August 03, 2007

Said vs. Neo-Cons/Global Jihadist

Treat this as a continuation of the last post. The "/" slash up there is meant to be literal as well as visual. Neo-cons and jihadists are after all two sides of the same coin, building up the great, giant monoliths of "Islam" and "the West". Here to provide some corrective surgery to these ugly distortions is the late Edward Said.

Three excerpts:

"Even the normally sober British weekly The Economist, in its issue of 22-28 September, can't resist reaching for the vast generalisation and praises Huntington extravagantly for his "cruel and sweeping, but nonetheless acute" observations about Islam. "Today," the journal says with unseemly solemnity, Huntington writes that "the world's billion or so Muslims are 'convinced of the superiority of their culture, and obsessed with the inferiority of their power'." Did he canvas 100 Indonesians, 200 Moroccans, 500 Egyptians, 50 Bosnians? Even if he did, what sort of sample is that?" ...

"This is the problem with unedifying labels like Islam and the West: they mislead and confuse the mind which is trying to make sense of a disorderly reality that won't be pigeonholed or strapped down as easily as all that. I remember interrupting a man who had risen from the audience after a lecture I had given at a West Bank University in 1994 and had started to attack my ideas as "Western," as opposed to the strict Islamic ones he espoused. "Why are you wearing a suit and tie?" was the first simpleminded retort that came to mind; "they're Western too." He sat down with an embarrassed smile on his face, but I recalled the incident when information on the 11 September terrorists started to come in, how they had mastered all the technical details required to do their homicidal evil on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the aircraft they had commandeered. Where does one draw the line between "Western" technology and, as Berlusconi declared, "Islam's" inability to be a part of "modernity." ...

"But we are all swimming in those waters, Westerners and Muslims and others alike. And since the waters are part of the ocean of history, trying to plough or divide them with barriers is futile. These are tense times, but it is better to think in terms of powerful and powerless communities, the secular politics of reason and ignorance, and universal principles of justice and injustice, than to wander off in search of vast abstractions that may give momentary satisfaction but little self-knowledge or informed analysis. The "clash of civilizations" thesis is a gimmick, like "The War of the Worlds," better for reinforcing defensive self-pride than for critical understanding of the bewildering interdependence of our time."

Read the entire piece here. Trust me you won't be disappointed.

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