Mustafa Farooq is Executive Director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM). A lawyer by profession, Mustafa completed his Juris Doctor at the University of Alberta and Osgoode Hall (York University) and later earned his Master of Laws (LLM) at UC Berkeley in California.
In a Facebook post (November 3, 2009) Mustafa Farooq wrote (the post is no longer available online):
How are we Muslims going to recreate Cordoba [Caliphate/ Islamic State] in Edmonton/Toronto/Montreal/any Canadian city? We have a massive task ahead of us, but I really believe that it is one at which we can succeed, one in which we erase these artificial “nation-state” identities, and move together to pursue Jannah [paradise].
Mustafa Farooq – Orientalism Everywhere, Salam [hello] all,
To those who were at the conference, I thought that this might be an interesting tidbit. On Saturday, as I’m sure you remember, there was a concert from Maestro Ismayil Hajiyev, composer and national artist of Azerbaijan. Interestingly, though, the concert was done in honor of the late scholar Aida Imanguliyeva.
Dr. Imanguliyeva was, in her time, proclaimed as the first women Orientalist (http://en.trend.az/news/official/chronicle/1556785.html). She was the director of her branch of Oriental studies. Dr. Aida was also hailed as a prominent “arabist”.
I find it ironic how in a conference about the “Canadian Muslim Identity”, that the work of an Orientalist is celebrated and honored. While I happen to know that the organizers were unaware of who Dr. Aida was, I think it speaks volumes about how deeply our discourses have been influenced by Orientalist thought.
Shan von Pirzada – You think that our discussion at the MY Canada project was influenced by orientalist thought? How so?
Mustafa Farooq – Sorry for the late reply (ie, 1 month later). Been busy, then sick. All right, I’m not saying that the discussion at MY Canada project was influenced by Orientalist thought, only that the banquet concert was done in honor of one.
To me, it speaks to a much deeper problem, of how far Orientalism has penetrated Muslim discourses in general. That was just what I was trying to bring up.
To be more precise, Orientalism, to paraphrase the late Edward Said, pan-Arabo/pan-Islamo bias as the predominant discourse. It presents a sort of artificial divide between the West (called the Occident) and the East (The Oriental). Orientalism as a movement has been around for quite a long time, but really picked up strength in the 19th century. Prominent orientalists would include people like Lord Balfour (Balfour Declaration, Palestine Issue), Bernard Lewis, and perhaps Glen Beck (actually, not Glen Beck. After all, Orientalism is supposedly scholarly in origins, and I’m not sure if Beck fits into that).
Unfortunately, Orientalism has also become the lens by which many Muslims view themselves. We have been, in a sense, “written out of history”, with Muslims lacking a coherent sense of self or self-history. Obviously, history is a contested subject. However, I can say about myself that after the death of the Prophet (peace be upon him) I can tell you almost nothing about “Muslim history”. It is interesting that while today our fanatics rage about the battles between the West and the supposed Muslim world, at one time the “West” was Morocco.
Orientalism, as a total discourse, though, entitles more than that. It pervades literature, the social sciences, and entire academic/non-academic settings. It presumes a natural “identity” of the Oriental; but that identity is inherently inferior. Thus, it is not a question of “Who we are?” but a question of “Who are we in relation to them?” Orientalism sets up a discourse about identity that is, at its best unjustified by evidence, and at its worst racist and responsible for half a dozen wars.
That being said, that doesn’t take away from the “accomplishments” of some Orientalists. I still use Lane’s dictionary for Arabic-English translations, in spite of him being an avowed Orientalist. Sometimes I use it wrathfully, but I do it nonetheless. Or look at Kipling. He wrote “The Jungle Book” and “Kim”. And “The White Man’s Burden”. Oh yeah. Maybe not Kipling.
I’d be interested to hear what you guys think, and look forward to hearing from you all.
Mustafa Farooq – Rizwan bhai, jazakallah khair for responding. To me, Oreintalism goes even deeper than that; it assumes an imaginary binary between the Occident/Western and the Arab/Muslim. To me, this isn’t a very convincing argument. While the Prophet, peace be upon him, did mention that particular hadith, it has to be understood in the context of the fact that the Prophet signed treaties with Jewish communities, and in the context of the Quranic imperative to come to “A Common Word” (Kalimatin Sawaa)
To me, the concept of “A Common Word” provides a more effective paradigm than the Us/Them mentality. It supersedes the so called “Canadian” identity (which apparently is related to hockey and maple syrup) and allows us to engage people on far deeper levels. It allows us to ask questions like, “What is justice? How are we going to get there?” It allows us to say, “We are going to work towards peace”. It gives us the mandate to become a dominant discourse- For when truth comes, evil vanishes.
In terms of civic disobedience, while definitely important, we have to look more closely at the civis. How are we Muslims going to recreate Cordoba* in Edmonton/Toronto/Montreal/any Canadian city? We have a massive task ahead of us, but I really believe that it is one at which we can succeed, one in which we erase these artificial “nation-state” identities, and move together to pursue Jannah [paradise].
Wow, I never thought for a moment that at heart, I’m somewhat of a Idealist. Oh well.
*The Caliphate of Córdoba (Arabic: خلافة قرطبة; trans. Khilāfat Qurṭuba) was a state in Islamic Iberia along with a part of North Africa ruled by the Umayyad dynasty. The state, with the capital in Córdoba, existed from 929 to 1031. The region was formerly dominated by the Umayyad Emirate of Córdoba (756–929).
- NCCM’s Mustafa Farooq calls Christian street preachers “awful people” (click here)
- NCCM Mustafa Farooq’s statements critical of alliances with LGBTQ (click here)
- NCCM Mustafa Farooq retweets: “Omar Khadr is a national hero who did nothing wrong” (click here)
- NCCM’s Mustafa Farooq calls pro-mujahideen Imam “amazing Canadian,” “national treasure” (click here)