Academic's book on Arabs linked to abuse

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The Independent US

Raphael Patai's seminal work, The Arab Mind, published in 1973 and later revised, was aimed at being a "journey of observation through the society of a complex and volatile region", based on decades of the author's personal experiences.

Raphael Patai's seminal work, The Arab Mind, published in 1973 and later revised, was aimed at being a "journey of observation through the society of a complex and volatile region", based on decades of the author's personal experiences.

Thirty years later and with Mr Patai dead for eight years, the book has surfaced in the scandal at Abu Ghraib prison, west of Baghdad, where many Iraqi prisoners were abused, tortured and sexually humiliated by US guards.

Amid growing evidence that the abuse was systematic rather than sporadic, Mr Patai's book was cited in an article in The New Yorker detailing the genesis of the abuse as "the bible of the neo-conservatives". His book, it is said, gave these hawks in Washington the idea that the Arabs understood only force, and their greatest weakness was shame and humiliation.

The daughters of Mr Patai, a Hungarian who moved to the US and taught at Princeton and Columbia universities, have condemned how their father's work is treated.

In a statement, they said: 'There's nothing new about written work, including scholarly work, being put to uses its authors never dreamed of. But still it rankles when it's an esteemed family member who is being maligned."

The daughters, Jennifer Patai Schneider, a physician and writer who lives in Arizona, and Daphne Patai, a professor at the University of Massachusetts, added: "Although [the article] did not attribute to our father responsibility for the misdeeds at Abu Ghraib, the speed with which the internet spreads all news - good, bad, and invented - has resulted in ever more simplistic assertions that reduce to the outrageous notion that Raphael Patai wrote a handbook for American torturers.

"We find it repugnant to have our father implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) blamed for or associated with these atrocities. He was an academic and an intellectual."

In his preface to the original edition, Mr Patai said he had an "incurable romanticism" with the Arab world. His book, he said, was "the result of my life-long interest in the Arabs and their world". It deals with marriage, sexuality, religion and overall psychology.

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