Antoine Sfeir



Antoine Sfeir is a journalist, managing editor of the journal Les Cahiers de l’Orient, a review of Asian politics, and he has been president of the Center on Near Eastern Studies since 1990.

He has contributed to the magazines La Croix and L’Express, as well as to several reviews such as Esprit and Etudes. He teaches at the University of Paris’s School for Advanced Studies of Information Sciences (CELSA) and lectures at the Institute for Advanced Studies of National Defense (IHEDN), the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (IHESS), and the National Institute of Oriental Languages and Civilizations. (INALCO).

He is also the author of a series of studies on the Arab region which were created for the French government (Defense Ministry and Ministry of Foreign Affairs).

He is the author of a number of books on different religions (God, Yahweh, Allah, Important Questions on the Three Religions, 100 Answers to Children’s Real Questions, Bayard Children 2004), on Islam and Islamism (notably, the Paths of Allah, Plon 2001); on communitarianism and secularism (with René Andrau, Freedom, Equality, Islam, published by Tallandier 2005); as well as books on the Middle East (with Nicole Bacharan, Americans, Arabs: the Confrontation, published by Seuil, 2006, and Toward a Complicated Orient, Grasset 2006).




1. Turmoil in he Middle East

Why did the Americans intervene in Iraq? It’s a question that’s been asked for three years now , and for which no clear answer has been provided. There is one possible answer, though, that deserves some consideration.

Everything comes from the same observation: none of the existing explanations really answer the question Did Saddam Hussein’s Iraq possess weapons of mass destruction? We’re still looking for them. Does the United States need Iraq’s oil? It has it. Did the United States want to part with Saudi Arabia? Relations have never been better between the two states. Was Saddam Hussein allied with al Qaeda? Islamic terrorists have only been in Iraq since the intervention led by the United States. In sum, the question remains . . . .

Antoine Sfeir will attempt to answer this question through the use of historical examples from the region, starting with the Sykes-Picot accords and continuing until today, including the independence movements, the battles for regional power, and even the Gulf War of 1991. But it’s with consideration of a more recent date, September 11, 2001, that the explanation makes more sense. Finally, Antoine Sfeir proposes a hypothesis, which, starting with the analysis of American foreign policy, seems each day to prove itself increasingly on the mark and makes the idea of American failure in Iraq relative


2. Islam and Islamisms

All over the world Islam is the subject of tensions that the media brings to light daily. Islamic terrorism, Iraqi guerrillas, demands for the charia to be applied, etc. At the same time, certain commentators explain that this religion is more problematic than any other because it is less reconcilable with modernity. So, one question remains for us: Are these judgments well founded?

The number of Muslims is estimated at more than one million, with Arabs making up less than 20 percent. They have in common the belief in just one god (Allah), a prophet (Muhammad) and a holy book (the Koran). Born in the seventh century, this religion includes one powerful concept, that of the “oumma” (the community of believers), which is essential for better understanding and defining the current situation.

Antoine Sfeir then proposes to deflate these concepts and to return to the sources, to the Koran and to history in order to understand to what extent Islamism is not Islam, far from the confusion too often bandied about. What’s more, he will show by studying various existing currents, that there isn’t one Islamism but, rather, there are many.


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