September 19, 2014 By

Midnight’s Children Festival Events: “A Dialogue with Edward Said

In this footage where Edward Said talks with Prof Akeel Belgrami about Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, Edward’s quintessential method of literary criticism is unveiled. Since Edward is more concerned about the workings of power behind a literary work, he throws sharp questions about the representation of power in Rushdie’s book. “The brilliance of Rushdie’s work is that he gives us the picture of the overlapping history of pre and post-colonial India. From the milieu of the post-colonial nation, the work looks back on the past, saying that modern India and its formation of identity is based on the British India. Rushdie is not kind to imperialism and is of the view that imperialism is part of the modern Indian history.”

Towards the closing part of the lecture a listener asks Said to comment on Rushdie’s view of Islam especially in the context of the post 9/11 debates.

Said says:

“Islam is much more complex and diverse in its manifestations. Words have become highly demagogical like terrorism, for which none has found an answer except that it is always associated with Islam. But most of the discussions about the word terrorism-there were debates in the US in the 1970s about the definition of the word-fail because terrorism is always associated with non-state individuals and groups. The important component od state terrorism is not simply talked about. The modern state and its violence for example that Germany is hardly talked about. The vocabulary used to describe Muslims as moderate, modern and modernizing as done by Thomas Friedman is inconceivable. Because there is a vast phenomenon of understanding the Muslim world. Critics don’t know the language of the Muslim world and of the debates going on there. Secondly, who says that the modernizing trend is set by the west. When we say that we pass over the phases of genocide in the experience of the west. I remember an exchange between boxer Muhammad Ali and somebody down at the world trade centre. He asked Ali: How do you feel to be the member of the religion who did this? Ali said: How do you feel to be the member of the religion which brought us Hitler?. If you take off the phony labels of democracy and modernity, there is dynamism taking place everywhere. Culture is going through the period and process of defining themselves. This is true of Islam and all societies.

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