In my high school in Syria, which was directed by the Iranian regime through its embassy staff in Damascus (Iran has several schools in Syria and sends teachers and imams there), every student was forced to attend daily prayer at noon. We were commanded to stand behind an extremist clergyman, mimic his actions, and recite the prayer. After the prayer, we had no choice but to listen to the preaching of a fundamentalist imam who was most likely employed by the regime to advance their ideological and political interests.
Some of the words preached by this radical cleric stuck with me, especially his sharp focus on how to capitalize on some, but not all, theories that originated in the West. We could utilize these theories, he said, to advance Islamist values. For example, one of the concepts, he was adamant that we learn about was “Orientalism”, is a concept developed by Edward Said, a Palestinian-American who was born in 1935 in Palestine, when it was still under the British mandate.
The theory focuses on the notion that there is a fundamental flaw in the Western world, because it views the East, specifically the Muslim world and the Middle East, through a prism of superiority.
In a short time, this concept gained significant popularity in the Western academic world, and consequently it infiltrated the media and political landscapes. Inevitably it shaped and influenced public thought.