Meet Rachid Id Yassine, a sociologist of Islam.
I certainly had the pleasure of doing so at the International Book Fair of Casablanca (Salon International de l’Edition et du Livre). He and I participated in a panel and two radio programs around the topic of Islam and the West. The young man of 32 and father of seven is a Moroccan-born French national who never ceases to complicate identity categories, leaving the listener very little to hang onto. If you talk about the clash of civilizations, he would reply that we are actually living the end of civilizations. To him, there is no such thing as an Islamic culture. Islam is experienced differently in different cultures, whether these cultures are Tunisian, Berber, or French. At the café litteraire at which he presented his book L’Islam d’Occident? Introduction à l’étude des musulmans des sociétés occidentals (2011), Rachid talked about the phenomenon of wanting to emulate Western habits while remaining within Islamic bounds. Hence Muslims seek food products like sausages and beer but want them to be halal, a business niche that the nation of Malaysia dominates. Muslims participate in the capitalism but prefer Islamic banking and finance to assuage their minds. There are now hijab fashion shows and Muslim rock and rap musicians. In short, Muslims want to be part of a Western culture that is halal. It seems to be their last stand against the infidel.
With his astonishing fluency and rich vocabulary, Rachid promotes what he calls “un discours savant” and wants to deflate passions (depassioner le discours) around debates regarding Islam, the West and identities. And he certainly displays this emotional sang-froid in his very passionate presentations. I can’t wait to read his book and his other writings.