Averroes Would Be Appalled

[Charles Butterworth, a member of the Minaret of Freedom Institute Board of Advisors,  submitted the following letter to the Washington Post, which it did not publish. We present it here as a guest blog.]
July 5, 2008

Letters to the Editor
The Washington Post
1150 15th St. NW
Washington, D.C. 20071 letters@washpost.com

To the Editor,

Joel B. Pollak’s rant (“Teaching Arabic and Propaganda,” The Washington Post, Saturday, July 5, 2008, A15) against his Arabic grammar is curious, but I do not see how it leads to judging the book as anti-Semitic, linking it to texts used at the Saudi Academy in Fairfax,
or calling for scrutiny of NEH funding of Arabic programs. It shows, rather, that Pollak has failed to understand both the Arabic grammar and the larger culture it portrays.

The characters in the grammar provide a glimpse into the hopes and frustrations of contemporary Egyptians. Nasser was and is revered by most Egyptians because of the improvements he made. Part of his appeal was being able to speak in the language of the masses even while preserving features of an older, more formal Arabic. From his speeches, students of Arabic can learn much about the colloquial and classical language.

Pollak misrepresents Israel’s treatment of Palestinians after its pre-emptive 1967 war and wrongly asserts that Jewish scholars in Egypt preserved the writings of the Andalusian Averroes (1126-1198). Of Averroes’s 46 writings, all but 11 have always existed in Arabic. Of those 11, 6 are available only in translations made originally from Hebrew and 2 in independent Hebrew and Latin translations. Not one of these was done by scholars in Egypt. Of the 35 writings by Averroes that have always existed in Arabic, 13 are only in Hebrew characters. Again, not one of these Judaeo-Arabic transcriptions is by an Egyptian
Jewish scholar.

No Washington Post reader is well-served when so factually flawed and politically tendentious an article is published without its facts or basic logic being scrutinized.

Sincerely yours,

Charles E. Butterworth
Minaret of Freedom Institute

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