Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Said's Sharp Pen, and Info on Myanmar Wanted

When I woke up, it was still all dark outside. I thought the time was still in the midst of the night, but looking at the clock beside the bed, I realized it was almost dawn. Here, morning comes late. The sun is not really up there until 7am, and these days because of rain, it seems even darker at dawn. I went back to sleep after a few pages of “Orientalism,” and when I woke up again, it was already past 4pm. One missed call from a number I don’t recognize. And it was too late to visit the clinic…

The top page of the website of the Myanmar Embassy here is blank. So I decided to send an e-mail to inquire about the tourist visa information. And rare for me now, I did so quite fast. Soon after I sent the e-mail, I found that, without the top page, the inside of the site could be read and I managed to obtain the information.

Reading works by Edward W. Said makes me realize, with no exception at all, that how I am sloppy in using words, in writing and talking. His knowledge is deep, his observation insightful, and his pen unbelievably sharp.

… In 1973, during the anxious days of the October Arab-Israeli war, the New York Times Magazine commissioned two articles, one representing the Israeli and on the Arab side of the conflict. The Israeli side was presented by an Israeli layer; the Arab side, by an American former ambassador to an Arab country who had no formal training in Oriental studies. Lest we jump immediately to the simple conclusion that the Arabs were believed incapable of representing themselves, we would do well to remember that both Arabs and Jews in this instance were Semites (in the broad cultural designation I have been discussing) and that both were being made to be represented for a Western audience… (p. 293)

… When Louis Gardet treats [in The Cambridge History of Islam, first published in 1970] “Religion and Culture,” we are told summarily that only the first five centuries of Islam are to be discussed; does this mean that religion and culture in “modern times” cannot be “synthesized,” or does it mean that Islam achieved its final form in the twelfth century? Is there really such a thing as “Islamic geography,” which seems to include the “planned anarchy” of Muslim cities, or is it mainly an invented subject to demonstrate a rigid theory of geographical-racial determinism? As a hint we are reminded of “the Ramadan fast with its active nights,” from which we are expected to conclude that Islam is a religion “designed for town dwellers.” This is explanation in need of explanation. (p. 305)

In its February 1974 issue Commentary gave its readers an article by Professor Gil Carl Alroy entitled “Do the Arabs Want Peace?” Alroy is a professor of political science and is the author of two works, Attitudes Towards Jewish Statehood in the Arab World and Images of Middle East Conflict; he is a man who professes to “know” the Arabs, and is obviously an expert of image making. His argument is quite predictable: that the Arabs want to destroy Israel, that the Arabs really say what they mean (and Alroy makes ostentatious use of his ability to cite evidence from Egyptian newspapers, evidence he everywhere identifies with “Arabs” as if the two, Arabs and Egyptian newspapers, were one), and so on and on, with unflagging, one-eyed zeal… (pp. 307-308)


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