ABSTRACT

So, oft en the fi rst task is to try to deal with some of these very orientalist perceptions of the region as essentially Islamic in a very monolithic sense, and as radically diff erent from us. Th at notion is very ingrained and is one of the fundamental building blocks of how we think about ourselves. High school kids don’t think about this consciously, but I think that it is very deeply there. We are the West in some sense, and we trace our ancestry back to Europe-and then there is “them.” Th is is a problem of course for many parts of the world. But, at least in the last couple of generations it has been particularly salient for the Middle East given the deep and oft en painful and violent entanglement of the United States with the Middle East. [With Muslims, the popular caricature is that] they are radically diff erent from us, they are fanatical, they are extremists. Th ey have these very strange notions. Islam worships a diff erent god than Jews and Christians, and they are threatening. A lot of the fi rst task is addressing those kinds of things and trying to talk about them or replace them with more useful notions or more accurate understandings of what Islam is about. And trying to frame things diff erently so that sense of alien-ness, of radical otherness and threat, can be talked about usefully.