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Islam and the West: Two Dialectical Fantasies

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This article discusses two prominent and seemingly very different schools of thought about the historical relationship of the West to Islam—the first of which we might call a 'clash of civilizations' and the second an 'alliance'—in order to show the common roots of both in Christian dialectics. As an example of the first school, the article focuses on Pope Benedict XVI's 2006 Regensburg lecture on the European synthesis of 'faith' and 'reason,' with its attempt to define Islam as a religion of faith and not of reason. As an example of the second, it focuses on five centuries of European debate over the contribution of Arabic poetry to the birth of a modern and rational European poetic subjectivity. The article suggests that dialectics of inclusion and exclusion are inseparable from each other, and concludes by pointing to some contemporary political implications of this inseparability.


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