How the Arabian Nights helped create Modern Islamophobia in western countries

With growing tensions between the Western and Eastern World in modern times, the piece of literature 1001 Arabian Nights has been more relevant in modern society than ever before.

Allow me to have a quick lesson on the current state of the relationship between America and the Middle East. Due to the Americans killing a top Iranian general earlier this year, the tension between the two parties has been at an ever high recently, with intensifying fears that some sort of retaliation action will happen from Tehran.

Why would the US feel the urge to take someone’s life? Certainly not due to the 1001 Arabian Nights right?

This situation is certainly an uncomfortable one, but what on earth does this have to do with the 1001 Arabian Nights?

Before I start, I understand that this may be a very controversial article, so I encourage you to be as understanding as possible. I am simply trying to show a different side of the story that has not nearly been given enough attention it deserves. In no way do I solely believe that the Arabian nights created modern Islamophobia.

The stories of the Arabian Nights play on multiple themes; “to highlight the real exotic otherness of Arabs/Muslims and all of the stereotypes that go with that including: their barbarity, their seclusion of women, being bound to tradition, the lack of rule of law and so on.

With such a revolutionary and popular piece such as the 1001 Arabian Nights, people from all across the globe, from different stages of life, everyone, has some sort of access to the piece of literature.

To someone who does not know too much about the Middle East reading the Arabian Nights for the first time, their only real perception of the Eastern world is of this. We can find it incredibly simple to generalise the eastern world due to this. It makes things simple to say that everyone acts a certain way. As we know, this is simply not true. People all across the world deserve to have multiple different sources of representation of their culture.

This really highlights the dangers of a single story as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie puts well in her Ted Talk below.

The 1001 Arabian Nights has helped in creating Islamophobia in western society, no matter how ugly this fact is.

How bad is Islamophobia in the western world at the moment?

Protesters from England gather to protest against the building of Mosques

A polling agency decided to survey people on the potential U.S. bombing of Agrabah, the Disney-created fictional city in which the fictional Aladdin and Princess Jasmin lived. This city does not exist, only sharing a middle eastern sounding name with an actual middle eastern city. 30 per cent of Republicans and 19 per cent of Democrats supported the bombing.

A significant percentage of people would justify bombing a fictional town due to the sole reason that it’s name sounded Middle Eastern.

This survey draws attention to how little the western world knows about the Eastern world. The Arabian Nights skewed representation of the eastern world. magnifying the amount of people justifying bombing a fictional town.

A physicist explained how humans formulate opinions well here.

This really highlights the way in which a significant portion of the western world feel towards the Middle East.

I personally have experienced this some sort of Islamophobia with my experience. The most notable being Australian politician Pauline Hanson infamously wearing a eastern cultural garment for women called a Burka.

Pauline Hansen wearing a Burka in Senate

Pauline Hansen wore this Islamic dress in a call to ban it in Australia. Perhaps she was scared of the lack of Identification the wearing of a Burka can cause as she makes clear that the security staff at the entrance to the Senate; “did not ask to see my(Pauline Hansen’s) face. However, I do not believe that some peoples religion and culture should ever be involved in a political “stunt,” and Senator Brandis agreed, slamming Hansen for her “stunt.”

Could this have been due to Islamophobia in my own country? I think so. Would the 1001 Arabian Nights be to blame for this? probably not… but quite possibly. Arabian Nights would have played some sort of role, given it being an admired piece of many although we must not forget that there are many other factors that effect someone's decision making. Not simply a singular piece of literature despite it being incredibly influential.

All in all, what I was trying to poke at was how the Arabian Nights is a staple for modern Islamophobia in western society, and how much damage it has done to the western worlds ways of thinking.

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