Looking at Islam with blinkers of ignorance and prejudice

ArabNews: Looking at Islam with blinkers of ignorance and prejudice

Well, I read it, and all I can say is, “Huh?” This article does a good job of making a portrait of the Western view of Arabia, but it does absolutely nothing to try to refute any of it.

In fairness, I think that his intended audience is Muslim Arabs, and he may be assuming that what he is showing is patently false, but as a non-Arab reader, it looks to me like he is pulling the old “refute the argument by ridiculing it rather than addressing it” routine.

As Edward Said has said, it is impossible for any researcher or for the Western media to write of Arabs or Islam or even to imagine them outside the preconceived limits set by Western ideas of Arabs. This also represents the new conservatives’ central frame of thinking in the United States — and provides the moral dimension of America’s hegemony and an introduction into the American political decision-making related to this region. These decisions are not made in a vacuum but are instead based on inaccurate decisions on the state of the region, its traditions, habits and culture. The American political mind tends to deal with Arab reality on the basis of inaccurate assumptions — unfortunately however, to too many of the American political decision-makers, these assumptions appear to be facts.

So? Yes, we treat our assumptions as facts. That is the point of an assumption. That doesn’t mean that the assumption isn’t true.

Arab-Islamic culture is one that is incapable of change and innovation. One of the most prominent Orientalists in the US, Gustav von Gronbaum, finds no difficulty in portraying Islam as anti-humanity and unable to change or gain self-knowledge or objectivity. He says, “It is essential to realize that Islamic civilization as an entity does not share our principal aspirations. It is unconcerned with studying the cultures of others as an end in itself or as a means to an improved understanding of their natures and history. If this were true of modern Islam, one might link it to Islam’s turbulence which does not allow it to look further than itself unless forced to do so; this, however, goes back to the past and one may link it to the anti-human tendency of this civilization.”

This sort of fundamentalist and racist thinking, based on the myth of the existence of an outright contradiction between two opposites that have no common denominator, has affected ideas on Arab and Islamic societies. Therefore, many modern Western researchers are comfortable recycling this train of thought with the aim of proving the imaginary and politicized contradiction between what they think is fundamental in their personal identity and what is fundamental in Arab-Islamic culture.

First, this isn’t racist. Racist is a scare word that is again being used improperly. At best, it is ethnic bigotry, but our author does nothing to refute this assumption. Exactly how has the Arab world tried to enter the twentieth century (never mind the twenty-first) other than supporting Nazis, drilling oil, and driving Benz’s?

P.J. Valikiotis does not hesitate to presume that the contradictions between Western and Arab civilization are sharp and eternal. Judith Miller does not hesitate to assume that Islam is incompatible with human rights. Daniel Pipes uses the term “fundamentalist Islam” and “Islam” interchangeably. He also makes a comparison between “fundamentalist Islam” on the one hand and communism and fascism on the other. He says: “While fundamentalist Islam differs in its details from the utopian ideology, it is very similar in both scope and aims. Like communism and fascism, it portrays a pioneering ideology and a comprehensive program for human betterment and for building a new society and dominating it completely and setting up cadres ready and eager for bloodshed.”

Pipes is wrong how?

Unconsciously people become prisoners because the trap they fall into is an ideological one rather than a physical one. They believe that they are thinking and acting and writing on the basis of the objective realities of Arab and Islamic societies when in fact they are thinking, acting and writing based on their view or understanding or imagination of those societies.

Sometimes, on the other hand, people consciously try to use moral relativism that they would never dream of applying to Arab society on the relationship between Arabia and the West. Moral relativism is deplorable, and most deplorable when coming from a society that practices the absolute moralism of Islam. I have no problem with absolute morality; hipocracy disgusts me.

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