Differences between orientalism and Islamophobia


Drawing from the readings/lectures what are the similarities and differences between Orientalism and Islamophobia?

Describe in detail Khaled Abou El Fadl’s approach to problematic prophetic traditions.

Compare and Contrast Abou El Fadl and Asma Barlas’ approach to alternative, gender positive interpretations of Islamic

Drawing from Amina Wadud’s work, how does she explain Quranic masculinity and femininity? And based on her argument about the importance of interpretation, argue for or against the claim that more Muslim women scholars/interpreters of the Qur’an will lead to greater gender equality in Muslim countries.


Differences between orientalism and Islamophobia

Recent activities both by the westerners and people from the Middle East and the eastern part of the world who are largely Muslim has shown the cracks in their relationship that can be traced back to the colonial days. The western countries have continually branded people of the Middle East as terrorists, not because they have proof that they but mainly because of their strong and devoted stand concerning their faith and their freedom, especially from America. As a result, these people have been mistreated for a very long time both in their country and in foreign countries. As a retaliation and revenge for the western countries meddling in their local and international affairs, the Islamic community has constantly hit and attacked these western countries in the attempt of convincing them to stay away from their affairs. However, it is worth noting that their actions have led to the death of thousands, if not millions of innocent people all over the world.  The bad blood that exists between these two regions should be solved through diplomatic means rather than war and conflicts which have done little but increase the tension between them. This assignment will attempt to shed more light on the Islamic religion and the relationship between the people of the Middle East and Westerners.

Question 1

Orientalism is one of the common words that will always pop up in any conversation regarding the Islamic community and the westerners. Orientalism focuses on revealing the relationship between the near and far Eastern societies and cultures and the Western countries. The concept of Orientalism can be referred to as the corporate institution for dealing with orient-dealing with it by making statements about it, authorizing views of it, describing it, by teaching it, selling it, ruling over and thus, Orientalism shows how the western countries want to dominate the middle east. On the other hand, Islamophobia is the concept of the western countries mistreating as well as fearing the entire faith group of Muslim, primarily because of a few individuals n the group who use religion to further their political goals. After the 9/11 incident, Madrid and London bombing, Muslims have been victimized just because of the actions of a few greedy individuals who hide in the religious with ill and evil ambitions and intentions (Wolf, 2015). Some of the similarities between Orientalism and Islamophobia include:

  1. The most notable similarity between these two concepts is the fact that they both show how the westerners who are Christians have worked tirelessly to reduce the influence of the Islamic religion if not to wipe it out of the face of the universe.
  2. The two concepts show how Muslim women have suffered in the hands of western ideologies, especially because they can see and they cannot be seen due to their hijabs. Thus, these western men have struggled to ensure that all Muslim women unveil and wear Castilian dresses to satisfy their own eyes as well as to feel superior.
  3. The two concepts also present a period and situation where Arab signs, re-education programs, a ban on intermarriages and proposed castrations were mainly used to weaken the religion and to make most of the believers to defect from Islam to Christianity.

Differences between orientalism and Islamophobia

  1. Orientalism focuses on the relationship between the western countries and the people of the Middle East and the intentions and ambitions of the western countries to dominate Asia and Middle East while Islamophobia focuses on the fear or hatred of Islam and its adherents that translate into individuals, ideological and systematic.
  2. Orientalism represents a period where the western countries strived and made strategies to cripple Islamic religion by enforcing economic sanctions to their religions while Islamophobia was marred by actual violence, especially 9/11 where President Bush used the word crusade to fight against Osama and all his associates.

Question 2

Khaled Abou El Fadl believes that authoritarian methodologies of interpretation corrupt the integrity of Islamic texts and mute their voices. Authoritarianism is used to refer to a hermeneutic methodology that usurps and subjugates the mechanisms of producing meaning from a text to a highly subjective of the authoritarian hermeneutic that focuses on equating between authorial intent and the readers intent to attach meaning to a text. The author goes on to state that it is not every report recorded in the Sunnah is authentic or that the Sunnah primarily reflects the authorial voice or intent or the prophet. Thus, the reader of the Sunnah should know that the intent and precedent of the prophets should be determinative. As a result, Khaled Abou El Fadl urges all Muslims not only to rely on the authorial intent or their intent after reading a Quran, but rather, they should attempt to balance their intent, and that of the author to gain a better understanding of the problematic prophetic traditions. The most important thing is to understand the prophet to ensure that we as the Muslim follow the words and teachings of the prophetic texts by finding the balance between our intents and that of the author (El Fadl, 2014).  This is just to remind the readers and the interpreters that they do not and should not agree on everything they read in the Quran primarily because such disagreements are allowed in the Islamic religion and should be acceptable. After all, the Islamic religion is known for a long established a tradition of disputing and disagreements which started during the time of the prophet.


Question 3

Abou El Fadl, some of the Islamic traditions, requires women to readily submit to their husband’s demands and needs without questioning whether the demands are right or wrong. However, in most cases, men interpret the Quran to suit their needs and the women can do nothing about it because there are no enough women scholars and interpreters who have a clear understanding of the Quran to question this interpretation. For example, the Quran states that men are qawwamun of women by what God has given some over others which can be used to refer to servants, protectors, maintainers or guardians depending on which context the word is used. However, in the Quran, the word is used in another totally different context where all Muslims are commanded to be the qawwamun of justice. However, most are the times when people interpret the Islamic texts to suit their needs and desires irrespective of positive gender interpretation (El Fadl, 2014). Moreover, the author points out that there is no one point in the Quran that it is written that women should be obedient to their husband when it comes to marital status rather the Quran talks of a companionship and compassion relationship between a husband and a wife.

On the other hand, Barlas Asma in her work Believing Women” in Islam: Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Qur’an tries to shed more light on whether the Quran supports and encourages liberation for women after being subjected to violence by the men who are their husbands, brothers, and leaders for a very long time. Just like Abou El Fadl, Asma feels that it is high time that readers and scholars find the balance in the interpretation of the Quran to ensure that all genders are considered and to eliminate the notion that men are always right. Moreover, she goes on to say that the Quran is egalitarian and antipatriarchal considering that it affirms the complete equality of the sexes, thereby offering a suggestion that many Muslims read the Quran in ways that seem to justify sexual oppression, inequality and patriarchy nature of men.

Unlike Abou El Fadl, Barlas Asma speaks as a believing woman whose arguments are constructed and based on the theoretical teachings of the Quran.  Thus, it is correct to say that she speaks from Quranic perspective and she rejects the deterministic view of the relationship between sex/gender and reading while clearly stating that her views are not influenced by the fact that she is a woman (Ali, 2016). Abou El Fadl gives both argues by both Quran and a male Muslim considers that women have been subjected to discrimination and torture, physically, emotionally and spiritually by their husbands as well as their leaders.

Question 4

According to Amina Wadud, both male and females should be equal when it comes to religion and in real human life. The author goes on to say that for a very long time Muslim women have suffered a lot in the hands of their male counterparts who wants to dominate all aspects of the woman’s life ranging from her religious life to social life as well as economic life. Islamic gender justice, sustaining the full dignity of all Muslim women and advocating for a social-political structure that encourages the fulfillment of their purpose as full agents of Allah should be the primary mission of all Islamic women and preachers to give a chance to women to show what they got and what they can do. The Quran clearly states that men and women are equal in Islam and their rights due to women are similar to the rights against them concerning ma’aruf.  However, despite the fact that the Quran clearly states that both men and women are equal, Islamic male preachers go on to state that men have a degree over the women without clearly elaborating and explaining in which context men are supposed to exercise authority and control over women. The above quote by the male preachers drives the author to question the integrity of most Islamic male leaders who believe that women have no power and the ability to lead a nation, prayers or a movement despite their background clearly confirming that they have the power and ability to lead (Wadud, 2013). Amina Wadud clearly states that Islam has nothing anyone becoming a leader, whether male or female as long as they have what it requires to be a leader, and it is the high time for people to do away with the notion that women simply cannot lead.

Statistics show that women in Islamic countries stand a low probability of ever coming to power or attaining any leading position in their countries and community set up. However, Amina Wadud believes that having more and more Muslim scholars/interpreters of the Quran will lead to greater gender equality in Muslim countries. As a matter of fact, having more women investing their time and money to study the Quran will give them a better understanding of the Islamic law and thus minimize if not totally eliminate chances and probability of male leaders twisting the Islamic text to suit their ambitions and needs. Moreover, having the much-needed knowledge about their rights and privileges gives them the power to question some of the societal norms and the actions of the male instructors and leaders regarding their position in the religion and community development. Islamic women scholars should understand that each human is created as a moral agent of Allah and should, in fact, play a critical role in spreading prophet Mohammed teachings to the world and this role should not only be left in the hands of men (Wadud, 2013). With this, women are likely to win the war against male dominated religion and society.

In conclusion, it is correct to say that women deserve better in both spiritual and community realms. The Quran clearly states that women and men are equal and provided individual has the necessary abilities and capabilities to lead others should be given the chance and room to be a leader. On the other, the western cultures and countries should put an end to Orientalism and Islamaphobia since they portray a picture of nonhuman to the whole universe. Islam is just a religion and faith, and the government should seek the extremist rather than blaming the entire group.


Between Orientalism and Fundamentalism: Women in Islam


Ali, Z. (2016). Concepts of God in Islam. . Philosophy Compass, 11(12), . , 892-904.

El Fadl, K. A. (2014). Speaking in God’s name: Islamic law, authority and women. Oneworld                  Publications.

Wadud, A. (2013). Inside the gender jihad: Women’s reform in Islam. . Praktyka teoretyczna,                  (08), , 249-262.

Wolf, M. (2015). Orientalism and Islamophobia as Continuous Sources of Discrimination?.

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