My idea in Orientalism is to use humanistic critique to open up the fields of struggle, to introduce a longer sequence of thought and analysis to replace the short bursts of polemical, thought-stopping fury that so imprison us in labels. [Edward Said, Orientalism, 2003].
It has become a tradition among many people to label “the other” based on his or her skin color, country of origin, religion, etc. Those superficial persons never try to look beyond the color of your skin, or the accent overflowing your tongue when you speak their language. According to their personal analogy, and without any solid evidence whatsoever, one may be labeled a liar, a terrorist, a harlot, a bum, a pervert, etc. We hear those accusations, and more, being thrown on daily basis against many people who might later on turn out to be some of the nicest humans ever.
About this Prophet Muhammad said: “Beware of suspicion for it is the most false of all tales, don’t ever spy or hunt for other people’s secrets, don’t ever hate one another, and always be like brothers.” [Recorded by Bukhari and Muslim]
Hence, don’t build opinions and label others without getting to know them first; maybe they are way much better than you, and you are just too blind to realize it. As human beings, every one of us has a duty towards his fellow humans: that is knowing the other, and dealing justly and kindly with him.
Allah says in the Qur’an: “O Believers, let not some men among you ridicule others, it may be that the latter are better than the former: nor should some women laugh at others, it may be that the latter are better than the former. Do not defame each other, or call each other by [offensive] nicknames; how bad it is to earn an evil reputation after accepting faith! Those who do not repent are evil-doers. O Believers, avoid suspicion, some suspicions are sinful– and do not spy on one another or backbite: would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? No, you would hate it. So be mindful of Allah. Verily, Allah is ever relenting, most merciful. O mankind, We have created you from male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, so that you may know one another. Verily the noblest among you in Allah’s sight, are those who are most pious. Verily Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware.” [The Qur’an (49:11-13)].
The above verses stipulate the whole idea of this post, that all mankind are one family in Allah’s sight. He dispersed us into different nations living all over the earth so that we may learn all sorts of things, gain different experiences, and exchange our experiences through fair cultural interaction, not cultural subjection. We should not label, ridicule, or scorn at each other. We should not spy, or build bad suspicions against each other. Allah also stipulates that the noblest among all people are not Arabs, Europeans, Russians, Africans, Persians, Hindus, etc., nothing of that sort; the noblest are the most pious.
The book culture based on archival research as well as general principles of mind that once sustained humanism as a historical discipline have almost disappeared. Instead of reading in the real sense of the word, our students today are often distracted by the fragmented knowledge available on the internet and in the mass media. Even the language of the war is dehumanizing in the extreme: “We’ll go in there, take out Saddam, destroy his army with clean surgical strikes, and everyone will think it’s great,” said a congresswoman on national television. Such a trahison des clercs is a sign of how genuine humanism can degenerate into jingoism and false patriotism. That is one side of the global debate. In the Arab and Muslim countries the situation is scarcely better. As Roula Khalaf in an excellent Financial Times essay (September 4, 2002) argues, the region has slipped into an easy anti-Americanism that shows little understanding of what the US is really like as a society. [Edward Said, Orientalism, 2003].
Prophet Muhammad said in his farewell pilgrimage: “Oh! People, your God is one, your father is one. There is no superiority for an Arab on a non-Arab, or for a non-Arab on an Arab, nor for a white (man) on a black (man), or for a black (man) on a white (man). Verily the noblest among you in Allah’s sight are the most pious.” [Recorded by Ahmad].
Verily, if people understood those words ever since they had been uttered the first time, today’s world would have been a much better place.
Written by: Ehab Shawky
In response to: Label