The 1st international conference
on the relations between Taiwan and Arab countries
Taiwan –Arab Forum and
Arab Center for Security Studies, Jordan
November 25-26, 2010
Prospects for Middle Eastern Studies And Islamic Studies
Mazin S. Motabagani
Al-Madinah Center for the Study of Orientalism
The idea that Middle Eastern Studies departments or Islamic Studies as a discipline does not yet exist in Taiwan does not mean lack of knowledge in this very important country of our part of the World. The relationships between the Muslim world and Taiwan has been very strong for a long time which can be dated in the recent history to the days of the cold war when both parties joined efforts combating Communism. There are numerous experts in Taiwan about the Middle East, some studied in Western universities and some gained firsthand knowledge by studying in the Arab World worked in different Arab or Islamic countries. However, the establishment of an academic institution was not considered by Taiwanese universities until recently.
These studies in the West have witnessed great developments but, they were heavily dependent on the studies of the early ‘Orientalists’ which were criticized in the works of many Muslim scholars as early as the late nineteenth century and throughout the twentieth century. Then came Edward Said' famous work. However These studies are still burdened by the past and present shortcomings. In this paper I shall present some of the positive and negative sides of these studies as undertaken by Western scholarship. One great advantage of these studies is that they provided information , knowledge and views about the Arab and Muslim World in different fields. It also provided opportunities for students from all parts of the globe to study about the Middle East and Muslim World in Western academia where they were able to learn the academic methodology and find an immense wealth of information and data.
However the negative side of these studies is that they are still dependent on funding of Western governments and catering for their political and economic interests. We can find some of the old stereotypes and prejudices are still lagging behind.
This paper will try to provide general guidelines to utilize the positive sides of Western scholarship and avoid the negative side through three sections:
First: Arabic and Islamic Studies before the eighties.( the publishing of Edward Said's book "Orientalism"
Second: Arabic and Islamic studies from the eighties nineties until the present day.
Third: General Guidelines for Arabic and Islamic Studies in Taiwan.