↑ Grab this Headline Animator

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Ibn Warraq: Defending the West (& attacking Edward Said)

Ibne Warraq is the pseudonym of an alleged ex Muslim from Rajkot, India. He belongs to the same clique sincecured and applauded by the Islamophobes in the West as Salman Rushdi, Taslima Nasreen, Irshad Manji and the likes. He has adopted a two pronged approach in his attacks to "deconstruct" what he terms "myths." He attacks Qur'an. And he chisels away at Edward Said. It should be noted that he started those attacks after Edward Said's death. Here is an excerpt from his interview. Click on the heading to read it in full. (And thank you TBS for the link.)

FP: Tell us about Edward Said's influence in the humanities.

Warraq: Edward Said, who died in September 2003, was Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University , and the author of more than twenty books on cultural, literary, and political subjects, such as Joseph Conrad and the Fiction of Autobiography, Covering Islam, Musical Elaborations, The World, the Text, and the Critic. Said also saw himself as a Palestinian, and defended the Palestinian cause with passion, and rage, writing influential books on the conflict such as The Question of Palestine, The Politics of Dispossession, and Peace and Its Discontents. Arguably his most influential-and in my view the most pernicious - work was Orientalism (1978), giving birth to entire new disciplines, such as Postcolonial Studies, and influencing several others such as Subaltern Studies. Universities round the world heaped honours on Said - he is said to have received at least seventeen honorary doctorates - and at the same time turned out hundreds of students whose doctoral theses were on or influenced by Orientalism. From the The Oxford Classical Dictionary to a book on Mozart's Operas, one can see Said's influence at work in all the humanities, almost negating centuries of Western scholarship of the highest order.

Take Classical Studies. The prestigious The Oxford Classical Dictionary [OCD] under the entry on the historian and mercenary leader Xenophon has a cross reference to an entry on "Orientalism", since he has left us an account of the life of the Persian Cyrus the Great. But the article in the OCD does not mention that Xenophon in fact came to feel at home with the Persians, and looked at non-Greeks in a discriminating but fair manner, distinguishing enlightened Persians from backward tribes. He never goes beyond justifiable rejection of what is uncultured. But for Said and his ilk any critical look at non-Europeans is considered "biased", "racist", and "Orientalist", making it impossible for responsible historians, sociologists and anthropologists to make cross-cultural assessments and judgements. The result is that we in the West now condone, and certainly do not condemn, barbaric behaviour committed by non-Europeans. Western feminists remain scandalously silent about the treatment of women in Islamic societies.

Said dismisses such classics of the Western canon as Aeschylus' The Persians as "orientalist" and the Western Classicists remain silent, and do not come to The Greek playwright's defence. Far from being "racist", Aeschylus' drama is a tragedy according full dignity and humanity to the Persians, praising their valour and ethics.

In English Literature departments, the classics from Jane Austen, Charles Dickens to Rudyard Kipling are dismissed as "imperialist" and "racist". Thus, despite evidence to the contrary, Said claims that Jane Austen condones slavery- I present the relevant, and, I think, the decisive evidence to the contrary in my book. But such is Said's influence that a recent B.B.C. Televison production of Austen's Mansfield Park has a scene set on a sugar plantation in the West Indies showing the conditions of slaves. Of course, no such scene exists in the original novel. There is only a passing reference to the slave trade, and it is clear from her all her other writings that Jane Austen was an abolitionist. Said similarly misreads Kipling's novel, Kim. But once again such is his influence that various editions of Kipling's novel published by Penguin books carry a preface from Said. I give numerous examples of Said's total incomprehension of Kim, and the novels of Austen.

A discussion of Mozart's operas, for example by Nicholas Till, Mozart and the Enlightenment, is similarly marred by the Orientalist thesis. Again I show Mozart's generous and positive attitude to the "other".

As for the visual arts, I shall begin with this example:

In the guest book at the Dahesh Museum on Madison Avenue, in Upper Manhattan, there is an entry by a tourist, possibly German, who enthuses about the Orientalist paintings in the collection, saying how much she admired and enjoyed them. Then, almost as an afterthought, as though she has only just remembered to put on her ideological spectacles, she adds words to the effect that, "of course, they were Orientalist works, hence imperialist and reprehensible." Apparently, she felt guilty for having enjoyed and appreciated Orientalist art. How many other ordinary lovers of paintings, sculpture, drawings, watercolors and engravings have had their natural inclination to enjoy works of Orientalist art damaged, or even destroyed by the influence of Edward Said and his followers? How many people have had their enjoyment of Jane Austen spoiled by Said's insidious claim that Austen was condoning slavery?

Much of Westerners' travel writings are dismissed as "orientalist". Where Said finds Kinglake's account of his travels in Islamic lands, Eothen, overrated, Jacques Barzun considers it a minor masterpiece.

Finally, in filed I have a special interest in: Islamic Studies.For a number of years now, Islamologists have been aware of the disastrous effect of Said’s Orientalism on their discipline. Professor Berg, of the University of N.Carolina, has complained that the latter’s influence has resulted in “a fear of asking and answering potentially embarrassing questions – ones which might upset Muslim sensibilities….”.


Post a Comment

<< Home