Abdelwahab Meddeb, poet, essayist and novelist, born in 1946 in Tunisia, passed away in Paris on November 5 from lung cancer. He was a renowned scholar of Islamic and Western culture, and argued tirelessly for an “an enlightenment of Islam.” He fought for a dialogue between civilizations to combat “the clash of nations, images, and representations.” He taught comparative literature at Paris-X-Nanterre, headed the journal Daedalus, and produced the television show “Cultures of Islam.” He has authored several books and was passionate about literature.
The September 11 attacks prompted him to become involved in political debates. “If, according to Voltaire, intolerance was the sickness of Catholicism, if Nazism was the sickness of Germany, then fundamentalism is the sickness of Islam,” he wrote in his book The Sickness of Islam. He urged the Muslim world to “break with the violent spiral of violence and resentment” and worked to combat radical Islam.
“I have within me the sickness of Islam,” Meddeb said as he fought his own cancer. In his last editorial, published in October 2014 following the execution of Hervé Gourdel, he asked other Muslims “to protest, as a Muslim, the horrors that can be committed in our name,” and to not cease “to convey the wonders of Islam.”
To combat fundamentalism, Meddeb looked to the Sufi tradition of Ibn Arabi (1165-1240), who advocated “an Islam that is open to the plurality of worlds.”