[This article was initially published in French by Club MediaPart on 7 March 2023. It was translated by Jacinthe Assaad.]
The paranoid over-politicization of the social dynamics of a small fringe of the French population (“the veil is today the emblem of internationalist political Islam,” according to Caroline Fourest) as well as the demonization of political Islam appear as a deep denial of the republican ideal. And they are, in an illegal exercise of politics or even mere freedom of speech, a criminalization of whole sections of this small minority of the French population who considers Islam as a more or less important component of its identity.
The French philosopher Etienne Balibar is not mistaken, when he notes that “culture can also function as nature,” concluding that “from a formal point of view... Islamophobia… is born of a generalized anti-Semitism.” In American scientific literature, Sahar F. Aziz refers to the concept of “Racial Muslim” to denote how Muslims are considered a racial group. Indeed, Muslims are assigned to an essentialized, exclusive, pejorative, and fantasized identity.
Less than a century later, France would once again be “threatened:” by the Jew yesterday, by the Muslim today, or maybe even worse, by the Muslim woman. In contemporary racist mythology, the “networks” of the Muslim Brotherhood are thus part of the continuation of the “international Jewry:” a devious fifth column would be at play, at work in France.
This old racist tune is asserted again today, under the guise of science. The anthropologist Vacher de Lapouge, a French figure of scientific racism at the turn of the twentieth century, who nourished Nazi ideology, is succeeded today by other voices that use anthropology to denounce “national impurity.” One of them, as publicized as she is marginalized on the academic scene, has just committed a scorching attack in the delirious paradigm of the “great replacement:” the Muslim Brotherhood would “infiltrate” the Republic to replace it by a “caliphate.” No more, no less.
It is appropriate to name this anthropologist. Not out of intellectual terrorism, as this researcher practices it in length in public statements, commanding a witch trial against hypothetical “islamo-leftists.” She believes these “political alliances: Islamists and red and green leftists” would indeed be numerous. However, she is disavowed by her institution, the CNRS (the French National Center for Scientific Research), which categorically rejects this assertion: “‘Islamo-leftism’, a political slogan used in public debates, does not correspond to any scientific reality.”
This political activist should be named because, as Bourdieu, on the shoulders of Marx, reminds us, “In a universe where social positions are often identified with ‘names’, scientific criticism must sometimes take the form of an ad hominem criticism.” Indeed, a scientific criticism is necessary in the face of the dangerous breach opened up by the researcher in question. Admittedly, others before her were misguided in this revival of scientific racism. But the emergence of new television channels provides this activist with an unparalleled sounding board.
Florence Bergeaud-Blackler, in Le Frérisme et ses réseaux, une enquête (The Brotherhood and Its Networks, An Investigation, Odile Jacob, 2023), actually brings nothing new to the American paradigm of the so-called “clash of civilizations,” recycled in France as an ideological device in the service of the repression of the social and political ambitions of some 10% of the French population, at most, according to a regular statistical census of “Muslims inFrance,” which in itself attests to the intensification of racism.
These “Muslims in France” are most often from working-class neighborhoods, despite the displeasure of the left who disregards this. Racism produces a formidable disintegration of class consciousness. Truly, this racism is “the socialism of fools,” as a former leader of the historic German left had already said, during the dark years of that country.
The right wing is obviously not to be outdone. Zemmour only had time to bend down, to reap the harvest of hatred, with a success that must be recognized. In the presidential elections of 2022, only a few months after the creation of his party “Reconquest,” he obtained 7% of the votes. In the Germany before the genocidal madness, it took the most racist party at the time almost a decade to get less than half that score. Of course, comparison is not reason.
However, to reiterate, tragedy becomes farce, as Marx points out. Thus, the concepts woven with the brown threads gathered by Gilles Kepel, initiator of the indictment of Bergeaud-Blacker, from these “suburbs of Islam” to the “brotherhood,” have followed “Jihadism,” according to him, to become the “surrounding environment” in France.
If Florence Bergeaud-Blackler does not shine with her theory of action — “They are theocrats and therefore what they want is the end of democracy ... I do not understand ... why there are so many political parties ... complicit” —, it is on the grounds of doxa that she more spectacularly operates. In fact, her thesis borrows from the most unabashed anti-Semitic rhetoric: “They want to bring together all the components of Islam in order to ascend towards the caliphate... They proceed by influence, by infiltration... the infiltration of entire sectors... university, education, media, the army, the justice system, prisons, etc. They are present everywhere.”
With concepts constructed to give racist expressions the alibi of scientific research, she unfortunately has the enormous force of conviction of those “media intellectuals” who follow the outlines of sensationalist television and its phobic construction of an “imaginary Islam.” A semi-savvy patron, she claims to have a knowledge of Islamic thought that proves to be terribly vague and superficial. “It is less a question of understanding a series of phenomena than of making an evaluative judgment on them, in order to declare them incompatible with the Republic,” notes the Muslim law specialist, Mohammed Hocine Benkheira. Like for instance, the “Sharia,” meaning law in Arabic, which the researcher in question posits as absolute in Islam from a normative perspective, instead of an interpretation thereof in practice, as cultural anthropology would have it. Yet, jurisprudence is one of the sources of Islamic law, a relativization of Sharia.
Bourdieu clearly shows the intellectual blindness produced by this research practice that, in order to understand the other’s mind, simply imposes its own. This blindness forbids any form of relativization, this consideration of all, yet at the heart of the democratic project, which submits even the Law itself to a Parliament that is supposed to carry, in principle, every voice of the citizenry.
For it is indeed the full citizenship of a part of the French population that Bergeaud-Blackler denies, along with Zemmour, Le Pen, Fourest, Damien Rieu, and others, at the head of a parade of a swarm of “native informants”, a set that goes from the imam Chalghoumi, a rare Muslim whose public expression of faith is allowed, passing by Zineb El Rhazoui, the one who calls on the police “to fire real bullets at the barbarians” of the Parisian banlieue, to Mohamed Sifaoui, who declared "I would much rather be the ugliest dog in the world than the best Islamist (terrorist or not)...".
It is indeed a complete citizenship, one that is not obliged to “politeness,” one that allows, in a tone of opposition if need be, full participation in the production of societal norms and political subjectivity, that the “organic intellectuals” of racism fear.
As Bourdieu highlights, the Republic is a “theological entity;” “it exists only through belief.” Can the “Muslims inFrance” believe in it?