#30 / Editorial

Human beings are endowed with language and each group has its own language. Language unites, language divides. There are languages, therefore divisions of all kinds. How do we communicate across these divisions? Or not?

Islam is a language, explains Anoush Ganjipour, a language that allows the expression of a politically ambivalent vision of the world – as the title of his recently published book, L’ambivalence politique de l’islam [“The Political Ambivalence of Islam” (not translated in English)], suggests. As long as this language of Islam was a foreign language for us, we could entrust its knowledge to our specialists, but now that it is spoken by a significant number of European speakers, it concerns us to the highest degree. The translatability and compatibility of the language of Islam with our modern political language are the focus of Anoush Ganjipour’s interview with K. Rather than being caught up in the current ill wind in France, let’s listen to the new perspectives that the author of L’ambivalence politique de l’islam traces.

Language, when it is actualized, becomes speech. With speech, the socialization and biography of a subject emerges, which is best revealed in singular cases, when superimposed accents persist, when words from who knows what forgotten stratum emerge, giving the words a perfume of strangeness. Thus, Ruben Honigmann, who inherits a German language attached to a state of Germany that is now defunct, a German-Jewish language that no one knows anymore nor wants to know, tells us in the tone of an intimate testimony how a language can abandon its last speaker, leaving him or her alone in the limbo of a history without redemption.

Zemmour again, because, in France, we haven’t finished digesting and breaking down the phenomenon in all possible ways, which is absolutely necessary. This week we publish an analysis of what the term “assume” or “live with it” might mean in the Zemmourian imagination of France. Signed by Karl Kraus (doubling of K. why not…) whose name became the metonymy of satire, of the incisive intervention, of the impulsive but at the same time reasoned and reasoning chronicle, without forgetting the extreme attention to the use of the words. In this case, our own little Karl Kraus – who of course cannot replace the original, who is so cruelly lacking in our time – imagines Zemmour looking for arguments to “assume” and therefore absolve the horror of the violence brooded over and covered up by the Catholic Church in France, revealed last week by the CIAISE report, which shed light on decades of sex abuse in France’s Catholic Church. He, the Jew who says that “to become French, one must imbibe Catholicism” and who has no problem “assuming” and absolving France’s participation in the deportation of the Jews.

We, in Europe, have long been spectators of a debate on the relationship between Islam and politics. The matter has become as problematic as timely as it is elusive. How do we understand this problematic, which though arising in Islam has become a question for us all? Anoush Ganjipour’s latest volume, L’ambivalence politique de l’islam: Pasteur ou Leviathan? (Paris, Seuil, 2021, untranslated), stands out from the normal run of studies in the depth and radicalism of the internal critique it undertakes. K. meets with the author to discuss this landmark book.

“It’s the same scene every time. I’m in a Parisian square and people ask me what language I speak with my children. My “Jewish face” throws them off the trail with two wrong answers: either it’s Yiddish or Hebrew. In either case, they don’t recognize my mother tongue, spoken by one in five Europeans.”

From “La France, tu l’aimes ou tu la quittes” (“France, love it or leave it”) to “La France, tu l’assumes ou tu la quittes” (“France, live with it, or leave it”), the far-right polemicist Eric Zemmour puffs up his chest and radicalizes the nationalist exhortation. A sarcastic analysis of what the term “assume” or “live with it” might mean in the Zemmourian imagination of France.

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Thanks to the Paris office of the Heinrich Böll Foundation for their cooperation in the design of the magazine’s website.