12 January 2013
The Nouvel Observateur has sat down with the French-Syrian historian and co-author of the book ‘Notre France’ (Our France), Farouk Mardam Bey, to discuss his work on identity, integration and the idea of France.
Bey describes his work as a product of the previous French presidential campaign, when polemic debates on French national identity and the position of Islam and Muslims in France transformed to become a well contested national sport. In his book, Bey and his co-authors analyze their external imagination of France, their actual physical contact with the country and their interpretation of their home country. He describes it as a conversation about ‘our France, its history, its political life, its culture and landscapse’.
When asked whether his work still holds relevance in the post-Sarkozy area, Bey responds that the as he calls it ‘right-ing’ (‘droitisé’) of Sarkozy’s politics is a trend that has mainstreamed by also influencing the Socialist party. As such, the rhetoric appears demagogic, dangerous and counterproductive to social cohesion. Throughout the interview, Bey problematizes the history of immigration in France as well as the paranoia created through the deliberate inflation of the number of French Muslims and Muslims in France. He further denounces the political right for its instrumental role in creating and maintaining the monolithic image of Muslims, and people descending from majority Muslim states, as people with homogenous culture, identities, desires and aspirations. Bey asserts that by generalizing Muslims the threat of the Other is secured.