 in Northern Lebanon. He studied theology, then left Lebanon for France in 1945 to complete his studies in Paris. He was to present his first thesis entitled Abraham in the Koran, in France where he settled. He was then to be recruited to the Centre national de la recherche scientifique. From 1950 to 1952 he handled Louis Massignon's secretariat and started his teaching career in 1959 at the Paris Catholic Institute where he taught Arabic ; he was to teach until his death in 1995.
Not only was he a great lover - and just as admirable a user - of the French language but also a remarkable islamologist and a widely acclaimed expert on monotheistic theology in its Jewish, Christian and Muslim versions. Youakim Moubarac was also a great historian of the Maronite Church and managed to highlight its Antiochian roots.

Since no official translation of the texts was available, the quotations are mine.

Read more: Youakim Moubarac, un homme d'exception

"What terrorists want: Understanding the Enemy, Containing the Threat"


Book review: "What terrorists want: Understanding the Enemy, Containing the Threat" (2007)

By Louise Richardson

Résumé :

Dans cet ouvrage, la politologue et universitaire Louise Richardson propose une approche originale de l'étude du terrorisme, dans un contexte où la littérature sur ce sujet avait tendance -5 ans après les attentats du 11 Septembre 2001- à présenter ce phénomène de manière choc et parfois simpliste. Au-delà des clichés, l'auteure tente, sans le légitimer, de comprendre et de faire comprendre ce qui peut pousser des individus à se tourner vers ce mode de lutte radical, et propose alors des solutions qui permettraient de rendre la lutte contre le terrorisme plus efficace, à savoir associer à la répression une recherche des racines profondes de ce phénomène pour pouvoir l'enrayer à la base.


In this book, the political analyst Louise Richardson proposes an interesting approach of the study of terrorism, in a context in which the bulk of the literature on this subject tended - 5 years after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 - to present this phenomenon in quite a simplistic way. Beyond the clichés, the author tries, without legitimizing it, to understand and to make people aware of the reasons which could lead an individual to choose this radical way of acting, and she proposes several solutions which could improve counter-terrorism; thus she advocates the use of repression linked with a research of the deep roots of terrorism, so as to try to stop it at the beginning of its complex process.

Read more: "What terrorists want: Understanding the Enemy, Containing the Threat"

“What I Believe” by Tariq Ramadan

A "controversial" scholar

Despite the clarity of his book, Tariq Ramadan still remains a complex figure to identify and present. In the introductive remarks of "What I Believe", Mr. Ramadan warns us not to go searching for his biography on the Internet where the "so-called free virtual encyclopedias (...) are in fact so biased".

Nonetheless, through research and comparison of different sources the basic facts of his biography were defined. Who is Tariq Ramadan? As for his ideological stance, the answer to this question remains a debatable issue. What can be said is that he is a leading Islamic thinker born and raised in Switzerland. He is a philosopher and Islamic theoretician.

Tariq Ramadan began his studies at the University of Geneva, where he majored in French literature and Western philosophy (his main field of study was Nietzsche). Later on, after 10 years of teaching and working as a high school teacher and dean in Geneva, Mr. Ramadan decided to quit his job to go follow an intensive course on Islamic Studies at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt.

Read more: “What I Believe” by Tariq Ramadan

A Clash between East and West? Deadly Standoffs

A review of  "Orient-occident, le choc?  les impasses meurtrières," [Orient-Occident, the Clash? Murder by Deadlock] by Antoine Sfeir and Christian Chesnot

Antoine Sfeir is a journalist and a French-Lebanese professor of International Relations at the CELSA. He is also the director of Les Cahiers de l'orient and presides over the studies and reflections center relating to the Middle East. Christian Chesnot is a French journalist who works at France Inter. He has also collaborated with La Tribune de Genève and Radio France Internationale. In spite of a lurid and somewhat market orientated title, the book is really a complete analysis of the Arab world at present. The authors have attempted to provide answers to such vital, but difficult questions as:

  • Why is there so little democracy in the Middle East?
  • Is Islam compatible with democracy?
  • Why, despite its geostrategic, economic, and cultural assets, is the Arab world continually mired in crisis?

To provide answers to these questions, the authors have examined both historical and contemporary factors underlying the situation in the region and as well as the main actors. They identify several explanatory factors. However, they also refer to the current situation.

Read more: A Clash between East and West? Deadly Standoffs