Muslim Occidentalism

Thabet has a great post about Muslim attitudes towards the West.

Western Orientalism and its science of Islamology is a very well-studied and understood phenomenon. Edward Said, above all others, did much to highlight the distorting filters through which some of the most widely read Western scholars of Islam. […]

One would have thought that Muslims, and mostly Western Muslims, would have understood what it means to distort and crudely reduce entire human traditions and cultures into vulgar stereotypes or dismissal of other ideas as pointless and meaningless. Yet Muslims are far too happy to engage in their own form of Occidentalism when engaging with Western traditions.

[…] the discussion moved to ‘liberty’ and Muslim states. I pointed out that they fail miserabley on that aspect; that they do not leave people alone who is not directly harming anyone or causing any great offence. This, I said, was an ideal from Western traditions and Muslims who lived in Western states should appreciate this liberty (give or take the recent fascination with arresting and harassing people). They weren’t about to be arrested everytime they left their front door (or even if they were asleep). The response from one friend was to suggest that my approval of ‘liberty’ was tantamount to advocating ‘binge drinking’. The logic being that because people were free to drink, then they would want to binge drink, and so binge drinking would this become an ‘ideal value’, as it has in Britain. Whatever the flaws of the argument — and the point here isn’t even about binge drinking, which is a massive problem in Britain — this isn’t critical engagement with another tradition or culture, but is the reduction of these traditions into vulgar forms, where the worst aspects are held as the ideals. It is no different to suggesting that the subjegation of women is an ideal of Islam, because far too many Muslims engage in opressive practices against women in the name of Islam (and that do this shouldn’t be denied).

Do read the whole post. It is not too long and definitely worth your time.

By Zack

Dad, gadget guy, bookworm, political animal, global nomad, cyclist, hiker, tennis player, photographer


  1. Interesting, I was just re-reading “The Edward Said Reader” for the third time in order to prepare for a paper I was going to write on this. Although Thabet’s interpretation of Said’s scholarship is very popular, I believe it is fairly crude. In fact, Said himself addresses this kind of crusory reading of his work in the beginning of “Orientalism”.

    The so-called “occidentalism” shares the same problem as the argument of “reverse racism”. Other miniorities can use the underlying logical assumptions of racism and orientalism, i.e. essentialism, but they do not have the power to institutionalize such assumptions.

    Said clearly states that orientalism is not just the essentializing of a wide range of diverse peoples into a monolithic “Orient” or “Middle East”, but that this was done under the guise of “neutral” and “objective” scholarship in order to justify a whole set of assymetric relations and institutions known as colonialism and imperialism.

    Can you really blame some victims of this vicious and on-going system of violence for trying to appropriate what has been imposed on them? Further, what are the implications of blaming them, rather than working to end the current attempts at imperialism and the very real legacies of colonialism (e.g. just about every single modern day nation-state in ‘Africa’ and ‘Asia’)?

  2. Thanks, I see where Thabet is coming from now. Please excuse any overbearing assertiveness on my part. I am just used to constantly defending against Islamophobic and racist attacks.

  3. This is worth viewing. If you can understand Arabic all the better because you will see that the translation is on the mark.

    Al Jazeera television / URGENT SEE BEFORE ITS GONE

    This is remarkable footage.

    Here is a powerful and amazing statement on Al Jazeera television. The woman is Wafa Sultan, an Arab-American psychologist from Los Angeles I would suggest watching it ASAP because there is no way to know how long the link will be active.

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