By M. SHAHID ALAM
In the heyday of the old colonialism, the white man did not need any help from the natives in putting down their religion and culture. Indeed, he preferred to do it himself. Then, the opinion of the natives carried little weight with the whites anyway. So why bother to recruit them to denounce their own people. As a result, Orientalists wrote countless tomes denigrating the cultures of the lesser breeds.
Today the West needs help in putting down the uppity natives--especially the Muslims. One reason for this is that with the death of the old colonialism, some natives have begun to talk for themselves. A few are even talking back at the Orientalists raising all sorts of uncomfortable questions. This hasn't been good: and something had to be done about it. In the 1970s the West began to patronize 'natives' who were deft at putting down their own people. Was the West losing its confidence?
The demand for 'native' Orientalists was strong. The pay for such turncoats was good too. Soon a whole crop of native Orientalists arrived on the scene. Perhaps, the most distinguished members of this coterie include Nirad Chaudhuri, V. S. Naipaul, Fouad Ajami and Salman Rushdi. They are some of the best loved natives in the West.
Then there came the 'war against global terrorism' creating an instant boom in the market for Orientalists of Muslim vintage. The West now demanded Muslims who would diagnose their own problems as the West wanted to see them--as the unavoidable failings of their religion and culture. The West now demanded Muslims who would range themselves against their own people--who would denounce the just struggles of their own people as moral aberrations, as symptoms of a sick society.