Said vs. Ajami – round 1
I just love a good academic fight.
In the April 3 London Review of Books, Edward Said, the Columbia professor and prominent Arab-American literary and cultural critic takes on another Arab-American, Fouad Ajami, the Johns Hopkins professor and frequent TV pundit. The Ajami-Said match up promises to be loads of fun:
“Fouad Ajami is a Lebanese Shia educated in the US who made his name as a pro-Palestinian commentator. But by the mid-1980s, he was teaching at Johns Hopkins; he’d become a fervent anti-Arab ideologue and had been taken up by the right-wing Zionist lobby (he now works for Martin Peretz and Mort Zuckerman) and the Council on Foreign Relations. He is fond of describing himself as a non-fiction Naipaul and quotes Conrad while sounding as hokey as Khalil Gibran. He also has a penchant for catchy one-liners, ideally suited to television. The author of two or three books, he has become influential as a ‘native informant’ — the Arab ‘expert’ is a rare species on American networks. Ten years ago, he started deploying ‘we’ as an imperial collectivity which, along with Israel, never does anything wrong. Arabs are to blame for everything and therefore deserve ‘our’ contempt and hostility.
Ajami has always had it in for Iraq. He was an early advocate of the 1991 war and has, I think, deliberately misled the American strategic mind into believing that ‘our’ power can set things straight. Dick Cheney quoted him in a major speech last August as saying that Iraqis would welcome ‘us’ as liberators in ‘the streets of Basra’ – which still fights on as I write. Like Lewis, Ajami hasn’t been a resident of the Arab world for years, although he is rumoured to be close to the Saudis, of whom he has recently spoken as models for the Arab world’s future governance.”
Paging Ajami…I would love to hear his response.