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In forums and debates all over the place John Esposito is to be found commenting on one or another aspect of the Islamic world. He is an outstanding example of an academic who exploits his supposedly informed position to turn himself into a spokesman and a public figure. Yet everything he says boils down to the proposition that Muslims are always in the right, and to suggest they might be in the wrong is Islamophobia. Conquered by Muslims, non-Muslims must choose between conversion, death and paying a tax that gives them an inferior status (dhimma). After 9/11, Esposito declared himself "pleasantly surprised" by the number of converts to Islam.

In the recent past, many who were not necessarily Communists idealised an imaginary, peace-loving Soviet Union; they were known as fellow-travellers or "useful idiots". Esposito, born a Catholic in Brooklyn in 1940, idealises a similarly imaginary, peace-loving Islamic world. The cause has changed, but obsessive belief remains constant.

For years Esposito taught at a Jesuit college in Massachusetts. There he might have stayed except that Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a member of the Saudi ruling family and the nearest equivalent to an Arab George Soros, gave an endowment of $20 million to found the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at the Catholic Georgetown University in Washington. Interfaith promotion is a deception in the context. Churches are forbidden in Saudi Arabia and Christians face persecution-even beheading-for holding a service or handing out prayerbooks. The Georgetown Center fits into the worldwide campaign which the Saudi rulers finance in order to place a mask of normality over their brutally retrograde country and harsh proselytising version of Islam. As director of this centre, Esposito has had a platform on which to appear as an expert on Islam rather than a Saudi propagandist.

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Anonymous
February 22nd, 2013
4:02 PM
Whilst there are, undoubtedly, criticisms to be made of Esposito's work, general methodological approach and apparent influence, this article falls short of the critical standard required to be taken seriously. Rather like the 'Reputations' piece on Umberto Eco, which left the impression of the writer never having read anything by the author, Pryce-Jones appears to have never engaged intellectually with the subject and study of Islam. Clearly 'Reputations' is a short piece format, but the contrast with the informed academic tone of the article by Geza Vermes ('Writing and Rewriting the Bible in the time of Jesus') in the same issue is, frankly, shocking. This is undeserving of 'Standpoint'.

Eliott
December 27th, 2012
5:12 PM
Spot on, both the article and the comment above. I too am amazed at how succesful the Saudis have been in penetrating Anglo-American academia. Islamic study programmes seem to me to be an exercise in propoganda. It is shocking for example that Tariq Ramadan, who is financed by the Qataris, is allowed to call himself a Professor at Oxford University. He has not written any work of note and specialises in child like polemics. Truly sad.

Anonymous
December 20th, 2012
2:12 PM
There will always be 'useful idiots' who will spout apologias for the most reprehensible regimes - what will never cease to amaze me however is how easily US and UK universities roll over and offer them academic plum positions, tenure etc etc just for some Arab potentate's money. And even more amazed that nobody in the US or UK pick up on the skewed and biased 'scholarship' that emanates from these Muslim 'study centres'. It's simply paid for propaganda. Surely something skirting this close to immorality must also be of questionable legal status?

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