In his interviews
two different kinds of image of the Orient stand out. One is regarded as a fairy tale world, that is the
world that has Arabian nights as an icon. The other image of the Orient is a very negative one. It is
regarded as realistic but not exhaustive. Several of the informants complete the negative image with a
supposedly positive one to reach some sort of normalization. The argument goes something like this: All
these bad things are probably true but there are of cause a lot of nice persons there too. What Berg finds
is a common sense scepticism that the viewers and readers have. The discourses on the Orient is not
internalised at face value, instead they are treated with a healthy scepticism.
The situation as it is now
During the 1990’s, changes occurred in several of the mentioned fields. The Saidian criticism finally paid
off. New textbooks on religion were less prejudiced than older ones, Muslim children’s presence in
Swedish schools became taken for granted, positive examples and personal contacts with Muslims had
increased for many non-Muslims, some laws were adjusted to the new demographic situation. There has
also been a wave of commercial so called “immigrant movies” in Sweden. These movies problematize
racism, ethnic relations, religious conservatism, etc. But still according to polls and (at least) my
experience the level of prejudice was and is still high. Doing studies on the image of Muslims or Islam in
newspapers, films etc. are popular among my students (at International Migration and Ethnic Relations).
So I get a constant update on these matters.
A comment on the present relevance of the different discourses
The problems of the Orientalism studies in Sweden
The last part of the paper will develop a critique of the research on Islamophobia, especially the Swedish
one, but I think that that has some relevance for international research too. The critique will deal with
the problem of a somewhat uncritical adoption and projection of Said’s ideas that leads to a lack of
independence, the lack of comparative material, the tendentious choice of empirical material and the
confusion of a critical approach with an Orientalist discourse. My critic below is general and all
comments are not applicable to all the research mentioned above.
It is typical of Swedish researchers who use a Saidian approach to uncritically adopt Saids results from
Orientalism. That is, instead of using Said as a heuristic tool to gain a critical understanding of their own
material they use Said’s results as a matrix for their own results. When they reach the same result they are
satisfied. I would claim that this moulding hides a more complex understanding of the phenomenon of
Orientalism which of cause takes on different guises in different historical settings. Said would be the first
to agree with that.
A typical consequence of the above is that researchers tend to forget to use comparative material. We
gain a lot of answers from the research but answers to what questions? If we find that Islam is related to