As an academic discipline, Islamic Studies had a political father and
a spiritual mother. Political in that colonizing governments sought to
understand the peoples they ruled over for more effective control.
Spiritual in that Christian missionaries needed to understand Islam in
forging conversion strategies.
Emergent identity pride appeared in
the Muslim world in the wake of Second World War and imperial
withdrawal. Postcolonial intellectuals concluded that Muslims were
victims of European ignorance, a notion most artfully elaborated in
Palestinian-American literature professor Edward Said's 1978 book
Orientalism. Guilt-ridden Western academics eagerly embraced the new
rules, which said that criticism of Western religions was to be
encouraged, while Islam was (until 9/11) seen as largely off limits.
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