Edward Said’s barbarous slur on oriental studies?

Terry Eagleton reviews For Lust of Knowing: the orientalists and their enemies by Robert Irwin, in the New Statesman:

Pal_edwardsaidIrwin is not the kind of commentator to dismiss Said as “a dandy and a Manhattan bon viveur“, as the pompously self-opinionated Ernest Gellner once did. On the contrary, he praises him with an agreeable old-school courtesy wherever praise seems due. He shares Said’s belief, for example, that US media coverage of Palestinian affairs has been “biased, ignorant and abusive”, and acknowledges his unswerving rejection of terrorist violence. Incredulous though he is at the idea that orientalism is in cahoots with western imperialism, he is quick to register the odd spot of anti-Islamic prejudice in Middle Eastern scholarship. He also jovially admits that the 16th-century Frenchman Guillaume Postel was not only the first true orientalist but a complete lunatic.

It would be hard to imagine any such generosity of spirit from the smug US Middle Eastern observer Thomas Friedman, who, despite writing a column for the New York Times, has about as much a sense of literary style as a rhino. Or, indeed, from a right-wing orientalist scholar such as Bernard Lewis, who has written that the destruction of the World Trade Center was one of the most wicked acts in human history. Why such coy understatement? Why not just confess straight out that the joint crimes of Stalin, Mao and Hitler, not to speak of Hiroshima and Attila the Hun, are utterly eclipsed by it?

More here.  [Photo shows Edward Said.]