Bryan Wall discusses the relationship between Islam and the west; he argues that the non-religious should be careful to keep a healthy criticism of religions free from the stains of racism and imperialist discourse.
However, all of these criticisms tend to be ignorant of the history between the West, Islam, and the Middle East. Islam and the Middle East have always been seen as the “other”, the outsider against which Europe’s leaders have sought to define their own cultures, whereby the West’s culture is a superior, more enlightened one. Islam, not only its more extreme manifestations but Islam in general, is perceived by many as a threat to rationality, science, and secular, liberal values, all of which we believe Europe to contain in great amounts.
What is seen in much of the discourse surrounding the Middle East in the various non-religious movements is simply a rehashing of tired clichés, canards, tropes, and general Orientalism that have existed for centuries. We may think that these criticisms are nuanced and novel, but they have their foundations in colonial jaunts across the Middle East and Northern Africa which go back centuries.
The problem now is that this discourse no longer remains confined to those on the right of the political spectrum. Now, we see this discourse bleeding into the atheist movements around the world, most of who would identify as liberal and leaning to the left of the political spectrum in various degrees. The discourse here is no different from what we would come to expect from any Orientalist discourse: Islam is primitive; the Islamic threat; Islamic terror; etc.
All opinions expressed in this post are the author's own. They do not represent any official position of Cork Humanists nor do they necessarily reflect the opinions of any other individual.
Bryan Wall is Ph.D student at University College Cork. Bryan's research focuses on citizenship within Israel. He examines the discourses surrounding non-Israelis in particular and how they have been constructed in Israeli society and media.