Nothing Short of Astounding …
January 16, 2006 4 Comments
In Scott’s novel The Talisman (1825), Sir Kenneth (of the Crouching Leopard) battles a single Saracen to a standoff somewhere in the Palestinian desert; as the Crusader and his opponent, who is Saladin in disguise, later engage in conversation, the Christian discovers his Muslim antagonist to be not so bad a fellow after all. Yet he remarks:
I well thought … that your blinded race had their descent from the foul fiend, without whose aid you would never have been able to maintain this blessed land of Palestine against so may valiant soldiers of God. I speak not thus of thee in particular, Saracen, but generally of thy people and religion. Strange is it to me, however, not that you should have the descent from the Evil One, but that you should boast of it.
For indeed the Saracen does boast of tracing his race’s line back to Eblis, the Muslim Lucifer. But what is truly curious is not the feeble historicism by which Scott makes the scene “medieval,” letting Christian attack Muslim theologically in a way nineteenth-century Europeans would not (they would, though); rather, it is the airy condescension of damning a whole people “generally” while mitigating the offense with a cool “I don’t mean you in particular.”
… it is nothing short of astounding how some people’s attitudes and mentalities are so skewed and distorted. Taking part in a discussion on a Catholic messageboard, I rightly commented on an observation I made regarding a particular member’s hositity towards Islam saying:
You think you know Islam better and can present it more accurately than the Muslims on this board and thus impose yourself as an authority over and above even what we Muslims say—or even what we Muslims convey from the scholars of Islam themselves. You are the one people who are ignorant about Islam must refer to since you are the “honest” and “truth-loving” Christian who has “studied” Islam and knows what it’s really all about, whereas we Muslims are “liars”, followers of the “imposter” Muhammad and his “Satanic revelation”, “deceptively” trying to hide the “blemishes” of Islam from other non-Muslims on this site in order to dupe them.
This mindset I describe above is the basic driving force behind this entity known as Orientalism. As Said quotes Marx at the beginning of his book, “They cannot represent themselves; they must be represented.” And this is the mindset of so many Westerners who write about Islam and Muslims. His reply? Well, further reinforcing this observation of mine, he states:
You have no idea what you are talking about. I didn’t impose myself as an authority on anything. I present evidence of what I believe is true and am open to correction. Mostly, if not always, my accusations are true and Muslims are unable to refute my evidence and what I said. I refute what I believe is wrong. I expose what I think is deceit. There is nothing wrong with that.
I then commented:
You claim that you are open to correction, yet when a Muslim tells you your understanding of his religion is wrong and quotes the scholars of his religion and the source books where the teachings of his religion are found, you reject what he says. Why? Because of what I mentioned earlier. You are the (self-imposed) authority of Islamic teachings. You know what’s correct Islamic belief and the Muslim doesn’t. You are not open to correction. You are here to propagate your misinformation concerning Islam, to impose your understanding as right and the Muslims’ understanding as wrong. You are here to attack, vilify, degrade and debase Islam and Muslims. You are the authority of correct Islamic beliefs, the Muslims are just spreading lies to mislead others into thinking that Islam is not the way you say it is.
His reply? Now check this one out, for indeed, it is nothing short of astounding—if not down right ridiculous (emphasis and bold mine). Again, further adding to the certainty of my observation, he states:
There are many Muslims in my life who are close to me and who I love very much. I haven’t “attacked, vilified, degraded, and debased” any Muslims so don’t falsely accuse me of things. I haven’t attacked Islam either. I am stating the truth about Islam. How is stating the truth about Islam “attacking, vilifying, degrading, and debasing” Islam? If someone says something false about Islam I will correct it.
I am here to defend christianity, but if I see something false about Islam (Muhammad never hit any of his wives, Islam is a peaceful religion etc) I will correct it. Sometimes I might want to discuss an Islamic topic. Sometimes I might want to reveal something about Islam that I think is important for my fellow Christians to know.
Don’t forget, this is a Christian forum.
So, after I likened his assertion that having Muslim friends somehow refutes my observations concerning his attacks on Islam and Muslims to someone calling blacks “n****rs” then saying he’s not really racist cause he has many black friends he tried to further justify his actions—again further strengthening my observations—uttering the following absurdities:
Your claim of me “portraying their way of life, their beliefs, their religion in a light contrary to how it really is” is false and misleading. Firstly, I am not “portraying their way of life, their beliefs, their religion in a light contrary to how it really is” since the way I portray Islam is truly how Islam is. Secondly, I am not saying all Muslims act like this, so my friends might not do these things that I say Islam teaches because they are not very strict Muslims who follow their religion perfectly. So I am not attacking all Muslims and how all Muslims live, but I am pointing out that Islam treats women badly, at least that is what I believe. I am allowed to state what I believe. Also, just because people may do something I believe is wrong, doesn’t mean I don’t or can’t love them
Another member commented on my analogy saying, “It’s is called ‘attacking the messenger’. How can someone portray a belief and quoting the verses from your books and you said that he/she attacked you? People’s way of thinking is different.”—truly amazing, I tell you.
Back to the initial quote from Orientalism I quoted above … it’s nothing short of astounding how some people’s minds work. They don’t consider attacking someone through criticism of their religion is considered a personal attack. To them, there’s this false separation between a person and his religion, his entire way of life, his beliefs. To attack someone theologically, to attack a person’s beliefs, his faith, his religion, is to attack the person’s very being, his core. And I find it amazing just how vividly Said describes and depicts what I see before my eyes, of the underlying attitudes, prejudices, and misconceptions many non-Muslim Westerners have towards anything Islamic—and here I make the distinciton between Muslim and non-Muslim Westerner because I too am a Westerner having been born and raised here in the West as a Christian; I too once held many of the same false assumptions and prejudices towards Muslims and Islam as many of the Christians in the West currently have.
We Muslims have a lot of work to do—not only in propagating our religion to non-Muslims here in the West, but also to our brothers and sisters raised here in the West upon these ideals and concepts.