Having recently finished marking about 80 essays on various aspects of Middle Eastern history written by my first year undergraduate students, I thought it only fair to subject Sarah bin Ashoor’s recent op-ed in the New York Times to the same scrutiny. For those of you who have not read it, Sarah’s op-ed toed the Bahrain’s government line heavily. It blames the opposition and Iran for Bahrain’s woes, and depicts the autocratic government as a victim of its own benevolence. It was also rather anti-Shia, and its author, Sarah bin Ashoor, claims to belong to the “Gulf Affairs Forum” (which is proving to be as elusive as WMD). As a result, it picked up a lot of criticism, prompting various people to doubt the integrity of the piece (and indeed of the New York Times editorial desk). Here is an example of said criticsm:
Anyway, for a more thorough lambasting of bin Ashoor’s piece, read Dylan Byer’s and Justin Gengler’s posts. Incidentally, I asked Sarah bin Ashoor for more details on the “Gulf Affairs Forum”, but she has not responded to me. However, given Bahrain’s record for getting PR companies to place op-eds in reputable news outlets, it would not surprise me if someone’s palms have been greased. In addition, @thekarami directed me to this piece highlighting the problems at the New York Times editorial desk. It places the blame at the feet of Andrew Rosenthal, the editorial page editor at the New York Times. (Incidentally, I asked Andrew Rosenthal for an explanation but he too has not responded. Maybe I am too lowly for the Rosenthals and bin Ashoors of the world).
Anyway, without much further ado, here is how Sarah bin Ashoor would have fared if she was one of my students.
For more information on Sarah bin Ashoor’s previous performances, here are the links to some video interviews with Channel Four and the BBC. Thanks @SE25a for these.