HAMID DABASHI: This book is very much a product of the Bush era (2000-2008) — a record of my fears and trembling at the sight of a criminally delusional man at the helm of an imperial killing machine and lacking any moral conception of what it was he was doing when he ordered the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, two catastrophic decisions that Afghans and Iraqis continue to pay for with their lives. I was aghast at the sight of the mass frenzy that accompanied those invasions, the barefaced banality of those who supported it (even some of the most progressive American intellectuals considered the Afghan invasion as a case of “just war,” as in fact later some leading Arab intellectuals were duped into supporting the US/NATO invasion of Libya), and above all the criminally complicitous comprador intellectuals like Fouad Ajami, Kanan Makiya, Ibn Warraq, Azar Nafisi, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, ad nauseum who were aiding and abetting in manufacturing consent for those wars. They were doing so in the name of criticizing militant Islamism, or misogynist patriarchy, or undemocratic practices and human rights abuses that their American and European employers — and by “employers” I mean the lucrative market that was receptive to their treacheries and made them bestsellers in Bush’s America — were in fact partially instrumental in causing, conditioning, and sustaining.
I recall reading about a panel in Washington DC in which Azar Nafisi had come together with one neocon illiterate or another to discuss one thing or another about “Islam” that set my antennae up and got me thinking about the duet they were singing. This was before the events of 9/11, or the US-led invasion of Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003), and before she wrote and published the now infamous Reading Lolita in Tehran (2003), which prompted my al-Ahram essay on it, “Native Informers and the Making of American Empire” (2006) a couple of years later, which then became the basis of Brown Skin, White Masks.