Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Fjordman: The Flaws of Edward Said’s Orientalism

Fjordman’s follow-up essay on Edward Said has been published at Jihad Watch. Some excerpts are below:

Salah al-Din or Saladin (ca. 1138-1193), the general loved by Muslims for his victories against the Crusaders, is renowned in Western history for his supposedly tolerant nature. Very few seem to recall that his son and heir Al-Aziz Uthman tried to demolish the world-famous pyramids at Giza outside of Cairo, Egypt, just three years after his father’s death. The only reason why we can still visit them is because the task at hand was so big that he eventually gave up the attempt. They were hard to build, and hard to destroy. The Pyramid of Menkaure, the smallest of the three major ones at Giza, was nevertheless visibly damaged on one side.

This detail is almost always left out when apologists write about how tolerant and enlightened Muslims supposedly were compared to the primitive Europeans. This attempted destruction was not carried out by Saladin himself, but it would not be unreasonable to mention when writing about him that his devout Muslim son did this shortly after he died. There are also indications that a process of pillaging ancient monuments had begun during Saladin’s reign.

Mark Lehner is an American archaeologist with decades of experience excavating in Egypt. He is widely considered to be one of the foremost living experts on the Giza Pyramids, having devoted his life to studying them, and has appeared on numerous television documentaries. Here is what Lehner says in his book The Complete Pyramids [1997, hardback], page 41:

“Abd al-Latif reports the destruction of a number of small pyramids by the Emir Karakoush during Saladin’s reign (AD 1138-93). It must have been Karakoush who removed the satellite pyramid south of Khafre’s pyramid, and who began dismantling Khufu’s subsidiary pyramids. Other stones, probably from the two larger pyramids, were used for walls in the growing city of Cairo. The plunder of casing stone from the Great Pyramid continued during succeeding generations until the outer mantle was finally stripped bare. Abd al-Latif also enthused about the Sphinx, already known by its modern Arabic name, Abu Hol, ‘Father of Terror’. He described its handsome face, ‘covered with a reddish tint, and a red varnish as bright as if freshly painted’. He specifically mentions the nose, which leads us to think that it was still intact, contrary to indications that it may have been missing as early as the 10th century. It is certain that someone removed it before the early 15th century when another Arab historian, al-Maqrizi, wrote about it. The nose was long gone, at any rate, by the time Napoleon visited Giza in 1798, although he is often blamed for its removal.”

A photo on page 41 of Lehner’s book shows damage done to the Pyramid of Menkaure, the smallest of the three large pyramids on the Giza Plateau. While it still stands, scars from the attempted destruction are still clearly visible to visitors today. Mark Lehner states that “In AD 1196, Malek Abd al-Aziz Othman ben Yusuf, son of Saladin, mounted a concerted attack on the pyramid of Menkaure to dismantle it and remove its stone. Eight months’ work merely damaged the pyramid’s northern face. Such enormous – and unsuccessful – efforts increase our admiration for the skill of the ancient builders in creating such durable monuments.”

The great Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan were demolished by the Taliban regime in 2001, who decreed that they would destroy images deemed “offensive to Islam.” The Taliban Information Minister complained that “The destruction work is not as easy as people would think. You can’t knock down the statues by dynamite or shelling as both of them have been carved in a cliff. They are firmly attached to the mountain.” The statues, 53 meters and 36 meters tall, the tallest standing Buddha statues in the world, turned out to be so hard to destroy that the Taliban needed help from Pakistani and Saudi Arabian engineers to finish the job. After almost a month of non-stop bombardment with dynamite and artillery, they succeeded.

Judging from the experiences with the Bamiyan Buddhas, it is tempting to conclude that the main reason why the pyramids of Egypt have survived to this day is because they were so big that it proved too complicated, costly and time-consuming for Muslims to destroy them. Had Saladin’s son Al-Aziz had modern technology and engineers at his disposal, they might well have ended up just like countless Hindu temples in India or Buddhist statues in Central Asia.

Read the rest at Jihad Watch.


rohit said...

An enjoyable read Orientalism by Edward Said . loved the way you wrote it. I find your review very genuine and original, this book is going in by "to read" list.

Alexandre said...

If you decided to spend time on this topic do not miss
1) The Children of Edward Said
2) Ibn Warraq's
'Defending the West: A Critique of Edward Said's Orientalism'