Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Berkowitz, Peter. "Answering Edward Said." POLICY REVIEW (June-July 2008).

Warraq, Ibn. Defending the West: a Critique of Edward Said's Orientalism. Amherst, NY: Prometheus, 2007. In Ibn Warraq, Said and his celebrated Orientalism have found a worthy critic. To be sure, Ibn Warraq is not the first to squarely confront Said. Bernard Lewis exposed massive flaws in Said’s understanding of the Islamic world in a lengthy and sharp 1982 exchange in the New York Review of Books. In a substantial 1999 essay in the New Criterion, Australian writer Keith Windschuttle demonstrated that Said’s depiction of the whole of Oriental studies as a form of imperialism is devoid of serious historical support, both in its depiction of the West and of the East. And in 2001, in Ivory Towers on Sand: The Failure of Middle Eastern Studies in America, Washington Institute for Near East Studies fellow Martin Kramer chronicled the baleful impact of Said’s writings on Middle East scholars. But Ibn Warraq’s is the first book-length, post-9/11 critique of Said’s views and of the fashionable 'postcolonial studies' paradigm that Orientalism spawned. And, with a rare combination of polemical zest and prodigious learning, it is the first to address and refute Said’s arguments “against the background of a more general presentation of salient aspects of Western civilization.” A pen name taken by the author of Defending the West to protect himself from retribution from Muslims enraged by his writings, Ibn Warraq means “son of a stationer, book-seller, paper-seller.” The name, adopted over the centuries as an alias by dissenting Muslims, evokes the ninth-century figure Muhammad al Warraq, who doubted that Muhammad was a prophet and insisted that the claims of Islam must submit to the authority of reason. It is certainly an apt choice for our generation’s Ibn Warraq, who burst upon the scene in 1995 with his outspoken Why I Am Not A Muslim, then edited five volumes aimed at putting Islam in historical and philosophical context, and, with his most recent book, seeks to set the record straight about two centuries’ worth of Western scholarship of the Arab people and of Islamic civilization. . . . Read the rest here: http://www.hoover.org/publications/policyreview/19458849.html.

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