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Orientalism, Edward Said, the Works

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#16 [Permalink] Posted on 18th November 2017 08:09
Bismillah
Alhamdulillah your posts show tremendous effort from your part and at least in my perspective and I hope one day I start writing something with Allah's SWT help.
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#17 [Permalink] Posted on 16th November 2018 07:20
A few days earlier I once again read through Edward Said's 1995 Afterword to his famous, seminal and path breaking book Orientalism.

This time it made me sad. The afterword is absolutely on the same level as the original book but his clarifications left me in slighly cold weather.

But that was just as well. Said was saying that his intention was not to write an anti-west book and nor the book is anti-west. Plus he was not making a case for Islam as many Muslim readers took it to be. This one I am familiar with. On facebook Muslims after Muslims flock to any writer writing even a single post critical of Saffron. What is more they, the Muslims, assume that the writer is making a case for Islam while such thoughts are nowhere near his or her mind.

So why should it leave me in the cold. The matter of fact is that on these accounts this is how the things should have been. Said was a Palestinian Christian and he delineated the contours of orientalism and that was all. To defend Islam is a task that can best be done by the Muslims and that should be done by the Muslims.

What left me in cold was that in is pursuit of nuance said completely absolves the west of any wrong doing. Now that does not match with the perspective that I feel is more closer to reality.
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#18 [Permalink] Posted on 2nd July 2019 10:04
S. Ameer Ali, Ali Mian, Edward Said, John L. Esposito, Mahmood Mamdani, AG Noorani, Pankaj Mishra


S. Ameer Ali wrote a book called the Spirit of Islam. It summarizes glorious past contributions of Islam and Muslims to the world civilization. The book is by now one and a quarter of a century old.

Has the world accepted that Islam is glorious religion and the all that the western civilization has contributed owes an overwhelming debt to Islam and Muslims? No. What went wrong? We may go into the details later on. For the time being let us move on.

The west tried to create an image of Islam as a negative ideology and a destructive force. The onslaught was extremely devastating.

Then in early fifties of last century Ali Mian RA wrote a book called the Effect on World of Decline of Muslims. And many a Muslims came out of that depression that was inflicted upon them by the west.

Then in 1978 Edward Said wrote a book called the Orienlaism. In a single book he mercilessly destroyed the west's skewed view of the orient. The west made some cosmetic changes in the syllabi of the universities and got busy with life as usual.

Then Mahmood Mamdani wrote a book called Good Muslim, Bad Muslim. West did take a notice that this was a timely, remarkable and very pertinent book and then went back to its usual ways, as if the book was not even published.

Then there is John L. Esposito who has been routinely observing Muslim related political developments and commenting and writing books in a very mundane style. What did the west do? They bestowed upon him the title of the person who is justifying terrorism.

Then AG Noorani wtote a very slim monograph called Islam and Jihad putting the things in perspective. What did the west do? Well they simply did not notice a 96 pages book published by LeftWord Books in an oriental country called India.

Then there is Pankaj Mishra who surprised the world by his books like the Age of Anger. The west has taken a little note and he is being hailed as a successor of Edward Said.

Phew....a lot of work and just a ripple.
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#19 [Permalink] Posted on 8th July 2019 10:12
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#20 [Permalink] Posted on 10th July 2019 08:35
My Old Notes on the Book Orientalism by Edward Said : Part 1


November 6, 2011


Orientalism, Edward W. Said, Second Printing 1995, Penguin India

(1) There is an Afterword to this printing written in 1995. Original book : 1977, published in 1978. For such monumental work the world must be ready to wait for one year before the word reached the intended audience.

(2) For a significant portion of the topic that Said calls Orientalism there was already a lot of literature by very well known scholars for quite some time. The works of Muir, Margoliaouth, Watt and others were punctured long back by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, Allama Shibli Nomani, Syed Sulaiman Nadvi and others.

Said indeed took the subject matter to a new level and a dispassionate discourse. Plus he said the things in Englsih while the Muslim writers were mostly writing in Urdu.

In 1982 there was a workshop conducted by the Dar-ul-Musannifeen in Azamgarh, UP, India in which there was a detailed discussion on the topic. Subsequently the Shibli Academy (the current name for Dar-ul-Musannifeen) published eight volumes of the proceedings.

(3) This reminds us that the work of the Urdu writers should reach the English audience as soon as it can.

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#21 [Permalink] Posted on 30th July 2019 09:40
Gigantic Troubles of Muslim Ummah


Once Rasoolallah SAW left this world the Muslim Ummah faced several gigantic problems, the problems that threatened the very existence of the religion of Islam.

Islam's initial troubles, mostly in the life of Rasoolallah SAW, were from the Jewish people and Pagans. The Christians as opponents came much later. The biggest threat they posed were the Crusades that continued for about a couple of centuries. By the Grace of Allah SWT Muslim Ummah dealt with these very effectively and decisively. So much so the Chistian world has still not forgiven Islam and Muslim for upsetting their apple-cart.

Second life threatening trouble for Islam and Muslims came from the Mangols when the hordes of Chenghis Khan and Halaku Khan sacked Baghdad and raved the Muslim lands from Central Asia to the African Continent for thirty years. If Islam and Muslims survived from the barbaric hordes the it was purely a Grace of Allah SWT.

Third gigantic successful push against Islam and Muslims was by the Queen Isabella and Kind Ferdinand of Spain that expelled the Moorish Muslims from the Iberian peninsula. This was not a calamity for the whole Ummah but it was a big event of considerable setback for Islam and Muslims. This can be combined with the expulsion of Muslims from the areas of Europe.

But the Europe was not done with Islam and Muslims. A few centuries later the Crusaders did come out again and this operation lasted for a few more centuries, in the form of colonialism, and still continues as the so called post-colonial order. This was not decimation of Islam but subjugation of Muslims and a period in which excelled itself in maligning, defaming, denigrating, trivializing and otherwise slapping the changes of impostering against the Prophet of Islam (SAW) and declaring Islam as a fake ideology.


It is the ideological formulation behind colonialism that Edward Said focussed upon in his book called Orientalism - the main topic of this thread.

PS: I forgot to include the US devastation of Muslim countries in above analysis.
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#22 [Permalink] Posted on 13th October 2019 16:36
Taking Up the Bits Again


(1) By far this thread is among the most difficult ones that I have dealt with.

(2) I was reading EM Forster's A Passage to India. It was a difficult book. Then it has Penguin's promotions for other books including Joseph Conrad's Lord Jim. I was fascinated by the theme. I had found it extremely difficult to deal with the issues of the kind that was behind the story of that book.

(3) So I got the book from our university library - Maulana Azad Library. And I forced myself to read it. It was difficult to read and and I understood practically nothing.

(4) I felt just like I used to feel when I just started reading English books. The story was absolutely obtuse, I mean the narrative.

(5) Then there was some one called Edward Said from the US, whom we came to hear about after the 9/11 attacks on the US. He specialized in Joseph Conrad!

(6) Clearly a man who could decipher Conrad had some higher abilities. I was impressed earlier and I do remain impressed by not only the analytical abilities that Edward Said possessed but more than that his ability to smell the attitudes that are missed by the majority of the readers.

(7) And he, Edward Said, was a man of literary criticism and a professor comparative literature.

(8) This is the field in which the indirect and more authentic history of western attitudes to the east in general and Islam and Muslims in particular are hidden.

(9) And he laid these attitudes bare before the world in a very painstaking process that must also have been excruciating.

(10) He did his bit and the west understood but the east did not.

(11) West took hurried measures to make the cosmetic amends and then has moved on because the east, the orient did not go to them to discuss the matter.

(12) That the east, the orient did not understand is clear from a few episodes that I enumerate below.

(13) Shashi Tharoor took the British to task over British colonialism of India in a widely circulated video that recorded the Oxford Union debate where Shashi Tharoor presented his thesis.

(14) There was hardly anything new, except for some numbers, in Mr Tharoor's presentation and yet it made waves from Oxford to New Delhi. Indian Prime Minister praised Mr Tharoor (I think that was in the Parliament itself) and Mr Tharoor soon brought out a book on that. We must appreciate this exception made by Indian PM for an MP from the Congress.

(15) No Muslim makes that effective use of Edward Said's findings. Why? My obvious guess is that they simply have not understood what Mr Said wrote.

(16) AG Noorani has quoted from that book, Edward Said's Orientalism, in his brief monograph called Islam and G!h@d, but the quotation does not capture the any significant part of the details of Said's thesis. The quote is about Said's remark about HAR Gibb's article on Arab Literature in a famous book, a collection of articles by worthies of Britain on the Legacy of Islam.

(17) Mr Noorani can be counted among the most erudite scholars on constitutional history of India and if his penetration into Said's thesis is so superficial than one can imagine the state of affairs for others. On my part I have been filtering literature on orientalism for more than a decade and I have got precious little on Said's book by Indian Muslims.

(18) I was talking to a professor of my own university on the issue and he told me that Culture and Imperialism is Said's more significant book. I am not sure whether he has read even this book - let alone fathoming its subject matter.

(19) The Wikipedia article on Orientalism is very extensive and that too leaves me hanging in the balance whenit comes to the real meaning and implication of the thesis.

(20) I have been reading the book for more than a decade and every time I read it I can see that I am opening up a few more layers than the last time and I am completely sure that I have not still reached the core yet.

(21) To uncover the different layers is one thing and to express it in simpler words is quite a different thing. That is why my input to this thread is not so regular and frequent.
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#23 [Permalink] Posted on 13th October 2019 16:48
Colonialism is not a phenomenon from the past but an ongoing event impacting the lives of the people right now.
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#24 [Permalink] Posted on 13th October 2019 17:17
My Thoughts Today on Said's Orientalism


(1) Some of the points might/will be repetition of what I have said earlier.

(2) One can delineate 17 Sections in the book. There are three chapters with four Sections each. The Introduction too has three Sections. The 1995 edition has an extensive afterword that deals with the reactions to the book. Among the reactions the most nasty one was of the book being anti-west. I shall call the rejoinder to that calumny as one Section. and the rest of the afterword as another Section - though the book does not contain any division.

(3) The First Section of the Introduction, and the introduction is not labelled as a separate Chapter, deals with the definitions of the central concept of Orientalism.

(4) He gives several definitions and all of them are reasonable and simultaneously valid and he uses them all in the book.

(5) One of the definitions is that Orientalism is the academic discipline of studying the orient. And this is not the central concept for the book.

(6) Section two of the Introduction deals with the problem of how to approach the subject matter. I shall deal with this in a few points.

(7) The subject matter is huge. It deals with several centuries of east-west relations. The geography that is relevant is extremely vast. The themes and mechanisms and discourses are very large.

(8) The approach used by him is not to collect a large number of facts in a book.

(9) Then there is the problem of micro vs macro approaches. The micro approach gets lost in details and does not give overall contours of the problem.

(10) The macro approach will always be superficial because it can not get to the details that affect the people.

(11) The there is the question of the vastness of the sources used by him. He had to leave out more sources than he used.

(12) Yet his argument does not depend upon the large number of sources or a select set of sources.

(14) The micro-macro conundrum is broken by bringing in personal experience.

(15) The intensive-extensive use of sources dichotomy is broken by using historical generalization.

(16) Section three of the Introduction brings in the personal dimension.

(17) Chapter one is about Scope of Orientalism.

(18) He draws three circles to cover the scope in different directions - temporal, historical and cultural.

(19) Chapter 2 is about Orientalism Structures and Restructures. The description in this case is temporal and it deals with the dynamics of the ideas and dynamics used by the poets, writers and historians. Lt us not forget that he extracts the historical truth from western attitudes embedded in the literature.

(20) Chapter 3 is about Orientalism today and it covers the rapid growth phase of colonialism from 1970 till today. The last Section in this Chapter is about the switch from British and French Orientalism to American Orientalism.

(21) Early in the book he defines political and apolitical knowledge. Former is the one where things involved have emotional implications while latter one is the one where the topic is purely academic.

(22) Since he is aware of the implications of the political knowledge is very consciously employs nuances to analyze the issues to avoid emotional pitfalls.

(23) The mighty technicality of the end product is due to large scope in three dimensions mentioned above, very painstaking effort to steer clear of emotional pitfalls and he subtle nature of the evidence collected by him.


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#25 [Permalink] Posted on 25th October 2019 08:09
Introduction - Part I : Definitions of Orientalism


As must be clear by now Edward said gives his definitions, mark the plural, of Orientalism in this Section.

There are at least three different definitions that he uses. These are (1) Imaginative, (2) Academic and the (3) Administrative.

The Imaginative definition is the We-vs-They division devised by the western people when they came to colonize the east, the Orient.

Academic definition consists of orientalism as the plain academic field.

The Administrative definition is the operative definition in which the west has institutions to deal with the reality called the Orient.

Of course there are overlaps and cross-overs and switching from one definition to another in the discussion.

He concludes this Section with the remark that there is a generous corpus of literature that he has used for his argument but the corpus that he has left out is even more.

And he says that his argument is not based on selective set of references or extensive literature.

His argument is based on a different technique that he calls historical generalizations.

What are these historical generalizations?

Now that is the subject matter of the next Section.

Thus the present Section could be titled : Definitions.

Possible Title for the next Section could be : Historical Generalizations.

Incidentally one historical generalization can be mentioned here itself - the west dividing the world into Orient and Occident, geographically, imaginatively.

Somewhere he says that just because the west makes this imaginative construct called the Orient it does not mean that there is no corresponding ground reality to it. It is there. There exists some ground reality on the basis of which the west constructs the imaginative world of Orient.

In the process of creating the Orient the west also ends up defining itself - this is the process of defining the self by defining the other.

Q: Where does Foucault come into picture because his name is mentioned in this Section?
A: Orientalism is not mere an idea, idea of Orient in the Occidental imagination. It is a whole discourse. This is where Foucault's construction becomes handy.

Q: But we do not know this social theory of discourse, do we need an extensive background in western social theories to understand Edward Said's Orientalism?
A: A discourse is a bit more complex construction than a simple idea, it involves several ideas and some dynamics. part of the difficulty in understanding Said's point of view consists of the fact that he musters a lots of ideas, dynamics and discourse. So it certainly will help if the reader has an idea of what a discourse is but in the beginning it is sufficient to think of a Foucault Discourse as a collection of ideas working together with some dynamics.

***

Remark : Those who accuse Said of using obtuse vocabulary and comprehensiveness can be taken to task for not having sufficient background to appreciate him.
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#26 [Permalink] Posted on 29th October 2019 15:31
My Constant Fear


I am not the first one to talk of western perfidy.

Nor was Edward Said to do so.

Muslims had realized this trick long back, much before Edward Said did his path breaking work that was published in 1978.

The Muslims who saw through the western trickery include Sir Syed himself, Maulana Shibli Nomani and many more.

In fact the Ulama of Saharanpur already ran a campaign against the British. And they kept it up in one way or other till 1947.

And then there were the Muslims who took to armed struggle against the western deception, lie and subterfuge.

There were ideological motivators behind them. It is difficult to talk about them with names.

This is the third group of Muslims who took up the cudgels with the west.

The first set : Academicians against orientalism - Sir Syed, Shibli Nomani

Fighters Against Western Imperialism/Colonialism : Shamli 1857, Silken Letters Movement, Government in Exile in Afghanistan, Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Hind

Third Set : Four waves of Muslims struggling and their ideological mentors.

Fourth Set : Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan's United Nations General assembly Speech.

Q: Where does the present analysis fit in this analysis?
A: We are talking about the implications of Edward Said's analysis in his book Orientalism. This should be much more thorough version of what people like Sir Syed and Shibli Nomani were trying to do.


Q: What are the dangers involved in this analysis?
A: When Dr Zakir Naik presented Islam to the majority community in India, the Hindus, the society here took a long time to react to it. The reaction came from the Congress government lead by Dr Manmohan Singh and has been carried out to its logical conclusion by the present BJP government where the authorities have tried to discredit Dr Naik by bringing up very flimsy logic and very obviously trumped up charges against him.

Thus when the authorities do not have a legal case even then charges can be cooked up and serious trouble created for Muslims.

Same is true at the global level. One of the charges against Edward Said's book was that it is anti-west. said himself admitted that this charge was most difficult to answer.

Hence if try to make any case against the west using Said's book then the most probably western reaction will be to give up all logic and react in a very reflexive manner for the case that Edward said has made is something that the reviewers have called not only persuasive but conclusive. Thus there will not be any logical argument against it and anything that we do with his, Edward Said's, thesis.

Hence the western reaction is expected to be arbitrary, high handed.

In particular extreme care has to be exercised to separate this narrative from what the west has been pedaling - the t-word.

This can be done. That is precisely what Shashi Tharoor did.
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#27 [Permalink] Posted on 29th October 2019 15:39
They Know


Here is an editorial in the Indian newspaper that is left leaning - the Hindu.

The editorial is about the killing of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.

The sub-heading of the editorial is the curious one - the conditions that gave rise to the Islamic State still remain .

In the main text of the editorial the author does not tell us anything more but above sub-heading is sufficient for us.

For the first time some one is admitting that there were causes behind the creation of this Islamic State. Normally the west, including the US, does not admit that they have engendered these organizations.

Of course the editorial is neither from a western country, not the US at all. It is Indian but it is a sad commentary on the present state of affairs concerning Muslims that Indian opinion makers, including the seculars, have adopted the western view completely uncritically.

I hope Muslim commentators on current affairs pick up this small clue in this editorial and make the best of it.
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#28 [Permalink] Posted on 31st October 2019 12:41
A: A surgeon, (Aiman Al-Jawahiri) an engineer (OBL) and a PhD (Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi) - education does not solve the problem of Islamic terrorism.
BC : It’s Quran and Islam boss. That religion need to go through reinvention to become tolerant. It’s the most intolerant religion.
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