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Where is the “Muslim World”?

“I laugh when I hear that the fish in the water is thirsty” ~ Kabir

We devote a great deal of our resources to countering the shrill voices of the looniverse. It’s been more than a decade since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and the opportunists who seized upon the horrors of that day in 2001 have arguably reached their zenith and begun their inevitable decline.

Dominated by crude anti-Muslim bigots, commentary emanating from the so-called “counter jihadists” is often more like the braying of donkeys than the thoughtful analysis one might expect from self-styled “experts” claiming lofty credentials. Their caterwauling is mostly likely to appeal, over the long run, only to the fringe.

What is arguably more damaging is the insidious bigotry that permeates our thoughts and our language. It is not so much that we don’t question our bias, but that we don’t notice it at all. Like the water we drink and the air we breathe, we take certain assumptions for granted.

Today the “Clash of Civilizations” has come to dominate our discourse, though on some level, this is not a new narrative. The longstanding rivalry between “the West” and “the Muslim world” has a long and painful history–one of fear, mistrust, and misunderstanding.

In just under 11 minutes, UK Professor Tony McEnery puts 500 years of history and present-day media depictions of Muslims into perspective. Backed by an astute analysis of the UK media, he calls upon us to reconsider the mental and verbal construct of the so-called “Muslim world.” (H/T: Imam Abdullah Hassan)

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  • Diego Hernandez

    I personally don’t use the term “Middle-East” either. I think it’s another one of those alienating terms, fundamentally Eurocentric in its roots. Its use creates a perception of a certain region of the world being an oriental fringe beyond Fortress Europe.

    West Asia is the term I prefer to use. It normalises the so-called “Middle-East” as just any other region of the world, specifically as a region of the Asian continent, as opposed to some exotic oriental backyard. Still, newspapers, politicians and their ilk continue to refer to their oriental playground in patronising terms.

    The end of the Cold War seemed to unleash a lot of Romanticist angst around the world. The early 1990s was the time when various public intellectuals mused about there being an imminent “clash of civilisations”. They seemed to want something to fill the gap left by the Eastern Bloc, even though all signs have pointed to a great global convergence that has been ongoing since the early 20th century. As McEnery said, the alienating terms we use in daily speech can have the effect of gifting various sabre-rattlers with the futile, pointless “clash” which they’ve been salivating for.

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  • Nur Alia binti Ahmad

    So sad…
    The people sitting in an intellectual setting such as this aren’t the problem, and cant reach those who are.

  • Amro

    That’s where I got my degree and MSc!!! More to the point, great talk, if anything, he didn’t go far enough, but I guess there were time limitations.

  • Jon Diamond
  • Rights

    Yes, indeed. We must challenge the language of hate and intolerance toward Islam and Muslims. And we must also do the same when the targets of such language are others who do not deserve it. At the same time there is no need for tolerance for any kind of hate group.

  • Reynardine

    There are many cultures. There is only one world.

  • mindy1

    Hate should always be challenged

  • Chameleon_X

    “The next time you hear an intolerant use of language, challenge it.”

    This quote, to me, sums up the message of Professor McEnery the most. It was almost the last thing he said in the video, so I think it sums up his intended point as well.

    If we don’t challenge the bigotry embedded in common words and phrases that were originally motivated by political propaganda and drilled into our heads as “accepted” terms by the media, then we have already lost the propaganda war and sacrificed both our common dignity and common humanity. We must never allow intolerance to become embedded into our common language. Vigilantly protecting the freedom of common speech from bigotry is as important as protecting free speech itself. If we don’t, then how can we even speak freely in a common language anymore without offending the common freedom and dignity of our diverse humanity?

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