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Director of Arabic Publications at Hamad Bin Khalifa University Publishing Press in Qatar

Fakhri Saleh

Fakhri Saleh, Director of Arabic Publications at Hamad Bin Khalifa University Publishing Press in Qatar, was the guest speaker at the ACRPS' weekly seminar on Wednesday, 19 October 2016. Saleh's talk, based on an upcoming book of his, was titled "Islamophobia: How Does the New Orientalism Depict Arabs and Muslims?"

In his talk, Saleh gave examples of three prominent writers active in English and who are responsible for shaping negative attitudes towards Muslims in the West, whom he dubbed the "New Orientalists". The three he chose to focus on included Bernard Lewis, Samuel Huntington and Nobel Laureate VS Naipaul. According to Saleh, what all three authors had in common, notwithstanding the vast differences between them and their backgrounds, was that they contributed to a larger, strategic effort to turn Islam into the new enemy of the West. Although contemporary in nature, it was firmly rooted in the older version of orientalism. Specifically, these writers contributed to a belief system which viewed the Islamic world as backwards, irrational, violent and characterized by tyrannical rule. These characteristics of Islamic society it viewed as antithetical to the Western ideals of democracy, civilization, rationalism and dedication to human rights.

Saleh also pointed to a transformation in how orientalism, as a broad field of knowledge, acquired and consolidated knowledge. In contrast to the orientalists of the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, whose scholarship was founded on direct knowledge of the written legacy of the Arab-Islamic East. In contrast, contemporary area studies "experts" who rely for their knowledge on secondary sources and the media. The more descriptive sources which the latter orientalists relied on were also more directly ideologically driven knowledge which is then used, as described by Saleh, to create government policies more in its shape. In other words, the "New Orientalism" defined by Saleh shares with its forerunner of classical orientalism only the driving desire to create an enemy out of Islam; but it has also abandoned any pretenses to a deep knowledge of the Islamic societies in question.

Saleh's presentation was followed by a Q-and-A session with the audience moderated by Dr. Eid Mohammed.