[Hamid Dabashi:] Columbia University's Hysterical Professor
by Daniel Pipes
Translations of this item:
Others may have sympathized on learning that Hamid Dabashi, a professor of Middle East studies at Columbia University, felt threatened by a graduate student at his own university, but not me.
The incident began late on Sept. 27, 2004, when Victor Luria, a Ph.D. candidate in genetics and a former soldier in the Israel Defense Forces, wrote Dabashi an e-mail taking strong exception to what Dabashi had written about the IDF in an article, "For a Fistful of Dust: A Passage to Palestine," he published in the Egyptian newspaper, Al-Ahram. In response, Luria wrote to Dabashi:
Rather than answer Luria's critique, Dabashi early on Sept. 28 forwarded his note to several top Columbia officials, including the university's provost, Alan Brinkley. He also commented on what Luria had written:
Dabashi concluded, "For the time being, and in the best interest of our university, I will refrain from contacting the New York Police Department directly."
Underwhelmed, Brinkley wrote him back the same day,.
Indeed, Dabashi is "no stranger to controversy" and some of it concerns me. I report his exchange with Luria (which was first reported in the New York Sun) because it helps explain Dabashi's behavior two year earlier, when he claimed to be threatened by an article Jonathan Schanzer and I co-authored on June 25, 2002.
We mentioned Dabashi as one of six professors in a catalogue of academic radicalism regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict. The reference to Dabashi, replicated here in its entirety, merely noted two of his actions:
Dabashi contested neither of these facts but instead bellyached how publicizing them disrupted his life by making him and his students the victims of "racist and obscene" harassment, leading his computer to be hacked, and causing spams to be sent from his Columbia account. In reply, I condemned any such actions but also requested proof that they had actually occurred. Dabashi and I went back and forth on this point, most notably on MSNBC's "Donahue" program.
Two years later, despite this request on national television, Dabashi has yet to provide any proof.
Comments: (1) Dabashi's neurotic response to Luria, which closely parallels the one to Schanzer and me, establishes that he habitually interprets criticism as intimidation.
(2) His quick indignation may also reflect his extensive power at Columbia University (where he bills himself as "Chair of the Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures Department, Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies, and the Director of Graduate Studies at the Center for Comparative Literature and Society at Columbia University") and the deference he habitually receives. When exposed to something a bit rougher, he squeals about being threatened.
(3) This unacceptable pattern of behavior points to another failure of Middle East studies in general and at Columbia University in particular.
March 31, 2005 update: I wrote another article on Dabashi's claims of persecution today at "A Prof [Hamid Dabashi] Tangles the Truth." And while on the subject of this "professor," take a look at his purple prose at "'The Majesty That He Was': Columbia Colleagues Remember Edward Said,"
Aug. 10, 2007 update: Cinnamon Stillwell muses on Dabashi's antisemitism at "'Indoctrinate U' Outtake on Columbia Exposes Hamid Dabashi's Bigotry." In brief, Evan Coyne Maloney shows a scene, titled "Columbia Quiz," where he approaches random passersby on campus and asks them who said that "Israeli Jews ... the way they talk, walk, the way they greet each other, there is a vulgarity of character that is bone deep and structural to the skeletal vertebrae of its culture" - was ut "a) Adolph Hitler b) Osama bin Laden or c) a Columbia professor"?
Of course, it was c), Dabashi.
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