The debate about Islam hardly stops among intellectuals in France until it is renewed once again, and the cultural and political mixes in a heated debate that did not exclude even French President Emmanuel Macron, whose speech in western Paris sparked a wave of critical comments.
Macron said that Islam today is experiencing a crisis everywhere in the world, and that France must confront what he described as Islamic isolationism that seeks to establish a parallel system and deny the French Republic.
Commentators on social media circulated critical reactions to Macron’s statements, and Palestinian historian Bashir Nafie wrote, “What Macron does not want to admit is that the French state is in crisis, not only because it refuses to be cleansed from the blood that it has shed on millions of Algerians and Africans, but also because it does not. It can break free from its imperialist tendency. “
Macron says, “Islam is a religion that lives in a crisis in today’s world.” What Macron does not want to admit is that the French state is the one experiencing the crisis, not only because it refuses to be cleansed from the blood that it shed for millions of Algerians and Africans, but also because it cannot free itself from its tendency. Imperialism.
– Basheer Nafi بشيرنافع (@BasheerNafi) October 2, 2020
Commentators have linked the statements of the French president to political stances critical of Islam described as “Orientalist”, a term that was explained by the late Palestinian-American thinker Edward Said in his book issued four decades ago entitled “Orientalism.”
Orientalist knowledge and politics
In his next book “Covering Islam”, Saeed recorded the reductionist nature of Orientalism studies and its production, and how it turned into “regional” studies, and the efforts of serious or promising researchers were exhausted to eventually become “area experts”, who would be recruited into Western intelligence, diplomacy and militarism circles.
In the book, he revealed the relationship of Western studies about the East to power and political tendencies, and the large investments that were allocated to it, and how Orientalism became an ideological doctrine – with a political background – that produced an image of the other (the East) with an authoritarian desire of colonial control.
And he showed how that doctrine affected the formation of Western consciousness, and created a bad impression for the Western recipient about the East, and a negative view full of intolerance against Arabs and Islam.
Contrary to what some believed, Edward Said did not take the position of defense in his book, but rather the position of the critic who reveals the error of the West in his approach and vision of the East, and proposed a new approach that contributes to bridging the gap between East and West, by respecting cultural pluralism, and linking knowledge with humanism instead of ideological authoritarianism. .
Saeed considered that “Orientalism” has formed since the end of the 18th century a Western method for controlling the East, stressing that the study of the East by Westerners is a biased study driven by colonial purposes, pre-existing views, and an inferior view of the peoples of the East, no matter how scientific and objective they try to appear.
However, Saeed – who died of cancer on September 25, 2003 – did not witness all the post-classical transformations of European Orientalism, especially after Arabs and Islam were no longer covered by the attempt to know and understand, but rather by hatred, hatred and hatred, according to Hamid Dabashi, author of the book “After Orientalism:” Knowledge and power in a time of terror. “
The New Orientalism
In his book entitled “Islamophobia: How does the new Orientalism portray Arabs and Muslims?”, Jordanian researcher and writer Fakhri Salih introduces Western discourse through examples from writers such as Adib Nobel Vidyar Surajprasad, and the two most famous American names in Islamic world studies Bernard Lewis and Samuel Huntington.
Saleh considers that these writers and their ilk are the result of the Western strategic need to build a new enemy, and it is an ideological picture, not scientific or objective.
Saleh looks at the different circumstance, context and contemporary moment that contributed to the transformations of Orientalism, and became serving the purposes of the survival of the one pole, represented by the American empire that works to consolidate its political and economic hegemony and control around the world.
Thus the new Orientalism appears devoid of theoretical knowledge and real literary studies, but rather focuses on the strategic interests of the empire. The populism and the rise of the right exacerbated the transformation of American Orientalism from the theoretical traditions inherited from the 20th century.
This view appears to be rooted in the new orientalist tradition characterized by sharpness, mixing between extremist violence and criticism of Islam itself, and the new discourse of Orientalism is based on media sources rather than the cognitive, linguistic and literary studies that have been popular since the 18th century in the study of the Middle East.
And as ancient Orientalism and the discourse of Enlightenment and Urbanization were used to justify the colonial era The new Orientalism is being used in the service of the “war on terror”, regardless of the victims and the success of the strategy.