September 16, 2010

Short Reflections on the Roots of Islamophobia and War on Terror.

In a general atmosphere of bans, cartoons and Holy book burnings, I find it necessary to revert in Time as History is almost always an honest Witness.

One needs not write long essays on this subject, at times (more often than not) a few lines are sufficient.

And these are the lines I shall present today. A quick trip back in Time.

In order to make the travelling more secure (you know, with all these terror threats everywhere), I will use a proven medium of transport - summarized extracts - with my emphasis in bold and in brackets - from a sound, balanced, reputable and brilliant contemporary scholar of Islam - Sayyed Hossein Nasr. With the hope that the "intelligent" reader will take time to ponder on the ongoing historical parallels...

" The study of Islam in the West began in the 10th and 11th centuries. Because this was a time in which Europe was thoroughly Christian, Islam was seen as a Christian heresy, and its founder as an apostate. Soon the imminent threat to Western Christendom from Islam, led many to call the Prophet of Islam the AntiChrist and the Quran itself was translated by order of Peter the Venerable in order to be refuted and rejected as sacred scripture.

The Middle Ages were marked by strong religious oppositions to Islam. Yet it was at this time that the West showed the greatest interest in Islamic thought, including philosophy, the sciences, arts and technology...

The Renaissance perpetuated religious opposition to Islam but also began to show disdain not only for Europe's own medieval past but also for Islamic learnings. Furthermore, the emphasis on Euro-centrism during the Renaissance and the rise of humanitarianism caused many European thinkers to consider people of other civilizations and ethnic groups including Muslims, inferior.

Although Islamic studies were still carried on...they were distorted by a sense of Western superiority and even hubris characteristics that were to continue into the modern period...

The Enlightenment turned against the theological assertions of Christianity and substituted rationalism (as a world view). Moreover, it further developed the idea that there was only one civilization, the Western one and that other civilizations were significant only to the extent of their contribution to Western civilization, which the French Encyclopedia referred to as "La Civilisation "... (par excellence)

During the 19th century, historicism in its absolute sense took the center of the philosophical stage with Hegel who considered all other civilizations stages in the march of the Geist in time leading to the final stage, which was supposedly realized in modern Western History...this was also the period when the exotic image of the Islamic East, with its mysterious casbahs and harems full of nude females (to be replaced by Abu Ghraib pornography) as reflected in 19th century European art (took place)...and  this was also the period when the Romantic movement began, when many minds, tired of the rationalism of the Enlightenment, turned anew to the Middle Ages as well as to seeking meaning beyond the borders of the West...(yet) the manner of studying Islam remained heavily biased, not only as a result of the interests of those powers it was serving, but also through the absolutization of current Western concepts and methodologies, that were applied to Islam with a sense of superiority and hubris going back to the Renaissance definition of the "European man"...(and woman).

Source : Islam - Religion, History and Civilization. Seyyed Hossein Nasr 2002. p.xii-xv.