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What is Durkadurkistan?

January 22, 2010

Dr. Jack Shaheen, in his groundbreaking book Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People, describes the imaginary realm created by Hollywood that he calls “Arabland.” In an interview with Amy Goodman for DemocracyNow!, Shaheen explains:

We have this fictional setting called “Arabland,” a mythical theme park. And in Arabland, you know, you have the ominous music, you have the desert. We start with the desert, always the desert, as a threatening place. We add an oasis, palm trees, a palace that has a torture chamber in the basement. The pasha sits there on his, you know, posh cushions with harem maidens surrounding him. None of the harem maidens please him, so they abduct the blonde heroine from the West, who doesn’t want to be seduced.

When we visit Arabland, you must be aware of the instant Ali Baba kit. What we have, we have the property masters of Hollywood going around, and they’re cladding the women in see-through pantaloons, belly dancing outfits. They’re giving the Arab villains scimitars, you know, these, long, long scimitars. We see people riding around on magic carpets, turbaned charmers programming snakes in and out of baskets.

He concludes:

Yesteryear’s Arabland is today’s Arabland.

This blog deals not so much with Arabland, but instead its modern spinoff: “Durkadurkistan.” Like the former, Durkadurkistan is not a physical place; it exists conceptually as an embodiment of all the “conventional wisdom” generated about Islam and Muslims recently. In other words, it is the image/idea of the “Muslim world” in popular imagination today.

Durkadurkistan is less exoticized and more politicized than Arabland. Its topography crystallized largely in the post-9/11 era, and it has probably been shaped more by the news media than Hollywood. Nevertheless, Arabland and Durkadurkistan remain closely linked and share many commonalities, and discussions will likely wander in and out of both realms.

One of my goals with this blog is to “map” the conceptual terrain of Durkadurkistan, calling attention to untruths, misleading presentations, faulty logic and general ignorance along the way. To stave off depression I will also write on various interesting/positive topics.

Until next time – Khuda hafiz

2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 25, 2010 7:44 pm

    Great post. I’ve read so many of these ridiculous fatwa stories that they’re all starting to blend together. But it’s refreshing to see someone deconstruct the poor reporting that often goes in to stories like these. I look forward to reading more on this blog.

    • January 26, 2010 12:12 am

      Thanks Aisha. You have a great website by the way – I hadn’t seen it until today. will be reading it from now on. also I love the “wtfatwa” section!

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