Echoes of Colonial Thoughts in the Othering of Islamic Communities?

Historically, the “Other” used to be the East. East as in Russia, Asia, east of the Western European Countries, simply East. Now, the context has shifted and the “Other” has become the “Islamic Other”. Why? Fatima El-Tayeb argues that the attempt in Europe at founding an overarching European identity by uniting different European states with the goal of forming transnational alliances backfired as it simply created more divides. It founded its “European identity” by clinging to a core of values leaning towards that of the Judeo-Christian traditional values.

This clearly implicates the divisive manner in which European states have oppressed and persecuted “racialized minority” under the pretext that their values acted against the core European values. It is interesting to note the assumption by European states that values outside that of the stated European ones are inherently a danger. This evokes or reminds of colonial assumptions that the “uncivilized world” (anything outside Europe) was a danger for the “civilized nations”.

Nilüfer Göle argues similarly to El-Tayeb, in that the community of Muslim in Europe are constantly being discredited under the pretext of “civilizational incompatibility.” But what happens when one starts to look at European history from an Islamic perspective? Both authors are urging understand the importance of European and Islamic histories as interconnectedness and accept that this also means a decentralization of Europe as “the” main acting agent of history. One question remains unanswered, in today’s political climate, how is it still possible to reject multiculturalism on the basis of what still echoes as colonial thought? Surely, it is important to notice the fact that with this need for rewriting history decentralizing Europe, there is a rise of populist far-right movements invoking the prominence of a conservative Judaeo-Christian white tradition. Is this a coincidence?  

One Reply to “Echoes of Colonial Thoughts in the Othering of Islamic Communities?”

  1. I like your comparison of the modern debate of “Europeanness” vs. “un-Europeanness” and the historical distinction of “civilized” vs. “uncivilized.” Making this comparison really highlights the divisiveness of modern “Euroepanisation” and the idea of a common European identity which is so often overlooked. Moreover, this comparison draws a clear linear progression between that obviously racist sense of white European superiority and the oftentimes covertly racist sense of the superiority of modern “European identity” over other identites, such as Muslim identity which is so often depicted as “static” and “repressive,” as El-Tayeb notes in her article this week.

    Is this an issue of “civilizational incompatibility,” as you point out from the Göle reading, or is it simply a continuation of Europe’s historically racist outlook on non-Europeans? I think the theory of Orientalism is well-suited to addressing this question, especially in the context of the articles you mention in this reading response.

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