Two new books arrived in my mail this morning. One I had purchased, the other was a gift.
Having skimmed a few pages of each I am already well pleased with my new acquisitions. Stephanie Fisher once commented on one of these, Muslim Secular Democracy, edited by Lily Zubaidah Rahim, and that has only just been released:
It seems to me, from the interview, your summary and the blurb on Amazon, that what she claims is beyond refute. It’s historically demonstratable and what I once thought was commonly understood. I do wish those who dismiss Islam with assumptions about a ‘heart’ etc, would honestly read a bit of history. The more I dwell on it the more convinced I am that this book, combined with Espositos must be read for the sake of a future – for god’s sake world, read them and understand….:
Stephanie’s remarks about reading and knowing a little history turn out to be a most pertinent message of both my new books.
Another commenter recently asserted, in effect, that the failure of Muslim populations of the Middle East to change their governments demonstrated that they loved oppressive and dark religious authoritarian rule more than freedom and an open society. I wish such readers could have a look over my shoulder as I read the first page of the introduction to Muslim Secular Societies:
In the wake of the political sandstorms unleashed by the “Arab Uprisings,” almost every Arab state faces serious political challenges and pressures to reform. Authoritarian governance, both Islamic and secular, has been resoundingly rejected by the Muslim masses. Also resoundingly rejected by the Muslim masses are the violent methods of militant Islamists. (p. 1)
Turn the page and we read this: Continue reading “Two New Books: On Suicide Bombing & Muslim Secular Democracy”
One of the most influential publications of the twentieth century was Orientalism [link is to the Wikipedia article on the book] by Palestinian born American scholar Edward Said. The book has been translated into 36 languages and said to have revolutionized Middle Eastern studies in the U.S. Naturally, as with any major revolutionary work that challenges conventional ways of thinking, it has had its critics. I single out here some of Said’s commentary on Western attitudes towards Islam that I believe stand as valid today as they were when first published in 1978 and expanded in 1994. My own comments are in blue italics.
The principle dogmas of Orientalism:
- The absolute and systematic difference between the West, which is rational, developed, humane, superior, and the Orient, which is aberrant, underdeveloped, inferior.
- Abstractions about the Orient, particularly those based on texts representing a “classical” Oriental civilization, are always preferable to direct evidence drawn from modern Oriental realities.
- The Orient is eternal, uniform, and incapable of defining itself, therefore it is assumed that a highly generalized and systematic vocabulary for describing the Orient from a Western standpoint is inevitable and even scientifically “objective.”
- The Orient is at bottom something either to be feared (the Yellow Peril, the Mongol hordes, the brown dominion) or to be controlled (by pacification, research and development, outright occupation whenever possible).
Every one of those dogmas has come through loud and clear in the the writings of Sam Harris, Jerry Coyne and others, as well, of course, in many recent comments on this blog. We do not have to get to know or learn about Muslims from their own writings or history; we only need to pick up the Koran to see our suspicions and fears confirmed.
Islamic Orientalism accordingly believes there are still things such as “an Islamic society, an Arab mind, an Oriental psyche.”
It makes no difference whether we are talking about a situation in Bangladesh or events in Egypt, Palestine, Afghanistan or Bedford. The world is facing a threat from a singular religious belief system that threatens Western civilization.
Every facet of societies in the modern Islamic world is anachronistically interpreted through texts like the Koran. Continue reading “Orientalism, Us, and Islam”