Term Paper: Orientalism

Sample Term Paper

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This is a term paper on orientalism. It seems difficult to imagine a time when Islam was not linked with the East, or Christianity with the West but on the eve of the Crusades, and even after crusading had become “an established institution.

It seems difficult to imagine a time when Islam was not linked with the East, or Christianity with the West but on the eve of the Crusades, and even after crusading had become “an established institution,”(Riely-Smith 82) it was customary to articulate of Eastern and Western Islam and Eastern and Western Christianity. This is because Muslims already were in the West, as the rulers of Spain, and Christianity was defined doctrinaire in terms of a Latin Christianity and a Western Christianity.

Even the Crusades were not based in ideas of geographical specificity and, in fact, can be viewed as disagreement between two universalisms both of which laid equal claims to East and West. We normally don’t think of this aspect of the Crusades today because we view them purely as “a great contest between faiths fuelled by religious fanaticism” partly because of our own very contemporary view of “religious discrimination, and . . . current political conflicts in the Near East.” However, several historians question this representation, particularly with respect to the First Crusade. (Bull, Marcus, Illustrated History; 18)

Today the reality is harsh and what Edward Said pointed out in a prophetic article in the Nation:

“The media have become obsessed with something called “Islam,” which in their voguish lexicon has acquired only two meanings, both of them unacceptable and impoverishing. On the one hand, “Islam” represents the threat of a resurgent atavism, which suggests not only the menace of a return to the Middle Ages but the destruction of what Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan calls the democratic order in the Western world. On the other hand, “Islam” is made to stand for a defensive counterresponse to this first image of Islam as threat, especially when, for geopolitical reasons, “good” Moslems like the Saudi Arabians or the Afghan Moslem “freedom fighters” against the Soviet Union are in question. Anything said in defense of Islam is more or less forced into the apologetic form of a plea for Islam’s humanism, its contributions to civilization, development and perhaps even to democratic niceness”.

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