Sunday, December 06, 2009

Richard Antoun: A huge loss

Those of us who knew Richard Antoun are shocked to hear that a graduate student walked into his office and stabbed him to death on December 4. The student admitted to stabbing him four times. Hard to fathom. Of course we all would like to know more ...

That the attacker was from Saudi Arabia makes it all the more unfortunate, as his action could easily be read by some people as another example of how crazy those people are over there in the Middle East. Whatever reasons come out, they will never make much sense because Antoun, I am confident, never had an enemy.

Antoun was the least deserving of an attack from anyone from any side in the Middle East, as he was a model of serious scholarship, an example of how to write about a world filled with easily bruised sensibilities. While some "experts" of Middle Eastern affairs can justly be accused of bias and insensitivity, Antoun worked hard to represent fairly the diverse viewpoints of the peoples he studied -- some of them inclined to believe that their views and circumstances are poorly represented by the news media and academia. Unlike some, he was not given to broad generalizations about peoples and societies: he was always specific and explicit about the situations and peoples he wrote about. I have often mentioned his work in my classes and at times assigned one or another of his monographs.

He was everywhere respected and beloved. A huge loss.

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