François Burgat
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Saving the Other’s “Others”
A French Obsession
in Understanding Political Islam
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To this day, the (very) French difficulty in reaching a rational relationship with Islamic Otherness is expressed through a tendency to refuse to communicate directly with the Other in corporal form. How much cosier it is to not have to look in the eye the hideous Arabic-speaking, Muslim, Arab male, guilty of every sin. So what if, along with his hijab-clad wife, they make up the demographic majority in the region? We more or less consciously prefer to deal with those who, in the immediate vicinity of those creatures, have the good taste to be (like us honest folk) in tension or in a competitive relationship with them. Since time immemorial, we have displayed a consistent tendency. We are willing to enter into this Other’s world only through the door of its “minorities,” whether these be ethnic, religious, generational, or, more recently, sexual. Anyone, that is, except the Other “in person”—that impertinent, formerly colonized subject. So it is that France has always indulged in a proven fondness for “Berbers,” “Copts,” and “Maronites,” a fondness who nature and consequences this chapter analyzes.

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