More from RELS 348: Empire, Colonialism, and Religion

Yerlikaya’s article “From Orientalism to Islamophobia” describes Edward Said’s concept of orientalism in brief relation to Islamophobia, a more modern conceptualization derived from the inherited notion that the western world discriminates against the Middle East, Islam in particular. The author starts by briefly defining orientalism as a belief or idea the West has when thinking of or speaking about the East. Accordingly, it is the predisposed idea of this mysterious eastern world that the West used to supress a variety of cultural denominations by putting ‘the east’ on a separate and exotic pedestal to be distinguished as abnormal or foreign. Thus, the term orientalism paradoxically describes the very beginnings of imperialism and the unfortunate brand it has left on the skins of both of the eastern and western worlds.

The author moves on to discuss Islamophobia and how it is generally viewed as a modern concept derived from the 9/11 attacks. He then refutes this misconceived notion towards Islam by explaining that the origins actually stem from as far back as the Middle Ages. The Christian Crusades were brutal discriminatory excursions where many Muslim`s were forced into exile so the Christians could `reclaim` the holy land that is Islam, the land of Jesus Christ. These crusades can be viewed as the very beginning of discriminatory discourse against the Jewish and Islamic peoples of the Middle East, leading to the idea of foreigners and continuing the long cycle of discrimination using Middle East war propaganda, before and after the attacks of 9/11.

The Westerners used this bizarre portrayal of the East as a strategic colonization tool so it made their efforts appear more acceptable and now centuries later postcolonial studies examine the after-effects of such demeaning tactics used by the West and are able to show that a stereotype of this magnitude has definitely carried forward. The 2014 released movie “American Sniper“ is a prime example of this display of hatred whether or not its purpose was for pure entertainment in the end this movie displayed the common West vs East predicament with little mention of the Eastern views other than the assumption that these were insane rebels out to wreak havoc for no apparent reason. Granted it was the all-American war story which is an important composition in the West, but if anyone is going to reverse this prejudiced view of the East it will start with the media, which as stated in the article has allowed this imaginary category that is the East to continue. Rather than releasing a dominating war propaganda film showing the intimate factors of war from only one side no less during a current devastating crisis in the Middle East, the media should strive to eliminate such one-sided views and work towards a more collaborative approach, at least until some of this hatred is reversed and the West gains some respect from the opponents they seemingly created so long ago.


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