Trying to think through the question of modern antisemitism before writing my previous post I pulled off a shelf my old copy of Edward Said’s Orientalism. I was surprised to see how much I had forgotten, and to discover where some of my views on modern Islamophobia and racist attitudes towards Middle Easterners may have been born. Some extracts:
For whereas it is no longer possible to write learned (or even popular) disquisitions on either “the Negro mind” or “the Jewish personality,” it is perfectly possible to engage in such research as “the Islamic mind,” or “the Arab character” . . . (262)
Yet after the 1973 war the Arab appeared everywhere as something more menacing. Cartoons depicting an Arab sheik standing behind a gasoline pump turned up consistently. These Arabs, however, were clearly “Semitic”: their sharply hooked noses, the evil mustachioed leer on their faces, were obvious reminders (to a largely non-Semitic population) that “Semites” were at the bottom of all “our” troubles, which in this case was principally a gasoline shortage. The transference of a popular anti-Semitic animus from a Jewish to an Arab target was made smoothly, since the figure was essentially the same.
Thus if the Arab occupies space enough for attention, it is as a negative value. He is seen as the disrupter of Israel’s and the West’s existence, or in another view of the same thing, as a surmountable obstacle to Israel’s creation in 1948. Insofar as this Arab has any history, it is part of the history given him (or taken from him: the difference is slight) by the Orientalist tradition, and later, the Zionist tradition. Palestine was seen—by Lamartine and the early Zionists —as an empty desert waiting to burst into bloom; such inhabitants as it had were supposed to be inconsequential nomads possessing no real claim on the land and therefore no cultural or national reality. Thus the Arab is conceived of now as a shadow that dogs the Jew. In that shadow—because Arabs and Jews are Oriental Semites—can be placed whatever traditional, latent mistrust a Westerner feels towards the Oriental. For the Jew of pre-Nazi Europe has bifurcated: what we have now is a Jewish hero, constructed out of a reconstructed cult of the adventurer-pioneer-Orientalist (Burton, Lane, Renan), and his creeping, mysteriously fearsome shadow, the Arab Oriental. (285-86)
The Arab mind . . .
There are good Arabs (the ones who do as they are told) and bad Arabs (who do not, and are therefore terrorists). Most of all there are all those Arabs who, once defeated, can be expected to sit obediently behind an infallibly fortified line, manned by the smallest possible number of men, on the theory that Arabs have had to accept the myth of Israeli superiority and will never dare attack. One need only glance through the pages of General Yehoshafat Harkabi’s Arab Attitudes to Israel to see how — as Robert Alter put it in admiring language in Commentary — the Arab mind, depraved, anti-Semitic to the core, violent, unbalanced, could produce only rhetoric and little more. (307)
The fact about Islam . . .
Lewis’s polemical, not scholarly, purpose is to show, here and elsewhere, that Islam is an anti-Semitic ideology, not merely a religion. He has a little logical difficulty in trying to assert that Islam is a fearful mass phenomenon and at the same time “not genuinely popular,” but this problem does not detain him long. As the second version of his tendentious anecdote shows, he goes on to proclaim that Islam is an irrational herd or mass phenomenon, ruling Muslims by passions, instincts, and unreflecting hatreds. The whole point of his exposition is to frighten his audience, to make it never yield an inch to Islam. According to Lewis, Islam does not develop, and neither do Muslims; they merely are, and they are to be watched, on account of that pure essence of theirs (according to Lewis), which happens to include a long-standing hatred of Christians and Jews. Lewis everywhere restrains himself from making such inflammatory statements flat out; he always takes care to say that of course the Muslims are not anti-Semitic the way the Nazis were, but their religion can too easily accommodate itself to anti-Semitism and has done so. Similarly with regard to Islam and racism, slavery, and other more or less “Western” evils. The core of Lewis’s ideology about Islam is that it never changes, and his whole mission is now to inform conservative segments of the Jewish reading public, and anyone else who cares to listen, that any political, historical, and scholarly account of Muslims must begin and end with the fact that Muslims are Muslims. (317-18)
Said, Edward W. 1979. Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books.
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45 thoughts on “How anti-Muslim hostility has replaced the old anti-Semitism”
Edward Said has an anti-Western pro-third world mindset. In his worldview the West represents all evil in the world. Westerners are evil, and all Westerners have colonialist ideas, consciously or subconsciously.
He believes the West are the perpetrators, and the Muslims or Arabs are the victims. He rejects any criticism of Islam and Arab/Islamic expansionism as racism/colonialism/Orientalism.
The Arabs/Muslims have had colonial empires of themselves. They conquered vast amounts of territories. They practiced colonialism. They transferred Arabs from the Arab peninsula to the conquered territories. If Western people would do this, transferring their populations to other parts of the world, this would be viewed as colonialism. Arabs/Muslims even trafficked millions of black slaves to the Arab world. They sold black slaves to Westerners.
Edward Said said: “[Lewis] always takes care to say that of course the Muslims are not anti-Semitic the way the Nazis were, but their religion can too easily accommodate itself to anti-Semitism and has done so.”
It is an objective fact that Islam is blatantly anti-Jewish, and anti-Christian, and anti-atheism, and anti-polytheism. Quran 9:29 (Sahih Iternational) says: “Fight those who do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Scripture – [fight] until they give the jizyah willingly while they are humbled.”
So, the infidels should be conquered and subdued by the Muslims. And the Quran (9:30) continues: “The Jews say, “Ezra is the son of Allah “; and the Christians say, “The Messiah is the son of Allah .” That is their statement from their mouths; they imitate the saying of those who disbelieved [before them]. May Allah destroy them; how are they deluded?” [End of Quote]
So, the Christians and Jews should be destroyed.
Several hadiths even say something like this: “You will fight against the Jews and you will kill them until even a stone would say: Come here, Muslim, there is a Jew (hiding himself behind me); kill him.” (for instance Sahih Muslim Book 041, Hadith Number 6981)
Does Edward Said ever challenge the colonialist mindset of the Arabs or Muslims? The Arabs/Muslims even conquered vast parts of Europe. They conquered, Spain, Greece large parts of France, Italy, encircled Rome and Vienna, two large bastions of the the Western world.
I never took that message away from his book Orientalism. He is very specific about who says what and the various traditions that can be traced in the documentation.
By the same logic Christianity and Judaism are “blatantly” homophobic, seek the death of occult practitioners, . . . .
Oh TheBomb, . . . . can you ever understand how religion works, what it is, how people work, . . . . .
In Pakistan a Christian woman was condemned to death for blasphemy and has only just been released after seven years. But Muslims here in my part of the world do not do that. There are clear sociological factors at play in Pakistan that are not found in most parts of the world. The question is why. Explain why women in one part of the world act one way and those in another act differently, even though both share commonalities, like gender, clothing, religion.
Otherwise we simply do the same sort of thing, exercise the same ignorance, as was once typical of those who quoted the Talmud to smear all Jews.
But Judaism, and Christianity by extension, do order the death of gays and witches.
I think many Christians and Jews simply don’t know about it. Christians have some way out by referring to pseudo-Jesus who says that those who are without sin throw the first stone. Christians also have a theology which states that the Old Testament laws have been superseded by new laws, which contradicts what pseudo-Jesus says: “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18). But he could also mean that there are prophecies about him in the Old Testament, and they still all have to be fulfilled. In my opinion Christianity is a bit vague about this issue. But Jews can’t avoid it! The Old Testament truly orders the Jews to kill all inhabitants of the holy land, or force the non-Jews to convert to Judaism. And slavery is allowed. Jews may even sell their daughters to other Jews!
Edward Said would be viewed as an Islamophobe if he would apply his own techniques to the Islamic world.
I don’t think you have read Said’s Orientalism.
No, Judaism and Christianity order nothing. They order the death of no-one. Judaism and Christianity are merely concepts that have different meanings for different people. Certain individuals and certain sects order things, but not “Judaism” or “Christianity”. Individuals do bad things either individually or as groups. But to say that Christianity is evil on the basis of some extreme acts of certain Christians makes a mockery of what we mean by “Christianity”.
The Old Testament does not “order” anyone to do anything. The OT is a text with narratives and characters etc. How people respond to it, interpret it, view its relevance, is the product of many other things. The OT does not come and dictate to anyone what they must do. Schizophrenics may believe that God tells them to do something through their reading of the text. Judaism is what people who adhere to Judaism believe, and that means there are many different Judaisms. People decide how to read texts and they are always changing their readings as their personal experiences and their social worlds change.
No, I never read Edward Said’s book. I am now busy reading it. I have read about his book through others. Critics of Islam often talk about him. Ibn Warraq has written a book called “Defending the West: A Critique of Edward Said’s Orientalism”, which I haven’t read either. I have read some reviews of his book.
In summary his rebuttal is something like this:
1. Edward Said makes some mistakes, such as claiming that the French and Brits controlled the Eastern Mediterranean in the sixteenth century. In reality it was firmly under control of the Turks.
2. Edward Said ignores German and Russian scientists and writers, who never had colonies in the Orient.
3. Edward Said paints a too negative picture of Western scientists and writers. Actually many adored the Orient and its people.
4. Edward Said ignores the Islamic conquests.
Other critics of Islam say Edward Said is a Palestinian Christian Dhimmi.
You said: “People decide how to read texts and they are always changing their readings as their personal experiences and their social worlds change.”
Then this should be applied to all ideologies. We would find it strange if people interpret the writings and speeches of say Hitler, Charles Manson or Pol Pot as being peaceful. We would say they are nuts!!!
We had this discussion before. I think many Jews, Christians and Muslims simply ignore the ugly part of their scriptures, or simply don’t know about them. I have been educated on Christians schools, and I know that as a child the most horrifying stories in the Bible were never told. The most scary stories were Jesus’ crucifixion and Joseph being thrown in a pit. These stories were told when I was 6. I listened to these stories with awe. They skipped right past the awful order by God to murder, forcibly convert or enslave all Hittites, Palestinians, Canaanites etc… When I was around 10 or 11 it was explained to us by a teacher that many stories were never told to little children because these stories were just too scary!
I work in a library nowadays and they have book for Muslim children in their collection. I perused one of those books. It mainly focuses on the stories about Joseph and such and some short early Meccan suras (the short poems), which are generally very tolerant. The very violent surah 9 which commands Muslims to fight the infidels is completely skipped.
No, religious texts and religious beliefs are not like other beliefs at all. No study of how religion works, how religious concepts develop, or into the nature of religious beliefs will equate them with everyday political or economic writings and beliefs at all. Humans are more complicated than that. I have posted about such research findings quite a few times here. (e.g. https://vridar.org/?s=dan+jones )
And if a religious cult would form around Hitler? And a 1000 years later the followers of Hitler would say his words are misinterpreted or quoted out of context, believing that Hitler preached peace, love and mutual understanding? Couldn’t critics of Hitler say that the followers of Hitler are wrong and point to Hitler’s writings and speeches?
Islamic theology holds that Allah himself has written the Quran. That seems important!
For instance, you hear peaceful Muslims sometimes quote Quran 5:32 which says: “Because of that, We decreed upon the Children of Israel that whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely. And our messengers had certainly come to them with clear proofs. Then indeed many of them, [even] after that, throughout the land, were transgressors.” (Sahih International)
This is then used as proof that the Quran respects the dignity of human life.
But they don’t mention the verse (5:33) that follows which says: “Indeed, the penalty for those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive upon earth [to cause] corruption is none but that they be killed or crucified or that their hands and feet be cut off from opposite sides or that they be exiled from the land. That is for them a disgrace in this world; and for them in the Hereafter is a great punishment” (Sahih International)
Not so peaceful at all!!!!
Often Surah 109 is quoted which says: ‘Say, “O disbelievers, I do not worship what you worship. Nor are you worshippers of what I worship. Nor will I be a worshipper of what you worship. Nor will you be worshippers of what I worship. For you is your religion, and for me is my religion.” ‘(Sahih International)
This is also used as proof that the Quran respects other religions. They don’t mention that non-Muslims have to pay a poll-tax to Muslims if they want to keep their faith (Quran 9:29). The Quran allows other religions to a certain degree, as long as the non-Muslims pay the jizya.
Or they acknowledge that non-Muslims have to pay the Jizya, but they claim that the Jizya doesn’t differ from the Zakat which Muslims have to pay. They claim that Muslims have to pay the same amount of tax as the non-Muslims. And this is just preposterous. The Zakat is typically 2,5 percent of the income. The Jizya is stipulated at between 25 and 50 percent of the income, depending on which hadith is quoted.
What peaceful Muslims sometimes do is highly original, they twist the meaning of some words. Quran 8:39 says: “And fight them until there is no fitnah and [until] the religion, all of it, is for Allah. And if they cease – then indeed, Allah is Seeing of what they do.” [Sahih International]
Fitnah is then interpreted as oppression. So they read this verse as saying that the Muslims may fight the non-Muslims if the non-Muslims oppress the Muslims, and they may fight until the Muslims are able to worship only Allah, and are not forced by the non-Muslims to worship others. And if the non-Muslims cease oppressing the Muslims then the Muslims may stop fighting. This verse is used to argue that the Quran says you may only fight in self defense.
But this has never been interpreted this way in Islamic history. Mohsin Khan has a more accurate translation of Quran 8:39: “And fight them until there is no more Fitnah (disbelief and polytheism: i.e. worshipping others besides Allah) and the religion (worship) will all be for Allah Alone [in the whole of the world]. But if they cease (worshipping others besides Allah), then certainly, Allah is All-Seer of what they do.”
I grabbed it from this website: http://corpus.quran.com/translation.jsp?chapter=8&verse=39
It shows more translations of this verse.
All I want to say is, the Quran, of which Muslims themselves believe is written by Allah, is not peaceful and loving at all! It orders to attack all other unbelievers until the rest of the world is either subjugated/enslaved or becomes a believer. People are delusional if they deny this.
It is not racism of colonialism to challenge the peaceful Muslims, whom I believe are a minority among Muslims.
Whoever wrote the Quran, is a sociopath, but all Muslims worship this book.
(Ditto for Christians, Jews, Hindus and others who worship their completely schizophrenic holy books).
The appropriate comparison with an ideology like Nazism is not a religious text but an ideological tract (the two are completely different in the way they are read and understood).
The Management of Savagery: The Most Critical Stage Through Which the Umma Will Pass / Abu Bakr Naji
Milestones / Sayed Qutb
That’s the Islamist ideology, that’s the ideology that the terrorists sign up to. To compare that literature with the Koran is like comparing Mein Kampf to the Bible.
But the works of Sayed Qutb and Abu Bakr Naji are also religious tracts.
The Islamist ideology can be found in the Quran, in the Sira literature, in the Hadith collections which are considered to be reliable, in the Sharia Manuals, and in the commentaries on the Quran. The islamist ideology is very old.
Surely you are not denying the political function of Qutb’s writings. I can’t believe anyone would put them on a par with the Koran. All Muslims believe and find various ways to interpret and live by the Koran. I think most Muslims want nothing to do with Qutb and his ilk.
I am now about halfway through Edward Said’s Orientalism.
I want to correct something that I had gathered from the reviews of this book before actually reading this book.
Edward Said actually does mention the Islamic conquests, but he sees it as only a little blip in Western domination. I don’t agree with him. Islam was dominant and stronger than the west for about 800 years.
He also believes that Islam is the only force which has challenged Western Imperialism.
So far, I haven’t seen him criticize Islamic imperialism. Edward Said has written a book called ‘Covering Islam’, which I haven’t read. The Wikipedia-article about this book says this about it: “The modern Western media, says Said, does not want people to know that in Islam both men and women are equal; that Islam is tough on crime and the causes of crime; that Islam is a religion of knowledge par excellence; that Islam is a religion of strong ethical principles and a firm moral code; that socially Islam stands for equality and brotherhood; that politically Islam stands for unity and humane governance; that economically Islam stands for justice and fairness; and that Islam is at once a profoundly spiritual and a very practical religion. Said claims that untruth and falsehood about Islam and the Muslim world are consistently propagated in the media, in the name of objectivity, liberalism, freedom, democracy and ‘progress’.” [End of Quote]
It reaffirms my impression that he sees the West as bad, and the rest, especially Islam, as good.
Edward Said even believes that the West has been bad all along. He refers to a old Greek writings to make his point, especially one Greek play called “The Persians”.
Here is an interesting rebuttal of Said’s work:
It is called: Defending the West: A Critique of Edward Said’s Orientalism by Ibn Warraq, Prometheus Books, 2007, 500 pp. David Zarnett. Also under review: Reading Orientalism: Said and the Unsaid, Daniel Martin Varisco, University of Washington Press, 2008, 501 pp.
What do you understand to be the theme or core argument of Said? Do you boil it all down to “the west is bad”? I have read many books of history that I have found very enlightening, sometimes uncomfortable, and rewarding in various ways. Can you see nothing of value in a book by one of the foremost scholars of the twentieth century?
Edward Said does show that Westerners sometimes see themselves as better, especially during colonial times. But it is something I already knew.
His book is a disappointment, he tries to be very erudite and eloquent. He analyses too much. His book could have been a lot shorter.
The theme of his book is hatred for the West. He even distrusts the people who actually like the Orient. I shall quote him: “What Bouvard has in mind-the regeneration of Europe by Asia-was a very influential Romantic idea. Friedrich Schlegel and Novalis, for example, urged upon their countrymen, and upon Europeans in general, a detailed study of India because, they said, it was Indian culture and religion that could defeat the materialism and mechanism (and republicanism) of Occidental culture. And from this defeat would arise a new, revitalized Europe: the Biblical imagery of death, rebirth, and redemption is evident in this prescription. Moreover, the Romantic Orientalist project was not merely a specific instance of a general tendency; it was a powerful shaper of the tendency itself, as Raymond Schwab has so convincingly argued in La Renaissance orientale. But what mattered was not Asia so much as Asia’s use to modern Europe.” [End of Quote]
I would say that some Europeans are actually very insecure, they want Europe to be like the Orient! We can learn from the Orient. But Edward Said even sees this as bad, because they only want to be like the Orient, because it is in their own interest.
Have we read the same book? Whose hatred? Said’s? Do you understand the term “patronizing”? Yes, it has been very common among Westerners to condescend to, or patronize, “the other” as their metaphorical “children”. That sort of “liking” is indeed destructive up till today.
I posted something recently about a “manichean” world view. I had in mind people who see the world, and other people, in terms of good and bad. I would never have suggested Said has a Manichaean view of the world or people.
One thing I took away from his book was a deeper awareness of how I had had an attitude towards Asians that fell short of considering them as equals, and a new impetus to see them in their own terms.
I’m reading a free version of Orientalism on archive.org, which has been scanned with OCR (optical character recognition), it doesn’t show when a certain part of the text is quoted (the block quotes are gone). I have to guess using my own stylometric skills which parts are not Edward Said’s. It could explain why you said that I am joking when I think ideas he quotes are his own ideas. I have found another free version which is a direct scan of the book. I’ll read the remainder of the book using this version. It is this one:
I see that the text “it was Indian culture and religion that could defeat the materialism and mechanism (and republicanism) of Occidental culture. (…) But what mattered was not Asia so much as Asia’s use to modern Europe” is actually written by Edward Said himself. It is his own belief.
You said that I think Edward Said has a Manichaean worldview? He does say somewhere in the book about nineteenth century Europeans: ‘It is therefore correct that every European, in what he could say about the Orient, was consequently a racist, an imperialist, and almost totally ethnocentric. Some of the immediate sting will be taken out of these labels if we recall additionally that human societies, at least the more advanced cultures, have rarely offered the individual anything but imperialism, racism, and ethnocentrism for dealing with “other” cultures’ [End of Quote, page 204]
Okay, so he does acknowledge that not only Western societies are racist, that means he does not have a totally Manichaean worldview.
But he sees Islam as tolerant. It is tolerant Islam versus the intolerant West. He has some kind of Manichaean worldview, regarding Islam vs the West.
I want to show some other examples where Edward Said distrusts Western admiration for Islam. He says on page 167:
“Yet Ignaz Goldziher’s appreciation of Islam’s tolerance towards other religions was undercut by his dislike of Mohammed’s anthropomorphisms and Islam’s too-exterior theology and jurisprudence; Duncan Black Macdonald’s interest in Islamic piety and orthodoxy was vitiated by his perception of what he considered Islam’s heretical Christianity; Carl Becker’s understanding of Islamic civilization made him see it as a sadly undeveloped one; C. Snouck Hurgronje’s highly refined studies of Islamic mysticism (which he considered the essential part of Islam) led him to a harsh judgment of its crippling limitations; and Louis Massignon’s extraordinary identification with Muslim theology, mystical passion, and poetic art kept him curiously unforgiving to Islam for what he regarded as its unregenerate revolt against the idea of incarnation. The manifest differences in their methods emerge as less important than their Orientalist consensus on Islam: latent inferiority.”
It can never be good enough. He expects people to completely support Islam. Anything other than complete support for Islam is racism.
Napoleon was also an admirer of Islam, but Edward Said says Napoleon only seemingly admired Islam to get the population of Egypt on his side. On pages 81 and 82 he says: “Napoleon tried everywhere to prove that he was fighting for Islam; everything he said was translated into Koranic Arabic, just as the French army was urged by its command always to remember the Islamic sensibility. (…) When it seemed obvious to Napoleon that his force was too small to impose itself on the Egyptians, he then tried to make the local imams, cadis, muftis, and ulemas interpret the Koran in favor of the Grande Armée. To this end, the sixty ulemas who taught at the Azhar were invited to his quarters, given full military honors, and then allowed to be flattered by Napoleon’s admiration for Islam and Mohammed and by his obvious veneration for the Koran, with which he seemed perfectly familiar. This worked, and soon the population of Cairo seemed to have lost its distrust of the occupiers” [End of quote]
It doesn’t seem to occur to Edward Said that perhaps Napoleon genuinely admired Muhammad and Islam. After all, Muhammad was according to Islamic traditions a successful warlord who conquered large swats of land. Napoleon is a warlord himself, so it seems logical to me that he identifies himself with Muhammad. Napoleon’s admiration for Islam is genuine.
You said: “One thing I took away from his book was a deeper awareness of how I had had an attitude towards Asians that fell short of considering them as equals, and a new impetus to see them in their own terms.”
I have an Asian (Indonesian) background myself. My father comes from Java. My grandfather, grandmother, and my uncles are/were incredibly racist towards black people, while they are/were very dark themselves. I can tell you some horrifying stories. On the outside they are/were often very friendly towards strangers, even towards black people. My image of Indonesians is not very good, although the sample size is very small.
No, I meant to say I think it is you, not Said, whose arguments appear to express the Manichaean view of the world, of the West and Islam in particular.
Said is describing the attitudes of the Westerners towards the Orient. It is doing an historical analysis of the evidence in the texts. He is supporting his argument for an “Orientalist” approach among Westerners to the “oriental” peoples. I don’t have a problem with this analysis.
I think you are missing Said’s primary argument that he sets out in his first chapter. It is not a question of whether we should “trust” statements of Western admiration, but rather a question of analyzing the function or use or purpose of those statements as related to his thesis of Orientalism. He argues for a certain Western attitude or approach to Oriental peoples — it is not one of hate nor one of love though there are some who do hate the oriental and others who do love the oriental. His thesis is about an attitude or approach that serves as an umbrella to all such groups, the haters and lovers and all those in between.
Nor is Said arguing that “Islam is tolerant” compared with a Western religion. He does address those authors who praise what they see as Islam’s tolerance for other faiths in their midst, but he does so in the context of how their writings are evidence again of that umbrella attitude of Orientalism.
Said in the preceding page showed us that Napoleon’s views of Islam and were shaped by Volney’s writings. Said’s point is not about whether or not Napoleon’s views were genuine, but that they were influenced by Volney, and that Napoleon’s tactics were an extension of Volney’s perceptions and recommendations.
Said is pointing out how rarely a person in the East is allowed to speak for himself without having his words filtered through an “orientalist” construct by the Western hearer.
I think we can extrapolate from Said’s thesis that viewing the Muslims through our reading of their holy book as somehow innately violent or intolerant, etc. is itself one expression of the Orientalism that Said is challenging. I think we avoid this trap if we let individual Muslims speak for themselves and to explain to us how they interpret the Koran. By not doing that we are indeed trapped in our own “orientalist” perspective that Said tried to bring to light.
I’m want to stop this discussion for a while. I will focus on reading Edward Said’s work.
But before I finish, I want to say that Edward Said would probably see you as an orientalist, because you are against establishing sharia law, and because you deny the scientific veracity of much of early Islamic literature (the Sira of Ibn Ishaq, the hadith collections, etc…), and you even have doubts about the existence of the Islamic prophet.
Edward Said is even upset when someone criticizes (see page 167) “Mohammed’s anthropomorphisms and Islam’s too-exterior theology and jurisprudence” (not a very shocking claim), using this as an example to prove that orientalists see Muslims as inferior.
And that somebody says (see page 152) that the Quran is “a wearisome confused jumble, crude, incondite; endless iterations, long-windedness, entanglement; most crude, incondite-insupportable stupidity, in short.” (which is very hard to deny) about which Edward Said says: “Not a paragon of lucidity and stylistic grace himself, Carlyle asserts these things as a way of rescuing Mohammed from the Benthamite standards that would have condemned both Mohammed and him together.”
Edward Said sees all Western criticism of Islam as orientalism. And he sees all positive things Westerners say about Islam as also bad, because Westerners only want to improve themselves, and not others. Actually, Westerners should say nothing about everything non-Western at all.
I think you have misunderstood the whole concept of what Said is arguing. He is definitely not suggesting that anyone, east or west, should believe myths of the orient as historical facts. Said himself, on your understanding, is as much an orientalist as anyone else and the term loses all meaning.
You say things like “Said is upset” or “hates” etc. That sort of thing suggests to me you do not understand how scholarly research and historical inquiry works. The emotive terms, I suggest, are your own imputations and have no explicit support in the text you are reading.
No, Said does not see “all Western criticism of Islam as orientalism”. It depends entirely on the baggage that the criticism is emanating from.
I get the impression you are reading bits and pieces of the book and have completely missed his point about the nature of what he means by Orientalism.
I understand that Edward Said sees Orientalism itself as a form of racism.
He defines Orientalism like this, and I quote from his book “Orientalism” (page 3): “Taking the late eighteenth century as a very roughly defined starting point Orientalism can be discussed and analyzed as the corporate institution for dealing with the Orient-dealing with it by making statements about it, authorizing views of it, describing it, by teaching it settling it, ruling over it: in short, Orientalism as a Western style for dominating restructuring, and having authority over the Orient.”
I think you think that the following is the main point of Edward Said: “The idea of using specific texts, for instance, to work from the specific to the general (to understand the whole life of a period and consequently of a culture) is common to those humanists in the West inspired by the work of Wilhelm Dilthey, as well as to towering Orientalist scholars like Massignon and Gibb” (page 258)
But if this is true, then Edward Said does the very same thing. He uses specific texts to work to the general. He labels all Western people who study non-Western people as imperialists who have a secret hidden agenda of power and domination, and he uses specific Western texts to make his point.
The logical outcome is that you are an imperialist orientalist, because first of all, you are a Western person, and second of all, because you study ancient texts originating from the middle east, and have some opinions about Islam.
I don’t see Orientalism as a form of racism, but exactly as per the words you quote from Said:
That’s not exactly racism. It is more concerned with one’s own dominant status than it is with demonizing others. As we have noticed, he includes among Orientalists both those who demonize and those who worship the “Oriental”. I suppose in a sense one can say that worshiping another race is a kind of reverse-racism, but that’s not what the term normally means. He sets out in some detail what he means on pages 2 to 4, explaining that he means “several things” by Orientalism, though in some way they are all interconnected.
As for the mere study of the “Orient” (a term that appears to hide a number of ideological associations for most part), it is not the mere fact of studying, say, China or India, that is the problem, but as Said points out, it is the “doctrines and theses about the Orient and the Oriental” (p. 2) long present in the traditions of that academic study that are problematic.
I can’t fathom why you continue to make inferences such as Said concluding that all Westerners who study the Orient are “imperialists”. It sounds to me a bit like you are looking for ways to impute a negative motive or assumption into his work that I simply don’t see or agree with. I wonder if you have for so long been somehow aware that Said is/was a negative force in the world and you are reading with that assumption, unable to read his words as they are written and no more. My understanding of Said’s thesis is that a Western student of, say, India, needs to be aware of the various “orientalist” themes and assumptions that have permeated the literature he or she is reading and responding to.
If Said were as simple and stupid as to say the mere study by a Westerner of, say, the history India, of itself made one an Orientalist as per the theme of his book then we have a difficult time, I think, explaining the ongoing impact of his book.
“Orientalism as a Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient”
The Wikipedia-article defines Orientalism as this: “Orientalism is a term used by art historians and literary and cultural studies scholars for the imitation or depiction of aspects in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and East Asian cultures. These depictions are usually done by writers, designers, and artists from the West.”
That’s approximately how I understand it too. It means that Said says something like this: “imitation or depiction of aspects in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and East Asian cultures” is “a Western style for dominating restructuring, and having authority over the Orient”
So even painters who paint depictions of the Orient do this with the aim of “dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient”.
And that is a very radical statement to say the least.
I have finally finished the book (“Orientalism”). I notice that at the end he makes a bit of a U-turn and he says that there are some Western scholars who are not, well, imperalists. See page 326: ‘Thus interesting work is most likely to be produced by scholars whose allegiance is to a discipline defined intellectually and not to a “field” like Orientalism defined either canonically, imperially, or geographically. An excellent recent instance is the anthropology of Clifford Geertz, whose interest in Islam is discrete and concrete enough to be animated by the specific societies and problems he studies and not by the rituals, preconceptions, and doctrines of Orientalism.’
He also names others (page 327): “Certainly Berque and Rodinson, as well as Abdel Malek and Roger Owen, are aware too that the study of man and society-whether Oriental or not-is best conducted in the broad field of all the human sciences; therefore these scholars are critical readers, and students of what goes on in other fields.”
I just don’t understand, why are they they exceptions? If they depict or imitate the Orient they practice “dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient”. He defined it earlier! Why the sudden turnabout?
I searched on the internet about Clifford Geertz. I found this page:
A quote: “His first move is to rescue Islam from its Western scholastics, the Arabists; his second is to rescue it from its own, the ulama, or Muslim religious leaders. The Arabist bias, a product of nineteenth-century European orientalism, views the early Arabic period, the years of the founding at Mecca and Medina, as defining the true faith. It regards subsequent developments, Persianate, Sufist, Spanish, Mongol, Indic, or whatever, as derivative at best, decadent at worst. For the Arabists Islamic culture is identified as “culture appearing in the Arabic language,” and Syriac, Persian, or Greek cultural elements are treated as “foreign,” though they formed in fact the ancestral cultural traditions of the vast majority of the peoples who comprised the classical Muslim communities.”
I agree with the view that an ideology is defined as how it was originally defined. If you want to understand Nazism, you have to study the writings and speeches of Hitler, Goebbels, Hess and others…. Not what a mystic says what Nazism is 1500 years later, saying for instance that the quest to expand “Lebensraum” is a spiritual struggle to expand one’s inner spiritual horizons defeating your inner evils along the way.
I found some more examples where Edward Said is apparently shocked when Western people say something negative about Islam. He quotes a book which says (see pages 287-288): ‘”The Moslem religion, called Islam, began in the seventh century. It was started by a wealthy businessman of Arabia, called Mohammed. He claimed that he was a prophet. He found followers among other Arabs. He told them that they were picked to rule the world.” This bit of knowledge is followed by another, equally accurate: “Shortly after Mohammed’s death, his teachings were recorded in a book called the Koran. It became the holy book of Islam.” ‘ [End of Quote]
Of this idea and others he says (page 288): “These crude ideas are supported, not contradicted, by the academic whose business is the study of the Arab Near East.”
I don’t understand what he finds so crude about it. Is he appalled that the writer says “He claimed that he was a prophet.”? That the writer doesn’t believe that Muhammad is a prophet? Does Edward Said believe that Muhammad is a prophet? Or is he appalled by: “He found followers among other Arabs. He told them that they were picked to rule the world”. This is jihad-ideology which is extensively described in the Sira, Quran, Hadiths, Fiqh, Quran commentaries, etc… Does Edward Said find this a crude idea? Does Edward Said actually believe the Quran is written by God and not by a man?
What I also find is the Edward Said is not truly familiar with early Islamic literature. He is surprised (on pages 302-303) that in the “Cambridge History of Islam”, “[f]or hundreds of pages in volume 1, Islam is understood to mean an unrelieved chronology of battles, reigns, and deaths, rises and heydays, comings and passings, written for the most part in a ghastly monotone.”
And then Edward Said says: ‘Take the Abbasid period from the eighth to the eleventh century as an instance. Anyone who has the slightest acquaintance with Arab or Islamic history will know that it was a high point of Islamic civilization, as brilliant a period of cultural history as the
High Renaissance in Italy. Yet nowhere in the forty pages of description does one get an inkling of any richness; what is found instead is sentences like this: “Once master of the caliphate, [al-Ma’munJ seemed henceforth to shrink from contact with Baghdad society and remained settled at Merv, entrusting the government of Iraq to one of his trusted men, al-Hasan b. Sahl, the brother of al-Fadl, who was faced almost at once with a serious Shi’i revolt, that of Abu’l-Saraya, who in Jumada II 199/January 815 sent out a call to arms from Kufa in support of the Hasanid Ibn Tabataba.” A non-Islamicist will not know at this point what a Shi’i or a Hasanid is. He will have no idea what Jumada II is, except that it dearly designates a date of some sort. And of course he will believe that the Abbasids, including Harun al-Rashid, were an incorrigibly dull and murderous lot, as they sat sulking in Merv.’
Edward Said doesn’t seem to understand that these Western scholars copy the works of Ibn Ishaq and Tabari, which are very limited sources which have a great focus on battles. Tabari didn’t study the cultures and opinions of people in the Islamic territories. And doesn’t Edward Said believe that the Abbasids were a murderous lot? He believes the Abbasid were benign, they brought “Islamic civilization” to its high point.
I’m now reading a revised book by Edward Said Called “Covering Islam”. I hope to learn more of what Edward Said believes is Islam.
First thing I notice is that he denies there is such a thing as fundamentalism, because it cannot be defined!!! That’s very easy, now he can stick his head into the sand and believe everything is fine.
You are trying to pigeonhole Said into a position that disregards everything that he wrote. First of all, that very paragraph explains that it’s the third meaning of what he considers Orientalism meaning that you neglected two others. Second, he is not presenting any of this as an all-purpose definition, he is explaining the distinctions between the three meanings he personally uses for the sake of his readers.
He is not “shocked” at people attacking Islam, he’s supporting the assertion that Muslims/Arabs are consistently portrayed negatively in books and articles. Look at the very first sentence of the paragraph: “Books and articles are regularly published on Islam and the Arabs that represent absolutely no change over the virulent anti-Islamic polemics of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance”.
He considers them crude ideas because they misrepresent Muslims and Islam. That section blatantly implies that Muslims were duped by a con man. There’s a huge difference between saying that he wasn’t actually a prophet and saying that he was a trickster manipulating naive fools.
You left out the other ideas: that violence and deceit run in Arab genes, that Middle Easterners are only united by their hatred of Jews, that half of their entire language is about violence, etc. Are these also just saying how it is?
There’s a major problem with preconceptions and prejudice: confirmation bias. It’s amazing how you chain together quotes to create new interpretations that always seem to confirm what you already believe. Look at the Mad Libs used to arrive at the “very radical statement” that Said holds to. You needed to bead-string 5 quotes – two from Wikipedia – to make him seem ridiculous. Stop hitting yourself, Edward!
You don’t understand Edward Said. He is as radical as the selected quotes suggest.
He systematically depicts nearly all Westerners as racists.
Yes, there are Western racists, and he cherry-picks Western literature to make his claim. He cleverly squeezes in some factually correct statements by Westerners about Islam, to make these statements seem racist.
He wants to stifle all criticism leveled against Islam. He plays on the feelings of guilt that some people in the West have about their colonial past.
And he is a fool indeed. He truly believes that Islam is a religion of peace. He is completely flabbergasted that some people don’t agree that Muhammad is a prophet, or when some people state that Islam has world conquest as its goal, or when some people say that the Abbasid rulers were anything but benign. Edward Said longs for a glorious mythical Islamic past under Abbasid rule.
His whole aim is to say how bad and racist the West is, and how good and tolerant Islam is.
“That section blatantly implies that Muslims were duped by a con man. There’s a huge difference between saying that he wasn’t actually a prophet and saying that he was a trickster manipulating naive fools.”
And this section gives a totally accurate picture of Islamic theology. He just doesn’t understand Islamic theology. He really thinks Muhammad is the good guy.
I can’t imagine a more hostile reading of Said’s argument. I have the impression you are looking for ways to twist his meanings and turn him into a hypocritical monster.
Look again what Edward Said has said (page 204): “(…) For any European during the nineteenth century-and I think one can say this almost without qualification-Orientalism was such a system of truths, truths in Nietzsche’s sense of the word. It is therefore correct that every European, in what he could say about the Orient, was consequently a racist, an imperialist, and almost totally ethnocentric.”
Every European of the nineteenth century who could say something about the Orient (or by extension, who paints something related to the Orient) is a “racist, an imperialist, and almost totally ethnocentric”.
Really????? All Europeans of the nineteenth century????
You have to acknowledge that Edward Said makes a very extreme claim.
Were ALL Arabs who said something about Europe in the nineteenth century (or any other century you pick) racists and imperialists?
Isn’t such a claim extremely demonizing?
There is no “demonization” in Said’s analysis. He is not comparing people to anything less than everyday people. Yes, it is Said’s analysis that all the information that came to Europeans about the Orient came through certain filters and lodged in certain frames of reference that made all their statements “racist” — but obviously, knowing everyday people as we do, there is no suggestion that all of those people would personally have sought to demonize any oriental. There is a racist perception as there are sexist perceptions etc that we can hold, often quite unconsciously. But once we are alerted to them we have the ability to extricate ourselves from them. Said is not accusing all Europeans of “demonizing” Orientals because we know he includes those who had the very opposite view of Orientals, as some sort of spiritual ideal.
And I want to add that there are quite an number of homophobic Jews, Muslims and Christians who derive their hatred from scripture.
And I don’t understand religion anymore. I cannot understand why people follow an ideology of which its basic tenets clearly contradict their own convictions. Why follow a religion which teaches the death penalty for homosexuals and at the same time fight for gay rights?
I am now reading through Edward Said’s Orientalism.
Edward Said says this “There is very little consent to be found, for example, in the fact that Flaubert’s encounter with an Egyptian courtesan produced a widely influential model of the Oriental woman; she never spoke of herself, she never represented her emotions, presence, or history. He spoke for and represented her. He was a foreign, comparatively wealthy, male, and these were historical facts of domination that allowed him not only to possess Kuchuk Hanem physically but to speak for her and tell his readers in what way she was “typically Oriental.” My argument is that Flaubert’s situation of strength in relation to Kuchuk Hanem was not an isolated instance. It fairly stands for the pattern of relative strength between East and West, and the discourse about the Orient that it enabled.” [End of Quote]
He sees the Islamic world as a passive victim, a prostitute who doesn’t fight back, and who has nothing to say. In reality the Islamic world almost destroyed the Christian Western World. It nearly wiped out Christianity in North Africa, the Middle East, Persia and large parts of India. Several times, the Muslims/Arabs/Turks were on the verge of overrunning Western Europe. There are many anti-Christian Islamic treatises.
A fairer description would be a fight between Flaubert and the courtesan, in which the courtesan mortally wounds Flaubert, chopping off Flaubert’s left leg and right arm, after which Flaubert manages to fight back and push her onto the bed.
You are not reading carefully. The example is not of a power relationship he personally perceived between East and West but one perceived by Europeans of the time. His point is that Oriental women as a whole were misrepresented in support of the notion of Western dominance much like many aspects of the East.
This goes far beyond “colonialist mindset”. We’re talking about an entire realm of prejudice pervading scholarship and literature.
I took a gander at the book and was particularly struck by the section on page 320 where he wrote about the Arabic language being treated as dangerous. His presentation of Shouby’s essay on how the language influences Arab psychology sounded too absurd to be correct, but sure enough it argues that Arabic just isn’t suitable for describing the concrete world portraying it as something as mythical as Islam itself. Taken together with the implication that the language exerts upon the psychology, the most charitable interpretation I could come away with is that it limits the ability of people to express themselves rationally.
“We’re talking about an entire realm of prejudice pervading scholarship and literature.”
I doubt that nowadays. The general believe by many Westerners is that Sharia Law is tolerant towards non-Muslims (Obama, George W Bush, Tony Blair, Theresa May, etc…). Often medieval Islamic Spain is mentioned as the great example how Muslims, Jews and Christians lived in peace and harmony under Islamic rule.
This Western idea even seems to be old. Jean-Jacques Rousseau in the eighteenth century had the view that Islam was tolerant. He had lots of admiration for Muhammad.
Here is a list of mostly Western admirers of Islam:
Some examples: George Bernard Shaw, Lamartine, Annie Besant, Napoleon, Edward Gibbon,..
I will draw up a long list. This is fun.
So we don’t evaluate the general beliefs of Westerners by investigating what they generally believe, and we don’t evaluate perspectives within scholarship and literature by perusing the content. Instead we accomplish both by taking a head count of every public figure in Western history who ever had a nice thing to say about Islam. Fascinating methodology.
Have fun with that.
No Greg. We “evaluate” (let’s say discover or learn) what people believe by talking with them, asking them, watching them, and reading what they write. We do not arrogantly go over their heads and tell them what they believe on the basis of our own interpretations of some of their ancient literature. If we ask them what they believe, listen to them, and read their writings, then we will see how they interpret the Koran. We will find that the overwhelming majority do not interpret it the way so many non-Muslims do. If you want to know what ISIS believes, read their literature. It’s a hell of a lot more scary than anything you will cherry pick from the Koran. If you want to know what other Muslims believe, ask them. Talk to them. You are likely to find that they no more believe in a literal interpretation of the Koran then most Christians or Jews believe in a literal interpretation of certain Biblical passages.
I take it you agree with Eisenmenger, too?
I think you misunderstood me, Neil. I was sarcastically mocking The Bomb’s idea of how we ascertain people’s beliefs and attitudes. I don’t disagree with you at all.
Omg I am sorry. I do that way too often. I will have to stop doing “batch replies” in which I too often lose the contextual thread of a comment.
Greg, it is true that there were and are many Westerners who see themselves a superior to non-Westerners. But…. also during colonial times, this was not true for all Westerners. There were even people who believed it to be the other way around. The idea of the noble savage first appeared in the seventeenth century in the Western world. So-called primitive people were viewed by some Westerners as better than us Westerners. And you already had Western Islam lovers during the colonial ages as I mentioned earlier.
Lamartine in the nineteenth century said this: “Philosopher, orator, apostle, legislator, warrior, conqueror of ideas, restorer of rational dogmas, of a cult without images; the founder of twenty terrestrial empires and of one spiritual empire, that is Muhammad. As regards all standards by which human greatness may be measured, we may well ask, is there any man greater than he?”
I copied the latter from this website: http://gainpeace.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=63:what-non-muslim-scholars-said-about-prophet-muhammed-peace-be-upon-him&catid=41&Itemid=105
I found an article on the internet about what Jean Jacques Rousseau said about Islam: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/rousseau-islam-james-campbell
Copied from that page: “For example in Rousseau’s famous work titled ‘The Social Contract’ Rousseau wrote: ‘Muhammad had very sound views; he thoroughly unified his political system; and so long as his form of government survived under his successors, the caliphs, the government was quite unified and in that respect good.’ Furthermore as Charles Butterworth reminds us Rousseau’s admiration of the tolerance within Islam was based on a recognition of the ‘freedom Islam has traditionally accorded Jews and Christians’. This evidence of toleration, for Rousseau was further testament to the positive example that Islamic civilization offers in regards to tolerance, justice and social inclusivity.”
So you had Western people in the eighteenth century who already believed that Islamic law is tolerant! Really nothing has changed actually.
Today you have Daniel Pipes and Karen Armstrong.
Might I suggest you actually take a couple of weeks to read Said, his actual book not some OCR’d piece of dreck, and then come back and address what you find wrong with it? It is readily available in libraries. You will be able to make a much better argument when you have taken the time to study and you won’t be being tripped up haring after misreadings.
“No, I never read Edward Said’s book. I am now busy reading it. I have read about his book through others. Critics of Islam often talk about him. Ibn Warraq has written a book called “Defending the West: A Critique of Edward Said’s Orientalism”, which I haven’t read either. I have read some reviews of his book.” has to be one of the most stonkingly naive openings to an argument I have ever read. You might have the greatest case in the world in support of your argument; but after reading that no one is going to take you seriously (except maybe Bart Erhman, who you seem to have stolen the methodology off :- )!).
I’m through most of “Orientialism”. The OCR-version was very readable, but I had to concentrate myself. I will read “covering Islam” after this. Too bad is that I actually have to buy this book, no free version is available.
My prejudices have been mostly confirmed.
I will quote again from “Orientalism” (page 258): “Both the Orientalist and the non-Orientalist begin with the sense that Western culture is passing through an important phase, whose main feature is the crisis imposed on it by such threats as barbarism, narrow technical concerns, moral aridity, strident nationalism, and so forth. The idea of using specific texts, for instance, to work from the specific to the general (to understand the whole life of a period and consequently of a culture) is common to those humanists in the West inspired by the work of Wilhelm Dilthey, as well as to towering Orientalist scholars like Massignon and Gibb.”
Look what Edward Said does here. First he makes a sweeping statement about “orientalist and the non-Orientalist”. Then he accuses THEM that they use specific texts to work from the specific to the general!!! Isn’t this what Edward Said does all along, also when he says (on pages 203-204) that: “For any European during the nineteenth century-and I think one can say this almost without qualification-Orientalism was such a system of truths, truths in Nietzsche’s sense of the word. It is therefore correct that every European, in what he could say about the Orient, was consequently a racist, an imperialist, and almost totally ethnocentric.”
That is an amazingly general statement. What would he have said if a Western person would say: “It is therefore correct that every ORIENTAL/MUSLIM/ARAB/INDIAN[etc…], in what he could say about the WEST/OCCIDENT, was consequently a racist, an imperialist, and almost totally ethnocentric.”
That would be total orientalism in Edward Said’s opinion.
Continuing on to page 260: “Given its special relationship to both Christianity and Judaism, Islam remained forever the Orientalist’s idea (or type) of original cultural effrontery, aggravated naturally by the fear that Islamic civilization originally (as well as contemporaneously) continued to stand somehow opposed to the Christian West.”
“Somehow opposed to the Christian West”? LOL!!!! Islamic theology holds Christians to be belonging to the people of the book, who should be fought “until they give the jizyah willingly while they are humbled.” (Quran 9:29). Christians and Muslims also have a different theology regarding Jesus. Islam accuses Christianity of worshiping others alongside Allah, namely Maria and Jesus. Islamic theology also divides the worlds into two parts, the dar al-harb and dar al-islam. Islamic theology holds that the dar al-harb is area that still needs to be conquered and subdued by the Muslims, and that includes “the Christian West”. Of course Islam stands “somehow” opposed to the Christian West.
If a person today looked at Jewish scriptures and the Talmud and from what they read in those books they then accused the entire Jewish race of seeking world domination (that’s what both works promise the Jews) we would rightly see them as antisemitic. To make the same sweeping assertions about Muslims simply on the basis of our reading of their books is indeed comparable to the demonizing stereotyping of a whole race that is the essence of antisemitism.
Jews and Muslims are not races or ethnic groups. Judaism and Islam are ideologies. Any person could convert to those ideologies. There are white Western Muslims and Jews!
I don’t see why Judaism and Islam should be put on a pedestal.
I would be totally acceptable if we attack the adherents of any other ideology. We wouldn’t be shocked if someone points out to a follower of Donald Trump what nasty things Donald Trump has actually said. We wouldn’t say that those persons who criticize followers of Donald Trump are demonizing and stereotyping a race, or a whole group of people. We don’t say that criticizing followers of Trump would ultimately lead to violence against them, and therefore we should avoid criticizing them.
Muslims are followers of Muhammad and Allah (the first possibly a fictional character, the latter certainly fictional). Muslims have books which they believe contain utterances by Muhammad and Allah (the hadith, Sira and the Quran). And Muhammad and Allah in those books do say that the Muslims should subjugate the non-Muslims and dominate the world. This is very difficult to deny.
Jews are not a race or ethnic group? I think few would deny that they are. That does not preclude the ability of others being able to convert to and join them in order to identify with them that way. It’s for that sort of reason that it is said that “race” is a social construct.
I don’t believe that every Jew somehow harbours in his or her soul all the worst admonitions of Jewish books (OT, Talmud) and by the same token I don’t believe that every person identified as a Muslim (mostly the Arabs, but also south and east Asians) harbours within his or her sould all the worse admonitions we read in the Muslim books. To suggest the Jews do so is of course racism and unacceptable. We still have some catching up to do with respect to the Muslims.
Nor are Judaism and Islam “ideologies”. They are religions and there is a difference.
Zionism and Islamism are ideologies. They cannot be equated with the religions of Judaism or Islam so we find Jews and Muslims opposing those ideologies.
Bravo The Bomb. While I still think you were premature starting out without reading either Said or his previous critics through before you began; your sustained critique, and your rebuttal of its disavowal, I think were very well done and should I think be more than sufficient for the lurkers.
For me it was an entertaining reprise of reading I did and conclusions I came to decades ago.
Thank you Steven C Watson!
I have now completely read ‘Covering Islam’, the revised 1997 edition. I bought the ebook version on google play and unfortunately, this is also an OCR-type of version without the block quotes. I sometimes can’t clearly see when Edward Said actually quotes a person.
I discovered that the Wikipedia page about this book misrepresents this book. It is this wikipedia article:
Edward Said nowhere in the book claims that “The modern Western media (…) does not want people to know that in Islam both men and women are equal; that Islam is tough on crime and the causes of crime; that Islam is a religion of knowledge par excellence; that Islam is a religion of strong ethical principles and a firm moral code; that socially Islam stands for equality and brotherhood; that politically Islam stands for unity and humane governance; that economically Islam stands for justice and fairness; and that Islam is at once a profoundly spiritual and a very practical religion.”
A little exception is that Edward Said says somewhere in the book: “Seek knowledge even as far as China, runs a well-known Islamic precept”.
It may have been the older edition which has these claims. I don’t know. Edward Said actually says very little about Islam in this book. I now know why Neil Godfrey so often says that we should look at how Muslims interpret their religion, because that is what Edward Said says all the time in this book. But he doesn’t explain how Muslims do this, except for one case (which I will mention later). I would have expected a point by point analysis of how Western people misrepresent the ideas that Muslims themselves have, or how Islam is misrepresented. He also says, like Neil Godfrey, that Islam actually doesn’t exist.
Edward Said mainly focuses on how America reacted to the hostage crisis in Iran, and how the American media covered this. He believes Americans totally overlook the fact that they supported the murderous Shah of Persia, and he accuses the Americans of totally ignoring the political processes that happened in Iran.
Edward Said says ‘(…) Surely that is what Ali Shariati had in mind for Iranian Muslims when he universalized Mohammed’s migration (hejira) from Mecca to Medina into the idea of man as “a choice, a struggle, a constant becoming. He is an infinite migration, a migration within himself, from clay to God; he is a migrant within his own soul. (…) Ideas like Shariati’s informed the Iranian revolution in its early phases, which once and for all dismissed the dogmatically held supposition that Muslims were essentially incapable either of true revolution or of categorically throwing off tyranny and injustice. More important even than that, the Iranian revolution in its early phases demonstrated—as Shariati always argued—that Islam had to be lived as an invigorating existential challenge to man, not as a passive submission to authority, human or divine. In a world without “fixed standards” and with only a divine injunction to “migrate” from human clay to God, the Muslim, according to Shariati, had to carve a path of his own. Human society was itself a migration, or rather a vacillation, between “the pole of Cain” (ruler, king, aristocracy: power concentrated in one individual) and the “pole of Abel” (the class of the people, what the Koran calls al-nass: democracy, subjectivity, community). Ayatollah Khomeini’s moral teachings at first were just as compelling as this: with less suppleness than Shariati he also understood the Muslim predicament as a constantly lived choice between hallal and haram (righteousness and evil). Hence his call for an “Islamic” republic, by which he intended to institutionalize righteousness and rescue al-mostazafin (the oppressed) from their plight.’ [End of Quote]
This is the only example named by Edward Said, of Muslims interpreting Islamic theology. He doesn’t mention that the hijrah (migration) is a physical act, a means to spread Islam, a part of jihad.
Further on in the book, Edward Said mentions jihad and he makes a mistake. I quote him:
”’Moseley’s attack on Iran was supported by a truly cosmic editorial in his paper the same day accusing Khomeini of nothing less than “a holy war on the world.” The jihad (holy war) motif was also given an extraordinary run by the Los Angeles Times in an article by Edmund Bosworth on December 12, and has become the single most important motif in Western media representations of Islam. Leaving aside the fact that according to Fazlur Rahman, “among the later Muslim legal schools … it is only the fanatic Kharijites who have declared jihad to be one of the ‘pillars of the Faith,’ ” Bosworth goes on indiscriminately to adduce a great deal of historical “evidence” to support the theory that all political activity for a period of about twelve hundred years in an area that includes Turkey, Iran, Sudan, Ethiopia, Spain, and India can be understood as emanating from the Muslim call for a jihad.”’ [End of Quote]
Not only the Kharijites have jihad as one of their pillars. The Twelver Shia and the Ismailis have jihad as one of their pillars. See this Wikipedia-article:
And both the Sunni and the Shia theologies recognize the principle that Muslims should fight the infidels until the infidels are subdued (which is what jihad means), not only the Kharijites.
Edward Said doesn’t understand Islamic theology.