For centuries, Islamic culture has been both vilified and romanticized by westerners, says University of Toronto professor Ivan Kalmar of anthropology. He is investigating western perceptions through the ages that portray Islam as weak and passive on one hand but also as exotic and romantic.
"In the past, looking at Muslim nations as backward allowed western conquerors to justify their colonialist plans," says Kalmar. "But at the same time, there was a difference – especially along western gender lines – as to how Islamic culture was perceived. Women and men consumed Islamic cultural images differently, with women often viewing this world as sexy and sensual while men often considered it as uncivilized and looked down on it."
Even today, Kalmar says, many westerners demonize and dismiss the Muslim world as a place in need of aid. Nevertheless, this "backward" culture still prompts romantic storylines in literature, theatre and film.
Michah Rynor | EurekAlert!
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