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Islam and the West: A Conversation with Jacques Derrida

by Mustapha Cherif University of Chicago Press
Pub Date:
Hbk 136 pages
AU$39.99 NZ$41.73
Product Status: Available in Approx 14 days
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In the spring of , Jacques Derrida sat down for a public debate in Paris with Algerian intellectual Mustapha Chérif. The eminent philosopher arrived at the event directly from the hospital where he had just been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, the illness that would take his life just over a year later. That he still participated in the exchange testifies to the magnitude of the subject at hand: the increasingly distressed relationship between Islam and the West and the questions of freedom, justice, and democracy that surround it.

As Chérif relates in this account of their dialogue, the topic of Islam held special resonance for Derrida—perhaps it is to be expected that near the end of his life his thoughts would return to Algeria, the country where he was born in . Indeed, these roots served as the impetus for their conversation, which first centers on the ways in which Derrida’s Algerian-Jewish identity has shaped his thinking—a revealing meditation that puts his interpretation of the interdependence of politics, religion, and faith in a new light. From there, the two men move to broader questions of secularism and democracy; to politics and religion and how the former manipulates the latter; and to the parallels between xenophobia in the West and fanaticism among Islamists.

Ultimately, the discussion is an attempt to tear down the notion that Islam and the West are two civilizations locked in a bitter struggle for supremacy and to reconsider them as the two shores of the Mediterranean—two halves of the same geographical, religious, and cultural sphere. Islam and the West is a crucial opportunity to further our understanding of Derrida’s views on the key political and religious divisions of our time and an often moving testament to the power of friendship and solidarity to surmount them.
''Focusing on the crucial but largely underestimated role that Algeria, his country of birth, has played in Derrida's philosophical itinerary, Islam and the West presents Derrida's interpretation of the interdependence of politics, religion, and faith in a new light, shows that his ideal of 'democracy to come' has a strong universalist component, and, finally, adds to his fascinating understanding not only of Islam but of the Arab as the ultimate figure of exclusion and dissidence in the post-9/11 era.'' - Giovanna Borradori, from the Foreword''
Mustapha Cherif is professor of philosophy and Islamic studies at the University of Algiers, a visiting professor at the College de France, and the author of L'Islam, tolerant ou intolerant? Teresa Lavender Fagan has translated numerous books for the University of Chicago Press.