For this special issue on the future of relations between cultures, François Zabbal focuses on the relationship between the Arab/Muslim world and the West.
He starts by tracing how anti-Western sentiments grew up in the Arab world, first during the Cold War and the period of East/West tensions, then in the specific context of the aftermath of September 11th 2001. In particular, he shows that the roots of Arab hostility to the West (above all the United States) is not a recent phenomenon, and while it is true that such feelings have been strengthened in response to the way that the Islamic world is represented by the West, they also arise from the desire on the part of certain Arab communities to forge (or revive) some kind of pan-Arab bond.
However, according to François Zabbal, the pan-Arab movement came to nothing. Islamic sentiment is developing more as a statement of identity vis-à-vis the West, against a background of creating national or regional solidarities. It is nonetheless the case that a globalized Islam, sustained by modern means of communication and the Muslim diasporas living in Western receiving countries, may well continue to attract the poorest sections of the Muslim world, for better or worse. Let's hope, with François Zabbal, that the "wall of mutual misunderstanding" between Islam and the West is simply a passing tense moment, the prelude to a debate which may well be heated but which is also essential about the place and the shape of Islam in the West.