A.J. Caschetta reviews Ibn Warraq’s monumental deconstruction of the work of the single individual who was most responsible for the effacing of honest discussion about Islam and jihad from America’s universities: Defending the West: A Critique of Edward Said’s Orientalism in the winter 2009 issue of Middle East Quarterly:
It is now five years after the death of Edward Said, the man who made it cool to hate the West, and the reevaluation of his thought and work is thankfully well underway. Said forged a career out of revisiting the past, “deconstructing” what he found and writing it anew. Defending the West: A Critique of Edward Said’s Orientalism by Ibn Warraq, founder of the Institute for the Secularisation of Islamic Society, reveals just how massive a fabrication Said’s version of history is. The book spells out in great detail Said’s deeply flawed writings and his legacy: the modern academic fetish for examining microscopically the flaws and failings (real and imagined) of the West while simultaneously portraying an ever-peaceful East perpetually victimized by the technologically superior but, of course, morally benighted West. This is the fashionable narrative in the humanities departments of virtually every college and university in America, if not in all of Western academia. […]
The author lays bare Said’s methods of obfuscation, which often use nonsensical and impenetrable prose, insinuation, and outright falsification. Said’s ad hominem attacks against those who criticized his work are recounted, demonstrating that Said was both a metaphorical as well as a literal stone-thrower. And the growing list of Said’s “historical howlers” (obvious inaccuracies and misstatements of fact) unmasks an amateur historian who was either extremely sloppy or just plain dishonest.
Ibn Warraq’s defense of the West centers around what he calls the “Three Tutelary Guiding Lights” (rationalism, universalism, and self-criticism), which he portrays as the cement of Western civilization. From ancient Greece to Victorian England, Ibn Warraq takes his readers on a ride through history, repairing the damage wrought by Edward Said and his Saidists, arguing that the three “golden threads” are always present. By contrast, some of Ibn Warraq’s defense of the West is accomplished by a comparison to the East in which the flaws of the latter are examined. This brave and decidedly un-PC tack tells the story of Eastern imperialism (which Said largely ignored) and exposes a litany of human rights abuses in Eastern, often Islamic, nations in what will be an eye-opening experience for some readers.
In reappraising the Orientalists, Ibn Warraq defends their works as labors of love rather than exploitative endeavors. Those readers unfamiliar with these Orientalists will find themselves seeking out their work where, Ibn Warraq tells us, can be found “no disdain, but rather sympathy, patience, attentive curiosity, and the surprise of discovery.” Ibn Warraq argues that rather than the conniving and condescending bogeymen Saidists portray, “Orientalists of the late nineteenth century were drawing upon a humane tradition established 250 years earlier.” […]
Those readers who were intrigued by Ibn Warraq’s brief scheme of “the three Islams” in the introduction to his ground-breaking Why I Am Not a Muslim will appreciate the elaboration on the idea in his chapter “The Pathological Niceness of Liberals, Antimonies, Paradoxes, and Western Values.” This section would serve nicely as a stand-alone piece and as an excellent anodyne to any college freshman who has survived, mind intact, the institutionalized pabulum that passes as “global studies” in most public schools today.
Will Ibn Warraq’s new book end forever the deleterious effects of more than thirty years of petulant, dishonest, self-loathing Saidism? Probably not. But any honest acolytes of Edward Said who read this book will either be forever relieved of their knee-jerk faith in the simple dichotomy of Western guilt and Eastern victimhood that is at the core of Said’s thought, or they will be forced to participate in their own hoodwinking. Ibn Warraq’s critique of Said’s thought and work is thorough and convincing, indeed devastating to anyone depending on Saidism. It should do to Orientalism what Mary Lefkowitz’s Not Out of Africa did to Martin Bernal’s Black Athena. And it should force the Saidists to acknowledge the sophistry of their false prophet.
But it probably won’t.
Read it all.