Opinion: The Orient, The Occident, And Preconceived Notions

In the book ‘Orientalism’ published in 1978, Palestinian literary historian and theorist Edward Said brought the word Orientalism into the public discourse. If explained, in layperson’s term, it is basically how the West sees the rest of the world, the Middle East in particular. I would say that this is explained by scholars of the 18th ,19th, and 20th century disseminating information about different societies and cultures of the Orient based on their own preconceived notions and biases, in order to establish their superiority. They put all this misinformation under an intellectual framework.

In that framework, misinformation was perpetuated. Those scholars perceived the ‘Whites’ to be a higher and more civilized race. However, the discourse bought by Said proved to be a seminal work, though it remains a controversial one for some.

After the 9/11 attacks, a new term, ‘neo-orientalism’, came into being, which is considered to be the modern incarnation of Orientalism, but more or less revolving around its basic premises. The central idea of the Occident being superior is not just inherent to the people from the West but also by people from the East. If looked from one perspective, it won’t be wrong to say that this mere idea has contributed a lot in engendering religious extremism in the East, which led to political extremism in the West.

In the Occident, this prejudice about the Orient, especially the Middle East and the Arab countries, have been affirmed. This could probably be one of the reasons behind growing incidents of Islamophobia. This cycle has become a vicious one and has proven to be fatal for both sides. For the Asian continent also, this thinking has been established, say whenever people think of India, they think of spirituality and salvation. And Indian’s obsession with the white skin is conspicuous. Here also, in the past few years, I would say that the extremist forces have given re-birth to negative attitude towards Islam.

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