Gilles Kepel

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Kepel was appointed by Jacques Chirac to the 'commission on "secularism in the Republic"' which was 'in charge of working on a possible revision of the legislation on secularism, or even on the wearing of the veil in schools'.[1]

Role in the reinvention of the term 'Islamism'

According to Gilbert Achcar:

“A landmark in the history of the post-1979 crop of French Orientalism came in 1984, with the publication of Gilles Kepel’s book on radical fundamentalist groups in post-Nasserite Egypt. Kepel never really adhered to “Orientalism in reverse”, but stood halfway between it and traditional Orientalism. His first book actually featured a preface by none other than Bernard Lewis, Said’s chief target. Adopting a relatively neutral tone in describing Egyptian radical fundamentalists, Kepel contributed to the confirmation of the “Islamist” label by arguing in its favour in his conclusion. His neutral stance could be seen as warranted by the fact that he dealt mainly with the most fanatical and most violent fringe of Islamic fundamentalism.
On the other hand, Kepel quickly became the most blatant embodiment of all the characteristics of the new generation of Orientalists as described above (including a trajectory that began on the far left). His book displayed a pattern that was to typify all his abundant subsequent production: a wealth of useful information – later facilitated by privileged access to governmental sources – with a limited theoretical conceptualisation that became shallower in book after book. He became a star of the mass media – the Bernard-Henri Lévy of French Orientalism, somehow – as well as an adviser to Western and other governments in their fight against radical Islamic fundamentalism. He ended up actively promoting and defending the ban on the veil in French schools. [2]


The week continued with “Religion and Conflict”, another very sensitive and challenging topic. Dr Gilles KEPEL , a Professor and Chair of Middle East and Mediterranean Studies at the Institut d'Études Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po), an eminent scholar in this area, delivered an informative lecture on the contemporary evolution of conflicts related to Islam, a topic of great relevance to NATO, which generated an intense and profitable Q&A session.[4]


  1. Renaud Dely, Deux élus dans la commission laïcité de Chirac, Liberation, 3 July 2003
  2. Gilbert Achcar. “Marxism, Orientalism, Cosmopolitanism”. Apple Books.
  3. WINEP Gilles Kepel. Accessed 25 February 2020.
  4. NATO Defense College SENIOR COURSE 114 - Study Period A2 – The Changing Security Environment, 13 Mar. 2009|Last updated: 31 Aug. 2015 16:19