Prison Violence in France and Mimetic Theory
The author offers a case study of violence in French detention centres, drawing on his experience as a Muslim chaplain in Nanterre and Normandy. He identifies five types of prison violence, three of which are perpetrated by the state and its representatives. This raises the question of ‘legitimate violence,’ as the case of victims of physical abuse and harassment at the hands of state ‘militia’ is recounted. Against this background of different levels of systemic violence, the author addresses the question of religious radicalization in French prisons—understood as ‘virtual Islam,’ unconnected with reality. The specific hermeneutic challenge of Qur’anic verses used to legitimate violence (notably sura 9) is also considered, along with the permissibility of repealing or abrogating more pacific, inclusivist passages.