The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

An Arab Spinoza

Haaretz has a great profile/interview with Al Afif Al Akhdar, a noted Tunisian liberal intellectual living in France. This is the type of people that should be getting more attention -- and proof that it's not Wafa Sultan vs. all other Arabs out there. Here's a link to a Google search of his name that yields tons of articles, and I like the way this one in particular starts:

In order to gain a critical understanding of the persistence of Islamic archaism and all its paraphernalia, one must approach it through the logic of its own history, as well as that of the Arabo-Muslim bourgeoisie of the 19th and 20th centuries, which is radically different from the process of European history and from the residual folkloric Christianity of the present-day West.

Let me explain: some orientalists, such as the American Richard Michel, see in the activist Islamic movements a potential for reforming Islam. In other words, a way of rationalising it, thus bringing it closer to western liberalism. Such writers have clearly succumbed to the comic temptation of analogy and to the lazy facility of repetition. For, if one sets up a parallel between the contemporary Islamic Brotherhoods and the European Reformation, one is just making a mockery of concrete history.
If I hear the words "Muslim Luther" one more time...

Update: I would have to read more to comment on it, but the Angry Arab says this:

This is a sad story; the story of an Arab intellectual who now is willing to join the chorus of Arab/Muslim intellectuals who are willing "to dance with a rope" for the pleasure of Western audiences (I borrow that line from a letter that Jubran wrote expressing his fears of his celebrity in US). I am not ashamed to admit that this person, Al-`Afif Al-Akhdar, had tremendous influence on my thinking, and helped steer me away from Leninism. I never met him, but knew his friends and disciples back when he was the prophet of Anti-Leninist Marxism. His principled attacks on orthodox communism in the Arab world, and on trendy Arab intellectuals, were eye-opening for me in my college years. Now, he has joined the ranks of vulgar Arab liberals--and with that journey he is less interesting and less original, and admits to be living off a subsidy from pro-House of Saud, pro-Moroccan royal family, `Uthman Al-`Umayr (former editor-in-chief of Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat). I used to read his articles and books several times over to absorb his insights. He was never a systematic writer or intellectual, but I enjoyed him nevertheless. As much as I admired him back then, as much as I disrespect his ideological journey, and his internalization of vulgar Orientalist cliches. Sometimes he sounds more like Fallaci, than like the early Al-Akhdar. Of course, Israeli and Zionist publications and propagandists have now discovered him. Ask them, how come they did not discover him when he was anti-Zionist, back when he was in the DFLP. How convenient.
That is one angry Arab.