|Vintage Lewis. Bernard Lewis is interviewed in Atlantic Online, on the occasion of publication of yet another book, this one under the title From Babel to Dragomans: Interpreting the Middle East. Vintage stuff. One of his complaints: “When I listen to the broadcasts from the media people who are in Iraq at the present time, they almost always mispronounce the names of Iraqi towns…It makes people like me wonder how much we can rely on what we are being told when they don’t even know how to pronounce the name of the place.”
Fri, Apr 30 2004 6:08 am
|Zisser on Syria. The star of Syrian studies in Israel is my colleague Eyal Zisser. Here’s a detailed review (in English) of his latest (Hebrew) book on the subject. (This new one, written from a post-Hafez Asad perspective, will eventually appear in English.) The reviewer writes that Israeli scholars of Syria face an “oppressive obstacle—the giant shadow cast by Patrick Seale, a British journalist who had close ties with the late Hafez Assad. Seale’s writing on Syria is based on sources that Israeli scholars will never get to see, even if they are someday permitted to eat hummus on the banks of Abana and Pharpar.” Ah, but what Seale sacrificed, by way of credibility, to gain that access.
Fri, Apr 30 2004 6:05 am
|Whereabouts of HR3077. Some readers have written to ask whether HR3077 is stuck in the Senate committee (Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions). The short answer is yes. The long answer is that the entire Higher Education Act reauthorization (of which HR3077 is part) is stuck in committee. College affordability, student loans, and federal aid for low-income students are ongoing big-ticket battles. The present authorization can be extended for one year, and the sense is that the Senate side would just as soon put off controversial decisions until after the November elections. Nevertheless, all the lobbies are waging their campaigns as though this is the year. So will I, especially when I return to Washington in September. (At the main link: Heritage Foundation on the big issues.)
Thu, Apr 29 2004 6:38 pm
|Who’s driving? Last month, the US National Intelligence Council (NIC) convened a workshop at Wilton Park (UK) on the Middle East in the year 2020. The NIC is the U.S. intelligence community’s center for midterm and long-term strategic thinking. It’s doing this futuristic project in consultation with academics; I published excerpts from an earlier paper it issued on the subject in the Middle East Quarterly. At the main link, you’ll find the report from the conference. (No, I wasn’t there—couldn’t make it.) One key conclusion: “On balance, the workshop felt that, whatever the outcome, the Israel-Palestine conflict would not be the dominant driver in the region over the next 15-20 years that it is currently.”
Thu, Apr 29 2004 5:55 pm
|MEQ hand-off. I’ll be leaving the editorship of the Middle East Quarterly in June. I look back at three years of editing and look ahead to the journal’s future in a new Sandstorm entry. If you’ve got editorial talent, now’s the time to contact Daniel Pipes.
Wed, Apr 28 2004 5:50 am
|Confused Clio. Perspectives, the newsletter of the American Historical Association, runs a piece on HR3077 by one Bruce Craig. It’s alarmist nonsense. If HR3077 did what he claims it might do, even I wouldn’t support it. “In theory,” he writes, “the board could be a major force over university staffing and in hiring of guest lecturers, making curriculum decisions, approving books for classes, and recommending approaches to be taken when teaching a specific subject.” Since universities don’t get Title VI support to hire faculty, and since HR3077 specifically disallows board intervention in curriculum, you’re left wondering what in the world Craig is babbling about. Well, it’s in theory. And when historians substitute theory for evidence, anything’s possible.
Tue, Apr 27 2004 6:46 pm
|Khalidi on Said. On radio last year, Columbia’s Rashid Khalidi discounted Edward Said: “He has nothing like the influence that the wild-eyed advocates of this bill [HR3077] claim. Quite the contrary. People can take him or people can leave him. He’s actually, I think, had much more influence in fields like literary studies, anthropology, and other areas than he’s had in the Middle East field.” But here’s Khalidi in his new MESA obit for Said: “This book [Orientalism] has deeply affected the field of Middle East studies—who in the field can forget the debate between [Said] and Bernard Lewis at the MESA conference in Boston in 1986.” (That event is remembered in MESA lore as the tipping point in Said’s favor.) As usual, Khalidi tunes the message to the audience. (Radio comment at minute 28:45.)
Tue, Apr 27 2004 2:16 pm
|Hamas gets leader? Press reports today indicate that Dr. Mahmud al-Zahhar has (reluctantly) assumed the mantle of the late Sheikh Ahmad Yasin and the late Dr. Abd al-Aziz Rantisi, to become the leader of Hamas in Gaza. (Hamas continues to claim that its choice of a leader is a secret, and will not confirm the reports, which originated with Israeli sources.) Last May, Tim Sebastian interviewed Zahhar for his BBC program Hardtalk, and demolished him (without a missile). You can view the program at the link, if you’ve got the software.
Mon, Apr 26 2004 3:26 pm
|Pseudo-historical trash. Follow-up to the entry just below: The collaborator of Audrey Shabbas in her Arab World Studies Notebook, in the section about Muslim exploration, is one Shaykh Abdullah Hakim Quick, a South African convert to Islam. Here’s his own bizarre take on “Muslims in the Caribbean Before Columbus.” The possibility that pseudo-historical trash may have entered the mainstream of K-12 education with the complicity of some Title VI centers should be investigated by the Department of Education. Should Title VI centers be allowed to sub-contract dilettantes to do their “outreach”? Isn’t the whole point of university-based “outreach” to get the profs to do it?
Sun, Apr 25 2004 6:10 am
|Subsidized myths. Audrey Shabbas specializes in “outreach” workshops for school teachers. She’s claimed that early Muslim explorers married into the Algonquin tribe long before Columbus. This fantasy appears in her Arab World Studies Notebook, which the Middle East Policy Council has distributed to 10,000 teachers. The Algonquin Nation have rightly been in a rage about it, and now the section is being removed. My question: have Title VI programs been using this rubbish for their own “outreach”? Earlier this month, Georgetown’s Title VI center farmed out a big teacher “festival” to Shabbas, and it’s not the first time. Are Title VI centers employing amateurs to peddle dubious materials to school teachers, under academic auspices and with taxpayer subsidies? More work for a future Title VI board.
Sun, Apr 25 2004 5:01 am
|Bernard Lewis in TIME. In case you missed it, here is the brief sketch of Bernard Lewis in Time Magazine, which this week elevated him to its list of the 100 most influential persons. “For Lewis and the neoconservatives,” it reads, “the failure of Islam to reconcile itself to modernity is now too dangerous to leave alone. Moreover, they believe, the application of external force can be a catalyst for reform and peace. No scholar has had more influence than Lewis on the decision to wage war in Iraq. To what end, we don’t yet know.” That’s an awfully short summation of a complex subject.
Wed, Apr 21 2004 9:03 am
|Down with Title VI! Over the last month, this website has run a poll on Title VI funding, in partnership with Campus-Watch.org. In a new Sandstorm entry, I analyze the (admittedly unscientific) results. Bottom line: there’s a large constituency for killing off Title VI, and if HR3077 doesn’t pass, someone may be smart enough to tap into it.
Wed, Apr 21 2004 7:01 am
|Columbia cover-up? I’ve mentioned that Columbia has created a panel to look into allegations of bias in teaching, especially of the Middle East. The New York Sun now provides more details, and it’s clear the panel has been tasked so as to miss the point. The problem at Columbia isn’t what professors teach. (In any case, they are sovereign in the classroom.) It’s how they’re appointed. I once called it “friend-brings-a-friend,” and added this: “Middle Eastern studies at Columbia, across all the departments, have functioned like a private club for more than a decade. Until the administration breaks it up, nothing will change.” Yet the chair of the panel says: “It’s not within our jurisdiction to assess whether a department is biased or has any particular kind of slant.” I smell a cover-up in the making.
Tue, Apr 20 2004 7:30 am
|Khalidi, dissident? The New York Times (local New York supplement) runs a flattering portrait of Rashid Khalidi, the Edward Said Professor at Columbia. HR3077 and the proposed advisory board are mentioned. “Dr. Khalidi expects that the board’s composition will not be favorable to dissidents.” Dissidents? I’m amazed at how commanders of academic power still pose as the oppressed of the earth. Khalidi is a chaired professor at Columbia, and director of a National Resource Center for the Middle East. He personifies the establishment in Middle Eastern studies; I’m a dissident. Khalidi adds that Edward Said “provided the role model for us…. We are here because of his example.” How true: Said remade Middle Eastern studies in his image.
Tue, Apr 20 2004 6:47 am
|News feeds! I’m experimenting with news feeds on the Sandbox/News page of this website. The Internet is awash in news, but I don’t know of any site that provides a wide array of feeds devoted exclusively to the Middle East. News feeds can be unpredictable when it comes to content and refresh rates. So I’ll keep watching them and striving for perfection. Do send suggestions.
Mon, Apr 19 2004 7:51 pm
|Leo=lion=Asad. Franklin Foer at The New Republic has a well-executed essay on Muhammad Asad (or Leopold Weiss), the most famous modern Jewish convert to Islam. Asad is a subject I tackled at greater length; Foer’s piece is a perfect miniature.
Mon, Apr 19 2004 7:19 pm
|The emirate of Columbia. Zev Chafets, writing in the New York Daily News, takes Columbia University to task for accepting a gift from the United Arab Emirates. The money ($200,000) went to help fund the Edward Said Professorship (incumbent: Rashid Khalidi). Chafets: “By accepting the beneficence of the UAE—a nation that discriminates against women, gays, Indians, Jews and other minorities, prohibits free speech and intellectual inquiry and rules by armed tribal feudalism—the university provides a rare example of academic fearlessness as well as a fitting memorial to the life and thought of Edward Said himself.”
Mon, Apr 19 2004 5:53 pm
|Can’t read English? A Florida paper runs an anti-HR3077 op-ed by Malini Johar Schueller, professor of (post-colonial) English at the U. of Florida. She writes that the advisory board proposed by HR3077 would “advise faculty on course syllabi and the hiring of faculty. If an institution refuses to be advised, it will lose its share of Title VI funding.” What? The board, says HR3077, “shall provide advice, counsel and recommendations to the Congress and to the Secretary [of Education].” The board won’t advise academics (who are beyond advice anyway). And syllabi? The bill says the board can’t “mandate, direct, or control an institution of higher education’s specific instructional content.” Professor Schueller either didn’t read the bill, or she’s lying.
Sun, Apr 18 2004 5:39 pm
|Bernard Lewis, influential.|
|Columbia panel investigates.|
|Did I sign that?|
|Southeast Asian haven?|
|Up and away.|
|Is Iraq like Lebanon?|
|NYU boycott assurances.|
|Unzip academe’s lips.|
|Cashing in on 9/11.|
|No debate allowed.|
|Harder to ignore.|
|“There is no let-up.”|
|Africanist Title VI.|