Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Fred Halliday is dead

Fred Halliday died. I never met him but I have read most of what he has written over the years. I was an early fan of his important book, Arabia Without Sultans (and a young comrade, Fawwaz Trabulsi, assisted him in that book). This is an important and courageous book that dealt with a subject that has been rarely covered. What I liked about Halliday is that he wrote (especially as a journalist but also as an early scholar) with political passion and agitation. He did not make an attempt to hid behind the cloak of academic objectivity. (I remember how I had to adjust to writing in college having been used to revolutionary writing on the walls of Beirut and other revolutionary places in high school. I remember my adviser, Rashid Khalidi, who guided my academic preparation, would tell me regarding my research papers: you can't write manifestos in college papers. It was not easy to stop, so that is why the blog has been useful for me.) Halliday's Arabic was very good and he would conduct interviews and even engage in political discussions in Arabic on Aljazeera and elsewhere. He also studied Persian, if I am not mistaken (he wrote a very good book on Iran by the way, that very few still remember). He was always interesting and self-assured. I stopped liking the writings of Halliday in 1991 with the American invasion of Iraq. He was close to the Iraqi exile community in London, and his views started to approximate those of Ahmad Chalabi. He also became more willing to gravitate toward awful generalizations about Arabs and their political preferences. He could be harsh on Arabs who did not share his enthusiasm for two American wars on Iraq. Yet, this is a man who left a mark on the study of the Middle East.