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Islam and the West

Islam and the West

Two Dialectical Fantasies

(p.191) [9] Islam and the West
Neighboring Faiths
David Nirenberg
University of Chicago Press

This chapter sketches two influential and roughly opposed examples of how moderns approach questions about the inter-relation of “Islam” and “the West” (as if each were monolithic), and of the work that the past is asked to do in the construction of our present. It shows how models that posit a history of synthesis or “alliance” between Islam and the West quickly reproduce the “clashes” or oppositions that they pretend to overcome, while bi-polar models that insist on Islam’s exclusion from or irreducible opposition to the triumphs of Europe and the West fare no better. Despite their seeming political differences, this chapter demonstrates that to the extent that these two major modes—clash and alliance, opposition and synthesis—for understanding the Christian West’s relationship to Islam (or Judaism) are equally dialectical, they are equally fantastic, and equally complicit in producing the dangers that they deplore.

Keywords:   Islam, Europe, tolerance, exclusion, historiography, dialectic, Christian-Muslim relations

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