Journal article

French republican secularism and Islam in North African diasporic cultural production

Colonisation Muslim ethnic identity Ethnic communities Minority groups France

Centuries of anti-Arab stigma continue to haunt Franco-Maghrebians, the descendants of ex-colonial French North African migrants born and brought up in France. Franco-Maghrebians’ anti-colonial civic resistances (riots) against decades of segregation are dismissed as evidence of their alleged Islamicization and communitarianism. Focussing on Azouz Begag’s novel Béni ou le paradis privé (1989), this article explores how Franco-Maghrebians’ investment in and reproduction of the Republican secular world-view in fact leads to the denigration, suppression and corporeal annihilation of their Arabo-Muslim heritages. Drawing upon the theories of Jacques Derrida (1996) and Mikhail Bakhtin (1981), western philosophical obsession with origins, centres and margins returns diasporic citizens to colonial dualistic binaries, trapping them in the mirrors of negation and affirmation. Such a predicament is contrasted with the presentation of alternative philosophical perspectives of the other in Ismaël Ferroukhi’s film Le grand voyage (2004). Making references to Seyyed Hossein Nasr (2002), Ali Shariati (1979) and Karen Armstrong (2012), this research examines how Islamic ethical imperatives captured in motion across lands, cultures and time envision coexistence, contesting much of the existing discourse surrounding French Muslims and Islam.

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