There are people whose names are sacrosanct in the halls of academia and the hallowed halls of DC insiders. One of them is the cultural jihadist Edward Said. I have attacked his fallacious Islamist narrative repeatedly at Atlas.
Why? Because the evil of Said's propaganda infects all levels of learning and "global perspectives". Check out the profile of Shampa Biswas, Associate Professor of Politics at Whitman College. "In this regard, Biswas is as much instigator as educator in her academic life. 'A lot of what I do in my classes is to confuse frames to see elements in a new light,' she said. 'It’s a stretch for many students, but education should be a stretch. I’m not telling students to accept or excuse anything. I’m asking them to think through something — broadly, deeply and, for me, globally.'" Remember: these Islamic propagandists are teaching your children.
There was a moment, an episode, in Shampa Biswas’ life as a graduate student when the center no longer held and the way she considered the world changed, fundamentally and inexorably. It occurred in the space of 432 pages of a book by Edward Said called “Orientalism.”
In the book, Said observes that the panoramic view of the East by scholars in the West has essentially painted half of the world into a corner. He urges that “narrative” replace “vision” in any interpretation of a geography and its people. “Vision” classifies and labels. “Narrative” records and critically assesses the variety and dynamic nature of human experience.
“Said’s book was truly transformative, one of those ‘aha!’ moments,” said Biswas, associate professor of politics at Whitman. “It was eye-opening to see how literature, which I dearly love, has been complicit in perpetuating inequality in the world.”
More important in the context of her teaching was Said’s insight that all knowledge is political. “It opens up the pedagogic possibility of also thinking of knowledge as politically liberating,” she said.
Biswas uses “Orientalism” in her “Alternative Voices” class. With each fresh reading of the book, “new windows” open in her teaching. Said’s call for critical analysis — part and parcel of the learning experience at Whitman — is precisely the petition Biswas delivers to her students.
“Not every moment in the classroom is transformative, of course, but as a teacher, you always hope to bring knowledge that will generate that spark of enlightenment,” she said. “I really savor those moments.” Biswas recognizes both the influence and responsibility that come with her job. Honesty as an educator demands that the educator be forever a learner, she maintains.
“I never felt a calling to teach, but I knew why it appealed to me soon after
I started,” she said. “Teaching keeps me intellectually curious and productive
in useful ways. My students are exceptional in many respects, and I learn a
great deal from them. They challenge me to think in new ways about texts that I
have read and thought about many times over.”
And how does Biswas view the "empire" America? Check out her convocation address back in 2007 - evil in prose.
The bipartisan report was titled “Defending Civilization: How our Universities are Failing America and What can be done about it?” The report, whose ostensible goal was the restoration of “the legacy of freedom and democracy” in U.S. higher education institutions, lists 115 specific instances of dissent to the war on terror from around 50 campuses across the country, and condemns U.S. academics for both their own lack of patriotism and the failure to cultivate the same in young students.
A couple more events from recent years. In the name of restoring “an academic bill of rights”, former Marxist turned right wing commentator, David Horowitz has launched a campaign against what has been described as “the stranglehold of progressive politics on university campuses” (Larkin, 2004), a campaign that has involved identifying “the 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America” (an appellation I regret to inform no member of this distinguished faculty has earned, but not for lack of trying). A founder and director of the Middle East Forum and a former member of the board of the very influential U.S. Institute of Peace, Daniel Pipes has founded the organization Campus Watch, whose explicit purpose is to compile dossiers and publicly malign on their website “unpatriotic” academics who oppose U.S. or Israeli foreign policy, especially with regard to the Middle East. More recently, a conservative alum at the University of California at Los Angeles started a nonprofit group to combat “U.C.L.A.’s continued slide into political partisanship and indoctrination” by enumerating a “Dirty Thirty” list of professors whose leftist leanings he found particularly troubling. This alum offered to pay students for taping and documenting what those professors said in their classrooms – an event which generated national news media attention and put many academics around the country on guard.
Here we are, you – eager, bright, highly accomplished students ready to embark on your college careers with passion and energy and us, educators – scholars, thinkers, dedicated teachers ready to engage you in a life of the mind. What could be at stake in this intellectual enterprise that is deemed so risky, so threatening to engage the energies of all these highly connected, well-funded, groups and people with substantial political influence in today’s world?What are the stakes of reading, writing, thinking and reflecting in a place such as this which might some day perhaps earn you too the disfavor of some powerful group, some set of vested interests? As we convoke today this journey into knowledge, it may be worth asking, what are the stakes of becoming an intellectual?
Like Obama? I think not.
I ask this question no doubt with a certain utopian vision of the academy in mind, a vision that celebrated Nigerian poet and novelist Ben Okri describes as “a place for self-perfection…for the highest education in life”, a place that “engages endless generations in profound and perpetual discovery…The purpose…to deepen the spirit, to make more profound the sensitivities of the individual to the universe, and to become more creative” (Okri, 1995). And I speak with some concern as I see this utopian vision under onslaught not just from the political witch-hunting I mentioned above or the intrusions into academic freedom by a heavy-handed Patriot Act, but also the increasing corporatization of academia, as universities and colleges become what Stanley Aronowitz (2000) has called “knowledge factories” and David Noble (2001) “diploma mills”, places where educators are simply service providers, students consumers and education a commodity whose content and value is to determined by the imperatives of the market. As students at elite institutions such as this, students at whose service enormous resources are being deployed by parents, the college, donors, the government and always, always (remember this because this is the easiest to forget) the invisible subsidy provided by the undervalued labor
Evil in prose. There's more, but you get the gist.
Watch my quick interview with the world's leading scholar on Islam, Ibn Warraq, who ought to be the go-to guy on Islam - not the likes of poisonous apologists and Islamists on college campuses.
Celebrated Muslim apostate and Koranic scholar Ibn Warraq discussed his new book, Defending the West: A Critique of Edward Said's Orientalism at the Columbia University Bookstore.
As Martin Kramer has pointed out, Said admitted in the afterword of the 1994 edition of Orientalism that "I have no interest in, much less capacity for, showing what the true Orient and Islam really are." In other words, Said was not interested in advancing scholarship, but only anti-Western polemical screeds, being mostly content with hurling vitriolic and malicious invective against past and present Orientalists.......
A culture [i.e., Western] that gave the world the novel; the music of Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert; and the paintings of Michelangelo, da Vinci, and Rembrandt does not need lessons from societies whose idea of heaven, peopled with female virgins, resembles a cosmic brothel. Nor does the West need lectures on the superior virtue of societies in which women are kept in subjection under sharia, endure genital mutilation, are stoned to death for alleged adultery, and are married off against their will at the age of nine; societies that deny the rights of supposedly lower castes; societies that execute homosexuals and apostates. The West has no use for sanctimonious homilies from societies that cannot provide clean drinking water or sewage systems, that make no provisions for the handicapped, and that leave 40 to 50 percent of their citizens illiterate.
Read the rest of Ibn Warraq’s essential new book, Defending the West—A Critique of Edward Said’s Orientalism, Caroline Fourest’s book (“Brother Tariq”) exposing Taqiyya Ramadan’s Doublespeak, and the rest of Ibn Warraq’s evisceration of Taqiyyya Ramadan, in City Journal, below:
Fjordman wrote of Warraq's deconstruction of Said's argument:
Ibn Warraq's book was written as a response to Edward Said's deeply flawed, but highly influential Orientalism from 1979. Said chastised Western countries for their supposed racist and stereotypical view of "the Other." Ibn Warraq dubs Said's methods "intellectual terrorism" and demonstrates the logical inconsistencies of his positions:
"To argue his case, Said very conveniently leaves out the important contributions of German Orientalists, for their inclusion would destroy – and their exclusion does indeed totally destroy - the central thesis of Orientalism, that all Orientalists produced knowledge that generated power, and that they colluded and helped imperialists found empires. As we shall see, German Orientalists were the greatest of all scholars of the Orient, but, of course, Germany was never an imperial power in any of the Oriental countries of North Africa or the Middle East. [Bernard] Lewis wrote, '[A]t no time before or after the imperial age did [the British and French] contribution, in range, depth, or standard, match the achievement of the great centers of Oriental studies in Germany and neighbouring countries. Indeed, any history or theory of Arabic studies in Europe without the Germans makes as much sense as would a history or theory of European music or philosophy with the same omission.' Would it have made sense for German Orientalists to produce work that could help only England and France in their empire building?"
Despite its many serious historical and logical shortcomings, Said's thesis was eagerly embraced by many intellectuals:
"Post-World War II Western intellectuals and leftists were consumed by guilt for the West's colonial past and continuing colonialist present, and they wholeheartedly embraced any theory or ideology that voiced or at least seemed to voice the putatively thwarted aspirations of the peoples of the third world. Orientalism came at the precise time when anti-Western rhetoric was at its most shrill and was already being taught at Western universities, and when third-worldism was at its most popular. Jean-Paul Sartre preached that all white men were complicit in the exploitation of the third world, and that violence against Westerners was a legitimate means for colonized men to re-acquire their manhood. Said went further: 'It is therefore correct that every European, in what he could say about the Orient, was consequently a racist, an imperialist, and almost totally ethnocentric.' Not only, for Said, is every European a racist, but he must necessarily be so."
Moreover, "Where the French presence lasted fewer than four years before they were ignominiously expelled by the British and Turks, the Ottomans had been the masters of Egypt since 1517, a total of 280 years. Even if we count the later British and French protectorates, Egypt was under Western control for sixty-seven years, Syria for twenty-one years, and Iraq for only fifteen – and, of course, Saudi Arabia was never under Western control. Contrast this with southern Spain, which was under the Muslim yoke for 781 years, Greece for 381 years, and the splendid new Christian capital that eclipsed Rome – Byzantium – which is still in Muslim hands. But no Spanish or Greek politics of victimhood apparently exist."
Paul Fregosi confirms this in Jihad in the West: "Western colonization of nearby Muslim lands lasted 130 years, from the 1830s to the 1960s. Muslim colonization of nearby European lands lasted 1300 years, from the 600s to the mid-1960s. Yet, strangely, it is the Muslims…who are the most bitter about colonialism and the humiliations to which they have been subjected; and it is the Europeans who harbor the shame and the guilt. It should be the other way around."
Some observers now think Europeans should feel grateful for Muslim colonization of their lands. Joan Acocella wrote a review of David Levering Lewis' book God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215. Lewis is a two-time winner of the prestigious Pulitzer Prize. According to Acocella, he thinks Muslims "did Europe a favor by invading. This is not a new idea, but Lewis takes it further: he clearly regrets that the Arabs did not go on to conquer the rest of Europe." This was "one of the most significant losses in world history."
Warraq explains how Charles Wilkins became perhaps first Englishman to master Sanskrit, and in 1783 translated the important work Bhagavat Gita. Scholar Sushil Kumar De "praised Wilkins for bringing Bengali literature into the era of printing. Wilkins being a 'metallurgist, engraver, founder, and printer' of such elaborate and different alphabets as Persian and Bengali has already been noted. Wilkins's achievements were summed up in 1922 by the Indian scholar Shumbhoo Chander Dey, who highlighted Wilkins's contributions to Indian epigraphy. It must be emphasized that Wilkins was the first European to study Sanskrit inscriptions that had baffled even the Hindu scholars. His introduction of the art of printing to Bengal was also of specific importance, endearing him to thousands of Indians."
A digression: I am under the impression that printing was introduced surprisingly late in India. Islamic religious resistance slowed down the adoption of printing everywhere. However, even prior to the Islamic conquests the spread of printing was slow. Moreover, one of the few good things Muslims did in India was to increase the use of paper. Why were non-Muslims Indians so slow to appreciate the value of paper and book printing, surely two of the greatest inventions China has ever made? This becomes even more puzzling if we remember that the development of printing in China was intimately connected with Buddhism, a religion exported from India. Indeed, printing was so closely associated with Buddhism in Japan that for nearly eight hundred years, until contact with Europeans in the sixteenth century, the Japanese printed only Buddhist scriptures. Was the Indian reluctance caused by caste? Were the Brahmins afraid that their privileged hereditary position would be undermined by the spread of printing? I don't know, but it's an interesting subject.
Sir William Jones was a brilliant linguist who is said to have known thirteen languages well, and twenty-eight fairly well, at the time of his death. According to Ibn Warraq, "With his work on Indian chronology, and having created a solid framework for the understanding of India's past, Jones, in effect, can be considered the father of Indian history. Jones's translation of Sacontala (Shakuntala) had an enormous influence in Europe, inspiring Schiller, Novalis, Schlegel, and Goethe, who used its introductory scene as a model for the 'Vorspiel auf dem Theater' of Faust (1797). But even more remarkably, the collection, printing, and translations of Sanskrit texts by Jones and other Orientalists made available for the first time to Indians themselves aspects of their own civilization, changing forever their own self-image. Until now, these texts had only been accessible to a narrow coterie of Brahmins."
Professor A. L. Basham had praised the small band of Western scholars who labored to reveal India's past. Most of them met the expenses of their research out of their own pockets: "The main motive in most of their minds seems to have been the study of India for its own sake. When Jones translated Sakuntala and thus introduced the Sanskrit drama to the western world, are we to believe that he consciously thought: 'I am doing this in order that my country may dominate a subject people'? Could any such motive have been in the mind of James Prinsep, when he deciphered the inscriptions of Asoka? Was Colebrooke inspired in his pioneering work on the Veda chiefly by motives of patriotism? If these scholars had worked to serve their country or the [East India] Company in their spare time they could surely have found more effective ways of doing so."
Ibn Warraq writes that "As [Professor] Kejariwal laments, Indians, unaware of the importance of historical remains, had left them to crumble and decay, a fact attested to by the British Orientalists. Similarly, many manuscripts would have been lost but for the efforts of scholars such as Charles Wilkins and the German Johann Georg Bühler, who salvaged severely damaged manuscripts of the rare Sanskrit historical work Rajatarangini. Similarly, Prinsep's tenure in the Asiatic Society 'was full of achievements in retrieving, restoring and trying to preserve the ancient historical monuments of the country. Among these were the Sarnath remains and the Allahabad pillar which yielded such significant information about Asoka and Samudragupta – two of the greatest monarchs of India, and in fact, of the world.'"
An emblem associated with Asoka (or Ashoka) the Great is now the national emblem of India, yet he was virtually forgotten until the British got there. (more here)
OT but related:
left to right, Michelle Obama, then Illinois state senator Barack
Obama, Columbia University Professor Edward Said and Mariam Said at a
May 1998 Arab community event in Chicago at which Edward Said gave the
keynote speech. (Image from archives of Ali Abunimah) Posted at Atlas March 07
From left to right, Michelle Obama, then Illinois state senator Barack Obama, Columbia University Professor Edward Said and Mariam Said at a May 1998 Arab community event in Chicago at which Edward Said gave the keynote speech. (Image from archives of Ali Abunimah) Posted at Atlas March 07