Jihad Watch Board Vice President Hugh Fitzgerald proposes that more apologies be made after the example of the one recently accepted in Dubai by the illustrious Juma Al Salami:
“Juma Al Salami, Assistant Under-Secretary of the Private Education Department affiliated to the Ministry of Education (MoE), met yesterday the regional manager of Pearson Education Company who came from the publisher’s main office in London to deliver a written apology for offence caused to Arabs, Muslims and Islam by material included in a book called “˜The cultures of the world”.
“This book was circulated and distributed to a number of private schools in the country. The regional manager was accompanied by the director-general and representative of the company in the UAE. Al Salami accepted his apology.” — From this news story
It was well for Juma Al Salami to accept this apology, but there is a great deal more apologizing that must be done. Just survey for a moment the larger state of affairs. Things need not stop with textbooks. Think of famous writers, who wrote in a period — that period that we will all soon become used to referring to as the Age of Jahiliyya, or the Pre-Islamic Period of Ignorance — when no one yet understood what constituted Islamically acceptable behavior. The Estate of James Joyce should send someone to Kuwait to apologize for making Leopold Bloom the co-hero of Ulysses and portraying him so sympathetically. And then there’s the matter of Joyce’s friendships with so many Jews, including Italo Svevo (Ettore Schmitz) in Trieste, and then Paul and Lucie Leon in Paris, and…well, just too many. If Giorgio Joyce is no longer alive, then perhaps the lawyers for the estate can appear in person. Don’t want to cut into those potential sales of Ulysses in Saudi Arabia, now that the book has finally been translated into Arabic. I”m sure the lines are forming around the block even now in Jiddah — but oh, the horrific offense that awaits these unsuspecting Saudi Bloomsburyans!
And Dmitri Nabokov may wish to visit and apologize for his late father’s mentioning, in the class list in Lolita, a boy named Irving, and for having Humbert Humbert, in going down that list, note “Irving, for whom I am sorry.” And then there is that check written by Nabokov to an Israeli charity, and his renewal of contact with a former classmate at the Tenishev School, who later became an architect in Tel Aviv. And then also is that Jewish character in The Real Life of Sebastian Knight and others like him, and the depiction of the antisemite, the stepfather of heroine Zina Mertz, in The Gift, and the notes on antisemitism by Kinbote in Pale Fire to be found in the notes about “two historical hells.” On second thought, the son should ask Ms. Nafisi to accompany him. She might come in handy.
And then there is Jorge Luis Borges, who wrote not one but two poems celebrating Israel’s victory in the Six Day War, and who liked to claim that he must have “some Jewish ancestry.” And how often, in his work do we run across themes of the Zohar, and Luria, and the Kabbala! Again, his still-young widow Maria Kodama perhaps should be asked to be-burqa herself, and appear before some informal pack of mutawwa in Riyadh, and beg forgiveness for her late husband’s transgressions, and mention that he also liked to refer to Arab texts and tales, and then beg forgiveness, and hope. All is not lost. There is, of course, “The Approach to Al-Mu”tasim.”
Possibly Robert Craft should show up as well, once he receives a letter asking him to please explain — because the Ministry of Pen and Speech wishes to know the exact meaning of a certain sentence in one of the Stravinsky-Craft diaries, in which, after a visit to Israel, Stravinsky comments on the Israelis as these “most egalitarian” and at the same time “most aristocratic of peoples.” This is a phrase not likely to help his music rise to the top of the pops in Jiddah or Damascus or Ramallah. Let Mr. Smartypants Robert Craft try to explain that little remark away, if he possibly can.
And don’t stop with writings. Demand that the Head of the Rijksmuseum, accompanied by the Queen of Holland, fly to Riyadh to present personal apologies at the next meeting of the O.I.C. for all those sympathetic portraits of aged rabbis that Rembrandt painted. And along with that apology the O.I.C. representatives will be expecting a promise that the offending paintings will be removed from view and put into permanent storage, although occasionally they may be sent on loan to provincial museums in Manitoba — lest something untoward happen to them.
Just a start. But a good one.