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Faculty Speakers Series: AUK Professor Ghazi Q. Nassir Provides Critique of Samuel Johnson's Oriental Writings about Islam

As part of the ongoing Faculty Speaker Series organized by the College of Arts and Sciences at the American University of Kuwait (AUK), Dr. Ghazi Nassir, Associate Professor of English, gave a talk to discuss how English literary figure Samuel Johnson's prejudices towards Arab and Islamic cultures are revealed through his various works. The talk was open to all members of the AUK community.

Dr. Nassir, who authored the book Samuel Johnson's Attitudes Toward Islam; A Study of His Oriental Readings and Writings, argued in his talk that Johnson's depictions and opinions of Islam and Muslim cultures in his works reflect prejudices he had towards the religion and its founder. "He, a Tory and an Anglican, was temperamentally hostile to Islamic culture, particularly to the Prophet Muhammad and Muslims; he never purposed to write a flattering tribute about Islam, Muslims, and their culture," explained Dr. Nassir.

However, Johnson's views were not only apparent in his writings; they were also clear from his conversations. Dr. Nassir stated that his conversations also provided an explicit indication of Johnson's tendency to be racially discriminating and display him as having an attitude of superiority. James Boswell wrote Life of Johnson, a biography of his personal acquaintance [Johnson]. In the biography, Johnson tells Boswell "There are two objects of curiosity-the Christian world and the Mahometan world".

According to Dr. Nassir, Johnson did not rate that world highly in either his conversations or his writings. "In fact his attitude toward Islam and Islamic culture stemmed more from his odious opinions of Islam and its followers than from his scholarly interest," he said.

The Faculty Speaker Series was initiated by, Dr. Rawda Awwad, Interim Dean of CAS, to commemorate AUK's 10th Anniversary. The program is coordinated by the CAS Faculty Speaker Series Committee, including Professors Maryam Hosseinnia, Mohamed Satti, and Raymond Farrin, who are also planning for a sequence of book presentations this semester, which will include talks by faculty members who recently published books. Signed copies of the authors' books will also be made available during the events.

Released by the Office of Public Affairs on the 27th March 2014

Photography by the Office of Public Affairs (C) 2014

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