Western Views of ISIS Created Using Orientalist Tactics (RELS 348)

Ever since Said published his book Orientalism, the term has implied that Orientalists purposely placed the western nations in a superior status to the Oriental countries. Orientalists did this by playing up the differences between the two. In his book For Lust of Knowing: The Orientalists and their Enemies Robert Irwin spends a great deal of time arguing that the Orientalists were not purposely placing themselves as superior to Asia and India, but in many cases dating as far back as Aeschylus in Ancient Greece, were often trying to understand other cultures, at least as well as any outsider can. Irwin also claims that instead of purposely playing up the differences between Eastern and Western cultures to prove Western superiority they often did so to show Western weaknesses. Regardless of whether or not the Orientalists were attempting to make the West seem superior does not change the fact that they made their point by manipulating the way the given information portrayed the situation.

This is still being done today, such as discussions of ISIS. ISIS is an extremist Islamic group, for the purpose of this argument let us place the outsider to the average Western individual (ISIS) in the role of the Orient. With this lens let us view the article by Stewart Bell titled “ISIS spokesman calls for more Ottawa-style attacks in Canada, warning ‘what lies ahead will be worse’” published in the National Post. Bell starts by stating that ISIS is calling for more violence in Western countries, using an audio file released Monday. The article then stated that the most severe threat is people whom wereformerly trained by Al-Qaeda and that Canada is going to attempt to pass a new counter-terrorism bill that will stop terrorists from travelling and recruiting. The portion that most interested me was the conclusion. In this section Bell gives some general stats about the ISIS movement. He states that there are estimated 20 000 foreign fighters currently involved with ISIS and about 100 are Canadian. He then proceeds to compare this to the 2 500 Saudis and 3 000 Tsanisans who are involved in the conflict. First off the comparison is between one Western country, who has a relatively low stat to two non-Western countries with relatively high stats. These statistics are immediately followed some death statistics. The article ends with a description of all the Western nations have done to foil ISIS. Some arrests are detailed and it is stated that few followers have been found in Canada because the Muslim leaders here oppose violence. The final sentence talks about the man who voiced the message. This firmly sets up that Canada is superior (ISIS is not getting many followers from us) unlike the other non-Western nations. Also the Canadians whom are joining ISIS are being stopped (through arrests and deaths). Finally the man behind this message of increased violence, has been given a high-priority status for who needs to be stopped next. The information is being presented in such a way allows Canadians to feel safe. The motive is not important to this post. What is crucial is the fact that just like Orientalists manipulated the information present to create a view of the Orient, people today do the same to paint a specific picture of groups like ISIS.

If you the reader are interested in the current situation with ISIS here are some more links you can peruse.





-KV 348



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