Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Book 'em, Danno.

I'd rather read Milton-- I'd rather do my laundry than read about Islam. Such is not the lot of Dag. Yes, I do my laundry anyway; but rather than go through the spin cycle with Paradise Lost I read more of Islam's seminal texts and I quietly suffer the boredom. Here is a book I might look at when the chance arises. It's not all a wasteland, this study of the history of Islam. It ain't Milton, but it's better than nothing. It's also important to us if we care to know what we deal with in our modern times. We might care to be better informed than the girl at the bookstore who asked loudly if she could get a copy of "ORIENTALISM BY EDWARD SED!" She later told me that she knows all about the Zionists, and that I'm a racist. Live and learn.

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."

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...Islamic history is served up airbrushed in academia, and the result is a public denied knowledge....
info@defenddemocracy.org ****

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Almost 30 years ago, in his classic Orientalism, the late cultural critic Edward Said published a scathing denunciation of Oriental studies, blaming the field for the rise of Western imperialism and racist views about Arabs and other Eastern peoples. British historian Irwin (The Alhambra) fiercely condemns Said's misinterpretation, offering both a brilliant defense of Orientalism and a masterful intellectual history of the Orientalists and their work, which opened windows on the world of Asia in general and Islam in particular, providing the West with glimpses of the social and religious practices of these cultures. Irwin surveys the history of Orientalism from the Greeks through the Middle Ages to its height in the 18th and 19th centuries. He chronicles the lives and works of the men who introduced the ideas of Islamic and Asian culture to the West. Many of these men were biblical critics whose command of Hebrew allowed them to move easily to Arabic and to explore the Koran. In the 17th century, the dragomans, or translators, moved the study of Islam forward by providing translations of Turkish, Arabic and Persian texts. Irwin's wide-ranging study splendidly captures a time when intellectual polymaths traversed foreign territories in search of new and compelling ideas. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

An amazon reviewer quotes a few lines from the following poem:

"The Golden Road to Samarkand" by James Elroy Flecker (1884-1915)

"We travel not for trafficking alone;
By hotter winds our fiery hearts are fanned:
For lust of knowing what should not be known
We take the Golden Road to Samarkand."

That alone made the review reading worthwhile.

Edward Sed. Will I ever learn to keep my mouth shut? Not likely. I'll be going on again at the atrium at VPL library this Thursday evening from 7-9:00 pm. So will others. Join us and let's talk about books and authors and ideas. I have lots to learn, and you can contribute if you care to. I look forward to it. I've even done my laundry just for your sake.

Edward Said exercising his right to free speech by throwing a rock at Israeli soldiers on the border with Lebanon


Anonymous said...

A thousand words? Some pictures are worth your entire oeuvre, or , at least, amount to same.

dag said...

Thanks. I think.