Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Politics Of Love

In a volume entitled, L'Imaginaire arabo-musulman, published in 1993 in Paris, France, Malek Chebel asked, 'How do Arabs love?... Are they as romantic and tender a people as other peoples...?' To pose the question of whether love exists in Islam might seem banal... 

Chebel's answer was a resounding 'Yes, Arabs love passionately!' that lifted what he called the 'thick veil... of embarrassed silence', Chebel has dedicated his career to filling the 'silence' with an effervescent 'excess of love'. His study of love in the Islamic traditions of the Middle East, and of the Maghreb more specifically, has been an attempt to cure a 'love sickness' that he claimed resulted from the fact that there was an absence of normal love relations amongst Arab/Berber Muslims whose sexuality was 'imbibed with ignorance'...

This study of 'love' has considered the potential that romantic and passionate love (as an ultimate value fundamental to the concept of self-fulfillment) holds for the study of 'Islam' and 'Europe'. The value of Chebel's formulations of love lies in its links with difference and identity because the promise that such an engagement holds for the future of the place of Islam in Europe lies in its decentring of essentialistic constructions of both 'Islam' and 'Europe'. The examination of Chebel's work evokes the very intricacy of the problems that Islam encounters in its relocation in Europe. The possibilities that Europe holds for Islam are indeed the possibilities for Europe's own future: to temper the hegemony of European power over the cultural and religious formations and the sense of identity of European Muslims so that the boundaries of agency and identity for subjugated peoples can be rethought.

The place of Islam in Europe depends on the opportunity that Europe will take to re-envisage new ways in which affiliations between the two can enable Muslims to adhere to their traditions both individually and collectively. It is within this context that the examination of Chebel's reworking of love is necessary because it articulates questions of power, culture and ethnicity; but, in order to enhance the unitary dynamism of Islam, the challenge for Chebel is to formulate 'love' as a notion that addresses the driving and structuring force of France's laicite on the forms of being of Muslims. Looked at from the other perspective, l'unitas multiplex of Europe is dependent on its capacity to use its political weight to safeguard and to promote varying definitions and developments of Islam within Europe.

... Love As Difference: The Politics of Love In The Thought Of Malek Chebel, Ruth Mas

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