Scenes of Devastation in Gaza. Via Emad El Byed on Unsplash

Kamel Daoud was born in 1970 in Mostaganem, a port city in northwest Algeria. The oldest of six children, he was raised in an Arabic-speaking Muslim family. He studied French literature at the university in Oran. He married but divorced in 2008, after the birth of his daughter. His wife had become increasingly religious and started wearing the hijab.

In 1994, he became a journalist at Le Quotidien d’Oran, a French-language Algerian newspaper, where he was editor-in-chief for eight years. His articles are published in various magazines, the most important being Le Point, a major Parisian publication, where he writes weekly. Daoud’s 2013 novel Mersault, la contre-enquête (translated as The Meursault Investigation) was awarded the Prix Goncourt du premier roman

In 2014, Daoud outlined his critique of Islam in Arab countries publicly on a French television program. A free translation:

If we do not tackle the question of religion, we will not “rehabilitate” ourselves; we will not advance. The role of religion in the Arab world has become integral to all Arabs. We must limit its role; we must reflect on the extent to which it dominates all our lives. Addressing the religious question has become vital if the Arab world is to advance.

Three days later, Abdelfattah Hamadache Zeraoui, a Salafist imam, declared that Daoud should be put to death: “If Islamic shari’a was applied in Algeria, his penalty would be death for apostasy and heresy.” Daoud’s questioning of the Qur’an was a sacrilege and allegedly wounded the dignity of Muslims, attacked the Arabic language, and defended the West and Zionists. The imam called on Algeria to condemn him to death, the death to be public.

To date, he continues to live in Oran and has not – so far – suffered the fate of Salman Rushdie. In this issue, we publish in translation two of his articles from Le Point, one a reflection on the killing of a young Muslim in Paris in June, the other a letter to an anonymous Israeli Jew in the wake of Hamas’s executions of Israelis.

— John Richards

France is squeezed between two visions²

Nahel’s refusal to comply with the police officer has generated a polemic, a major dividing line in France’s political confrontation.³ Should the forgotten ones of the banlieues comply when ordered by the police, or should they revolt? Given their youth, their Maghrebi or African racial identity, their parents’ pretexts, should they reject the police orders? Is the revolt in the name of their banlieue a justified form of delinquency? Is the revolt due to French racism, racism being for some the all-encompassing theory, the explanation of all that has happened? Have the forgotten ones been left in a wilderness, receiving welfare in exchange for their victimization – as the far left zealously argues?

Perhaps the police should not fire on the driver of a car who refuses to stop. But perhaps letting a dangerous driver do as he wishes leads to collapse of the state, of order, of security. Others are theorizing that the driver was engaged in a just revolt at the wheel of his car. Such theorizing is speculative in a country that protects its citizens, even those who put forward intellectual nonsense. To comply or not to comply? In this question lies the future of France. Unfortunately, it was left to one police officer to answer the question, when all French citizens, politicians and voters, should be required to decide. Recall the college teacher required by the curriculum to discuss religion and laïcité. He too was left alone to define the meaning of laïcité.

France is squeezed between two visions. France may be Bardellized.⁴ Bardellization is the logical end result of France’s present debate. France combines the passion of revolution with the concerns of the village grocer. It risks yielding to Bardella because voters are fearful of future insecurity. Everywhere, when people have to choose between security and democracy, they don’t choose democracy. The theorists discussing pretexts and justifications for violence, the rancorous left, the academics who have fled the Maghreb (who prefer living in France and earn their living by guilting the French for past colonialism) – they are accelerating Bardellization.

Its appeal is that people are afraid; they are beginning to conclude (despite themselves, they say) that immigration is dangerous and impoverishes France. Throughout Europe, the conclusion is growing that immigration is not an agreeable source of cultural diversity. The images of urban chaos, the radical extremes of leaders representing Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s France Insoumise, reverse racism (non-White cinema actors and soccer stars denounce the police) – all that contributes to Bardellization. Bardella speaks coherently and has sex appeal. He promises an intelligent future, which was hitherto absent in the French far right.

A dream, idiotically and tragically reversed

Another grave tendency is becoming more plausible: France risks being turned into a Third World country. France is witnessing anarchy, destruction of public buildings, ridiculous justification of riots, weakness of the state, which hesitates between neo-Christian crucifixion and Abrahamic sacrifice and guilt (for past colonialism). It is a strange outcome for a country. Those who migrated to France many generations ago and first-generation immigrants to France (plus their children born in France) came to make their fortune. What is strange among the recently arrived is that they romanticize the country they left and may well Third World–ize the country they came to. As if, through destruction, the youth want to turn their present country, France, into the country they fled. The dream is reversed – idiotically, tragically. The riots destroy the advantages provided by France and are reconstructing the misery, the mythical communitarisme⁵ and deprivation of the village in their country of origin.

France is turned into a Third World country and balkanized by lethal identities, the blackmail of communitarismes uncritically praised, the pronouncements of exclusive “we”s –White, Black, Muslim, français de souche, whatever. Who are these “we”s who preach from the ruins? They persist with their pronouncements, holding the flag of France or the flag of Islam.

We should be enraged against those who live in France, who were born in France or came to France from countries surrounded with death, against those who came illegally by boat or with a visa, and who are destroying the dream of millions who want to flee their country of origin. We should be sad and enraged against the radicals who sell the bodies of the dead and promote collective suicide. If Les Insoumis, the extremists identifying as pure White, the rioters, the little people indifferent to the future, the prosecutors of the colonial past, the cantors chanting about Maghrebi identity who never go live in the Maghreb – if they don’t want France as it is, they can give it to us, the people of the South.

Many Algerians have condemned the French police. This is not good news. It will accentuate the disintegration of France; it will invite an exploitation of the historical tragedy between Algeria and France, a drama that should not be reenacted. Condemning France will aggravate francophobia. If we Algerians are upset, we should not Algerianize a passing incident.

France is certainly not a perfect country, but it is important for Algerians – France is a free country. A young man has been killed, by a police officer. Neither represents France. The incident should not be ignored. Justice must prevail – neither rioters nor the parasites exploiting the incident to destroy France should prevail.

Letter to an Israeli Jew in time of war⁶

Cher Monsieur,

For the last week, I have refrained from following the news of the war in your country. I avoid the news about killing of your people, and your killing of Arabs in Gaza. Why, you might ask? The images are intolerable and inhumane. Perhaps it’s selfish or just human, but I find myself retreating into my own world, thinking about the safety of my loved ones and refusing to bear witness to the deaths of Jews and Palestinians. I have no ability to make a difference. When I was a child in my Algerian village, distressing scenes of Palestinian children’s corpses were paraded by armed Palestinian adults as spoils of war. Those bodies were marred with metal and blood; the haunting cries of wounded children affected all of us.

At that time, Algeria was emerging from its own war and wanted to escape the past and hide from the present. War was the only worthwhile story of life and death after many years of colonization. The conflict in Palestine was declared our own, through narratives taught at school, images on television, and the clever words of leaders. These events often made me uneasy and, as now, I avoided watching those images. Why? It was the feeling of powerlessness, of frustration, of anger without end. Unable to be a hero as was expected of me, I closed my eyes to avoid knowing or carrying those dead bodies within me or carrying them into my dreams.

A neverending war

These harrowing scenes continued to unfold, gradually desensitizing me. I had been raised not to acknowledge the Jew, the Israeli – instead to view you as an adversary of God, of Palestine, of justice, of the Prophet and of almost everything else. I resented you and secretly wished for your disappearance. That would somehow restore value to my life, as I had been taught. What can I say, cher Monsieur? The Jews had been expelled from Algeria long ago, leaving an absence that fuelled fantasies. You were responsible for everything – you betrayed the Prophet of Islam, undermined the Algerian revolution, caused wars and the destruction of our country, and threatened all humanity. As the French colonialists left, we needed a new enemy, one who would combine the presumed anger of our God and our anger against a false brother. And so we sang of the death of the Jew. Palestine was seen as a stolen land, and you were the thief. This simplified world history, the better to serve our inner barbarism.

With time, people grow more mature. As a young man, I gradually began to understand that in our country, the term Jew was used for the traitor, the dissident, the freethinker, the one who did not conform, the dissenter – essentially for everything we disliked in the world and in ourselves. As for Palestine, it was the place where we reside in our dreams, a place we turn to when we cannot accept the world as it is, when we reject the notion of living and constructing our own lives. Over time, I came to realize that our “solidarity” with Palestine was, at its core, an inability to confront our powerlessness, our reality. There is no easier way to escape reality than to engage in an imaginary battle for Palestine. I still dreamed of seeing a free Palestine, but I gradually came to the conclusion that this cause served as an excuse, a retreat into the past, a pretext based on sacred texts.

In reality, Palestinians only interest us when they are dead, wounded, bleeding or buried. When they are alive, they have little significance. Their dreamed-of and longed-for homeland merely postpones the reality of our lives in our countries. Their war does not inspire in us a desire to free them; instead, it ignites a desire to kill you. The “cause” remains a byproduct of our retreat from reality. It absolves us of the need for introspection, effort, work and self-examination of our actions and responsibilities. The Jew is the excuse for the Arab’s abdication of responsibility. This “cause” revives the Islamist within each of us, even the most educated and discerning. It clouds our judgement, incites hysteria and distorts our understanding of our reality at the expense of the Palestinian people. It prevents us from embracing the world and encourages us to abandon it. This is where we find ourselves, because of this neverending war.

All wars, even if justified, are unjust

Cher Monsieur, it took me time to come to terms with your people and attempt to understand your history. I eventually realized – I may be wrong – that we fail to grasp your will to live after centuries of extermination attempts. We do not comprehend your past sufferings or your profound attachment to the land that you have now regained. We do not fathom that your war is about defending against the permanent disappearance of your people, those who are dead and those unborn.

From our perspective, all we see is colonization, surrender and a cursed people, while in reality you are a people that has finally awakened. To us, you represented nothing more than a colonial force, and in recent years, an archaic narrative of the chosen people who resist the God who has sided with us. “God has cursed them,” a believer once told me. This prompted me to wonder: how can a God named “the Just” curse those who are not yet born? How can He pass judgment on what has yet to enter the world? He could perhaps have “cursed” a tribe or two back when He had a voice, but today? Why label a newborn child as “cursed”? On the basis of what acceptable divine justice? In truth, we are the ones who are damned.

This month (October 2023), I find it difficult to watch the images of civilians killed in Gaza. This is not because I want to kill you, hold a grudge against you or fight you. The difficulty lies in my struggle to find a voice and a path. Finally, after decades, I comprehend your determination, cher Monsieur, to live and claim a place after three millennia of wandering in a segregated world. Gradually, amid the noise and conditioning of my childhood, I am coming to understand your right to live and prosper. I would never want to add my voice to those who believe that killing you, accusing you and vilifying you for centuries suffices to place me on the side of a God or a colonized people.

But – I cannot accept war wherever it comes from, and whoever is the target. I reject the idea that Islamists can give themselves the “divine” right of “resistance” to kill you, kill your children; I understand your need to fight and wage war to survive. But I cannot imagine the pain and the screams of those caught between your anger, your desire for vengeance, your need for security and the activities of terrorists with the pretext of (Palestinian) independence and desire to extend their caliphate. I am convinced that, in your place, I would have done the same thing, but one war does not stop the next; it feeds future war. I explain to myself your desire for survival, but I am persuaded that all wars, even if justifiable, are unjust.

People love dead Palestinians

I do not want to add my voice to those in my country who inhabit their failures and cultivate their hatred of you. I do not want to be silent before those who are obsessed by the war in which you are engaged. I do not want to accept the reasoning of those who hate you and refuse life, of those who devour the Palestinian dead to feed their hatreds. And I do not want to add my screams to those who scream we must liberate Palestine by killing all Jews, to those who transform their powerlessness to govern their country in Algeria, their failures, their hatred of everyone and you in particular. But I refuse to endorse bombings even if the war can be explained by both sides, and I refuse to believe war is the only option. Your history of suffering does not justify your rationalization of war, nor does the suffering of those opposed to you justify their rationalization of war.

After a war, there are losers and winners. The losers are surrounded by their dead. The dead include those, in my country, who attempt to resolve hatreds, who fight against antisemitism, who promote liberty. The losers are the voices of reason, because today anyone is a Jew who defends liberty, universalism, humanity or the right to be different. The losers are also the Palestinians who are obliged to choose between, on the one hand, armed conflict and association with the Palestinian masses who destroy their own assets and lives and, on the other hand, building a possible peace. In my country and yours, the winners are those who are radical, who proclaim their God and force confessions of apostates, who kill all forms of diversity. They are the enragés, the inquisitors of the Temple, the organizers of caliphates in Arab countries, the merchants selling arms, the advocates of extermination. This war not only costs lives; it costs our liberties, our right to think as we wish, our freedom of expression in our country. It costs our faint hope that some day we will have democracy and people happy in their country.

This present war, with no evident end, is destroying my world. It is revealing the worst: my Arab colleagues are often scavengers. They adore devouring the dead and, in this obscure appetite, Palestinians are the most desirable item among the dead. We do not welcome Palestinians to our countries; we do not educate them; we do not share our wealth with them. We do not love them alive, but dead, they are proof of your crimes. They are our alibi for refusing to like “others,” to grieve and empathize with the deaths of the “others” – of the rest of humanity. You, cher Monsieur, have become the necessary enemy, the excuse that exempts us from measuring our reality. The more Palestine’s land is reduced, the more the caliphates, the emirates, the medieval Islamist kingdoms in our countries extend their territory.

Looking after our own countries

Obviously, this war costs us less than it does you or your adversary or neighbour. But it deprives us of our own countries and offers to our domestic enemies a rationale for rancour and hatred, for caliphates and other totalitarian regimes. Can you, cher Monsieur, liberate your people from the fear of losing their long-promised land? Can Palestinians liberate themselves from imaginary liberators and assume title to the land that remains for them? And can we some day meet to resolve the missing parts of our respective histories, and thus defeat those who hate and build walls? Can the world one day recognize that you, cher Monsieur, are guilty only of hoping too much with too much fury, and the Palestinians of finally resolving their despair? Can you and I at some time understand what we have done to you, the Jew, the Israeli, and that you and I can finally end this conflict?

To know you and recognize those among us who reject “holy” barbarism is a long, enigmatic road toward recognizing our family links – which, at present, is a recognition we refuse. This war is an occasion for a mysterious inquiry of the dark shades of our fears. It is an occasion for a difficult examination of our weaknesses and excuses for avoiding life. And perhaps, you will be able to help Palestinians live and belong to the world. The Palestinians, liberated, will help us dispense with the attraction of death as means to attain dignity. Finally, we will concern ourselves with our respective countries. We will discover that humanity exists and is not apostasy, a plot, a threat.

Continue reading “A Critical Arab Writer Takes on France and Israel”

Photo: Amine-Rock-Hoovr/Unsplash

Should the West be destroyed? Should it be set on fire and drenched in blood so that it can be rebuilt – or trampled in its ruins? The “antis” who inhabit this space, both historical and imaginary, are divided: between those who fear the end of the world and those who want it, between those who are trying to make it happen and those who are wary of it. There are those who see the West as being on the verge of collapsing. There are messianic ecologists, radical antiracists, populists. Some are nostalgic for the days when the Third World was in vogue; others rouse the people with victimization rhetoric. Boosters of the “old stock.” Reverse racists. In their multitudes, they are starting to act like armies.

No use denying or relativizing it: there is the whiff of a death wish in the total revolution being imagined. Since the West, according to some, is guilty by definition, the demand is no longer for change but, little by little, for destruction, for a return to a barbarity of revenge.

The reasons are diverse. Anger that had long been silent, guilt among “native” Western elites, the end of an exceptional reprieve given to traditional democracies, raging populisms and social media. We must never forget that the internet has stirred up the crowds just as the printing press did centuries ago, or as papyrus did in ancient times. You don’t transform the means of communication without changing the way revolutions are made or the way crowds are stirred up. It’s important to remember that the screens come first and then the guns – not the other way around.

The struggles for the best end of this world thus converge: those revelling in victimhood, antiracists, along with intellectual masochists and professional sceptics, artists proclaiming supremacy or defeat. The wish to change the West is deeply contaminated by the wish to see it die a painful death. And in the exhilaration the suicidal consequences are ignored: the death of the West means your own death, and the death of the hope of living there or going there by small boat or plane, destroying the only space where it is truly possible to send out your cry of anger.

The very fact of defending the West as a space of freedom – admittedly an incomplete and imperfect one – is regarded as blasphemous in this new struggle of classes and races. It is forbidden to say that the West is also the place you flee to when you want to escape the injustice of your country of origin: to escape dictatorship, war, hunger or simply boredom. It is fashionable to say that the West is guilty of everything as a way of defining your own absolute innocence. The West, in the form of a white body, will then be crucified so that we can all be saved: a horizontal trinity, with the two other thieves to the left and right of this giant Christ.

Costly errors and illusions. The West is both guilty and innocent. But killing the guilty does not break the cycle of pain. It simply makes victims and executioners exchange robes. We all know this: a truism we need to remember.

It is urgent to remember that, with so many radicalisms grafted onto today’s anger, we won’t be able to avoid violence if we continue blindly along the same path. The internet and the agitators on social media glibly market as legitimate the vision of burning down the West as a “new purity,” but it’s a mistake that will have grave consequences. In a few decades, we will find ourselves living in these bare fields, forging the barbarity we thought we were denouncing.

Putting the West on trial, Soviet-style, in ease and comfort, costs little when you don’t live in the dictatorship you’ve fled. Conducted by intellectuals from the South in comfortable exile in the West and misguided locals, these show trials are an evasion: devoid of courage, sincerity or utility, they lead nowhere. Why reread the ravings of a journalist who fled his country in the Maghreb 20 years ago, content to denounce the “local” dictatorship without setting foot in it while spending his time castigating the democracies that welcomed him? Living in comfort, such people obey the rule that it is easier to topple the statue of a tyrant in the North, with smartphones flashing, than to topple a real tyrant living in the South. Why even bother to respond to those who accuse you of intellectual servility for simply stating the obvious?

Monstrous when hungry (as an internet user would have it), with its predatory past, unjust, yet attractive, fascinating in the night of the world, surrealistic dream for the migrant, well-pleased with its unfinished democracy, hypocritical about its plunder of resources and its murderous colonial past, oblivious and happy, the West is what it is. It is imperfect and needs to be perfected, not destroyed. Those who dream of destroying the West have found no better dream than the barbarity of revenge, unable to rise above personal slights.

This is what we must remember if we are to avoid giving simplistic and hateful expression to our just anger. Antiracism is a just struggle. It must not become an act of intellectual vandalism or destructiveness in this fragile world. Its goal is not a past that blinds us but a better future. For everyone. Of this I am convinced.

Old Peugeot taxis are regularly negotiating the potholed roads along the North African coast. Entire families are squeezed into these taxis. Despite the squeeze, no one is complaining. On the horizon is the noise of the Mediterranean surf. The sea is grey, impenetrable, hiding its dead. Beyond the horizon is the land of imagination, Europe. The scene contains a boat of Algerian harraga (migrants).1

In recent weeks the number of taxis along these roads has become ever larger. Hundreds of boats are leaving for the imagined land. Meanwhile, the governors in Algiers are busy finding a successor to the immortal Abdelaziz Bouteflika in the forthcoming election. The political leaders in our Algerian “paradise” are too busy containing street demonstrations against the regime to worry about the roads leading to the sea. And so the masses are leaving – including young mothers with babies. It is no longer a matter of delinquents fleeing; it is a matter of “boat people.”

This rush to the sea is also a sign of something else. People are not fleeing because of hunger or war – there were no harraga during the ten-year civil war in the 1990s. People are fleeing the nonsense, the absurdity, the sexual and cultural repression, the contempt for people displayed by the gerontocrats who run the country. Algerians are fleeing in order to breathe, to walk in the streets in the evening, to watch a football match, a pretty woman or a handsome young man – to enjoy themselves. After 5 p.m., in an Algerian village, you have three choices: the mosque, drugs or suicide. That was how a close friend summarized the state of affairs in late 2018 Algeria.

Somewhere else, something better

Three symbolic facts.

First, in all the YouTube videos showing harraga crossing the Mediterranean, as soon as the boat is launched, the migrants start to sing. At the top of their lungs, like supporters of a football team that has won its match, like guests at a party. In Algeria, your throat is always parched, your body is in a straitjacket laced by religion and by the cult of the old bones of the liberation martyrs.

Second, men and women are mingling. The Islamists oppose any mixing of the sexes – whether in a taxi, in an elevator, at a party, in a restaurant or in a school. Here, in a crowded boat, mingling is fine. According to shari‘a, a woman inherits half as much as a man. In the boat, women pay the same fee to the traffickers and risk the same death as the men.

Third, the vest worn by the migrants is orange – a gilet orange. The cost is about €25.

There, afloat on the Mediterranean, between the reality of life in Algeria and the fantasy of Europe, what is the meaning of this migration? What are the Gilets Oranges of the south seeking in the land of the Gilets Jaunes of the north? Algerian journalists have recently been asking the question. In Algeria, France is the totality of the West. What is currently happening in the West, what is visible, is a troubled soul, a depleted pocketbook and concern over the roots of Western culture.

The Gilets Oranges are dreaming of getting away from Algeria; the Gilets Jaunes are comparing their lives with the lives enjoyed by elites in France. It is fascinating to see that the crisis in France is not dissuading the Gilets Oranges. Scenes of streets aflame, tear gas and riots have no dissuasive impact. They may be fleeing unemployment in Algeria only to be unemployed in Europe. They may be exchanging a gilet orange for a gilet jaune. Do they dream of Paris, the fashion capital? There are many ironies as to why Europe, which is obviously suffering, nonetheless makes Algerian migrants dream. There remains the question: Why are so many boats heading north?

There are answers. Algerian migrants are pragmatic. For Gilets Oranges, Europe offers the possibility of Gilets Jaunes able to demonstrate, go where they like, make demands – the Gilets Jaunes are free, while the Gilets Oranges are not. The Gilets Jaunes may not earn much but they are alive; the Gilets Oranges have yet to be born. For an Algerian woman in her gilet orange, a gilet jaune is preferable to the hijab, the burqa, male machismo, prison and the violence of men. In the boat somewhere in the Mediterranean, the harraga can sing; men and women squeezed together can dream. Something that their country refused them.

So how do young Algerians see the future? For them, the future is orange.

Continue reading “The Future is Orange”

Faced with end-of-the-world jihadism, any intellectual identified as “Arab” is afflicted with the Jonah syndrome. Caught between Nineveh and Tyre, between the West and Islamistan.1 What use am I faced with mounting xenophobia and religious intolerance? How can I fight against obscurantism, against those who slit throats? How to resist and change the world?

Jonah took to the sea; he fled. He concluded that his role as envoy of God was at an impasse. End of scene one.

To flee is possible. Faced with the rise of Islamism, many “Arab” intellectuals have chosen the West: object of their jeremiads but place of their security. It is a choice one can make: Jonah abandoned his mission from God and raised the sails of his boat. What can be done against the barbarians who rape, kill, resell women as slaves? Nothing. Jonah took his wife and children and fled via Jaffa to live in some faraway land – or Geneva.2

In the myth, however, there is a second scene. Jonah is guilty of causing a raging storm. If the sea is threatening, it is because someone aboard has drawn this misfortune onto the boat. The sailors draw lots and Jonah’s name appears. He agrees to be thrown into the sea, which then calms. This is the conclusion of some “Arab” intellectuals exiled in the security of the West: they see themselves accused, considered responsible for the present obscurantism and thought to have attracted murderers onto the West’s boat. Some exiles see themselves as responsible for their country of origin even as they flee it. Like Jonah, who fled his country instead of spreading God’s word to the people. There is punishment because the intellectual chose to flee his country instead of enlightening people. Exile, according to the myth, is no solution because your origins, your country’s misery, will catch up with you. To flee a problem is not a solution; it is to carry the problem along with you. The West is a boat on a sea disturbed since September 11. The “Arab” intellectual who has fled will be punished. Either for his cowardice or for his uselessness.

Scene three. Jonah is swallowed by an immense fish (symbol of Jonah immersed in doubt about his mission). There is denial. The “Arab” intellectual in exile transforms himself into a commentator in Paris or a taxi driver in New York. He saves his life; he kills his soul. He chooses to remain eternally in the belly of the fish, but he will suffer. To be an “Arab” intellectual is today an ongoing agony: the jihadists almost always have your surname or your given name.

Scene four. Jonah returns to Nineveh – the “Arab” capital these days – and explains to the “Arab” world that it will be punished if it does not reform. According to the myth, Jonah does return and undertakes the task God gave him. There follows a celestial lesson in humility and the city is spared.

This is a complex biblical fable.3 The questions raised are almost impossible to answer. What good are progressive modern “Arab” intellectuals since Islamism is gaining ground? How can I be useful when barbarism is riding high? Should I go into exile? No. The problem will catch up with me in the 11th arrondissement. Should I stay? They are going to kill me one day. Should I remain quiet? I cannot; I have read too many books. Should I write? Yes. And sketch, and dance, laugh, talk and defend freedom. It is a bit pompous, but these are my tags on the wailing wall. Here is my answer for the time being: we don’t arrive in this world with a Kalashnikov, a beard and “Allah Akbar” on our tongue. One becomes a jihadist over time. By means of black books and ideas, fatwas or frustrations. In other words, via a culture. There is the challenge! Continue to create and offer to the next generation an alternate culture to that of disaster, Islamism and terror. The challenge is cultural and the battle is one of ideas. It is simple: they kill in the name of a book; I defend myself in the name of other books.

This article appeared in French in Le Point, Paris, on January 30, 2015, and was translated for Inroads by John Richards.

Continue reading “The Jonah syndrome”