Henry Srebrnik, [Summerside, PEI] Journal Pioneer
In “Je Suis Muslim,” posted Nov. 14 on the Aljazeera English-language website, Hamid Dabashi, professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in New York, criticized U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron for calling the carnage in Paris a day earlier “an attack on all of humanity and the universal values that we share.”
Asked Dabashi, “What exactly are these French and British values? Can, may, a Muslim share them too -- while a Muslim? Or must she or he first denounce being a Muslim and become French or British before sharing those values?”
In Dabashi’s view Muslims have become the civilizational “other” in Europe, and Obama and Cameron “perpetuate that demonization” by casting Muslims “outside the purview of humanity.” You’d have thought it was westerners killing Muslims rather than the reverse.
Dabashi was basically reiterating the theories of his ideological mentor, the late Edward Said, who also taught at Columbia.
Said’s seminal book Orientalism, published in 1978, virtually created the academic field of “post-colonial studies.” Said defined orientalism as a “subtle and persistent Eurocentric prejudice against Arab-Islamic peoples and their culture,” a prejudice derived from Western representations that reduces non-western peoples to irrational so-called “others.”
Such cultural depictions, he asserted, dominate the discourse of peoples in Europe and North America towards the rest of non-white the world.
Thanks to theorists such as Said, not only are we to wallow in guilt regarding the many deficiencies of western culture, which are said to include bigotry, racism, imperialism, and xenophobia, but we even have to acclaim the civilizations of others as in many ways far superior to those of the west.
But this is fueling a growing backlash, especially among Europeans now facing the reality of millions of refugees fleeing the Middle East and arriving on the continent. They don’t want to see their countries, in effect, altered by waves of migrants who refuse to integrate into the bedrock customs and traditions – in a word, civilizations – of the west.
It is also going to give additional support to all the far-right parties in western Europe, where the mainstream parties are so disconnected from what so many “ordinary” people think and feel.
This crisis may also unravel the European Union and its mostly open borders. Known as the Schengen Area, 22 of the EU countries have abolished passport and any other type of border controls at their common borders. But because of the massive flow of refugees, and terrorist attacks, some are re-instituting these, and even building fences to keep out migrants.
East European nations such as Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Croatia, and the Czech Republic, only recently free of Communist oppression and not guilt-ridden about the past imperial role of the west in Africa and Asia, might leave the EU altogether rather than be forced to take in masses of refugees to whom they feel no obligation.
They were themselves for centuries subjugated by imperial powers, including the Russians, Austrians and Ottoman Turks.
Be prepared to see massive zeitgeist shifts in Europe, especially if acts of terrorism become more common.