Broaden the lesson


Re “Jihad deja vu,” Opinion, May 13

It seems that William Dalrymple discovered who is at fault for modern Islamist terrorism -- the Brits. If only they had not attacked an obscure Muslim dictator in 1850s India, there would be no madrasas, no Taliban, no Al Qaeda. Never mind many centuries of Muslim-Hindu hostilities in India. Never mind a long history of West-Islam warfare. It’s the results of Britain’s 1857 war that we are all paying for now.

Dalrymple quotes the celebrated words that those who fail to learn from history are destined to repeat it. Indeed, we must learn from history. But Dalrymple is doing us a disservice by telling us to draw broad conclusions from one particular set of events while ignoring the rest of the historical picture.

That’s not learning from history but selectively using it to support one’s particular worldview.



Pacific Palisades


Dalrymple calls me a practitioner of “old-style Orientalism” who is “blissfully unencumbered by any experience of the Muslim world.”

I happily accept the Orientalist charge. To be placed in the grand tradition of Silvestre de Sacy, Edward Lane and Max Muller is a huge compliment.

But Dalrymple should have checked my resume, conveniently posted on my website, where it states that I spent six years studying abroad, including three years in Egypt.

For his information, I also studied in Tunisia and Turkey and have traveled to most Muslim-majority countries.


To top it off, I am writing this reply from Istanbul, one of the Muslim world’s largest cities.



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