I was shocked to find out about the passing of Fred Halliday today. I had read a decent amount of Halliday’s essays on the Middle East while in college, and always came away feeling that I had a much better understanding of a complicated subject thanks to his lucid writing style and thorough analysis. Just a week ago I was re-reading his essay “The Middle East and the Nationalism Debate” – one of the best articles I’ve ever come across on the relationship between Islamic culture and nationalism as a symptom of modernity. In a field that for the last 10 years has been inundated with politicized rhetoric about Islam, the meaning of jihad, and the nature of religious ‘fundamentalism’, Halliday’s voice was always one of cool reason standing miles ahead of it all.
Here is a 2007 essay from Dissent titled “The Jihadism of Fools.”