Friday, June 22, 2007

The ideological institution of Harvard

Farid Esack stated the following, in a corrective, to a newspaper article on him in Pakistan:

The section I wish to address is the following (complete statement can be viewed at the end of this comment/response).

I am currently the William Henry Bloomberg Professor at Harvard University. (The university appoints faculty on the basis of scholarly ability and really does not care a hoot what anyone’s personal religious beliefs are).

This has got to be one of the strangest comments I have heard from someone who is supposedly speaking out against imperialism - and requires a response - even if it has been stated parenthetically.

I don't have the time or energy at this time to discuss in detail Harvard University's elitesm, its role in promoting imperialism, and its ideological leanings - and so, for now, I will refer people to a book - that discusses these issues in more detail.

How Harvard Rules: Reason in service of empire

The book specifically addresses how appointments are based on politics (at least in part - i would argue in whole) and not on merit.

That should address the first part of Esack's statement - that Harvard's appointments are based on "scholarly ability" --- Now, giving Esack the benefit of the doubt, he does not define what those "scholarly abilities" are, and in whose service they are towards. I will assume, that Esack understands that that these "scholarly abilities" must be in favor of imperialism in one shape or another.

BUT the second part gets stranger: "The university...really does not care a hoot what anyone’s personal religious beliefs are." Now, as it turns out, the primary backers of the Progressive Muslim Union North America was, infact, Harvard's "pluralism project" - and before they melted down, it was Harvard that had given them a substantial grant, and space for their conference (that never materialized).

The ideological leaning of Harvard towards Progressive Islam is well known, and there is a fair bit of caution amongst some Islamic groups, if they are approached by Harvard - as to what their agenda might be, and if, given their leanings, they should or should not accept an invitation. Harvard, as such, does very much care about "personal religious beliefs" --- if they are at odds with their imperial agenda.

Esack, or really anyone who has been appointed by Harvard, or indeed any imperial institution - need to take a serious look at their own work, and themselves, and see how they might be serving the empire. Because, otherwise, they would not be at Harvard. And their analyses of empire needs to be a lot more deeper - including within it the co-option of supposed critics of imperialism (such as himself).

But even more so --- a serious look at their own critiques, are they really spot on, or not? Ultimately imperialism does not only destroy the physical infrastractures, and the physical lives of human beings, but also destroys ideas, and values. The war on values (or the war on Islam) is not as blatant as the apparent killings, it is a lot more subtle, and it is more dangerous - because once ideas and values are destroyed (or, worse, twisted)- then that spells the end of resistance (as in out of the light and into a deep darkness).

Dear Editor

Allow me to point out few corrections in the news story posted at Kashmir Watch quoting Dawn newspaper under the headline ‘Scholar Advocates ‘Liberation Theology’, 10th June, 2007

a) The third paragraph was incorrectly attributed to me; I was, albeit approvingly, quoting Patrick Reinsborough.

b) The article says that I was to the William Henry Bloomberg Professor at Harvard University until I converted to Islam and went to study at Madrassahs in Karachi. Now, I am indeed a proud product three of Karachi’s madrassahs (including Jami’ah Binnuria). However, I was born into a Muslim family and I am currently the William Henry Bloomberg Professor at Harvard University. (The university appoints faculty on the basis of scholarly ability and really does not care a hoot what anyone’s personal religious beliefs are).

Prof Farid Esack

William Henry Bloomberg Professor

Harvard Divinity School

45 Francis Ave,

Cambridge MA 02138

1 comment(s):

  • As Salaam u Alaikum,

    While I agree with this post for the most part, we should also be careful to not ascribe omnipotence to the Empire and its institutions.

    Because, otherwise, they would not be at Harvard.

    We must understand that the system has its own contradictions and inconsistencies. To think of it otherwise, as a perfect machine in which every move is calculated gives it too much power. As conscious people, our goal should be to expose the weaknesses, contradictions and inconsistencies of the system and exploit them to undermine it, and not make the system seem impenetrable and all-powerful.

    That said...It is a fine line between saying: "anybody who is part of these institutions is serving the imperial agenda, directly or indirectly" VERSUS saying that "one is allowed into these institutions because they dont really pose much of a threat (either because of who they are or because of their location within these institutions)."

    Indeed, institutions like Harvard often come from and produce the future generations of the elite classes. Radical ideas within the spaces of such institutions usually (not always) become an academic exercise at best, and intellectual masturbation at worst. Either way, it belies that reality of 'knowledge' itself becoming a commodity, and an integral cog in the wheels of capitalism. Who has access to knowledge and who doesn't? How will this knowledge transform people if at all? How rare it is that such institutions and the people within them are involved in grassroots organizations, struggles, communities?

    While (elite) academic institutions are important places to engage in struggle, we should not think that they are the focal points of where change will come from. At the same time, we should not ascribe to these institutions more power and precision than they actually have.

    By Blogger malangbaba, at 6/23/2007 02:07:00 PM  

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