Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Dariush Shayegan: The Theoretician of Dialogue of Civilizations

Dariush (or Daryush) Shayegan, a Sorbonne Graduate and a leading Iranian translator and intellectual, mainly writes in French.

A few years back he published "Cultural Schizophrenia", about the paradoxical confrontation of modernizing Islamic societies with the West; and the western notions of modernity. One of his interesting arguments (which has become empirically evident since the publication of the book in 1997) is that Iran has culturally leaped from tradition to postmodernity, without maturing in modernity, and is thus suffering schizophrenic symptoms (clinically, schizophrenia is characterized by detachment from reality and "self"). He finds it inevitable that Iran (and other progressive Islamic countries) would join the (already post-modernist) multicultural world, embracing diversity and tolerance towards "others".

In 1977, Shayegan initiated an international symposium on the "dialogue between civilizations," a concept that was later (in 2001) appropriated by the Iranian President Mohammad Khatami (whom George Bush shunned, and after benefitting from his help and cooperation in Afghanistan, branded Iran "axis of Evil, thus CRUSHING the reform movement and giving rise to the Ahmadinejad phenomena.)

Today, together with Mohammad Khatami, Shayegan became the first recipient of "Global Dialogue Prize" (500,000 DKK for research on the topic), to be handed in a ceremony in January 2010, In Kopengagen.

I recommend reading his work to anyone interested in philosophizing about Islam-West confrontation, and I am not alone!)


German said...

Dear Naj,

As to the "clash of civilizations" within one country and between different countries You obviously dispose of clairvoyant powers:

Your yesterday guess,
that a (religiously) oppressive regime will ultimately lead to an exodus of those Islamic theologians
who want to be taken serious in East AND West, in North AND South, by theologians/thinkers of (the) other main world-religions,
who (therefore) attach a certain significance to academic and scientific standards,
(in)to the centre of evil, the West,
is obviously materializing and under way - - now.

Having been sensitized by your blog/posts, I discovered two articles on or by Iranian (Islamic) scholars in the German FAZ / Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, a or rather THE highly respected serious daily, alone today.

(1) Under the heading "A different Islam"/"Ein anderer Islam" the competent journalist Wolf G√ľnter Lerch reviewed the newly published book "A journey to a different Islam"/"Unterwegs zu einem anderen Islam" with texts by Iranian theologians. Just a brief quote:
"The [female] German-Iranian scholar for Islamic studies Katajun Amirpur has published texts by three Iranian reform-minded thinkers who up to now have not been that well-known in Germany: Mohammad Mojtahed Shabestari, Mohsen Kadivar and Hasan Yusefi Eshkevari. [.] The authors of these texts are Islamic theologians who see themselves obliged and committed to "religious Enlightenment".
In: FAZ / Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 21.10.2009, page 10

(2) Under the heading "The duality of religion and academic research - [.] Some notes on the debate about Islamic research and teaching at [German] universities" an article by the Iranian Islamic theologian Reza Hajatpour, who holds the chair for Iranian studies at Bamberg University, has been published today. Again just a few quotes by him:
"We need Islam to be dealt with and treated as an academic subject/science and its integration in academic research, teaching and studying, subjected to [the] universally valid/accepted rigorous university standards; the reason being in particular to instruct, teach and train - according to standards of an enlightened Islam in Europe - school-teachers who are going to teach [Islamic] religion as a school-subject as well as imams.. [.] A cooperation with the representatives of the already existing faculties of Islamic studies is essential, both for developing academic, scientific teaching methods adequate to this newly developed faculty [Islamic theology] and for the interdisciplinary academic/scientific debate. There are interreligious faculties at many universities. These interreligious centres with usually considerable experience in this area have also to play an important role. Imperative is also the cooperation of critical scholars like Mugtahid Shabistari and Nasr Hamid Abu Zaid, who have done research on Islam as well as on occidental Christian theology."
In: F.A.Z. / Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung - 21.10.2009. page N5

All very well - I like it ! [Whatever I, personally, think of religion in general and in particular] Isn't that somehow mysteriously splendid and wonderful?:

Something great and reasonable, namely a probably friendly, understanding, forgiving, sensible brand of Islam, can be suspected/awaited on the horizon of this Germany with its [for all eternity] inexcusable, "botched" history. Anyway, this exodus of sensible Iranian theologians [who are experts as to the dangers of totalitarianisms] will - via the results of their academic activities - very likely alleviate and reduce possible tensions within Germany on the question of Islam and of the rising numbers of immigrants of Muslim creed. And a (considerable) bit more (religious) peace in our crazy world !

Thus - in conclusion - thanks would be due to the Iranian "ruling group", if it were not cynical to do/think so.

Thank you very much for your "clairvoyance" !


parvati said...

Very interesting post - I've ordered Shayegan's book.

Naj said...


it's a good book; feels aloof every now and again, but we can blame that on Paris and French intellectualism :)

nunya said...

hmm, looks interesting :)

German said...

Dear Naj,

Congratulation for the Dialogue Prize award to Darius Shayegan, who fortunately tries to (have) act(ed) to alleviate and solve instead of just and comfortably accepting an envisaged [Huntington]-“clash of civilizations”, by Aarhus University in Denmark. [You and Pedestrian are laudably, somehow “automatically”, acting in a very similar way, I think].

The prize awarded to Darius Shayegan by a Danish university is of great distinction in my view, as Denmark was the only European country having not only (at least) tried but having successfully undercut and prevented the extermination of ALL jewish Danes by the Germans.

BTW: Aarhus University in Denmark has acquired a (very good) name for its (global) open-mindedness: After his attempted assassination Rudi Dutschke, the most prominent and influential “representative” or ”figurehead” of the German student movement of the 1960s, finally moved to Aarhus, Denmark after he was offered a job by/at the University of Aarhus, which made it possible for him and his family to escape the – at that time - “erratic political hothouse” Germany and gain a Danish residence permit.

Thanks – last but not the least - also very much for your recommendations of pertinent literature/books and relevant Iranian cultural and intellectual "movements" an average citizen (like me) would never find out (about). It will take me some time, though, to benefit from your suggestions (fully), having a (more than) full-time job on my hand, which more or less devours me (completely) (teaching at a German highschool Geography, Latin and English).

All the best


Naj said...


Thanks for info on Danish university.

I guess by now it is very clear to me and to everyone that you appreciate ped and I. So please don't embarrass me with more pleasantries, your affection's duly noted :) (I personally don't like being praised too much; I am one of those "cut to the chase" kind of people. I also think too much praise is distracting from the point of the post and the valid and important points you make yourself. :)


German said...


Naj said...

Nunya, Good to see you! :)

I hope you will like the book. In this book don't look for geopolitics or anything about oil; its pure cultural discourse.

Anonymous said...

hello! can you tell me the french publishing house of mister Shayegan,

Naj said...

please search amazon for information; or his web site/publication list; or consult a library in your local university.