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OccidentalismLiterary Representations of the Maghrebi Experience of the East-West Encounter$
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Zahia Smail Salhi

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780748645800

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748645800.001.0001

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The Occident and the Barbary Corsairs: Pre-colonial Maghrebi Encounters with the Occident

The Occident and the Barbary Corsairs: Pre-colonial Maghrebi Encounters with the Occident

(p.71) 3 The Occident and the Barbary Corsairs: Pre-colonial Maghrebi Encounters with the Occident

Zahia Smail Salhi

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter argues that while French occupation of the Maghreb was motivated by economic gain, religion played a pivotal role in the Maghrebi encounter with the Occident. This is demonstrated by Chukri Khodja’s historical novel El-Euldj that addresses the theme of the Barbary corsairs, their control of the Mediterranean Sea, and their tyranny against Christian captives. As if written from the perspective of a European author, El-Euldj discusses the complexity as well as the impossibility of religious conversion and the intricacies of adopting French civilisation and culture. These two facts constitute the main themes addressed by the Francophone Maghrebi novels of the first half of the twentieth century, which mainly focussed on the early encounters with the Occident within the Maghreb itself. Voicing the concerns of the native elite, El-Euldj is almost a plea to the Occident to give up its policy of making conversion to Catholicism a condition for naturalisation demonstrating that it is perfectly possible to become French and remain Muslim, building thus the thesis of the ‘Français Musulman’, as the status of naturalised Maghrebis. Unlike the vernacular and classical Arabic poetry, which is unreservedly ‘Occidentophobic’, this novel presents an ambivalent position vis-à-vis the Occident.

Keywords:   Français Musulman, Chukri Khodja, El-Euldj, Barbary Corsairs, Christian captives, French civilisation, Occidentophobic

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