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A comparison of 19th century Orientalism and the anti-Islam discourse of Medieval Europe

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A comparison of 19th century Orientalism and the anti-Islam discourse of Medieval Europe

Introduction

Despite the salient similarities between Islam and Christianity, the two religions arose from nearly opposite historical circumstances. While both religions grew in popularity over two millennia, they have shown acute skepticism over each other’s beliefs and religious sovereignty thus resulting in religious radicalism on both ends.[1] Islamophobia or anti-Islamism started during the medieval time and is embedded deeply in the western culture. Muslims or people associated with the Islamic religion are still on the receiving end of this prejudice, leading to school of thoughts such as Orientalism, which became popular in the 19th century. This study seeks to compare the medieval anti-Islam discourse to 19th century Orientalism.

Medieval Anti-Islam Discourse and the Anti-Islam Crusades A comparison of 19th century Orientalism and the anti-Islam discourse of Medieval Europe.

Humans tend to associate with people whom they have common features with and

demean those who are not within their core identity group. In the 6th century

AD, Prophet Muhammad of the Islamic culture began to attract people with his new religious concept of Islam, which also means “submission.” His followers naturally disassociated with other established religious groups and this naturally invited resistance. Islam was slowly threatening other religions, such as Christianity by its virtue of being different. According to the Cordoba Foundation, “Within twenty years of the death of Prophet Muhammad, Islamic armies controlled the Middle East and much of North Africa.” After only two more generations the Muslim empire stretched from the Atlantic Ocean to India while the Christian emperors were forced into a rump empire confined to Anatolia and a few provinces west of the Bosporus.”[2]

However, the great Italian Monk, Riccoldo da Monte di Croce instigated an attack on

Islam. In his analogy of the origins of Islam, he terms the religion as the work of Satan, and that God did not choose Muhammad, rather he was sent by Satan to disrupt the righteous paths of his believers. This claim was built upon by the medieval Archbishop William of Tyre who described Muhammad as the “first-born of Satan who seduced the Orient with his pestilent doctrine.”[3] Given the control of the church during the medieval times, Anti-Ismailism became embedded in Western civilization “through theological argument, folklore, art, music, and literature.”[4] This sparked scholarly interest in the issue which was pursued by the German Max Planck Institute.

The study revealed that the flawed concept of Muhammed was so infused into the western culture that it helped fuel violent actions that resulted in the Medieval Crusades. Norman Housley also attributes the crusades to the new Gregorian reforms, whereby the church gave renewed spiritual vigor on the need for purity and righteous Christian lifestyles, as well as, the quest to regain the Holy Land from Muslim rule.[5] Ultimately backed by the Byzantine Empire, the Latin Church restored much of the land. However, as the church divided into other protestant Christian groups, the papal leadership of the Latin Church grew weak, led less successful crusades and inspired unsanctioned piety that reduced anti-Islam extremism.

19th century Orientalism and European Colonialism-A comparison of 19th century Orientalism and the anti-Islam discourse of Medieval Europe.

“Orientalism” is a term that was fortified by Edward Said in his 1978 text by the same

name. In his book, Said examines European imperialism and the notion of

“Orient,” as a way of seeing images and exaggerates of Arabian people.[6] Orientalism revolves around how the Imperialists cultures in Europe and the U.S. see themselves as superior to Arabic cultures. As a result, their self-propertied rationalization brought about European colonization, by exaggerating perception of “the east” being inferior therefore the need to “rescue” these deprived civilizations through colonization. Arab stereotypes.com gives “examples of early Orientalism in European paintings and photographs and also in images from the World’s Fair in the U.S. in the 19th and early 20th centuries.”[7] The authors also argue that the “The paintings depict the Arab World as an exotic and mysterious place of sand, harems and belly dancers, reflecting a long history of Orientalist fantasies which have continued to permeate our contemporary popular culture.”[8]

Orientalist often viewed themselves as the epitome of intellectual, spiritual, and economic independence. As a reward for enlightening less developed cultures, they would often reward themselves to the region’s resources, which in some cases included human labor. Larocque describes this scnario by saying that, “the English perceived themselves as having a mission to “purify” indigenous culture, using translation as a means to represent correctly and faithfully the magnificent Indian past.”[9]

Although both occurred at different periods, the crusades of Medieval Europe and the

19th-century European colonialism are aftermaths of definitive expansionism on Islamic culture. They are a result of the painfully shallow optimism of men on political economic and religious context. Unfortunately, the victimization of such cultures continues to date even as scholars on the encroachment if Islamic cultures continue to investigate the impact of Orientalism on European societies. Islamophobia and colonization have changed the course of modern history, leading to a string of violence and humanitarian loss. Nevertheless, there are certain benefits such as the heavy organizational demands and the advances that stimulate in economic and governmental terms.

Conclusion-A comparison of 19th century Orientalism and the anti-Islam discourse of Medieval Europe.

Islamophobia or anti-Islamism started during the medieval time and is deeply enmeshed

in the western culture. Muslims or people associated with the Islamic religion are still on the receiving end of this prejudice, thus leading to salient school of thoughts such as Orientalism that emerged in the 19th century. A comparison of the medieval anti-Islam discourse to 19th century Orientalism reveal the negative effects of these two philosophies, and their impact on modern society.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

Arab Stereotypes. 2011. What Is Orientalism? Accessed May 24, 2018.

http://www.arabstereotypes.org/why-stereotypes/what-orientalism.

Housley, Norman. 2007. The Crusades and Islam. PDF, Leicester: University of Leicester.

Karakasoglu, Yasemin. 2013. “Anti-Islamic Discourses in Europe: Agents and Contents.” 1-8.

Larocque, Emily. 2011. “Translating Representations: Orientalism in the Colonial Indian

Province of Bengal (1770s-1830s).” 31-39.

The Cordoba Foundation. 2010. “Islamophobia & Anti-Semitism: History and Possibility.”

Winter Vol 4: 1-14.

http://www.arabstereotypes.org/why-stereotypes/what-orientalism.

 

 

[1] Karakasoglu, Yasemin. 2013. “Anti-Islamic Discourses in Europe: Agents and Contents.” 1.

[2] The Cordoba Foundation. 2010. “Islamophobia & Anti-Semitism: History and Possibility.” 8.

 

[3] Ibid, 9

[4] Ibid, 9

[5] Norman. 2007. The Crusades and Islam.

[6] Emily. 2011. “Translating Representations: Orientalism in the Colonial Indian Province of Bengal (1770s-1830s).”

[7] Arab Stereotypes. 2011. What Is Orientalism?

[8] Arab Stereotypes. 2011. What Is Orientalism?

[9] Emily. 2011. “Translating Representations: Orientalism in the Colonial Indian Province of Bengal (1770s-1830s)