Adonis: The enfant terrible of Arab poetry

Robyn Creswell in The National:

Screenhunter_05_sep_12_1848One of the few passions shared by Adonis and his daughter, as it emerges over the course of these conversations, is a conviction that there is something deeply, even pathologically wrong, with Islam. (Adonis is, in general, ambiguous as to whether by “Islam” he means “Islam in itself” or “Islam as interpreted by its orthodoxy”: in fact, his writings tend to make a distinction between these two meanings impossible.) For Esber, who strikes one as a fiercely opinionated if not especially well-informed observer, Islam is first of all a culture of political and sexual repression: “Let’s say that religion exacerbates frustration,” she argues, in a typical exchange. “Men are sexually frustrated in the Arab world, you can see it by the way they look at you! So they get what they can, but sneakily, of course.”

For Adonis, the problems are somewhat more complicated, though only somewhat. The great flaw in Islamic culture, according to his account, is its lack of that hoary French principle, laïcité: “Here precisely lies the problem with Islam,” Adonis tells Esber. “The Muslims refuse to effect this separation [between Church and State]. Hence, the despotic character of their religion. Islam seeks to foist its laws on everyone.” A further problem is Islam’s lack of any concept of “the individual” – another fêted achievement of the Enlightenment – which Islam subsumes, to the point of disappearance, in the community of believers (umma).

More here.