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Orientalists laid the foundation for the intellectual bias against Muslims

Lucknow: Most of the scholars and litterateurs of Europe in their writings and literary works have expressed negative views about Islam and Muslims and the foundation of enmity and misconception (about Islam and Muslims) was laid in 8th century when Europe and Christianity on the one hand and Islam on the other were in conflict with each other. These views were expressed by Prof. Abdur Rahim Qidwai, a scholar of English literature and Director of UGC Human Resource Development Centre in AMU while delivering an extension lecture in Lucknow Campus of Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU) on the topic of ‘Orientalism in Literature’. He specially mentioned literary and philosophical works of English men of letters like Shakespeare, Lord Byron, Wordsworth, Thomas Carlyle, T.S. Eliot etc. He said that in spite of all his literary greatness, no bigger example of scholarly and intellectual bias and prejudice against what he (Shakespeare) has written about Divine Revelations can be given, adding that we should study literature in broad perspective. He said that English litterateurs staged about five hundred dramas and plays in the 16th century which proved to be an effective source of spreading the message but in these dramas and plays they presented Turks as cruel, inhuman and oppressors and also depicted a negative image of Turkish culture, with the result that overall effect of these dramas was anti-Islamism. However, as against these, whatever Lord Byron saw and felt during his one year’s stay in Turkey changed his entire thinking and views. He wrote that in 1902 when women in Europe did not enjoy the right of ownership, women in Turkey were doing business. He said that because of misunderstandings and confrontations between the Crescent and Cross (symbols of Islam and Christianity respectively) the orientalists projected a highly distorted and misleading image of Islam and Muslims and in spite of all their knowledge, intellectual and scholarly excellence, they worked to mislead the intellectual world. They tried to see and depict Islam and Muslims from the same angle as is written and mentioned in the Bible and Jewish scriptures, adding that the litterateurs and men of letters of those days played the role of moulding people’s minds or rather brain washing like today’s media. Now after about a century, he said some circles in Europe are admitting their (past) mistakes which is a good and welcome sign. 

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 December 2016 on page no. 14

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