Thursday, September 2, 2010

A Little Orientalism going on..

There are some wacky news stories that abound right now especially with regards toward Islam, but nothing seems to be as disconcerting as the way President Obama is seen in poll after poll as either a "closet" Muslim or at the very least a Muslim sympathizer. Again, this is ideology at its purest. Obama can firmly state time after time that he is a Christian, yet this is just another proof in the insanity that is in some perceptions of people who just frankly dislike him that he is a closet Muslim.

I noticed the same trend in those Muslim reformist (like Ramadan) working in the West who openly criticize radical, fundamentalist Islam. They are still often criticized by their foes in the West for being covert or closet radicals just waiting to push Sharia law upon their unsuspecting victims! How does anyone win when no matter what you say you are painted as a radical!?

Again, I refer to Edward Said and his work on Orientalism. There are plenty of generalizations that Said forces in his book that one can disagree with, yet I think Said is correct that we see the Orientalist view in the way certain Muslims are perceived by the West especially in the media. The above example works best. The argument goes that Arabs/Muslims are duplicitous and sneaky, so they may say you are their friend but they are just waiting for the opportunity to stab you in the back! Following this line of reasoning then how can you have an open debate or discourse with Muslims, Palestinians, or any other group seen as "Eastern"? Now the proper response is to sarcastically note that of course those in the West are always people of their word. A long history of broken treaties and useless wars beg to differ. This is ironic because one point that Ramadan makes in his works is that a good Muslim always honors contracts.

The main point again that Said is correct on is to actually get away from binary thought (there is really no such entity as an East or a West, or a Christianity or an Islam). We need to use the best of public reason to see the multiplicities that make up certain identities and join up with those that are good and attack those that are in fact bad. This can only happen when the best tools that modernity gave us is used in a critical way on all traditions whether they are political, social or religious...

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