More on Hitchens and Cole
I’ve now seen a transcript showing that Christopher Hitchens in his debate with George Galloway said that I “claimed” to know “farsi” but had “never stepped foot in the region.” As I noted on Friday, these are bizarre things for him to say. To say that someone “claims” something, according to the Fowler usage manual, is to suggest that the assertion is open to question. And why is my knowledge of Persian (that is what it is called in English, Mr. Hitchens) an issue? I am seized with panic at the thought that Hitchens thinks they speak “farsi” in Iraq! Hitchens makes the remark with regard to Grand Ayatollah Sistani being the spiritual leader of the Iraqi Shiites. Aside from the scholarly writing of the late Linda Walbridge before the war, I happen to have been the first American observer to explain Sistani’s significance, at this weblog in April-July of 2003; go to the archives and do a keyword search. I was also one of the few American scholars publishing on the institution of the marja`-i taqlid or source for emulation among the Shiites, in the 1980s and 1990s. See my Sacred Space and Holy War. I guarantee you Hitchens did not know Sistani existed in February, 2003. As for Mr. Bremer, Hitchens’s hero, his response to Sistani’s fatwa was to ask, “can’t we get a fatwa from some other mulla?”
As’ad Abukhalil, a real Middle East expert, comments on Hitchens’s ridiculous comments about yours truly.