During the presidential campaign, the candidate Éric Zemmour tried in vain, during the debates, to foreground the theme of the Great Replacement and the cultural changes imposed upon France due to immigration and Islamization. However, now facts are multiplying which illustrate the validity of the former journalist’s diagnosis. The daily Le Parisien notes a first in France: the publication, scheduled for this summer, of a local newspaper entirely in Arabic. Named Retour Arabe, the paper will be distributed in the Toulouse region—starting this summer.
Its promoter, Salim Benabderrahmane, had already printed a few test issues a few months ago: “There were several mock-ups and an issue with 100 copies printed in 2020. 70 were sold, which allows me to now have a press agent who trusts me.” So this time, he intends to invest himself for the long term.
Salim is of French-Algerian nationality. He was born in Oran and spent his childhood in Orleans. His objective is clear: “to develop the Arabic language and culture,” which he already does through a web-radio. The new print media will take the shape of a monthly publication, sold for the modest sum of €1. The contents will be mainly in Arabic, but will leave a small place for content in French or in Occitan, the traditional regional language spoken in Toulouse. Salim Benabderrahmane justifies his newpaper by anchoring himself in the past of the Occitan region which, according to him, “has always had links with Al-Andalus,” that is to say with Arab-Muslim Spain.
The creator of Retour Arabe says he is passionate about languages, which he mastered thanks to courses taken in Andalusia and Syria before the conflict broke out. His cultural approach, while qualitative, can take on the air of militancy.
Indeed, the increasing presence of Arabic-speaking populations in France demands a special linguistic treatment, encouraged by authorities. This private initiative complements the efforts of the Ministry of National Education, which has been working through various pedagogical measures to promote the teaching of Arabic at the elementary school level.
Hélène de Lauzun studied at the École Normale Supérieure de Paris. She taught French literature and civilization at Harvard and received a Ph.D. in History from the Sorbonne. She is the author of Histoire de l’Autriche (Perrin, 2021).