- Bibliographical Discourse Analysis: The Western Academic Perspective on Islam, Muslims and Islamic Countries (1949 – 2009)by Saied Reza Ameli
Ameli’s extensive four volume set, Bibliographical Discourse Analysis: The Western Academic Perspective on Islam, Muslims and Islamic Countries (1949 – 2009), is an unapologetic and meticulous piece of work which strikes at the heart of how the West has viewed Islam since the seventh century. Whilst the bibliographic samples (which constitute 23,872 items) cover the period from 1949 to 2009, in Volume 1, Ameli offers a concise and engaging introduction to the origins of the historical relationship between the West and Islam, beginning with when, in 628 CE, the Prophet Muhammad invited the Byzantine Emperor, Heraclius, to accept Islam (15), and ending with the continuing effects of post-colonialism on Muslims. Though some scholars in Western academia may find Ameli’s conclusions uncomfortable, his hope is that his work ‘will make even a small contribution for changing the world for the better’ (8).
The primary epistemological basis of Ameli’s research is that:
during the past 60 years, a significant body of knowledge concerning Islam and the Muslim World – books, book reviews, articles, and PhD dissertations – has been produced in the West. Even though a great sum of it claims to be of scientific standard, well-researched and unbiased, the fact remains that centuries of mistrust, misunderstanding and misrepresentation have had an undeniable impact upon Western thinkers and their scholarly work on Islam.(39)
[End Page 500]
His method of bibliographical discourse analysis involves ‘taking a critical stance towards text and context’ in order to gather, analyse, and categorise ‘the relevant material in different discourses and sub discourses’ (61). All items, therefore, are critically categorised in accordance with five key discourses to show how Western academia has analysed and represented Islam, Muslims, and Islamic countries: ‘Islamophobia’, ‘Islamophilia’, ‘Islamoromia’, ‘Islamoverita’, and ‘Neutral’. Ameli arrives at these categories by engaging in a conceptual analysis of academic resources that shows the context in which the resource was written, the socio-political worldview inherent within the resource as well as the very text of the resource which outlines its own aims and contents. These categories will be outlined in the review for the benefit of the reader.
Islamophobia is, as ‘the 1997 Runnymede report suggests, the shorthand away of referring to dread or hatred of Islam – and, therefore, to fear or dislike of all or most of Muslims’ (43). Ameli argues that Islamophobia paints Islam as a monolithic, inflexible, distant ‘other’ – a barbaric, irrational, primitive, sexist, aggressive, and intolerant religion (44). This has its roots in the seventh century (and continued onwards) when many Christians feared that Islam would rival the status of Christianity as a dominant world religion. St. John Damascene, the seventh century monk and priest who was ‘the real founder of the Christian tradition [against Islam]’, claimed that the Qur’an imitated the Old and the New Testament incompletely and that this was to ‘become a pillar of Christian accusations against Islam as a false religion in the centuries to come’ (20-21). This mistrust was heightened in al-Andalus; while some form of convivenciawas enjoyed there, it also had its fair share of tensions. There, some of the Christian clergy attacked the ‘Muslim Prophet as a licentious Arab who promoted lust in the form of polygamous commandment’ (23). The Crusades accelerated the derogatory image of Islam: ‘the image of a savage, dark-skinned Saracen, the pagan enemy of Jesus Christ, did not appear merely as papal propagation to keep the flames of war high; nor was it meant to address the crusaders only; soon after the First Crusades...