Monday, October 01, 2012

Amara Lakhous on conflict Islamic style

Thursday's "Wide world of hate" post took up the diversity of ethnic resentment, conflict, and suspicion as revealed in crime fiction.

Amara Lakhous' Divorce Islamic Style, a social comedy in the guise of a spy story, offers this:
"I have to constantly remind myself that I’m Tunisian, and this neighborhood is full of Egyptians. Many people don’t know that there are rivalries among the Arabs. For example, it’s not smooth sailing between Syrians and Lebanese, between Iraqis and Kuwaitis, between Saudis and Yemenis, and so on and so on. It’s why they can’t seem to come up with a plan for unity, in spite of a common history, geography, Arabic, Islam, and oil. The model of the European Union will have to wait!"
That the Tunisian is really an Italian impersonating a Tunisian – albeit an Italian whose grandfather had been born in Tunisia of Italian parents before returning to Italy, where he longed to return to the land of his birth – suggests the fun Lakhous gets up to.

Here's what happens in the dormitory where the undercover Tunisian finds a place to stay:
“The non-Egyptian tenants are divided into two categories. Mohammed, the Moroccan, and I are in second place; we’re Arabs and we can communicate linguistically with the majority, limiting insult and injury where possible. But for the Senegalese and the Bangladeshi there’s no escape: they’re at the bottom. They have to submit or leave. To be Muslim isn’t enough. It’s better to be an Arab Muslim, but it would be fantastic to be an Egyptian Arab Muslim!”
Lakhous, Italian and born in Algiers, is only my latest reading encounter with Algeria. Didier Daeninckx built his novel Murder in Memoriam around the 1961 Paris massacre of Algerian protesters. Yasmina Khadra challenges easy notions that the Islamic world is either fundamentalist suicide bombers or Western sellouts.

Coincidence, or did the bloody end of Algeria's colonial ties to France make the country a moral crucible for relations between the West and the Islamic world?

While you ponder the question, here's a song by the Algerian-based-in-France singer Rachid Taha that you've likely heard before, though perhaps not in this version.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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