Media Analysis

Orientalism at the ‘NY Times’: Muslims worship ‘Allah,’ not ‘God’

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The Orientalist bias is right there in the first paragraph of the New York Times report about Rashida Tlaib’s grandmother, who was waiting in occupied Palestine for a visit from the congresswoman that may now never come. Reporter Isabel Kershner described Muftiya Tlaib as

a 90-year-old woman [who] ran a string of wooden prayer beads through her gnarled figures on Friday, silently reciting the 99 names of Allah. . . 

“Allah” is the Arabic word for “God.” Why not translate it? When the Times reports on people in France or Spain, they are not described as praying to “Dieu” or “Dios.” What’s more, the Times would never have a Jewish Israeli worshipping “Yahweh.” 

This is basic Orientalism: Arabs, Palestinians, Muslims — they are fundamentally different from the rest of us. Even the “God” they worship is not quite the same — but a mysterious, exotic, foreign-sounding entity. This is how the press other-izes Arabs.

The implied subtext is: You can’t trust them, they don’t behave in the same way that the rest of us do. When they resist Israel’s occupation and theft of their land, they are motivated by some primitive, irrational force, beyond our ability to understand. So you don’t really need to reason or negotiate with them. In fact, you probably can’t.

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people insist on saying: “Judeo-Christian” too, instead of “Abrahamic”. Artificial and intellectually dishonest.

“Judeo-Christian” usually applies to “values”, although I have never found what they are…..

But I like the James’s observation. When we translate inshallah, we translate it as God willing.

@jn Um… A little hysterical nit picking, no? (I have silver prayer beads from a lebanese friend whose mother prayed to Allah using them along with a beautiful engraved small tray with the name of allah intricately carved. But then you have obviously succumbed to the brainwashing Edward Said perpetrated… Read more »

“silently reciting the 99 names of Allah. . ” That has got to be one of the funniest lazy internet search transcriptions, 99 beads often divided into 3rds, with two little flat things I wonder if that’s significant, I’ve never known anyone to use them to recite the names, you… Read more »

I’m out of my range of competence here, but two points: Which word “Allah” or “God” is used by English speaking Muslims? My impression is that it is “Allah.” Second, I think I understand it right that “Allah” is not a name of a god, like “Zeus” is a name.… Read more »