Middle East studies in the News
Columbia Prof Plumbs the Shiite Mind
by Martin Kramer
A lot is being written these days about Iraq's Shiites, and the media avidly pursue anyone who seems like an expert. When demand exceeds supply, expect tendentious analysis.
Not only are their fellow Shiites and, in fact, their fellow Muslims maimed and murdered right in front of their eyes by the Americans, but the most sacrosanct sites in their collective faith are now invaded by foreign armies. The next time the British and Americans ask themselves, "Why do they hate us?," they better remember the horrid scenes of their armies trampling on the sacred sites.
What in the world is Dabashi talking about? Coalition forces have been absolutely scrupulous about avoiding the sacred Shiite shrines in Najaf, Karbala, Kazimayn, and elsewhere. There have been no "horrid scenes" of coalition forces "trampling" on these sites. As for "murder," the really horrid scene so far has been the brutal murder of two Shiite clerics—by their "fellow Shiites"—inside the shrine-tomb of the Imam Ali in Najaf. "They cut his body to pieces!" another Shiite leader said about one of the victims. "To pieces!" And if the Shiites are so "horrified" by this war, why did so many of them turn out in Najaf to greet the 101st Airborne as liberators? And how is it that even Robert Fisk reports that, "for the moment," the massive Shiite slum in Baghdad "smiles at the West"?
Because there are no answers to our questions about this war, we just get angrier and angrier. But this is where the blessed thing called "teach-in" comes in handy. Tonight, we think for ourselves. Revenge of the nerdy "A" students against the stupid "C" students with their stupid fingers on the trigger.
Again, one is left wondering just what Dabashi is talking about. And just what are Columbia students to conclude from such a quote in their campus newspaper? That a pro-war position might drop them to a "C"? Professors (especially departmental chairs) have no business suggesting even the most tenuous correlation between grades and politics. It's just one more example of Dabashi's egregiously flawed judgment.
Students deserve real self-discipline from their professors. I miss evidence of this quality in the illiberalism, sloppy research, and near-hysterical tone of these statements Dabashi has written for publication. It's deeply disturbing to me that—at this time, of all times—such a person chairs the department of Middle Eastern and Asian Languages and Cultures at Columbia.
The logic for regime change at MEALAC gains momentum.Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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