The facts at hand presumably speak for themselves, but a trifle more vulgarly, I suspect, than facts even usually do. A few years back I had a rather unpleasant exchange with Omid Safi, a professor at that time at Colgate University, now at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Or at least he seemed to think it was unpleasant; I thought it was riotous: an entertaining exposure of academic pomposity and the vacuity of the dominant MESA orthodoxy that has a stranglehold on university Middle East Studies departments.
And it ended, mind you, with Safi refusing to debate me — hiding behind his degree even when I offered to get someone who had a PhD to debate him, and continuing to propagandize his students about “Islamophobia” rather than train them to think critically about the issues of Islam and jihad.
Or at least that’s where it ended for me. Safi, it appears, has been nursing a grudge — one he could easily have assuaged by accepting my challenge to debate, defeating me, and thus proving that I really am the empty-headed ideologue he pretends that I am. Instead, he chose a different route.
I have just been sent the email below — one that Omid Safi sent on November 11, 2008. It contains the most outrageous falsehood about me that I have ever seen in all the years I’ve been doing this work: it’s one thing to say I’m stupid, or evil, or secretly inclined to this or that rotten ideology. It’s quite another to claim that I have done something I have never done — something that if I had indeed done, Safi could have and should have gotten me arrested. The fact that he didn’t do that shows in itself that he is lying. Nonetheless, there is no way for me to know how far and wide he has spread this defamatory charge. I am publishing his email here now as an example of the depths to which a pseudo-academic propagandist like Safi will sink when intellectually cornered, and as a public challenge to him to retract and apologize. I also call upon the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to rebuke and/or dismiss this sorry excuse for an academic.
And I warn Professor Safi that if he claims this email is fabricated, that I have all the necessary documentation and testimony from its recipient to demonstrate that it is genuine.
Professor Safi, I await your retraction of this claim about me, and your public apology.
dear Parvaneh khanoom,
ba arz-e salam.
I have not looked at Spencer’s latest piece of trash, but I have to caution you against taking what he says seriously. He is a hateful man, who has personally threatened me and my family with death. These are not people who are interested in serious scholarly debate.
My own work has tended to focus on the tradition of falsafeh, ‘erfan, and poetry, especially the works of people like Molavi and Attar, Hafez and Sa’di. But I also think (and you are free to disagree with this) that it is impossible to read these people aside what they were: observant Muslims. All of their poetry (especially for Molavi) is filled with references to the Qur’an and Islamic teachings.
Of course you are right that we as Iranians had a beautiful civilizations before the rise of Islam. As a historian of Iran I also think that we have had a beautiful civilization after the rise of Islam.
If I may ever suggest readings, please allow me to be of service. It would be my great pleasure.
ba nahaayat-e ehteraam
One last note: Safi implicitly defends those who really do threaten to murder their opponents, since Iran’s “beautiful civilization after the rise of Islam,” which he praises above, presumably includes the Iranian mullahs who built the Islamic Republic. Then, in a classic example of projection, he charges those who oppose such murderous regimes with doing what they do.
A beautiful civilization after the rise of Islam