The late Edward Said is still one of the most influential figures in the postmodernist intellectual pantheon, and his students and followers dominate the study not only of the Muslim world, his ideas have influenced all cross cultural studies undertaken in the West.
In my mind, he is one of the most pernicious influences on the academy. Michael Weiss, writing in the New York Sun, takes on Said, and provides a thought-provoking essay reviewing the work of Ibn Warraq, specifically "Defending the West: A Critique of Edward Said's Orientalism."
Hat tip: Andrew Bostom
Not only did the British and French colonize and expropriate the East, according to Said, their imperial prejudice clouded their understanding of those they conquered. More than that, they "invented" an entire sham epistemology, Said and his followers contend, with which every Western observer has since approached the East and used to his advantage in further colonizing and expropriating it. Said's legacy, however, accomplished exactly what anyone professing sympathy with the Islamic world should have wished to avoid, Mr. Warraq believes. That is, in defending the virtue of traditional cultures, it gave that world a high-minded rationalization for a persisting status quo of medievalism and intellectual poverty throughout the Middle East.
"'Orientalism,'" Mr. Warraq writes, "taught an entire generation of Arabs the art of self-pity ... encouraged the Islamic fundamentalist generation of the 1980s, and bludgeoned into silence any criticism of Islam." Though it's Mr. Warraq's plaint that the book "stopped dead the research of eminent Islamologists who felt their findings might offend Muslims' sensibilities," it is not merely an abstract charge, but personally felt.