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The Palestinian scholar Edward Said argued that Western interpretations of the East were racist assumptions. Every anti-war activist is familiar with the frustration of hearing the media and pro-war politicians talk about fighting for ‘democracy’ in Iraq while they stir up hysteria over the alleged threat posed by ‘Muslim extremists’ to ‘our values’. Once upon a time an Orientalist was a person who studied ‘the Orient’. An individual Orientalist might be competent or incompetent but the respect of his profession was unquestioned. But in 1978 a Palestinian scholar Edward Said criticized too much on that works. He said that the term Orientalism was a by word for racism, prejudice and oppression. Although Said was not the first person to suggest that a great deal of what had been written on Orient was misleading, biased or just wrong. But he showed that there had been a common prejudice across a range of cultural and academic work in the west. Said says that there has been never a neutral scholar that studied the Orient because those who studied were in the West which was oppressing those being studied. The imperial oppression was always wrongly portraying the Orient. Orientalism as an academic discipline only emerged with colonial occupation of the Middle East and India by Western powers. This began with France’s conquest of Egypt in 18th century. The academic study was the expression of the colonial power and it rooted in Western tradition of opposing against the Islamic world. This opposition justified the colonial progress. The Orient is seen as a negative mirror image of the Western desires and fears projected onto others. So the Orient is always “female”, sexualized, and exotic-while we (Westerns) are “Male”, rational and normal. They are dangerous, violent and childlike—we are their natural masters, protectors and leaders. Rudyard Kipling once described the colonized as “your new-caught, sullen people, half devil and half child”. In TV programmes of 21st century, they are ideologically crazed and high-tech tooled-up terrorists. Western scholars in the 19th century became the owners of Oriental books and manuscripts and saw them as a means to interpret the “true” nature of the East. In this way contemporary societies in the East were painted as an undifferentiated mass, trapped in their own history, with no development until the arrival of the Western modernity. Edward Said has cited Bernard Lewis as an example of “Orientalism”. US vice president Dick Cheney described him as he is always objective and completely independent. These with the depth of his knowledge and the great discipline of his mind, make Bernard the very ideal of the wise man.” Dick Cheney described how Lewis’s great knowledge of the Middle East has made events explicable. In the 1970s he studied the writings of Khomeini, and saw the seeds of a movement that would deliver theoretic despotism. In 1990 he wrote “The Roots of Muslim Rage” which anticipated the terrorism of that decade.”

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So, according to US establishment, the Orientalist such as Lewis can explain that the problem of the Middle East are rooted in the backwardness of its people or due to an inevitable clash of civilizations. Edward Said says that there are millions around the world fighting against imperialism— and they are rightly skeptical of the racism and lies used to justify war. The problem with Said was that he was criticizing Western academia from within Western academia. So he drew quite depressing conclusions about the possibilities for alternative. But on the other hand he could not criticize the institutions such as the United Nations. Towards the end of his life Said became more radical and more politically active. He forcefully rejected the Oslo Accords signed by the Palestinian Liberation Organization and Israel in 1993, viewing them as a betrayal of the Palestinian cause. In 2000 on a visit to Lebanon, he threw a stone across the border at an Israel watchtower---a symbolic act that enraged the Zionist right. Said brought to light mechanics of how knowledge interacts with power and he had a particular lasting influence on what is now said and written about the post-colonial world.

WRITTEN AND COMPOSED BY: PROF. A.R. SOMROO M.A. ENGLISH, M.A. EDUCATION CELL: 0339971417

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