Derrida, Africa, and the Middle East by Christopher Wise (auth.)

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By Christopher Wise (auth.)

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True to his Marrano heritage, Derrida’s descriptions of himself as a Sephardic Jew are seldom articulated without irony or some distancing gesture: “I am one of those marranes who no longer say they are Jews,” he insists, “even in the secret of their own hearts . ” (171). Derrida holds on to the secret of his Jewish identity, even as he publicly discloses it. The experience that Derrida underwent as a twelve-year-old boy in El-Biar, Algeria is not so very different from that of many Arabs and Arab Jews, especially in Europe and the United States.

This indeterminable number of blended voices, this mobile of non-identified sexual marks whose choreography can carry, divide, [and] multiply the body of each ‘individual’ ” (184). Derrida also objects to Paul’s references to natural differences between men and women, which can be known for certain: Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered? / Does not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? / But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.

Humanity knows what God looks like, and God is a man. God represented himself to humanity as such, offering irrefutable proof of His true nature. In effect, God was seen. Therefore, it is now licit to create representations of Him. The old injunction against creating such images is no longer binding. Muslims do not accept the proposition that Jesus is God, so it follows that the ban on graven images remains relevant. This is also why images cannot be fashioned of the prophets, and why mosques are adorned with calligraphy from the Quran, but not images of Muhammad, Jesus, Moses, and other important figures.

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