Hamid Dabashi: Paragon of Purple Prose?
Those of us who watch Middle East studies at Columbia University differ as to which professor of that lot is the most egregious. Joseph Massad, with his malign theories and intemperate extremism? Rashid Khalidi, with his roots as a PLO flak, his funny-money chair, his strange ideas, and his false gravitas? No, my favorite is Hamid Dabashi, that paragon of purple prose, male hysteria, and – now we learn – trouble telling the truth about his own biography.
This news comes from the"Columbians for Academic Freedom" website, where a student named Aharon posted an item titled"Press Rules." In it, he notes that Dabashi told a radio interviewer on March 6, 2005, that he"stopped speaking publicly because of a rash of threatening phone calls that go way beyond academic arguments." Then Dabashi played one of those allegedly threatening calls:
Mr. Dabashi, I read about you in today's New York Post. You stinking terrorist Muslim pig. I hope the CIA is studying you so it can kick you out of this country back to some filthy Arab country where you belong, you terrorist bastard.
But Dabashi also wrote an article for the Times Higher Education Supplement on October 18, 2002, in which he recounted what happened in June 2002 (after I co-authored an article that mentioned him) – namely someone leaving the identical message:
Hey, Mr Dabashi, I read about you in today's New York Post. You stinking, terrorist Muslim pig. I hope the CIA is studying you so we can kick you out of this country back to some filthy Arab country where you belong. You terrorist bastard.
This double use of the same call, years apart, spurs several thoughts: (1) It confirms my doubts about the onslaught of threatening calls he supposedly received due to my critique. The call he received is indeed vile and inexcusable, but it is not a threat. (Meaning, law enforcement would not find it actionable.)
(2) The recycling of this call years apart confirms how few calls he received – or why else would Dabashi keep coming back to the same old one?
(3) Dabashi falsely presented a call from 2002 as though it happened in 2005.
(4) His claim in the March 6, 2005, radio interview that he"has stopped speaking publicly" because of threatening phone calls is untrue. (Earlier, by the way, he made the same point less strongly, telling the New York Times in January 2005 only that he"has canceled several appearances.") As Aharon writes, that telephone message in June 2002" certainly did not lead to him ending his public speaking - I've heard him myself since Summer 2002." A little research turns up plenty of instances of his public speaking. Here are four examples, just from the beginning of 2003 and only in New York City:
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