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Anas Mahafzah

Arabic 288 Prof. Gana

Psychoanalysis and the Challenge of Repressing Islam or, why a
psychoanalytic session with Joseph Massad might be traumatic (yet
revealing) if youre a Europeanized Arab/Muslim intellectual

The Construction of the Liberal Identity

o Islam, as I will show, resides inside liberalism, defining its iden tity and
its very claims of difference. It is an internal con stituent of liberalism,
not merely an external other (1)
o though the ruse of ex ternalizing them as outsiders intends to hide the
operation of projecting them as an outside so that liberalisms inside
can be defined as their opposite, as their superior. (1)
o unless one is a barbarian, a despot, an irrational psychopath, a
neurotic, a totalitarian, an intolerant brute, a misogynist, a
homophobe, in short, a Muslim, the answer must be the latter. (2)
o As Talal Asad put it, the liberal mission is to have the Islamic tradition
remade in the image of liberal Protestant Christianity.6 (3)
o The multiplication of referents (4)
See page 5
o Translation: Contexts of power (7); untranslatable words (8-9)
o What I seek to understand in this book is the intellectual and political
histories within which Islam operated as a category of Western liberal
ism, indeed, how the anxieties about what this Europe constituted and
constitutesdespotism, intolerance, misogyny, homophobiawere pro
jected onto Islam and that only through this projection could Europe
emerge as democratic, tolerant, philogynist, and homophilic, in short
Islam-free. (12)
o Orientalism included Semitism initially it broke off when Semitism
became Zionism. In this way, Muslims needed to be expelled not only
psychologically but physically.

Who Wants to Psychoanalyze Islam? Anybody? Helloooo?

o Islamists for Psychoanalysis Inc. (306-307)
o European (lack of) interest
Freud: I dont know dudeits probably just a repetition of
Judaism. (275)
Islam is an empty space in the theory of
psychoanalysis. (276)
o Arab intellectuals
Treated it seriously.with a glossary to boot (277)
French Arab intellectuals (beginning in the 80s)
Moustapha Safouan (Egyptian), Fethi Benslama
(Tunisian), Adnan Houbballah (Lebanese), Abdelkbir
Khatibi (Moroccan), Jurji Tarabishi (Syrian).
Islam as (Reified) Analysand
o Multiple Islams Multiples of What? (281-282)

Slipping from Islams to Islamism (Islam?)
Islamism (Islam?) as neurosis (278-279)
o Problems of Construction (280-281)
Islam was born from the stranger at the origins of
monotheism, and this stranger remained a stranger in
Islam. (281) [Which Islam?!]
While Benslama explains at the outset that the many
Islams he posits are diverse, various, and sometimes
unconnected, even though they may all hide behind
the singular name Islam,37 he soon abandons this
multiplicity in favor of a singular Islam whose signifieds
and referents remain multiple but unspecified even as
they are presented consciously and ideologically as
singular. (285)
This is indeed a culture of individuality, but one that is
essentially governed by an identification with God.
302: What is an individual?
Benslama ambivalently posits this singular Islam, as the
other (or the Other?) of liberalism.
Contemporary Islamism; fear and wish
o Individual is eclipsed by al-raiiya the caliph rules
by divine order. Thats why democracy has failed to
take hold.
European concepts! (the kings subject)
Once again, religion is not separated from
Dont seem to be aware of internal debates
about the compatibility of Islam and science
(i.e. the Afghani-Renan debate).
In turath: `ada vs. shar
Safouan and language: inherited Orientalist tropes (283284)
o The Problem of Definition (282)
Abandon or Deliverance
Is Islam submission (khudhu)?
Balibar: Why is it that the very name which
allows modern philosophy to think and
designate the originary freedom of the
human beingthe name of subjectis
precisely the name which historically meant
suppression of freedom, or at least an
intrinsic limitation of freedom, i.e.
Translation as a Gateway to the Unconscious

he wants to insist that translation in this case gives access to the
unconscious of the tradition ( son insu). While this may be so, it
does not do away with his initial concern. Translation in this case is not
annexation but assimilation , in that Benslamas Freudian
deconstruction, whether it uncovers an Islam that is individualist or
anti-individualist, can only do so in relation to a modern liberal
European value that Benslama posits as universal, namely,
The Bifurcation of Languages into Formal, Elite and Informal Language of
the Masses
Modern Standard and Classical Arabic:
Borrowing Misnomers from the Orientalist
Why isnt this a problem for Latin?
What does this have to do with
Yes, Islam Blows But wait, theres another Islam!
o Declaration dinsoumission A Declaration of antiIslam!
o Benslama is very critical of those Western
psychoanalytical pronouncements on Islam and
Muslim cultures that represent it as the obliterating
of the individual, and which see the Western
achievement that gave birth to the individual as the
ultimate achievement of civilization tout court .
o The reference to multiple Islams might be said to
be an ideological position (the position of political
correctness?) and/or an expression of a wish , while
the references to one singular Islam in the many
slips seem to betray what Benslama actually fears
to be the case.
o While Benslama cautions us (and perhaps himself)
to use a new vocabulary and to adjust to a new
epistemology wherein we (he) must hear Islams
when we say Islam, it would seem that he often
remains deaf to his own warning.
My Islam is the Right one Unless youre crazy
It is possible here that Benslama is engaged in deploying
this Islamic individualism as a way of passing his Islam off
as European, and that this passing off is indeed a form of
resistance to Orientalist liberal accounts of Islam as
lacking in individualism, while simultaneously
condemnatory of Islamist resistance to this passing off,
which he brands as pathological or as suffering from some
form of group delirium ( dlire collectif)
But heres the catch: Benslamas use of these
taxonomies of rationalism and irrationalism, science and

faith, knowledge and ignorance, is in fact shared by many

Islamist thinkers.
Wheres the Psychoanalysis?
* Benslama: It is in the context of discussing contem porary
Islamisms, however, that Benslamas book shows less engage ment
with psychoanalytic thought and concepts and moves to liberal
critiques concerned with the individual, freedom of thought,
tolerance, and the separation of the theological from the political.
o Arabs were open to foreign science until they lost
poweror maybe it was the Turks who destroyed
science actually, its the fact that the Muslims
unlike the West refuse to separate religion from
o The church in Islam = the state (orientalist tropes)
o Homayounpour:
Traditional cultures (i.e. Muslim?) settle for
castration to avoid being killed
Shiism created by Iranians to assert
independence against Arabs (didnt happen
until centuries later)
Muslims as the primitive modern:
Taking responsibility for our neuroses
Im Not CrazyYoure Crazy
What is not thought in these propositions, though, is the possibility that the
return of the repressed is a feature of these thinkers own anxiety and not
only, or necessarily, that of other Muslims or Islamists. (279)
This return reopens the scene of the trauma, for these thinkers, of the
persistence of Islam as not only religion in the life of Arabs and Muslims;
and this causes some of our psychoanalytic thinkers embarrassment and
shame before their European counterparts and, more importantly, before
their Europeanized selves. (279)
310: Liberalism as universal neurosis
Benslama: Repressing Salamah 308

1. Isnt Massad (and Asad, and others) making the reverse mistake of the liberal
who defines his identity in terms of anti-Islam? If Islam is at the heart of
liberalism, as Massad puts it, and if Massad is correct in suggesting that
Islamists today define Islam (much as liberals do) as the other of Liberalism,
then is liberalism really doing violence to Islam by constructing an Islam in
its own image? If assimilating into liberalism comes at a cost of abandoning
tradition, then isnt this an implicit acknowledgment that Islamic tradition
does, in fact, stand in contradistinction to liberalism?

2. Given, as Massad has masterfully demonstrated, that psychoanalyses of
Islam reveal more about the psychoanalysts than about Islam, isnt it high
time that we question (again) whether or not psychoanalysis has any
potential of working outside a European/Europeanized context?
3. Is it possible for a Muslim to seek reform without being Europeanized?