Nadia Khan Satti is currently pursuing her bachelor's in international relations from Quaid-e-Azam University. The author's inclination is towards the ongoing political changes in international politics. She also writes about the international political economy and diplomacy through the perspective of the First and Third World countries.
The research paper explores the binary opposite relationship between eastern victimhood and western masterhood, keeping into consideration the increasing violence against Muslims and the rise of islamophobia in contemporary global politics. It has been argued in the research paper that violence against Muslims is not a new phenomenon rather it is a systematic phenomenon, a continuum of religious rivalry since the times of the Crusades. Hence, the origin of Islamophobia can be traced back to crusader orientalism.
The physical, mental, psychological, and emotional structural violence against Muslims is the result of portraying a devilish image of Islam. The hermeneutics of East and Islam studied in the West are subjective and inherently erroneous. The elitist-intellectual propaganda to malign Islam has instilled an epistemic deficiency in the Western people to understand Islam.
It has been argued that Islam, despite being the last of Abrahamic religions, is one of the fastest-growing religions of the world, after Christianity. The proliferation of Islamic values is considered a threat to the hegemony of the West. The central argument of the research paper is validated by referring to western literature in which, time and again, Islam has been demonized even in medieval times. Finally, from the medieval literature of the Crusades and “Orientalism” by Edward Said, it has been inferred that literature is used as a tool in the creation of systematic violence, the legacies of which are a cause of contemporary violence against Muslims in Europe.
The dawn of the twenty-first century has once again brought the phenomenon of the clash of religions in the political theater of the world. The exploitation of “others” and the revival of political dualism in the West have decayed the fabric of society. The consideration of Muslims as “lesser humans” has caused the rise of islamophobia and the marginalization, discrimination, and prejudicial attitude against them.
The dichotomy of us and them has swathed the political orientation of Europe against Muslims. The upsurge of populism in Europe in the recent decade has altered the dimensions of politics in Europe. The rise of right-wing politics has further given impetus to the anti-Muslim sentiments. The restricted visa policy and anti-immigration stance of western countries, like Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Estonia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, towards Muslims, depicts a repressive attitude of the West towards Islam and the East.
In recent years, there has been a rise in incidences of Islamophobia. Since the Islamophobic attacks have occurred on a daily basis it has raised questions about the relationship between the western and the Muslim worlds, and between Muslims and non-Muslims.
For instance, on March 15, 2019, a white supremacist, Brenton Harris Tarrant, attacked the Christchurch mosque and slaughtered nearly 51 people in New Zealand. Before perpetrating this bloodshed, the perpetrator released a xenophobic manifesto on social media and later streamed the shootings on Facebook. The attacks shook the entire Muslim world and highlighted the seriousness of Islamophobia in New Zealand.
On 2nd October 2020, two Muslim women were stabbed by a female white supremacist. Furthermore, In the name of freedom of expression, a teacher in France had shown the controversial cartoons of Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H). These incidents suggest that the dichotomy of East and West is rampant in the western political culture, which is strengthening the debate of political dualism in Europe.
Keeping in view this shift in the socio-political culture of Europe, this research paper addresses why there has been a rise in anti-Muslim prejudice and Islamophobia, in the contextual background of violence against Muslims in Europe, and its implications in the contemporary Muslim world.
The fallacious hermeneutics of Islamic literature and cognitive biases against Islam and the East has led to the revival of Crusader orientalism and strengthened the idea of binary opposition in western states.
The notion of logocentrism was propagated by a Jewish philosopher, Jacques Derrida. Etymologically, logocentrism takes its roots from the Greek word “logo” which means logic, thought, and reason. It is systemized materialization of abstract reasoning by associating certain linguistic symbols with it. It is the interpretation of thoughts into words and texts. In Christianity, it is widely associated with the origin of knowledge (Habib, 2005).
Binary opposition is one of the integral components of the theory of structuralism in sociology. It is defined as the phenomenon by the virtue of which two diametrically opposite cultures, and their functioning in a larger social environment, can be studied in relation to one and other. It demarcates boundaries between two groups leading to prejudice and otherness in society (Marinaro, 2015).
Orientalism is defined as the study of cultures, languages, history, and knowledge of Islam and the East, constructed by European scholars in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The most important proponent of the concept is Edward Said.
The Crusades are defined as the early 11th, 12th, and 13th-century military expeditions taken up by Christians to take the control of the holy lands from the Muslims.
The two variables taken into this research paper are the independent and dependent variables. By the virtue of the hypothesis, Crusader orientalism is the independent variable and binary opposition is the dependent variable. The Crusader orientalism is intensifying the systematic phenomenon of binary opposition in western society.
The yardsticks that are used to measure the intensification of binary opposition are violence against Muslims, religious tolerance, freedom of speech, freedom of expression, discrimination, political and civil rights, democracy, and freedom of religion.
Purpose of Research
The purpose of the research is to critically analyze the western prejudice against Muslims in the preview of the philosophical phenomenon of binary opposition and to analyze the relation between crusader orientalism and the rise in islamophobia in the 21st century. Primarily, the research focuses on the comparative historical approach to underpin the root causes of discrimination and hatred against Muslims. The purpose of the research will also incorporate the legacies of history to study the dualism in western political culture.
Qualitative research has been used as the methodology in this research paper. The data of secondary and tertiary sources is collected and utilized to strengthen the hypothesis. The findings of various research papers, international journals, newspaper articles, books, editorials, webpages, and magazines are used in the research paper to make the central argument cohesive. For the purpose of studying the origin of Islamophobia in the West, the literature of the Crusades era has also been analyzed
Limits of the Research
The research paper tends to juxtapose the international religio-politics of retrospect with the contemporary upsurge of religion in the international arena. Therefore, the time limit of the research is from the 11th century to the 13th century and then its link to the contemporary ten years (2010-2020).
The geographical limit of the research paper is the European continent and North America.
The thematic limit of the research is the international political community.
In the contemporary academic discourse, a large number of works of literature have been studied to explore the reasons for binary opposition in western society. Various research papers and articles are reviewed to address the aforementioned questions and to highlight the gap in the available literature.
Rebecca A. Clay, in her research article, “Islamophobia” describes the phenomenon of anti-Muslim campaigning in American society which has caused hatred against Muslims to rise. She hypothesized that prejudice against Muslims is dividing American people into two. As a consequence of this, the dimensions of American society have become bipolar, instilling a sense of otherness and alienation among Muslims of America.
In her argument, she elaborates that the sense of isolation has a psychological impact on American society. Every phenomenon follows a systematic procedure of cause and effect analysis; therefore the literature gap intervenes when the author ignored addressing the causes of this rise in Islamophobia and presents a monolithic explanation in her work (Clay, 2017).
The research paper “Religion and Islam in Contemporary International Relations”, by Maurits Berger, sheds a light on the increasing role of Islam in international politics after 1979. According to the author, a cocktail of events after 1979 has demonized Islam and caused a shift in the foreign policy of western countries vis-à-vis the Muslim world.
The central argument of his work derives from the genealogy of Islamic radicalization with the prejudice against Muslims in the West. The radicalization of Islam has distorted the relations of the West and the East causing a rise in Islamophobia. However, the gap in the literature reveals that only the post-colonial period has been taken into consideration; whereas the role of Islam in international relations is not a new phenomenon. Its role is prominent in the international political arena since its advent and the radicalization of Islam is a presentation of only one base of the same coin (Berger, 2010).
In “Political Challenges Confronting Muslim World,” El-Sayed El-Aswad elaborates that over the past few years, the Muslim world has faced political challenges on an internal and external level. While describing the external nature of conflict El-Sayed El-Aswad highlights that external challenges are hostile and repressive in nature.
The role of western media in the portrayal of Islam as extremist, authoritarian, fanatic, and jihadist has negatively impacted the reputation of Islam in the world. When the origin of Islamophobia and its rise in the 21st century is analyzed, it can be noted that media has been used for centuries to shape the way people think about Islam and the East.
El-Sayed El-Aswad suggests that to rectify this, the Muslim world needs to glorify the global future of Islam by arranging national and international conferences, sermons, and by providing positive media coverage of the role of Islam (El-Aswad, 2016).
The research paper “Islam and the West; interplay with Modernity,” by Bertram Ashby Jenkins, describes the relation of Islam and the West in the view of modernism and globalization. According to the hypothesis of Jenkins, the superiority of the West and the creation of “otherness” among Muslims in western society, had taken strong influence from the post-structural school of thought.
When one of the groups limits the actions and expression of the other, then the society faces an appraisal from marginalized groups. This leads to terrorist attacks and anarchy in society, driven by the principle of retaliation from both the oppressed and suppressed groups. This cycle has largely divided the world into two poles—Islam and the West (Iribarnegaray and Jenkins, 2016).
Edward Said’s theory of orientalism is used as a groundbreaking theoretical framework to study the epistemology of the binary opposite relation of the East and the West. According to Said’s work, orientalism is a distorted way of representing the East in the West by drawing false images into the minds of the people.
Said argued that the depiction of the East in the West is a European social construct that is reinforced by academic art, paintings, literature, epics, novels, and culture which represent the East and Islam as an orthodox set of values, exotic and inferior to the West. The academic discourse of his thesis emphasizes that eastern societies are static and underdeveloped whereas western societies are rational, developed, and superior.
This gives an origin to the birth of “othering” from a perceived set of norms as instilled by the elitist intellectuals. The articulation of biased eastern identities and a wrong interpretation of language, literature, and culture of the East has created a gap in the world, dividing it into two poles, the East and the West, where the latter is filled with some kind of superiority complex considering the others as “inferior and less humans” (Said, 1978)
Organization of Research
The research paper is compartmentalized into five sections. The first section deals with the philosophical debate on the historical perspective of the Crusades from the standpoint of both the East and the West. The second section describes the systematic violence against Muslims in the pretext of politicization of literature in the West; whereas the third elucidates Edward Said’s theory of orientalism and binary opposition. Section four elaborates how the history of Crusades and the orientalist pattern has contemporarily molded the dimensions of the Muslim world and in the last part, the research paper will be concluded.
A Philosophical Debate on the Historical Perspective of the Crusades
The Crusades were a series of religious, political, and military expeditions that were undertaken by the Roman Catholic Church against the so-called infidels for the restoration of the Holy Lands from Islamic rule. Etymologically, the word “Crusades” is an evolved variant of the Spanish word “cruzada”, the French word “croisade” and the Latin word “cruciata”. Later on, these variants were morphed together to form the English word “Crusades”.
The meaning of all these words in their particular language is “cross” which is an allegorical expression of Christ. The epistemology of the Crusades depends largely upon the interpretation and hermeneutics applied to study the philosophy of the Crusades. The philosophical debate of the Crusades in the West is opposite to the philosophical debate in the East due to the application of subjective hermeneutics.
A Historical Perspective of the Crusades from the Western Standpoint
The occidental perspective of the Crusaders emerges with the expansion of Islam. In 630 C.E Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H), along with his army, attacked Mecca and conquered the whole of western Arabia, making it a Muslim community. However, by the end of the 7th century, the three most holy places of Christians, i.e. Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria, were captured by the Muslims. Moreover, by the end of 846 C.E., the Muslims also raided the territory of Rome (Thereon and Oliver, 2018).
The expansion of the Islamic ideology and the territorial occupation challenged the status quo, which threatened the hegemony of Christians in the region. On 18 November 1095, Pop Urban II of France called an assembly—the Council of Clermont—which was attended by a large number of bishops and finally initiated the First Crusade. Consequently, a series of holy wars were fought between the Roman Catholic crusaders and the Muslims between the 11th century and the 14th century for the restoration of the Holy Lands.
The crusaders became the epitome of the holy wars in western philosophy. The philosophical works of scholars tend to reflect the justification of the holy wars. Philosophers like Saint Thomas Aquinas and Saint Augustine’s principles of “Just War” justified war for holy purposes and military expeditions as the way of attainment of truth and God.
The heuristics of the Crusades in the western historical perspective are strongly influenced by the disturbance of the status quo. The hegemony of the Church being challenged by Islam installed prejudice against Muslims and tagged them as “infidels”, “black pagans”, “sub-humans”, “polluters of the Christian church”, and “aggressive”.
The portrayal of Islam as a violent and tyrannical religion that fights religious and mental diversity is a misinterpretation of the orient in the West (Aldooray, 2018). The understanding of the Crusades by Peter the Venerable, which depicts Islam as a form of “Christian heresy” and as a religion being “spread by the sword”, represents the erroneous heuristic and cognitive biases of the West. Therefore, the epistemology of the Crusades that has been reached to the European continent is preoccupied with the inherent subjectivity of cognitive biases
A Historical Perspective of the Crusades Through the Arab Lens
The Arab perspective of the Crusades lay not solely on religious expeditions but also on the interplay of economic conditions of medieval Europe. The internal European political structure was crumbling and a struggle for power started between the Church and the state. During this time, the European continent was economically lagging behind due to droughts, floods, and other natural disasters.
The Arab perspective inserts the phenomenon of “A Thousand and One Nights”, which sees the East as culturally rich and economically prosperous, from the European standpoint. Till that time, the world was comprised of two-pole apart factions. On one side, the eastern part was living a life of prosperity and on the other hand, the West was grief-stricken by natural calamities, poverty, and conflicts.
Western society was feudal in nature and the top 10% of the population, the elites, acquired feudal positions whereas the remaining 90% were peasants and working-class who were poverty-stricken, living in abject misery. However, when the Abbasid caliphate, with the collaboration of the Seljuk Turks, began expanding territorially and covered the eastern Mediterranean basin from Spain, it questioned the Christian domination.
Gregory VII, the head of the Catholic Church, started inducing the notion of holy war against Muslims for the cause of Jesus Christ. The situation gave him the advantage needed to fulfill his desire for the militarization of Christianity and the dissemination of Catholicism. Not only these territorial expansions but also the socio-economic prosperity of the East gave impetus to Christian expedition towards the First Crusades. The power of the Church remained dominant during the Crusades and people were indoctrinated to recapture the tomb of Jesus from the Muslims.
The Arab perspective of the Crusades suggests that the West had despised the rich culture and economic prosperity of the East. The eastern patch is abundant in resources and possesses a prestigious cultural background. Due to this, the West had seen the East with contemptuous eyes and made every effort to crush its economic and social prosperity.
Christians had been the most dominating power in the world. Therefore, strong military power and leadership, like that of Saladin Ayyubi, were a threat to the status of the Christians. Ever since the holy places fell into the hands of the Muslims the anti-Islamic sentiments among Christians further intensified. The roots of western propaganda started at the beginning of the 11th century. The Christian empires used both symmetric and asymmetric warfare.
On the battleground, both forces confronted each other and shed blood to conquer Jerusalem. However, the occupation of Jerusalem by Saladin Ayyubi caused an increase in western hatred against Muslims. The West started the propaganda through the use of literature to further pass this contempt and hatred to the future generation, and hence, prejudice against Muslims became a systematic phenomenon (“First Crusade,” 2016).
The Politicization of Literature: A Phenomenon of Systematic Violence Against Muslims
Literature is being used as a tool of manipulation in our society. It is how elites and intellectuals control the minds of the masses and sell things in society that are not needed.
Noam Chomsky describes the intellectuals as a privileged class of society playing in the hands of the politicians. In his work “The Responsibility of Intellectuals”, he emphasized that there is a cult of intellectuals who sell their intellect to the state power and corrupt the truth in society. It is the duty of the intellectuals to differentiate between truth and deception and analyze the systematic justification of oppression and violence insinuated by elite ideology, appealing to moral superiority and expertise, etc (Levidow, 2018).
However, it is a structural fallacy that intellectuals shirk away from their responsibility and corrupt the notion of truth. The politicization of literature for ages has systematically induced norms that serve the cause of elites. In the retrospect, those intellectuals who refused to comply with elites faced serious repercussions.
The relation between intellectuals and elites has not always been pretty. It is a systematic phenomenon by which elites and intellectuals knit into a literary relationship to control the cognition of the masses. The elitist-intellectual propaganda in western society is a continuum of the crusader mindset, the ghost of which is looming over the orient.
Medieval and Renaissance Literature
It is a common prevalent prejudice in the occident that their literature and language is superior to the orient. The concept of “logocentrism” by Jacques Derrida strengthens this prejudice of the West. The phenomenon of logocentrism is the materialization of cognitive thinking into the form of speech and text. The anti-Muslim prejudice, and the Islamophobia that’s on the rise, have been embedded in the cognition of western people are interpreted in the form of text.
This prejudice is reflected in the phenomenal approach of logocentrism which gives superiority to the West by considering it the center and origin of self–knowledge. This view holds the notion of binary opposition in terms of philosophy that the West’s philosophy is superior to the East’s. However, the origin of philosophy takes its roots from East and Islam. Yet the origin of Islamophobia is linked to western literature and art.
Rafey Habib, in his article “Deconstruction and Islam”, argues that when the conventional stereotypes of Islam are deconstructed, it facilitates the understanding that the erroneous categorizations of Islam in the occident is merely a folly and social construct to justify the colonial and imperialist aims of the West (Habib, 2005). These were the justifications that the West gave to itself to overcome the threat it perceived from the East and to build the next generation to revive the crusader history.
In this regard, a bundle of literature, sponsored by the top elite and clergy, was written by the philosophers of the medieval ages and the Renaissance era. The role of literature in fashioning and painting a biased perception of the Crusades in western society has not only played a negative role in medieval times but even in contemporary times, the readers are strongly influenced by this erroneous depiction of oriental images in the occident.
The evil depiction of Saracens in Walter Scott’s novel “The Talisman” shows the politicization of literature to infiltrate fake images of Muslims in the minds of western people. The central character of the novel is a mimicry of one of the most sacred figures of Muslims in the preview of Crusades i.e. Saladin Ayyubi.
He recaptured Jerusalem from the control of the crusaders and declared Muslim victory over the city. The western disdain towards Saladin is so rigid that such literature was fabricated to create a fallacious genealogical and ancestral link of Saladin with Lucifer. The readers of the literature are highly influenced by the portrayal of the fake image of Muslims as barbaric and uncivilized (Al-Khawaldeh, 2013).
Moreover, the philosophers, poets, and novelists of France produced heroic literature that alluded to the Crusades as a heroic purpose and Christianity as an ultimate truth that should prevail across the globe. In “Chanson d’Antioche” (The Song of Antioche), a poem composed by Richard the Pilgrim who supposedly took part in the First Crusade, an allegory of Muslims with pagans is made. The poet describes that the Muslims should be crushed by the Red Knights and Christianity should rule the whole world.
The xenophobia in William Shakespeare’s play “The Merchant of Venice” is portrayed by characters of different races, religions, and ethnicities. The play is seen through the lens of racism and prejudice against Muslims. The character of “Moors” depicts Arabs as barbarous, savage, and emotionally motivated, lacking conscience and rationality. He was being despised due to the dark tone of his skin ( Ferideh, Naisr, Rehmat and Mohtadi, 2018) .
The attributes associated with the Arabs in the Shakespearean play still prevail in the superior mindset of the West (Alizadeh, 2018). The 1598 oriental play by Christopher Marlow, “Tamburlaine”, degrades the depiction of Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) and the Qur’an to appeal to the audience of Queen Elizabeth (Aldooray, 2018).
Orientalism and Binary Opposition in the Light of Edward Said
In his remarkable book “Orientalism”, Edward Said argues that orientalism is a European invention and fabrication of the East. Orientalism is a pattern of thinking based upon an ontological and epistemological difference made between the orient and the occident. A large number of writers, poets, novelists, philosophers, and political theorists, have taken theories, novels, and epics concerning the orient and its people as a starting point to draw a distinction between the East and the West. Hence, orientalism is a lens through which the West sees the East.
The hermeneutics of the European construct reveals that the East is represented as exotic, backward, inferior, and uncivilized. The representation of the orient is the European materialization of the eastern civilization and culture. The discourse of orientalism in the West is a subjective cultural and ideological representation of the East by the institutionalization of such norms and values that see the East with a scornful and contemptuous attitude.
When Said’s “Orientalism” is deconstructed and is peeled off layer by layer, then the orient can be described as a corporate institution manufactured and sponsored by the West. The oriental notions are artificially constructed, authorized, validated, and settled. However, orientalism is systematic western propaganda, by virtue of which orientalist discourse is produced and managed politically, imaginatively, ideologically. It is then restructured to dominate the East. Said argues that the orient is not an inherent phenomenon, rather it is man-made fact.
However, orientalism is not merely a European fantasy in relation to the East but it is a theoretical framework and practice in which, for a number of years, considerable material has been invested. By virtue of this continued investment, orientalism is a system of knowledge about the East, and a set of values and norms through which oriental norms filter into western consciousness (Said, 1978).
The post-colonial literature of Edward Said draws a distinction of the systematic phenomenon of “self” and “others”, in relation to binary terms. This study of the mutually exclusive phenomenon of self and others is referred to as binary opposition in his groundbreaking work “Orientalism”.
Binary opposition is a formalistic approach to apprehend the concept of self and other. It is a phenomenon that underpins the system by explaining how certain meanings are materialized and morphed into the form of a text. It contrasts the dichotomy between two mutually exclusive terms. In the work of Edward Said he contrasts the binary terms of “superior white men” and “savage Arabs and orient” which depict the power structure favoring the West.
Implications of Binary Opposition and the Crusader Orientalism in the Contemporary Muslim World
We refer to Crusader orientalism to study the revivalism of crusading philosophy and politics in the contemporary Muslim world. The conflict between the West and Islam is at the core of political discourse in the international political arena. As apparent from the debate generated above, orientalist thinking and medieval literature have far-reaching implications in the contemporary relations of Islam and the West.
The prejudice against Muslims has been predominant in western society since the ages of the Crusades, which created a phenomenon of binary opposition in the relation of the East and the West. The violence against Muslims, and the islamophobia that is on the rise, are not forms of physical oppression.
They are part of a cyclic phenomenon that involves psychological and cognitive build-up that reinforces the structure and revives the medieval political tug of war. The implications of the Crusades are reflected in the contemporary events which are shreds of evidence of the psychological and literary link of crusader orientalism with contemporary global politics (AbuKhalil, 2016).
The former president of the United States, Donald Trump, called for a ban on the entry of Muslims into the country. Western societies are the epitome of liberal democratic values, but when these countries put a ban on the Hijab of Muslim women, it reflects their medieval thinking. It represents the thought that they still view Arabs are exotic and backward. This puts the freedom of expression and religious tolerance in western society into peril.
The presentation of controversial cartoons of Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) is again a continuum of the psychological and literary legacy of medieval times. The way the orientalist play of Christopher Marlow denigrated the Qur’an and Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H), the same way a French teacher mocked the cartoon of Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H). The biased cognitive build has justified the violence and corrupted the notion of freedom of expression in western society.
The orientalist biases towards the East have created negative images and clichés about Muslim identity in the West. The incident of 9/11 has further maligned the image of Muslims, causing them to be labeled as terrorists in western society. The Muslim residents of the United Kingdom and the United States of America face discrimination and prejudice in the aftermath of the events of 9/11 (Khawaja, 2020). In the last decade, Islamophobic attacks have increased significantly. In 2016, the number of anti-Muslim assaults reported to the FBI was the highest since 2001.
In the contemporary environment of increasing diversity in Europe, Muslim minorities are marginalized and portrayed as alien and foreign beings. They have been represented as others in the European continent and want to alienate themselves from European society. The government has failed to provide equal rights for all. A large number of Muslim minorities face unemployment, poverty, and limited civic and political participation which has caused a rise in the discrimination against Muslims (“Islamophobia in Europe,” 2019).
The opinion of the West about the orient has long been dichotomous. Each region has constructed special racial stereotypes against the other. The phenomenon of the Crusades has haunted and terrified the history of humankind. It has strong implications for Muslims and Middle Eastern society. The division of the world into two poles has shaped modern political thinking.
The Crusades remain relevant even today in the Arab and western political rhetoric. The social construct of the West towards the East has strengthened the binary opposite relation between two poles of the world. Crusader orientalism is a theological effort that tends to portray a demonized image of Muslims and present the East as inferior and savage.
The crusader texts clearly represent the dangerous aspects of the East, declaring it as the home of the Antichrist. The phenomenon of Crusader orientalism tinged with racial ideas has color-coded different races’ levels of piety, and created a dichotomy between the “white-Christians” and “dark-Pagan”.
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