Remember "Orientalism," that landmark book by the late Columbia University professor Edward Said?
The 1978 work put the fear of God into any Western scholar who dared to discuss Islam, Muslims, or Arabs in anything less than superlatives — and it has succeeded beyond Said's wildest dreams.
In a prescient new book, "Dangerous Knowledge: Orientalism and Its Discontents," author Robert Irwin notes that "because of the possible offense to Muslim susceptibilities, Western scholars who specialize in the early history of Islam have to be extremely careful what they say, and some of them have developed subtle forms of double-speak when discussing contentious matters."Salman Rushdie and Ayaan Hirsi Ali are two examples of hunted victims.
What goes for academia has been happening in a more dramatic fashion in the press, literature, and the creative arts, where death threats, death sentences, and actual murders of writers, artists, and intellectuals have taken a toll.
Bottom line: You can't talk about Islam, not really. Those transgressing are hounded like hunted animals.
So too is the murdered Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh.
But the consequences of the failure of academia to stand up to the intimidation of Islamists are more than just academic:
Islamic history is served up airbrushed in academia, and the result is a public denied knowledge. The reason many in the West are so surprised by the Sunni-Shiite split now tearing apart the Persian Gulf is that few know the history of early Islam, when a bloody succession to the Prophet Muhammad yielded that split 13 centuries ago. The storm around the cartoons of Prophet Muhammad last year was a perfect example of what happens when willful ignorance and self-censorship come together.Today the information we receive about Islam is filtered through self-censorship and the politically correct--though Ibrahim claims that 9/11 has begun the long process of reversing this trend.
But that does not mean that the Islamist intimidation has stopped. Fundamentalist regimes such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar have invested alot of money into perpetuating their version of Islam and its history--and we are very familiar with one of their conduits:
Take two donations to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, an organization that has participated in its share of sinister activities. In June 2006, it was announced that Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal — supposedly a friend of America who built his multibillion-dollar fortune partly through owning Citibank and Apple stocks — will fund a $50 million CAIR project "to create a better understanding of Islam and Muslims" in America.Some friends. At a time that the US--and the West--face the threat of Islamist terrorism funded through Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, its time to consider who our real friends are.
Surely the prince, who has scores of American advisers, knows how controversial CAIR is. Yet he is giving it $50 million to interpret Saudi militant Wahhabism, making it "accessible" in America.
The other multimillion-dollar donation to CAIR came from the Al Maktoum Foundation, the prime money-distribution arm of the ruling family of Dubai, also supposedly a friend of America.
And who isn't.