Term Paper: Religion and Politics Uses

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[. . .] Since the study of the relationship between contemporary efforts to formulate Islamic rights provisions and their counterparts in contemporary international human rights law is a proper and even conventional topic in the field of comparative legal history, one would not expect that researching and commenting on it would be like stepping into an ideological minefield. In actuality, one discovers that the mere project of undertaking a critical assessment of Islamic approaches to rights will be widely denounced as a venture necessarily motivated by ethnocentric biases and designed to promote political objectives associated with Orientalism and Western imperialism." (Mayer, 1999)

Whenever the east has attempted to portray itself as strong, the west through orientalism has squashed the efforts. "Crude dualism appears necessary for constructing the positive image of Asia as morally superior, politically stable, committed to common cause and economically viable. It is perhaps this new self-identity in the form of occidentalism, or self orientalism one could say, promoted by some Asian leaders and establishment intellectuals that baffles us the most." (Bruun, 2000)

Orientalism has consistently included the familiar notation: The Arab states have an overemphasis on religion as a social force, they ignore class conflict, the west only sees a fragmented sects and tribes, and the west's knowledge legitimizes it dominance over the Arabs. "Western specialists in the Muslim world and Islam are predisposed to attack scholarly projects that appear to be inspired by neocolonialist attitudes and designed to further an effort to rehabilitate the imperialist enterprise retroactively. Their sensibilities in this regard have been exacerbated by the pervasive influence of Edward Said seminal book, Orientalism. In this book Said argued that much of Western scholarship on the Orient, meaning the Islamic Middle East, is not conducted in a spirit of scientific research but is based on a racist assumption of fundamental Western superiority and Oriental inferiority. By positing ineradicable distinctions between the West and the Orient, Orientalist scholarship, in Said's view, obscures the common humanity of people in the West and the Orient and thereby dehumanizes Orientals in a way that serves the goals of Western imperialism." (Mayer, 1999)

Orientalism serves many political ends. The philosophy allowed the west to over the eastern lands and states. "Colonial rule was justified in advance by Orientalism, rather than after the fact." (Said, 1978) Orientalism today has been utilized by the United States in the Middle East and defends what Said calls "the Zionist invasion and colonization of Palestine."(Said, 1978) Orientalism has also helped define Europe's image. "It has less to do with the Orient than it does with 'our' world." (Said, 1978) Orientalism has led to the West to stereotype the Islamic culture as stagnant in time and place which gave Europe a sense of its own cultural superiority. The West consequently sees itself as an influential, creative culture. Orientalism produces a negative description of the Arab and Islamic cultures as though it were even possible to describe these traits. The qualities are seen in steadfastly negative terms.

Orientalism defines the Orient as location that is isolated and therefore removed from the accomplishments of western civilization. But these cultural prejudices do not really exist -- there is no Islamic society, or Oriental psyche. Today, racial profiling on the highways of the United States targets minorities. Those minorities do not really have the assumed negative traits associated with the profiling practice. Orientalism even goes, as far as to state that Islam possessed a unity since the seventh century. The Muslims nations certainly have come further than Orientalism gives them credit for.

Orientalism has many faults. But the systems have been in use in many takeover pollicies like when the United States used orientalism to dupe the Native Americans out of their land and the Africans into slavery. Orientalism shows a tendency to deny, suppress, or distort existing systems of thinking in the target culture to create or maintain a untrue disinterest. This strategy works markedly well.

In conclusion, there have been many uses and abuses in regard to the concept called Orientalism. Orientalism is the consorted efforts of western nations through negative marketing plan like campaigns that ease the western nations into to taking advantage of eastern cultures so that the main objective. The true objectives of the western cultures are to be in a position of imperialistic power so the wealth and resources of the target nation can be exploited. Orientalism is a concept of manipulating the power involved in "presenting" and speaking for or against the Orient. Today, the same system of cultural imperialism is being utilized by nations like the United States against the oil rich Arab nations. The misinformation of Western cultures like the United States have historically presented Islamic laws as a flawed belief structure because the laws were affiliated with what was then considered a false religion. Orientalism is alive and well. Since September 11, we have heard mostly from the media about the Muslim and radical Islamic fundamentalists and their pious dedication to chaos.

After having been exposed to Edward Said's idea of Orientalism, I now realize that I was always aware of the consorted efforts of the white man taking America from the native Indians. Said simply gives it a name -- Orientalism. Western society has attempted narrow my views of Oriental nations, the Muslim and Islamic people of the Middle East and any minority that may have a resource that is needed.

But, the preconceived notion that Americans have of the Middle East region is most likely a media driven stereotype that most likely may not be true.

References

Afzal-Khan, Fawzia (1993). Cultural Imperialism and the Indo-English Novel: Genre and Ideology in R.K. Narayan, Anita Desai, Kamala Markandaya, and Salman Rushdie. University Park, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press.

Arac, Jonathan, & Harriet, Ritvo (1995). Macropolitics of Nineteenth-Century Literature: Nationalism, Exoticism, Imperialism. Durham and London: Duke University Press.

Barlow, Tani E. (1997). Formations of Colonial Modernity in East Asia. Durham & London: Duke University Press.

Bruun, Ole (2000). Human Rights and Asian Values: Contesting National Identities and Cultural Representations in Asia. Curzon: Richmond, England.

Esposito, John L. (1983). Voices of Resurgent Islam. New York: Oxford University Press.

Falk, Richard, Kim, Samuel L., & Mendlovitz, Saul S. (1982). Toward a Just World Order. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press.

Huband, Mark (1998). Warriors of the Prophet: The Struggle for Islam. Boulder, CO.: Westview Press.

Kopf, David (1969). British Orientalism and the Bengal Renaissance: The Dynamics of Indian Modernization, 1773-1835. University Of California Press: Berkeley and Los Angeles.

Kurzman, Charles (1998). Liberal Islam: A Source Book. New York: Oxford University Press.

Lodge, David Hank (1999). Modern Criticism and Theory: A Reader. London: Pearson Education.

Mani, Laura, & Frankenberg, Ruth (1985). The Challenge of Orientalism. Economy and Society. Vol. 14 (No. 2).

Mayer, Ann Elizabeth (1999). Islam and Human Rights: Tradition and Politics. Boulder and San Francisco: Westview Press.

Nafissi, Mohammad R. (1998). Reframing Orientalism: Weber and Islam. Economy and Society, Vol. 27 (No. 1), 97-118.

Paxton, Nancy L. (1999). Writing under the Raj: Gender, Race, and Rape in the British Colonial Imagination, 1830-1947. New Brunswick, New Jersey, and London: Rutgers University Press.

Rajan, Balachandra (1999). Under Western Eyes: India from Milton to Macaulay. Durham & London: Duke University Press.

Rajan, Gita, & Mohanram, Radhika (1995). Postcolonial Discourse and Changing Cultural Contexts: Theory and Criticism. Westport, Connecticut & London: Greenwood Press.

Said, Edward W. (1978). Orientalism. New York: Pantheon Books.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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