Edward Said, who died in September 2003, was Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University , and the author of more than twenty books on cultural, literary, and political subjects, such as Joseph Conrad and the Fiction of Autobiography, Covering Islam, Musical Elaborations, The World, the Text, and the Critic. Said also saw himself as a Palestinian, and defended the Palestinian cause with passion, and rage, writing influential books on the conflict such as The Question of Palestine, The Politics of Dispossession, and Peace and Its Discontents. Arguably his most influential-and in my view the most pernicious - work was Orientalism (1978), giving birth to entire new disciplines, such as Postcolonial Studies, and influencing several others such as Subaltern Studies. Universities round the world heaped honours on Said - he is said to have received at least seventeen honorary doctorates - and at the same time turned out hundreds of students whose doctoral theses were on or influenced by Orientalism. From the The Oxford Classical Dictionary to a book on Mozart's Operas, one can see Said's influence at work in all the humanities, almost negating centuries of Western scholarship of the highest order.
Take Classical Studies. The prestigious The Oxford Classical Dictionary [OCD] under the entry on the historian and mercenary leader Xenophon has a cross reference to an entry on "Orientalism", since he has left us an account of the life of the Persian Cyrus the Great. But the article in the OCD does not mention that Xenophon in fact came to feel at home with the Persians, and looked at non-Greeks in a discriminating but fair manner, distinguishing enlightened Persians from backward tribes. He never goes beyond justifiable rejection of what is uncultured. But for Said and his ilk any critical look at non-Europeans is considered "biased", "racist", and "Orientalist", making it impossible for responsible historians, sociologists and anthropologists to make cross-cultural assessments and judgements. The result is that we in the West now condone, and certainly do not condemn, barbaric behaviour committed by non-Europeans. Western feminists remain scandalously silent about the treatment of women in Islamic societies.
Said dismisses such classics of the Western canon as Aeschylus' The Persians as "orientalist" and the Western Classicists remain silent, and do not come to The Greek playwright's defence. Far from being "racist", Aeschylus' drama is a tragedy according full dignity and humanity to the Persians, praising their valour and ethics.
... sounds like there's some petitio principis going on ...