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Wednesday, 12 December 2007
The State Of Middle Eastern Studies

Middle Eastern studies must be removed from departments of Middle Eastern Studies. Those who obtain their degrees in such studies, from such places as Columbia's MEALAC, and thus presumably indoctrinated by such disinterested souls as Hamid Dabashi, Joseph Massad, Rashid Khalidi, Ms. Al-Haj (fresh from her incredible and intolerable achievement in obtaining tenure, despite her utter failure to meet minimal standards of scholarship, from a department that has lost its collective senses, in a vote that can only be explained by a Namierian exercise in prosopography, examining each faculty member for prejudice or parti pris, or in the case of one particular voter, his wife or ex-wife, whatever she now is supposed for the outside world to be), the inimitable George Saliba, and so on.

Presidents and Provosts must swallow their fear of interfering with "faculty autonomy." Other faculty members should not be shy, especially if they are trained in History and other relevant fields, to look into how their "colleagues" in Middle Eastern departments are actually teaching about Islam, for without Islam, no discussion of anything in the Middle East makes sense. (It would be like putting on Hamlet without the vacillating prince). And one cannot rely on Muslims to demonstrate the same objective presentation that, for example, one can expect about the presentation of Western history by those who are real or nominal Christians, at least as scholarly standards developed in the West -- and never did in the world of Islam, which has no universities or scholarship equivalent to what both the West (Europe and North America) and, with a lag, now the East (of Japan, China, Korea, and also non-Muslim India) have both developed.

If such follies as Iraq are not to be repeated, with all their unnecessary squandering of men, money, matériel -- then Islam must be understood. If it had been understood, had Americans in the corridors of power known that in Islam political legitimacy is located in the will expressed by Allah and not in the expressed will of the people, that might have prevented the whole absurd Light-Unto-the-Muslim-Nations project, by which "democracy" was to be transplanted in the sandy soil of Iraq, for "ordinary moms and dads" were said to long for it, rather than to long for settling scores, and seizing, or seizing back, power from their sectarian and ethnic enemies, and making sure that their sect, or their group, had as much power as it could grab, and keep.

And had Islam been properly understood, the naive and fruitless attempts to "solve" the Arab-Israeli dispute would end, and the recognition that there is no "solution" but rather merely a situation to be managed, and because of the immutable Muslim belief that the Infidel nation-state of Israel must be whittled down and then destroyed, because its continued existence, no matter what its size, constitutes a permanent affront to the Muslims for it does not accord with their world-view about land once part of Dar al-Islam having to be recaptured. Of course, in the end the entire world must submit to Islam, but until large numbers of Muslims were allowed to settle deep within Infidel lands, and until the Money Weapon supplied by oil revenues (some ten trillion dollars since 1973 alone), that larger dream seemed impossible, but it no longer does, especially in certain parts of Western Europe.

What if the KGB had had the kind of money to play with that the Saudis do? During the 70 years of its existence, Soviet Communism spent about 7-8 billion on propaganda world-wide. The Saudis alone have spent about one hundred billion, over the past few decades, with more being spent every year. It is spent on mosques, and madrasas, all over the Western world. It is spent on academic "centers," most connected with universities, and some stand-alone, as well as endowments for well-upholstered chairs at universities that are chosen either because they are conveniently located to centers of power (Esposito's Muslim-Christian Understanding operation is in Washington, at Georgetown, and so is the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies), or to curry favor with a new President (that Islamic studies money lavished on the University of Arkansas when Clinton was President), or at places where the reflected glory can do the cause some good (the "Guardian of the Two Noble Sanctuaries" professorship at Harvard Law School, with Frank Vogal now presumably passing the Saudi-lit torch to that thrusting young academic, whose entire oeuvre is not worth a page written of Joseph Schacht, Noah Friedman), such as Harvard and the other usual self-promoting self-described "world-class" universities.

And if the presidents and provosts and other alarmed faculty do not start looking into this, or even if they do, alumni should withhold contributions, no matter how keenly they may feel a loyalty to their alma mater. They owe a higher loyalty to the political and legal institutions, and to the conditions of freedom that make art and science possible, and that are under assault, slowly but steadily, by those who derive the meaning of their existence, and the regulation of that existence, from Islam. Ignorant undergraduates, unfortunately, are also impressionable. They are being carefully misinformed and mis-schooled, systematically so, by many of those, Muslims and also non-Muslim apologists for Islam, who are determined that the real Western scholarship about Islam -- that of C. Snouck Hurgronje, and Joseph Schacht, and Arthur Jeffrey, and Charles-Emmanuel Bousquet, and Georges Vajda, and Henri Lammens, and Antoine Fattal, and so many others --is never brought to the students' attention, or is first carefully discredited by heavy doses of Edward Said's "Orientalism," his attempt, for so long successful, to undercut, in advance, centuries of Western scholarship on Islam. But recent books, and especially that by Ibn Warraq, have blown Said sky-high. All the horses, and all the men, even of those sinister maecenases, all daggers-and-dishdashas, with their sneers of cold command, deploying the money weapon from their palaces in Jiddah and Riyadh, can't put "Orientalism" back together again.

Posted on 12/12/2007 12:30 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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