Despite the reluctance of many French intellectuals to participate in the recent French debate on Islam, the historian and researcher on Iraq and the Islamic world, Pierre Jean Louisard, had a different voice. He spoke to the French magazine Lobs about the “roots of misunderstanding” between “the republic and Islam”, which is The title of his book, which sheds light on historical and intellectual aspects of a recently politicized debate, following President Emmanuel Macron’s speech on separatism and the anger he raised in the Islamic world.
Lewisard studied the history of Iraq, Shiite clerics, Sufi and Islamic reform movements in Egypt and elsewhere, and authored several books, most notably “The ISIS Trap: The Islamic State or the Return of History” and “The Birth of Contemporary Iraq: The Political Role of Shiite Scholars at the End of Ottoman Domination and at the Time of Building the Iraqi State.” And “totalitarian secularism in the Islamic lands”, and others.
In the interview that Sarah Defala gave to the French magazine, the historian and director of research at the French National Center for Scientific Research said that French secularism, like European values, is inspired by the ages of the Enlightenment, considering that France clings to an “authoritarian” secularism and is distinguished by its adherence to the principles of a “universal and secular” republic. At the same time, it is the most contradictory country when applying these principles, especially in the colonial context, according to what Muslims saw, as he put it.
The historian and author of “The Republic and Islam” explained that what Islam has become today and its profound opposition to secularism is due to a large extent to the confrontation with Europe that has dominated since the 19th century, since colonialism, even if it was not done in the name of secularism or in the name of Christianity, it took place in the name of the values inspired by The Enlightenment, like the idea of the civilizational message from which secularism arose, and from which Muslims – especially in Algeria – have only met a very bad image, with the systematic reversal of republican and secular values in the colonial context.
An action against values
This is due to the fact that what the colonizer deems good is no longer good for Algeria, where – in the name of the secular ideal – Muslims alone were excluded from the French nationality, unlike the Jews, which created a different view among Muslims of the ideals through which they are today intended to integrate them into France, and therefore it is useful to highlight The spotlight is on the denial of this history instead of showing the innocence of the French political class, and President Macron in particular.
The historian pointed out that another aspect of confusion can be explained by the relationship between secularism and authoritarian regimes, especially the military, as the Arab, Turkish and Iranian armies were the main drivers of the secular ideals imposed by force and oppression that caused tens of thousands of deaths in these countries.
Considering that there is an impact of globalization throughout the Islamic world, the historian noted that this began since the emergence of the so-called “Islamic reformist” movements in the 19th century, which were a reaction to the French contradictions, as they wanted to confront the French discourse that believes that excessive attachment to a religion is the cause The backwardness of the Islamic world compared to Europe. Reform movements say the opposite, which is that the departure from true Islam is the reason for the weakness of the Islamic world in the face of conqueror Europe, calling for a return to the Islam of the pious ancestors, the “predecessors”.
Lewisard warned that Salafism was not always, as it is today, a “deadly fundamentalist” ideology. Rather, it was at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century in agreement with liberal and democratic modernization. However, the successive colonialism of Tunisia, Morocco, Lebanon and Syria in which Muslims faced setbacks were not circumstantial but systematic. Make Islamic slogans say that secularism, which is the weapon of the new Crusaders, is nothing but hypocrisy and lies, according to the expression of the French historian.
In this context, the Sunni Muslims in the Levant saw that France – republican and secular – established Greater Lebanon to be a country with a Christian majority, then they saw its division of Syria on sectarian lines, with the establishment of the Alawite state and the state of Mount Druze, and the war they waged against the Sunni Arab majority that was militarily defeated 1920’s.
Because secularism maintains this image of Western hegemony, according to the author, civil societies – especially during the Islamic revolution in Iran – saw that they had a religious identity that represented an important force for opposing the “infidel” totalitarian regimes subject to the West, which was the case for many regimes in Egypt and Tunisia. And Iran.
Secularism concord is not secular separation
The historian warned – when asked about the anger in the streets of some Islamic countries: Is it just a heritage of a common history? – that what he said is not well known to those who protest, and it was not taught in France or in the countries and regimes resulting from colonialism, as for the reformist Islam that turned into An ideological Islam, “as he put it, it was the main force in opposition to authoritarian regimes, until the Arab Spring came, which failed in many countries due to the illegal nature of the institutions that were established, in the view of the majority of the population, according to the historian’s point of view.
Lewisard did not deny the existence of examples of formal or informal secularism in Islamic countries, such as the Kemalist case of Turkey, pointing out that the secular separation between religion and state does not exist at all in the Islamic world, where there is a “consensus secularism” under which the state organizes and administers Muslim worship.
The author also referred to secular reforms regarding personal status and the organization of Islam. An example of this is the institutionalization of the “endowment” system and its real estate commodities, which are factories, agricultural lands and activities of all kinds, which the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt used to develop hospitals and clinics, to compensate for shortcomings or shortcomings. The absence of the state, as he put it.
When asked: Is Islam a religion that resists secularism, and is there a debate about secularism in Arab Islamic societies? The historian’s response is that it cannot be said that Islam as such is hostile or supportive of secularism, in the same way that it is not possible to define Catholicism or Judaism in relation to what is a modern aspect of the organization of religion in society and at the state level.
However, what happened to Islam today – according to what Louiseard says – is basically the fruit of his confrontation with the ideals carried by the colonial powers, and in particular this civilizational mission that was glorified by the French politician Jules Ferry and which justified colonialism, and Ferry (1832-1893) believed that races Or the Semitic peoples enjoy the duty of guardianship and care of the primitive colonized peoples.
The historian concluded that the secularization of Islamic societies seems difficult, because they view secularism in a very negative way, but this does not mean that there will be no compatibility with secularism in the future, but that seems far away at the present time, as he put it.