Last year I offered a write-in nomination for Karen Armstrong to be awarded the King Faisal Prize, in the category of Services to Islam.
But apparently Armstrong did not make the Saudi grade. Perhaps her bizarre flitting from this to that (what is it this week from the fingers and mind of Karen Armstrong? A treatise on Buddhism? How to Bring World Peace? The Search for Bridey Murphy?) and her favorite forms of recreation -- if rumor reached them -- no doubt offended those dour and so very judgmental Saudi judges. But she didn't win, and I suspect now that she won't. She's become too much a figurine of fun.
But I have another someone, not quite so obviously silly as Karen Armstrong. True, there is that little matter of all those Shambhala shambolic sham books on Sufism, which Saudis would hardly find satisfactory, but there is one sure way to free those judges of their doubtful minds and warm their cold cold hearts. And that way is to point not only to the hagiographical "Following Muhammad" but far more important, to take note of the tireless toiling in the vineyard of the Lor-- no, make that toiling or perhaps lolling in the conquered oases of Muhammad, as shown by the effort -- really, beyond the call of dhimmi duty -- in inveigling or forcing non-Muslim students, right in the heart of what Saudis no doubt think of as hopelessly Christian evangelical country (unaware as they must be of the special case of Chapel Hill, and even of North Carolina, the state that in the last century produced, inter alia, Ava Gardner and Walter Clay Lowdermilk, and is hardly part of the Deep South), to read not only Sells's "Approaching the Qur'an" but as part of further reading on given, large doses of both Esposito and Armstrong.
If such an achievement, which required ignoring the criticism by parents and students, does not merit recognition as a Service to Islam, and beyond that, a well-endowed (va-va-va-voom) prize, offered in recognition of that recognition, then one hardly know what would.
And thus it is for me both a rare privilege, and an honor, to nominate at this very posting, at this most relevant website, Professor Carl Ernst, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, to be the 2007 recipient of the King Faisal Prize.
I am sure a great many people, some of them no doubt Professor Ernst's faculty colleagues, will be happy to second that nomination.