Saturday, June 24, 2006

Eurabia (1)

This week’s Economist has a very provocative cover – the Eiffel Tower with a Muslim crescent:

What to make of it?

On the one hand, the picture could be seen as a the unity of the French and Muslim symbols, and the creation of some new entity: Eurobia.

However, this could also be seen as the symbol of Islam taking control of France with an Eiffel tower (a symbol for France secularism) turned into a Minaret, and in this way, the picture exemplifies the fear of some (usually right-wing and older) Europeans.

If you go even deeper into the symbolic interpretation you might also see the Eiffel Tower as a phallic representation of French power weakened by Islam. (even though I doubt The Economist would means to go so far).

What is certain is that the picture will probably be shocking to a lot of French people in the current context. There is no doubt that it is controversial given its ambiguity and the great number of meanings you could attach to it.

Then, you have the word EURABIA in bold letters. The word is portmanteau or a blend of the words Europe and Arabia but its meaning is also very ambiguous. Whereas the word Europe is tangible and easy to understand, the word Arabia is hard to define in this context. Strictly speaking, Arabia is the peninsula that includes the countries of Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait. More broadly speaking it is related to other countries where Arabic culture and language are predominant (including Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, and parts of northern Africa). It is only in the west that the word has come to be associated with the regions of the world influenced by Islamic culture and religion, thus including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and even Turkey as well as the remaining parts of North Africa. The difference is important because it is a vision from outside the Muslim world for instance a Turk will never see himself as an Arab.

So it is likely that the word ‘Eurabia’ is actually meant to reflect the caricatured view from the West of Islam in Europe. But it remains intriguing and thought-provoking as .

Yet as extremely provocative as the cover may be, the title “The myth and reality of Islam in Europe” seems to add to the idea of word used for caricature purposes and it shows that the Economist intends to debunk the myth of a false notion encapsulated in the word Eurabia

As it turns out, I was not too far off. The Economist uses the word EURABIA to speak about the caricature about Europe forming in America (about an ever-growing Muslim Europe-within-Europe—poor, unassimilated and hostile to the United States).

Obviously it looks very promising and we will certainly come back to the content of their articles.

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