Egypt, Arabic, and Grasping Difference
in Understanding Political Islam
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Egypt was an especially important milestone in the development of the author’s approach as a comparatist. From Cairo, then from Sudan, he was able to start seeing North Africa through a new lens: no longer from within it, nor from inside the distorting mirror of France. It was from the symbolic heart of Arabism that his perspective on the Arab world gradually became decentered, and then recomposed. It was from Egypt (together with Sudan, Jordan, and neighboring Palestine) that he laid out the core of his analytical framework of the “Islamist question.” It also, however, involved breaking with the historical, political, sociological, and religious configuration of North Africa. (There were, for instance, no Copts to be found in Algeria.) Reaching Egypt also meant exiting the French colonial paradigm, notwithstanding the many extant traces of the Napoleonic expedition.

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