Saturday, September 24, 2016

"This inclusion of Islam in the Nietzschean catalogue of more 'honest', pre-, non- or even anti-European societies offers two further points of interest: first, that Nietzsche's remarks do not greatly differ from the kinds of observations a whole century of European Orientalists were making about Arabs and Muslims in general — that Islam is incapable of democracy, that is fanatical and warlike, that it is Frauenfeindlich and socially unjust, etc. Nietzsche's only difference, ironically, is that he affirms these prejudices instead of lamenting them. Nietzsche, who had never visited a Muslim country and whose closest brush with the 'Orient' was the 'southern' sensuousness of Naples, had to rely on an extremely unreliable canon of Orientalists for his information about Islam and Arab culture. The fact that Nietzsche's opposition to 'progress' led him to react positively to the kind of racial and generic defamations attributed to the Middle East by these 'experts' leaves us with an interesting dilemma: how do we interpret Nietzsche's anti-democratic, mysogynistic but nevertheless positive characterization of Islam? Do we condemn it for conforming to a whole set of nineteenth-century stereotypes concerning these cultures, or do we interpret it as an anti-colonialist gesture, turning around the heavy machine of European orientalism and using it to launch an itonic asault on the very modenity which produced it?

Nietzsche says very little about what Islam is, but only what it is not. Nietzsche's Islam is ultimately vacuous: a constructed anti-Christianity, admittedly associated with some figures and places, but fundamentally built on a certain Gefühl, one which feeds on anecdotes lifted out of Orientalist texts or gropes for symbolic figures like the Assassins or Hafiz in order to justify its assertions...

... Nietzsche seems not so much to be disagreeing with European Orientalism, as rather to be affirming and celebrating the very aspects of Islam they purport to deplore."

Ian Almon, The New Orientalists - Postmodern representation of Islam from Foucault to Baudrillard, 2007

No comments: