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Structured so as to underline the idea that the West, though shattered by political events or by hegemonic claims, is still a hypostasis of the Self in relation to a threatening Other, this chapter starts from two opposing theories of representation: Orientalism and Occidentalism. This is necessary for a two-way analysis of the mentalities at work in the Eastern and Western worlds. Furthermore, it enlarges upon religion as a societal control mechanism, a significant difference between East and West. Accounting for Islamophobia at the level of the media and of the public sphere is the first step in tracing the representation of the Muslim in several literary texts belonging to the category of 9/11 fiction, authored by Martin Amis, Don DeLillo, Amy Waldman and Mohsin Hamid.
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In Emmanuel Levinas, ‘Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority’ ( 1979).The concept is difficult to grasp in just a few sentences, especially as it is forked in different directions—politics, war and peace, religion, ethics, responsibility—but it essentially refers to an irreducible alterity, one that can never draw closer to the sameness/selfhood. The self and the other remain distinct at all times, as absolute otherness also implies the existence of a system completely outside the self, beyond its reach. Nothing is known about the other, and the encounter is unforeseeable due to this lack in knowledge and experience.
Originally, the term ‘Orientalist’ denoted academics and scholars (historians, literary critics, linguists and cultural theorists) who dealt with the study of the Eastern civilisations. With the overt accusations of imperialism brought forth by Said, Orientalism has acquired the implication of mannerism and political agenda hidden by the Westerners’ writings on their Eastern other.
All references to Said’s Orientalism in this outline are made to the third edition of the book, published in 2003 by Penguin Classics.
In an article entitled ‘Enough Said’ ( Anthropology Today 6.4. 1990, 16–19, reprinted in A. Macfie (ed.) Orientalism: A Reader, 2001, 208–16), British expert in Oriental and African Studies, Michael Richardson, provides the context of Marx’s argument, contending that the philosopher referred to peasantry as incapable of representing themselves and therefore in need to be represented, not as being acted upon but as actively seeking for such a representation (212). His critique of Said’s corruption of Marx’s intention revolves around the latter’s alleged naiveté: ‘Does he really believe that anyone actually thinks that images of the Orient are commensurate with what the Orient is actually like?’ (212).
‘Much of the personal investment in this study derives from my awareness of being an ‘Oriental’ as a child growing up in two British colonies. […] In many ways my study of Orientalism has been an attempt to inventory the traces upon me, the Oriental subject, of the culture whose domination has been so powerful a factor in the life of all Orientals’ (25).
Reference to Al-i-Ahmad’s book is made to the 1984 edition, translated into English by R. Campbell, entitled Occidentosis: A Plague from the West.
Pre-Islamic period or ‘ignorance’ of monotheism and divine law; in current use, refers to secular modernity. Jahiliyyah is the domination of humans over humans, rather than submission of humans to God. The term denotes any government system, ideology, or institution based on values other than those referring to God. To correct this situation, Islamist thinkers propose the implementation of Islamic law, values and principles. Radical groups justify militant actions against secular regimes in terms of jihad against jahiliyyah (according to Esposito, J. (ed.) Oxford Dictionary of Islam, 2003).
As cases of women terrorists have not been documented yet, except for, perhaps, aiding and abetting their men, as it was the case of Hayat Boumeddiene, wife of the gunner at Charlie Hebdo (Paris, 2015), it has been seen appropriate to drop the gendered language and only use the pronoun he when reference is made to terrorists.
Literally, recitation, the Qur’ān is the most significant Islamic text, considered to be the word of Allah dictated by Archangel Gabriel ( Jibra’il) to Prophet Mohammed, which endows it with infallibility ( The Holy Qur’an 2000, back cover).
Sunnah is the norm for Muslims’ lives as prescribed by Muhammad’s teachings. It is considered synonymous with Hadith (the life of the prophet) by some scholars; whereas others claim that there are differences, in that the Hadith is a narrative. Esposito’s Oxford Dictionary of Islam ( 2003) defines Sunnah as established custom, normative precedent, conduct, and cumulative tradition, typically based on Muhammad’s example.
Shari’ah is the moral code and religious law. It has its sources both in the Qur’an and the Hadith.
All future references are made to the Wordsworth Classics edition of The Holy Qur’an, translated by Abdullah Yusuf Ali (2000).
Reprinted as ‘Terror and Boredom: The Dependent Mind’ in M. Amis (2008) The Second Plane, London: Jonathan Cape, 47–93.
In the preface to The Second Plane, Amis amends the term, claiming that he would rather prefer being considered an anti-Islamist because ‘phobia is an irrational fear, and it is not irrational to fear something that says it wants to kill you’ ( 2008a, x).
Released by the FBI and translated for The New York Times. Available from http://www.theguardian.com/world/2001/sep/30/terrorism.september113 [24 October 2015].
Dated 1996, the translation of Atta’s testament has been provided by the FBI to the press soon after the attacks. Available from http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/atta/resources/documents/will1.htm [24 October 2015].
In an interview published by the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag in 2002, Atta Senior claimed that his son had been framed by the Mossad to appear as one of the hijackers, but that he was still alive and into hiding. Connolly, K. ( 2002) ‘Father insists alleged leader is still alive’. The Guardian, 2 September 2002. Available from http://www.theguardian.com/world/2002/sep/02/september11.usa [24 October 2015].
‘Disbelief. A significant concept in Islamic thought, the word kufr or one of its derivatives appears in the Quran 482 times. Also means ‘ingratitude,’ the wilful refusal to appreciate the benefits that God has bestowed’ (Esposito 2003, Oxford Dictionary of Islam).
On a side note, this very specific reference to the War on Terror provides the best argument against Waldman’s pretences to have written a novel which does not belong to the category of 9/11 fiction.
After having been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2007 for The Reluctant Fundamentalist , Mohsin Hamid was again shortlisted for the same award in September 2017 for his most recent novel, Exit West.
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- Extreme Otherness: ‘The Muslim Menace’
- Chapter 5