One of the most important participants of Istanbul Global Forum which was held through the theme ‘Justice’, was certainly Walter D. Mignolo. An Argentinean linguist and historian Mignolo, has been studying on the creation and transformation of latest 25 years of modern/colonist world system and the vision of Western Civilization. In these days which the anti-islamic discourse have refreshed due to racist posters on USA metro stations and revilement film addressing to our Prophet Lord, we talked with Mignolo on Islamphobia discourse who prepared to make a speech during the session of "Just memory”. Addressing the roots of anti-islamic discourse in Europe up to the expulsion of Muslims from Andalusia, Mignolo stated "west which is secular but not giving up Christianity” carries on the discourse, yet he defenses that it is possible to struggle ignoring these discourses. Here the short interview we made with the Argentinean linguist Walter Mignolo:
Cigdem Akti: What can you tell us about how islamphobic discourse was created and its characteristics?
Walter Mignolo: I made a research on the epoch which I assume as the beginning of islamphobic discourse in 16. Century, in Spain. The epoch which Jews and Muslims were sent away from Spain, and also the time when Spain has discovered America and started to reconstruct a new world there. A new world which was founded by Portuguese and Spanish originated people who are the ancestors of Latin and Hispanic in USA presently. What I mean, islamphobia and Hispanicphobia are two directions which can be examples to the development of how the European centered discourse was constituted. This discourse has created a "human” image and
annihilated or ostracized the ones who are out of it. It also proves how Europe created a human figure, a ‘Humanitas’, while on the other hand it created an ‘Anthropos’ image. "Anthropos" is idolaters, Muslims, Indians, blacks, all the others. That is to say, Islamphobia, is a result of Europe’s human and humanity construction separating others. The second part of the problem is related with how Muslims and Islam hostility was made a determinant figure in the Europe-centered discourse and the emphasis on the history of Christians and Muslims. How and why? Let’s take a look what happened in 18 and 19 century. Muslims were sent away from Spain. Where did they go? To the Sultanate of Safavid, Ottoman and Mongol. Luckily, the three sultanate which played leading roles on the expansion of Europe. Christians and Muslims, were not always enemies, but friends. Yet the issue is related with the image construction of colonialist world which made Muslims the big enemy. And the other enemy was Jews. But Jews were internal enemies. Until 1948.
Cigdem Akti: It is right that an anti Islamic discourse existed historically but it seems to become widespread, and accepted today. How it came to this?
Walter Mignolo: That is a good question. A secular point of view on the religion wars, entered into the picture in 18. Century, between Christians, Catholics and Protestants. Christianity didn’t disappear, but it became a buffer zone in the new form of European centralism, the laical European-centralism. Why didn’t Christianity face problems similar to ones faced by Buddhism, Hindooism or Confucianism? Because Christianity and Islam and Judaism are three religions of book. They are linked through the Old Testament, New Testament and Quran. In other words, when Jews became a controllable internal enemies, Muslims were fictionalized as external enemies. The Jewish problem was solved by the foundation of Israel. But Muslims left. The
problem continued and this shows us the laical discourse had never quitted the holy Christian discourse. Just like we learned from Bush.. I think this is the answer of the question: If the west would be laic honestly there would be no reason to assume Islam as a problem. The west is secular yet never gave up Christianity.
Cigdem Akti: Well then, how to come up with that discourse, what opposing discourse should be buit? Or is there a way to found such a discourse?
Walter Mignolo: I think it is happening already. In my opinion, what happens today are efforts of ‘irrelevance’ of Muslim countries such as Malaysia or Indonesia. The answer, is unlinking the connection of that hostility created by the West. If it was responded to hostility with enmity the game carries on. You stay within the game of the West.
Cigdem Akti: In other words, another discourse must be constituted… Walter Mignolo: Exactly. And I’m of the opinion that it is being made actual not only by the projects brought out by Muslims but also by other different projects actualized by others. We can’t waste our lives in such a hostility, we must build another world. And a different world can’t rely upon such kind of enmity. The problem of modernization is that, the Western civilization is the newest through the history of humanity. There was no West civilization before 1500. And this civilization was Christian. And then laical. This is not the case. They can contribute the humanity civilization. The issue is that they act as if the rest of the world is "nearly existent” and believe thusly. This is about to come to an end. In my opinion, not the end of the Western civilization but the end of the Western hegemony is about to show up. And we can get rid of that enmity and look to future and start to construct a new kind of world which is mentioned
as multi-centered world by others which I call "universality” when the western hegemony passed away. This is what I think..