Abukhalil, As'ad 1960–
Abukhalil, As'ad 1960–
Born 1960, in Beirut, Lebanon; son of a secretary general of the Lebanese parliament; immigrated to the United States, 1983, became U.S. citizen, 1989. Education: American University of Beirut, B.A., 1981, M.A., 1983; Georgetown University, Ph.D., 1988.
Office—Department of Politics & Public Administration, California State University at Stanislaus, 801 W. Monte Vista Ave., Turlock, CA 95382-0299. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer, educator, political analyst. Former instructor at Tufts University, Georgetown University, and George Washington University; former scholar at the Middle East Institute, Washington, DC; California State University at Stanislaus, professor of politics and comparative government, 1993—. Middle East analyst for PBS, CNN, NBC, ABC, and Al Jazeera.
Historical Dictionary of Lebanon, Scarecrow Press (Lanham, MD), 1998.
Bin Laden, Islam, and America's New "War on Terrorism," Seven Stories Press (New York, NY), 2002.
Author of the blog Angry Arab News Service. Contributor to scholarly books, including Amal and the Palestinians: Understanding the Battle of the Camps: Viewpoints, edited by Elaine C. Hagopian, Association of Arab-American University Graduates (Belmont, MA), 1985. Contributor of articles to journals and periodicals.
As'ad AbuKhalil is a professor of politics and comparative government who is well known for his blog, the Angry Arab News Service, as well as for his several books dealing with Middle Eastern topics. Born in Lebanon, AbuKhalil is a U.S. citizen, and thus has a foot in both worlds. Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Robin Abcarian described AbuKhalil as a "jolly moon-faced man with long corkscrew curls [who] is the deeply sarcastic, piquant wit behind … a popular blog that provides links and edgy leftist commentary about the war in Iraq, Lebanese politics, [and the] Israeli-Palestinian conflict." AbuKhalil told Abcarian, however, "‘I am not an angry Arab. I'm an angry human being!’" In both his blog and books AbuKhalil attempts to explicate complicated Middle Eastern issues, and his audience ranges from left-leaning Americans to concerned readers throughout the world.
AbuKhalil grew up in a privileged family in Lebanon; his father was the secretary general of the parliament. "‘I belonged to the lower echelon of the spoiled brats,’" he told Abcarian. AbuKhalil attended the best high schools and the American University of Beirut before transferring to Georgetown University for his doctoral studies. His family was Muslim, but of mixed sects: the father was Shiite while the mother came from a Sunni family. Devoutly religious as a youth, he gave up religion as a teen, disgusted by the schism between these two branches of Islam. Instead, he found a new religion of a kind in Marxism and then in Anarchism. He also found a new country; in 1989 he became a United States citizen.
AbuKhalil's first book, the 1998 Historical Dictionary of Lebanon, was an attempt, as the author noted in his introduction, to "provide essential information in order to grasp the realities of an exceedingly complex country and, in passing, to dispel some myths and illusions." To that end, AbuKhalil supplies alphabetized articles on a wide assortment of Lebanese, from politicians to cultural leaders in the arts and letters. He also includes numerous women in his entries, as well as topics, such as AIDS and homosexuality, that other overviews neglected. Additionally, he looks at important events, political parties, and militia groups, as well as the ethnic groups that comprise the population. Finally, he includes an extensive bibliography, covering sources in English, French, German, and Arabic. Reviewing this volume in the Middle East Quarterly, Hilal Khashan was not impressed with the endeavor, however, commenting that AbuKhalil's "dictionary is riddled with assertions and accusations that insult the reader and Lebanon alike."
With his 2002 book Bin Laden, Islam, and America's New "War on Terrorism," AbuKhalil examines the fallout from the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States. Writing in the Middle East Journal, Amaney Jamal and Sunaina Maira felt that AbuKhalil offered "astute insights into the ways in which the domestic and foreign agendas of the United States vis a vis Islam and Muslims are linked, particularly after the events of September 11 but also well before, and hinge on an ideological discourse about Islam, terrorism, and fundamentalisms." The author traces the policies of the United States in the Middle East from the Cold War through the aftermath of the attacks by bin Laden's men. As Jamal and Maira noted, AbuKhalil's book "situates the emergence of bin Laden's movement in the context of U.S. support for oppressive Islamist groupings from the Wahhabi base in Saudi Arabia to the mujaheddin, later to become the Taliban, in the 1980s in Afghanistan, as well as U.S. opposition to Arab nationalist movements in Nasirite Egypt and in Palestine." For the same critics, AbuKhalil's treatise was "pithy, … timely and important."
In his 2005 book The Battle for Saudi Arabia: Royalty, Fundamentalism, and Global Power, AbuKhalil focuses on the internal fight between the Saudi royal family and the Wahhabi fundamentalist clerical establishment. The book explores the delicate balance that the United States has been attempting to achieve with this oil-rich kingdom, which spawned bin Laden and the al-Qa'eda terrorist group. Fifteen of the nineteen men responsible for the September 11 attacks were Saudi, and this uncomfortable fact has led to much questioning about the role of Saudi Arabia in the new international fight against terrorism. AbuKhalil proposes in his book that the Saudi royal family be deposed and replaced by a truly democratic form of government that would not cave in to militants and fundamentalist extremists. For Middle East Journal contributor Joseph A. Kechichian, The Battle for Saudi Arabia "presents a relatively balanced perspective even if some of its interpretations are arbitrary and egregious." Higher praise came from a reviewer for the Arab Studies Quarterly, who termed the same work a "wonderful book," and further noted: "AbuKhalil is both thorough and perspicacious in his analysis of the relationship between the U.S. and the House of Saud and of how this symbiotic relationship served both parties well (with some wrinkles here and there) until recently." Similarly, a New Internationalist critic concluded that The Battle for Saudi Arabia was "a timely and thought-provoking examination of a secretive and closed society: the forces at work in Saudi Arabia—for good and ill—will be pivotal for the chances of peace in the Arabian Peninsula, the Middle East and beyond."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
AbuKhalil, As'ad, Historical Dictionary of Lebanon, Scarecrow Press (Lanham, MD), 1998.
Arab Studies Quarterly, fall, 2004, review of The Battle for Saudi Arabia: Royalty, Fundamentalism, and Global Power.
Choice, March, 1999, D.S. Straley, review of Historical Dictionary of Lebanon, p. 1242.
International Journal of Middle East Studies, August, 2006, Thomas W. Lippman, review of The Battle for Saudi Arabia, p. 486.
Journal of Palestine Studies, summer, 1999, George Emile Irani, review of Historical Dictionary of Lebanon; summer, 1999, "The Movement of Arab Nationalists: Formation, Evolution, and Destinies."
Journal of Third World Studies, fall, 2002, A.J. Abraham, review of Historical Dictionary of Lebanon.
Middle East Journal, spring, 1999, Hilal Khashan, review of Historical Dictionary of Lebanon; spring, 2005, Amaney Jamal and Sunaina Maira, "Muslim Americans, Islam, and the ‘War on Terrorism’ at Home and Abroad"; winter, 2005, Joseph A. Kechichian, review of The Battle for Saudi Arabia, p. 151.
Reference & Research Book News, November, 1998, review of Historical Dictionary of Lebanon, p. 36
California State University at Stanislaus, Department of Politics & Public Administration Web site,http://web.csustan.edu/ (February 26, 2008), "As'ad AbuKhalil, Professor."
New Internationalist,http://www.newint.org/ (February 26, 2008), review of The Battle for Saudi Arabia.