Contemporary Islamic Civilization

May 2020

Prof. Keegan started this class by telling us that he didn't like the course title and wasn't planning on following the description. I was hoping to gain a knowledge of contemporary issues and politics within the Islamic world, as well as to learn about a few Islamic schools of thought, but that is not what this course is about at all with Prof. Keegan. Rather, he takes you on an incredibly abstract tour of how modernity is constructed in Islamic civilization, which involves learning about different Islamic schools of thought and conceptions of power, or at least the theories behind them. Very little is actually learned for fear of "making normative claims", such as when we discussed the sociopolitical conceptions of Sufism, but never actually learned what Sufism is, or when we talked about what attitudes towards sexuality weren't, but never discussed what they were. I do not think I gained much from taking this course, and don't really think I learned much concrete. However, I do know that when I disagree with somebody now, I can yell at them for making normative claims and being problematic, two of Professor Keegan's favorite sayings. Prof. Keegan is very strict, and will yell at you for being on your laptop in class. He takes attendance at the beginning of every lecture and yells at you if you are late and miss it. Attendance is also required for discussion sections. I would not recommend this class to anyone looking to fulfill their global core requirement, since there are much easier courses available. I would also recommend having a strong background in Islam and Islamic politics, since some of these are assumed, or not covered in much depth. This course also might be a lot better with a less strict professor.

Feb 2019

Dude's a G - son's kinda whack tho

May 2018

I took Shelley's class the first semester he taught it- Spring 2018. Taking his class was a terrible mistake. Shelley may be a good professor when teaching a small group of students (he used to teach CC, and I saw that his reviews were pretty good), however, this class had 200 students and his lectures were intolerably boring. Every class he read out of his iPad, word by word, a summary he had written without looking up or interacting with the class. If he wouldn't have shown a movie for the first few classes of shopping week, I would have realized what a terrible lecturer he was and would have dropped the class. Both the midterm and the final paper were on the readings which were long and heavy, and the background he provided in class was not sufficient for the understanding of the texts. Nevertheless, the midterm ended up not being so terrible, all you had to do was memorize basic concepts and write a small paragraph about each author. The final paper was 10-12 pages long and must have incorporated at least 2 texts from the weekly readings.

Aug 2017

Dabashi shows off his knowledge as often as he can. At first it is engaging but it gets tiresome very quickly, especially since he spirals into long soliloquys about irrelevant topics to the class. Coming into the course, I was really looking forward to getting some basic, knowledge of Islamic civilization since i had very little coming in. I don't feel like I got that knowledge here. he's a very poor instructor and pretty much assumes you will get something out of what he's talking about. He's not very interested in bring there, except when he gets to talk about his own politics. He really slips into irrelevant topics a lot, things he is passionate about but which will make you roll your eyes after just a couple of lectures. It's also very easy for him to put his opinion up on a pedestal and to talk about how amazing it is. You get the idea pretty fast that he's not giving you a very wide scope of view points. He doesn't really get into theological differences between sunnis and shiites or the history of conflict between the two. He is pretty fixated only on modern Arab and Iranian politics as it relates to Israel and the US. When he scratches the surface he fails to avoid talking about his own political opinions. He is incredibly bias professor. It's a real mind-suck for the middle of the afternoon (I took the 2:40-3:55 class). You would be better off taking an intro course and doing extra reading about the topics that interest you the most.

May 2014

Dabashi is arguably brilliant, as he seems to know everything about anything within his field and beyond it. The drawback, though, is that sometimes you’re not sure if he might be BSing a little bit of it and being overblown in his own self-importance. Because Dabashi is fairly full of himself—at least half of the assigned works on the syllabus were prefaced in class with “I wrote this” or “I inspired the filmmaker to make this,” etc. Dabashi told us at the beginning of the semester that no question was a stupid question, but he then proceeded to make people terrified to speak by summarily shooting down some people’s ideas that didn’t agree with his own or that he thought were not terribly intelligent. Most of the class is based solely on his own ideas and opinions, no matter how much he claims to be adding in a lot of different perspectives. Half the time, when Dabashi was lecturing, I couldn’t even tell that this was a class on Islamic civilization. We talked about Kant and Habermas and other Western philosophy and political theory, and there was no real indication as to how we were supposed to connect it to the theme of Islamic civilization. Because Dabashi enjoyed talking about all of the off-topic topics so much, we got incredibly behind on the syllabus very quickly and never really discussed the last five or six items on the syllabus. The workload for this class was completely unrealistic and absolutely murderous if you attempted to do every reading assigned. We generally had an entire book or movie (or “selections” of one, which generally meant about ¾ of it) assigned for each class, but soon enough, I realized that it wasn’t completely necessary to read all of it. As the two big assignments of the class were papers that you could pick and choose among the assigned texts for, you could choose the texts that interested you and focus on getting a good handle on those (the only drawback to this approach was that if Dabashi randomly called on you to give a summary of the reading for that class—which he did frequently—and you hadn’t read it, you were in the hot seat and subject to his public censure). On one day (two weeks before finals), when it became apparent that literally no one had watched the assigned movie for that class, he asked, “If you weren’t watching this movie over the last two days, what could you have possibly been doing?”—the classic move of a professor who doesn’t realize that we have classes other than his to worry about or might possibly need to have lives that are not 24/7 studying. By the end of the semester, though, Dabashi lightened up a bit, because the only people left who still came to lecture were the ones who could deal with him. He even started joking a little bit with the ones of us he had come to know. But on the whole, the only thing to redeem Dabashi’s shortcomings in this class was the fact that he clearly has a passion for the Middle East. My TA, Sahar, however, was AMAZING. She was the shining light in the darkness that this class sometimes was. She knew so much about all of the topics the class covered (from what I saw, it seemed like she knew almost as much as Dabashi himself), and she, at least, made sure that we got through everything on the syllabus in our discussion section. She had a way of explaining things that made it all clear, and she always had suggestions for further reading or research—titles of countless relevant books and movies that she could just pull straight out of her head—if a certain topic interested us. She was also extremely helpful in her office hours, and helped me work through all of my ideas for the final paper and gave me some tips as to what I could do better. She was always sunny and excited to teach, and got almost all of us in the section involved in and excited about the discussion by making us realize that the class material was actually really interesting and full of depth. Sahar was legitimately the one reason I was able to make it through this class with my sanity. If you’re looking just to fulfill your global core requirement, I would recommend that you take this class (at least if Dabashi’s teaching it; I get the sense that this class is much different when Saliba teaches it)—there are infinitely easier ways of getting that requirement.

Mar 2014

I came into this class really looking forward to it. There were mixed reviews on CULPA, but I thought I was blown away during the first lecture. Dabahi walked around the room, talking about all of these super intellectual things. He went through the syllabus, explained the different books, and I was so intrigued. I was genuinely excited for the class. I was so, so wrong. Dabash doesn't teach -- he let's the TAs present on the books, and then scribbles down loose notes on whatever he thinks up and then walks around the room, pontificating and making jokes. The TAs do all of the heavy lifting here, and he doesn't really explain what's going on. He just pontificates about Kant and tries to amaze the class with catchy phrases like "We have to make the unfamiliar familiar by making the familiar unfamiliar." He gave us supposedly a book a lecture, but was so entrenched in his desire to pontificate that we quickly fell behind, and the TAs, who were responsible for telling us which parts of the books we were assigned, seemed to have given up around spring break, possibly because no one bothered to do the readings because *they didn't matter to the class.* My TA, Sahar, was the only redeeming merit. She was clear, well-spoken, and actually made an effort to make the texts understandable, and she, at least, seemed to care more than Dabashi did. Don't do what I did, and fall for his theatrics and his talking points. The man is too busy thinking about how amazing he is, and doesn't really care about the class. If you're interested in this, wait until Saliba or someone else teaches the course in the future, or find a copy of the reading list and read the books yourself. They were the only redeeming merit of this course.

Feb 2014

DO YOURSELF A FAVOR BEFORE REGISTERING FOR THIS CLASS: read professor dabashi's article (which is the course's first assigned reading) titled "For the Last Time: Civilization." if you like the article, then you should definitely take the class, and you will love the lectures because dabashi has the exact same personality as a lecturer as he does as a writer. if you think that the article is combative, indulgent, overblown, immature, fanatical, myopic, self-righteous, and utterly gratuitous, then you probably shouldn't enroll, because that's exactly what you'll hear for an hour and 15 minutes, twice a week, all semester. just as dabashi's paper belittles countless authors (simply because they hold a viewpoint in opposition to his own) in a crude, mean-spirited, and grossly unacademic manner, dabashi's lectures will belittle your intelligence with snobbish ramblings about post-colonialism and racism in which dabashi thinks he's blowing your mind with pathetically trite quips like: "i'm going to make the unfamiliar familiar... by making the familiar unfamiliar!" (don't get your hopes up that he'll end the show with a flashy disappearing act where he strikes the crucifixion pose and vanishes in a cloud of smoke - he doesn't even have showmanship to go along with his two-bit act). hamid dabashi is the archetype of non-scientific academia gone wrong. not only has dabashi convinced himself that his perspective on the world is valuable enough to constitute a field of study unto itself, he has developed such unshakable self-importance that anyone who dares to enter that field as anything other than a grateful disciple will be tarred and feathered as an ignorant orientalist. you win, dabashi. the west consists of nothing but blind mobs and their evil masters who spend all day trying to turn every culture into an insulated carnival attraction. sorry for ruining the world.

Dec 2013

I took the full year course of Saliba's sequence to fulfill my Global Core requirement. The classes are pretty similar, but I slightly preferred Contemporary Islamic Civilization (taught in the spring) because it had more interesting readings overall. Both classes are the same- boring lectures, interesting readings, and good TA's. Attendance is required but you can always have a friend sign you in if you guys make a schedule. That said, I always attended lecture because Saliba will basically give you a summary of the readings that are extremely useful for the tests. Essentially, show up and write down what is on the slideshow before going back to your reddit/facebook/whatever to ensure you don't fall asleep Saliba himself is adorable. Basically a silly Mr. Feeney that likes to do things like play Shakira when he is bored. The readings are way more interesting than lecture. They're a little biased but I still learned a ton! They're not super long for the most part. In CIC there were one or two novels we had to read (Mahmouz and a Said work) that were fascinating, take the time to read them! The exams are really straightforward. So long as you go over slide notes and the readings and interpret them in the same way Saliba did,expect to perform well. Overall, a good global core with a boring lecture, good TA's, and interesting readings that isn't too hard.

May 2013

I am majoring in this subject, and happen to be passionately academically enthralled with the material, and this was by far my least favorite class of the semester. From the very beginning, Professor Saliba told us that our goal in this class was to get a good grade. In class, I felt I learned absolutely nothing. He spent nearly every period (except the first two where we watched a movie, one where he reviewed Israel/Palestine, India/Pakistan, and Kashmir, and two where we watched biographies of Um Kulthum) going over the readings for the week, week by week. As "nice" as it was to have such a through review for the midterm and final, I am leaving feeling totally drained of one semester's worth of a course. I took the class to learn about the Islamic world, and instead spent the semester learned what Saliba's interpretations were of different writers. My TA was the only thing that kept me from dropping the class because he was so fantastic. If you are a major, or interested, I do NOT recommend this class. As a side note though, the midterm was immensely easy and fun (if you like writing about the Islamic world and its history).

Jun 2012

I took CIC last semester to fulfill a core requirement and was really pleased with the class. For someone with very little knowledge of the Arab world, I still wasn't lost in the material. I thought the syllabus was structured so well. There was about a week of introducing us to the broad themes before we got into the meat of the pieces, which all related to each other even as the writers spaned across time periods/countries/religions/etc. The particular TA I had required us to post a one page paper each week overviewing the pieces we had read, and to prepare one presentation during the semester. This was taxing and I hated it at 9:30pm on a Tuesday when I had two and half hours to wade through tons of (sometimes very dense) material and write something about it. But when the midterm and final rolled around, I was so thankful for the instant study guide I had. Columbia students are smart, and even if I didn't understand or totally remember a certain work, I could rely on my peer's responses to the week, as well. Truthfully, I was terrible at paying attention during the lecture and took sporadic notes throughout. The discussion seemed fairly useless only because 50 minutes is such a short time to try and cover a week's worth of material. It would be far too easy to totally slack off in this class, which is why I appreciated the forced posts every week because then I had to get through the material. Not getting anything back all semester except the midterm made me completely unsure of my grade until the bitter end (and it took FOREVER for grades to be submitted at the end of the semester as well), but I ended up with a B, which was good enough for me.

May 2012

I took the second (spring semester) of Contemporary Islamic Civilization. George Saliba is a pleasant individual. He has a vivid manner of conducting his classes and if you make it to the end of the semester, you will enjoy a few classes of Arab music. The first half of the semester revolves mainly around Arab/Islamic and other thinkers. The second part of the semester involves discussions about theatre, poetry and music. Important note. Saliba expresses his personal understanding of the readings in class. These are subjective observations and must be taken with a grain of salt. He has apparent political inclinations that he subtly instills, so stay alert and don't take what he says for granted. The exposure to a well-constructed diversity of thinkers is a positive element. I would recommend this course to anyone who wishes to gain some insights into the Arab world. This was especially relevant in light of the developments in the Arab world. Saliba relates to contemporary issues too. On that note, Saliba often trails off topic to discuss an interesting example or topic. Though interesting and enriching - they won't appear in your midterm or final. Discussion leaders vary, they grade differently and have different requirements so hope for the best.

Oct 2011

Cheryl is a great indication of why the lecture system (and some of the Global Core) is broken...because she demonstrates how these classes should actually function. This section is a lot of work, but you learn a ton and get very, very good at completing long form assignments. Even just taking this class as a junior, I probably learned the most about good work, thinking, and writing habits in this class. Her weekly assignments can be excruciating in a packed week, but she gives you a full week to complete them, which seems fair. She also provides video (Youtube) content and a paper assignment to get the class thinking deeper about the material, while also giving an actual CONTEMPORARY account of Islamic cultures (a major failing of Professor Saliba's curriculum). A major theme of the course is the portrayal of Muslims in the media, and Cheryl's supplements help to show the progress that has been made since 1970 in giving the "Muslim world" (itself a challenged term) some kind of voice and agency. The larger paper assignment is, again, more work, but she gives a solid variety of options so a) she doesn't read the same paper over and over again (a testament to her passion) and b) the writer can choose a topic that suits his/her interests. Too bad she will not be TAing this class anymore, but you would be lucky to have her in another class (if you are up to the challenge)!

Dec 2010

Saliba is a wackjob. He rambles on and on and on and doesn't seem to understand the concept of a comma or a period when he talks. He's the kind of professor you will talk about to your friends while quoting the funny stuff he says. Write down everything on the slides and you will be fine. Three or four times a semester someone will ask him to go back to a slide they missed and Saliba will get pissed and turn off the powerpoint saying "Listen to me and not the slide!" Then when he puts the powerpoint back on, continue copying down the slides. On a side note, don't be the jerk that asks him to go back. Go to class and discussion, attendance is required. Bring a computer and go on the internet when you get bored. Read enough that you can participate in discussion section so your TA doesn't hate you. Use Wikipedia to help you study, especially with the authors in CIC. One thing I will say though, it's difficult to get a straight A because of the damn curve. I know people who have gotten 90+s on both the midterm and final and still got an A-. That said, it is pretty easy to get an A-/B+ provided you don't piss off your TA, and I'm guessing if you are looking to get in a class like the one I've described so far, an A- isn't exactly going to kill your GPA.

Jun 2010

Saliba is a good natured, white-bearded little man in a cowboy hat and quite approachable. As a person you will find his humor infectiously endearing (He has a phrase: "Holy Tabouli!"). As a scholar he's, like every other professor at this institution, very remarkable. As a lecturer you will, at at least occasionally, no matter how studious you are throughout, be reduced to 1) surfing Facebook/online poker/Netflicks, 2) doodling on your notebook margins. All in all if you're humanities-aversive and you want to get your history requirement out of the way either course, IIC/CIC is a good way to go and you inevitably get something out of it. Just go to class (Attendance counts.) Take his notes diligently and read them. I kid you not. From the midterm to the final of CIC I didn't read a half of the assignments. As long as you write what he says on the exams and you're specific and relevant in your evidence, you can get an A-/B+ easily enough. I thought CIC was more interesting the IIC; it's more up-to-date in the events and probes more questions that have more relevance in the going-ons of the Middle East today. But CIC is structured somewhat less of a history class than IIC; you'll read much about political movements in the Arab World (he tends to focus mostly on the AW, to his chagrin) and literature (he's a big literature buff in both courses). I thought it was interesting to pull from so many different sources, but personally I would've liked to stick to a historical lens. If you want to learn more about Islamic Civ in South or Central Asia or Africa, this isn't really the course. Disregard him in totality when he says, "Don't pay attention to my notes on the screen." Write them.

May 2010

Honestly, this course was very disappointing. It really takes an academic or philosophical approach to issues in the Islamic world. Rather than discussing the modern Islamic world concretely, the course focuses on the intellectual movements of Islamic (mostly Arab in the case of this course) thought over the course of the last 150 years. This was not bad, per se, just not what I expected. What is bad is that Saliba is a horrendous lecturer. He doesn't plan out his lectures, goes on 20 minute digressions, and pays only lip service to the readings. He thinks making good powerpoints distracts students. One week, we did nothing but listen to Umm Kulthum. There is an attendance sign in sheet, so you can't skip too much. The recitation was useful, but at only 50 minutes a week, we never had time to cover the all of the week's material. Grading was arbitrary. The midterm and final were both not particularly in depth or demanding, so your grades depended on how your recitation leader liked your style of response.

May 2010

Cheryl is a wonderful TA who puts in a lot of effort to make sure that you are getting the most out of the course. The homework assignments are more time-consuming in her section but they ensure that you will be prepared for the exam. She goes over the material thoroughly and provides the tools (videos, hw, etc) that allow you to get a strong grip on all the topics covered in class. She is also really fast at responding to e-mails which is really useful.

May 2010

Cheryl is by far the most dedicated and energetic TA I've encountered at Columbia. It's true that her section has a much heavier workload than any of the others, but if you’re looking to really get something out of the class then I think it’s worth it. She is also a stickler for attendance and being on time, but she only has 50 minutes a week and manages to thoroughly go over all the readings and make time for discussion and student presentations in that short amount of time. The reading list for this class is very long, but Cheryl kept us on track so that we wouldn’t fall behind when it came time for the midterm and final. She also organizes 2 hour review sessions for the midterm and final on her own time, which I found extremely helpful in preparing for the exams. (She also brings home-made cakes and cookies to class, which is a nice reward for the extra work!) If you’re not afraid of a heavy workload, can get to class on time, and really want to take something away from the class, then try to get into Cheryl’s section!

Nov 2009

This class is a fantastic way to fulfill the Major Cultures requirement... in fact, it's a great class for anyone who likes having a high gpa, not doing a ton of work, and reading some relatively interesting material relating to the problems and debates in the twentieth century Islamic World. Professor Saliba's lectures are relatively boring and after the first few that give a broad overview of key issues (useful for the midterm) they are basically a summary of the readings. There is really no point in going to class after the midterm except to sign the attendance sheet (annoying) because the grading is based on discussion section attendance/participation, the midterm, and a final paper (that's right, no final exam!!). Therefore, once you figure out your paper topic, my recommended strategy is to come to class with no books, sign the attendance sheet, and walk out five minutes later pretending to go to the bathroom (that was what I did most of the time post midterm and I aced the class). Do not take this class if you desire an intellectually honest debate on Israeli-Palestinian issues. I'm relatively pro-Palestinian but even I was offended by Saliba's obscene bias whenever the topic came up, though from what I hear his views are pretty standard for his department. I felt bad for some of the Jewish kids in that class. Look for opportunities to shamelessly trash Israel in your midterm essays; don't bother being subtle.

Sep 2009

Don't hate on Professor Saliba. He has clear expectations and a great sense of humor - unlike most Columbia professors. His class can be boring and attendance is bring other work to do! I wrote many papers while sitting in his class and you can totally absorb the information without taking notes. You will learn something in his class, I promise. It might not be the most enlightening hour and fifteen minutes of your life but it is an easy, 4 credit A that is completely worth the time. If you enjoy Princeton jokes and getting good grades, take this class.

Aug 2009

First off, I think professor Saliba is one of the most talented professors I came across at Columbia. Actually, he's one of those professors that will have a life-long effect on the way you think of the Middle East. I took both his classes and I admit that I learned much more in the Intro to Islamic Civilization course. However, as a student of Arab descent, when I took his contemporary Islamic Civilization class, I didn't learn much. Not that Saliba doesn't introduce interesting material, but his contemporary course is very focused on Arab heritage and culture. If you're an Arab student, it almost feels like your listening to your grandma in the Middle East talk about the good ole' days of Beirut or Cairo. I personally thought the contemporary course hardly emphasized anything relating to Islam; it was a great overview of secular Arab culture. In other words, you won't learn much about terrorist groups or their origins or any of the modern Islamic extremism. Saliba is actually a very funny man, but you will only understand his humor if you're of Arab descent. Believe me when I say this, but he will remind you of your grandparents back in the Middle East. Last word of advice, don't take the contemporary class if you're of Arab descent or very familiar with Arab culture/ heritage because you won't learn much. It's definitely an easy A class if you're familiar with Arab culture. For the intro class, you will actually need to do some extra work regardless of your familiarity with Islam or Muslim heritage.

Jun 2009

Saliba's lectures are dry, and it's hard to pay attention, especially in the second half of the semester when you know the information is irrelevant to your grade (there is no final). Saliba's class is light on the work, but he limits the number of flat As to about 25%. Which means that you have to take tests well, write good papers, and impress your TA to get a solid grade. I've been reading the other reviews and there is a very strange trend: the vast majority of the reviews paint Saliba's class as boring and easy, yet almost all the reviews have far more "Disagrees" than "Agrees." I wonder why that is...wouldn't be surprised is Saliba is lurking on these forums...

May 2009

I'm torn between disgust and pity for Saliba. The first day of class, he revealed that attendance was mandatory. He them gave a ten minute scare speech about how he would know if we signed someone else's name on the attendance sheet. He's so naive. He's also baised...very baised. Though the readings present both sides of the issue, his commentary is mostly just his unsupported view of what's right and what's wrong. He just stands at his podium, king of the lecture hall. Sometimes, he stops mid-sentence because someone has made too much noise talking to his friend, or because someone has, after signing the attendnace sheet, made a break for the exit. Saliba has these power point slides that are written in the same full sentence, choppy english that he speaks in. It's as if someone recorded him speak, and then typed up his words exactly. People copy down his slides word for word--Saliba hates this. At least once a class, he stops to chastise students--he claims it won't help on the midterm, which primarily consists of a few quotes from the reading that students must "comment" on. Despite Saliba's insistence to the contrary, notes on his power point slides are UNBELIEVABLY USEFUL for the midterm. Perhaps the most absurd thing about this course, and what attracted me most to it, is that there is no final.. As someone who hates to work and loves an easy A, I thought this would be perfect for me. But, mandatory attendance + no incentive to pay attention + Saliba's empty threats --> my boredom/pity > pleasure from easy A/no work.

May 2009

This review is meant to cover both halves of the sequence, Introduction and Contemporary. Both classes are run in an identical manner, with only one small difference (scroll down to "workload section for more details). Professor Saliba is, simply, one of the finest professors I have had at this school. He is a kind yet quirky old man who has no problems talking one-on-one with you, despite what you may have heard about him. The courses he teaches deal with a region of the world that we hear about on the news all the time, yet have next to no "real" knowledge about - the Middle East and the Greater Islamic World. If you take these two classes you will learn a great deal about them, and many of your pre-conceived assumptions and stereotypes will be shattered. And Saliba's thought-provoking (yet hilarious) lectures and tangents only help you learn more. His occasional side comments will make you chuckle as well! Introduction to Islamic Civilization, the first half of the sequence, covers the rise of Islamic Civilization from its humble beginnings (~600 AD) to the early 20th century. Contemporary Islamic Civilization picks up where Intro left off, and goes up to present day. Please note that this course is NOT an Islam class. There is a separate class for that under the Religion department. The class focuses on the civilizations that were created as a result of Islam, not the religion itself. And what, may you ask, is Saliba's role in this class? Lectures consist of him going over the readings and analyzing them thoroughly, with the occasional tangent thrown in every now and then. During lecture Saliba uses a powerpoint with the main points of that day's lecture written on it. Now, here's a bit of advice - you don't necessarily have to write down anything. No notes, no nothing. What I did was take my laptop and scramble to write down every word written on the powerpoints. However, this is completely unnecessary and will only distract you from actually listening to what he has to say, which ironically will help you learn the material better than if you wrote down the notes. You should note that he is not the one who determines your final grade - that task falls to your TA, so pick a good one. Also, don't pay attention to some reviews here that paint Saliba as some pro-Islamic, anti-Israeli bigot... one of the things that makes Saliba a great professor is that even though he does favor one side, when he teaches he gives an objective analysis of the history and circumstances. In particular, his explanation of the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict, the Kurdish question, and Kashmir were very informative and neutral. They could not have been done any better. Anyone who disliked the man obviously had a problem with his personal opinions and not with his abilities as a professor, so don't listen to them. All I have to say is, just give this guy a chance. You'll walk out both entertained and enlightened over a subject your fellow countrymen (assuming you are American) know nothing about. Personally, I will greatly miss having Saliba as a professor next year and would definitely take another class with him.

Dec 2008

Hahaha Saliba. This man is hilarious. He is very small and he speaks in this microphone that broke EVERY SINGLE CLASS so each lecture was basically him waiting around for the tech people to come fix it, and then we still couldn't really hear his voice. However, that didn't matter because the lectures were disorganized, boring, and completely irrelevant to any reading which we did. I stopped taking notes the third class, and although attendance is mandatory and I did come and pay attention, lectures were mostly exercises in enjoying this man's hilarious streams of consciousness and random tangents. He did give us the chance to have dinner with him, and he was really knowledgeable and sweet in person, but as a professor he's kind of laughable. The TA sections were unnecessary except for the huge TA review session right before the (easy) midterm, but the readings in the coursepack were actually really interesting and relevant, and the paper was fun to write because it was completely self-directed. All in all, easy class, hardly any work, much easier than many other Major Cultures are.

Jun 2008

I'm not sure I've ever been so bored in my life - seriously. Saliba's words are strongly biased in favor of Islam, but in all honesty his lectures mean very little when it comes to your grade. The midterm is based on readings from the coursepack (skim them, if that), discussions are completely based on your TA, and the final is a take-home 10-12 page paper on a topic of your choice pertaining to Islamic Civ. Attendance is mandatory (he has a weirdly photographic memory, plus you have to sign in each day), but especially after the midterm the number of people who actually go to class is a bit laughable. Most alternate signing in their group of friends, or they leave after they've touched the attendance sheet. Bring something to entertain you during lectures, but I'm guessing this will be as easy a Major Cultures class as you will get.

May 2007

Her discussion section often lags, and I would consider her one of the harder TA graders. She doesn't push students to join in on discussion, and isn't really much of a help to the class. Since Saliba doesn't grade any work, expect to impress her.

Jun 2006

Typical intro class jargon with students from every department. I feel she didnt really read up on the assignments and let the pretentious students continue to ramble on and say what they felt or saw on tv. She tried to be too nice and not step on anyones toes and should have told more students simply that they were wrong.

Aug 2005

The class is easy. There is hardly any work (I probably spent 2 hours TOTAL-for the entire semester-for daily class preparation and homework). VERY EASY A. That said, you aren'g going to learn much from this class. While Saliba is very nice, his lectures are disorganized, and the readings non-sensical in connection to what he's teaching. If you want to actually learn about Contemp. Islamic Civ, there has to be abetter class out there. But if you just want an easy A to get your major cultures done with, this is the class for you.

Mar 2005

Sucks. Professor preaches more than he teaches, and anyone who sits though his lectures can see why he's up to his neck in bad press. The whole concept of this course ought to be rethought, especially since this is likely one of the most important fields that a university can teach in this day and age. Sure he's entertaining, but that's really no the point. He's dismissive of important issues and worse, he's so blinded by his own opinions that he cheats his class out of a learning experience.

Sep 2004

The failings of George Saliba have nothing to do with his opinions, which he is entitled to, but the fact that he is so intolerant of others opinions and at times so scatter-brained that he cannot remember his own. I think he is one of the worst professors at Columbia. Horrible lectures, junk drawer readings, and no cohesion. It is really a shame that Columbia doesn't fill his most important of posts with someone worth your time. In this day in age we could use a professor who could give a window on the Islamic world, not someone just looking to spout off in useless rants in front of students.

May 2004

Saliba is a good, not great, teacher. On the first day, he got a little crazy and went on a couple anti-Israel rants, but after we got into the readings, he seemed to settle down. The course is entitled, Contemporary Islamic Civilization, but the readings only stretch from Jordan to Iran. You read some interesting essays and treatises, but a lot of them are based on fuzzy logic and nebulous history. My TA (Hossein) was great in leading discussion and pointing out where and how these works failed and succeeded in making sense. Another thing about this course is that the role Saliba has in this class is to come in twice a week and lecture, whereas all of the learning occurs in the section. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as Saliba's lectures are usually interesting, it just means you have to choose a good TA.

May 2004

Hossein is an incredible mind, in addition to being an incredible TA. He is always objective and concise. He gives great context for the readings and fields all questions well. Some people may argue that Hossein is a little stern at times, and this is true. We have weekly discussion questions, and if you blow them off or submit questions that demonstrate you have not done the reading, he will call you out in class and make you feel like a little bit of a jackass. But this shouldn't be a problem if you plan on doing all of the work. Hossein's critical approach to all of the readings is helpful, if not necessary, in a class with such a one-sided view of things.

May 2004

Hat's off to George Saliba, at his age he is sharp as ever with a great sense of humor. He adds some great perspective to the class which gives people an understanding of Middle Eastern politics. If you do not take this class for your major culture's requirement, you are missing out. it is professor like Saliba which keep the name of Columbia.

Jul 2003

Saliba is one of the BEST PROFESSORS at Columbia. People do not like him at times because of his political views. I for one disagree with him on just about everything, but the debate he raises strengthens peopleÂ’s political convictions. He forces you to think through your position, no longer will you simply hold the beliefs of your parents, and you will form your own. Yes he is Pro Palestine in a big way, but the point of University is free thought and a chance to hear opinions that will never make the back page of the NYTimes. LetÂ’s face it the MELAC department is a hot subject, but would you rather that everyone held the same opinion? Saliba is an example of democracy at work, and for that he should be praised and championed. His class is an essential part of your Columbia education. Yeah, Saliba uses his class as a bully pulpit. But, that is why he is here. The man has lived life rather than simply read about it. Yes his class is political but he gives every point of view that is needed for balanced debate. I was unhappy with the grade I received in his class, I am still in the process of trying to have it changed, but I would take any class he offered in the future. The man is a Gem. No one should be persecuted for his political convictions and I believe that the vast majority of his CULPA reviews are posted in an attempt to lynch him.

May 2003

Professor Saliba is incapable of separating his views about current events from the material he should be teaching; as a result, this course became one long op-ed-style rant from Saliba that achieved nothing and created the most unengaging and unacademic experience I have had in a course at Columbia in the three years I have been a student here.

Sep 2002

I am sorry that the previous review that called Saliba pompous and used the word "ass" 5 times was censored. I took him in the Spring despite warnings from my friends who are so called "liberals." They all told me that Saliba makes sweeping statements without backing it up, but I didn't listen. They all told me that Saliba constantly contradicts himself, but I didn't listen. They all told me that Saliba just pushes one point of view without respect for opposing points of view, but I didn't listen. I should have listened. Take this class if you want an easy class, but don't take it if you want to really learn substantial material. Take this class if you want to hear total and utter nonsense. By the way, Saliba is an ass. (I got an A-, so don't worry, I am not unhappy about my grade)

May 2002

"Colonialism is bad because you are separated from the smell of your grandma's soup." Yes, this is the fundamental theme of this class and you will probably hear this every 10 minutes. This class really lacks any structure whatsoever. Saliba just spurts out random Muslim names that aren't exactly easy to pronounce or understand! He's a great lecturer, I'll give that to him. He really will engage you and the latter half of the semester has a lot of interesting stuff like Islamic music, plays etc. It would have been a much better class if he just focused more on the texts instead of just starting his rampage against colonialism and the New York Times. He has the potential to be a great instructor if he can correct these flaws.

May 2002

This was the biggest waste of a class I have taken at Columbia. Professor Saliba has an amazing ability to speak all class and say NOTHING of substance. He is a good speaker and he has a fair sense of humor, but he literally says stuff like "the poet uses words to convey things." He doesn't use any evidence beyond surface points and even when he does refer to the texts (which is rarer than it shoud be), he doesn't say which author he's referring to. Most of the time, he just repeats statements like "colonialism will make you lose your identity" without backing them up at all. Our only exposure to anything culturally significant was during the periods that he showed us videos or played music, which in itself is a testament to his laziness, since I could have bought a boxed set of Islamic Cd's for what I'm sure I payed for each class period. This is honestly the first class in which I have felt insulted by a professor's inability to teach. He is so proud of his good delivery that he doesn't worry that he's not saying anything. I literally think that I would have learned just as much if I didn't show up at all.

May 2002

A general response to the reviewer above who was "insulted" by Prof. Saliba's joke about the movie - relax, buddy. the whole class erupted in laughter when he made that stupid joke. It really amazes me how some people can take something out of context and blow it out of proportion. As for Prof. Saliba - I think he leads a really interesting discussion. Yes, at times he might go off on tangents, but that's only bec/ he's so passionate about the material he's teaching that he gets carried away. Cut the guy some slack - he's one of the few professors at Columbia who is willing to go against the grain and really lay out what he believes in. Take this class and you're guaranteed exposure to a perspective that you probably otherwise wouldn't get. I really like Saliba. He's extremely accessible, and his lectures are always entertaining. You might not agree with all he says, but you have to admit, the guy's hilarious.

May 2002

It is continuously insulting to be in Prof. Saliba's class. He clearly doesn't care about having a lesson plan. He only lectured 14 of the 24 class sessions; the other 10, he either cancelled to promote "Palestine" or showed a movie or played music. One time, he prefaced a movie he showed by saying that he had never seen it himself, and that it might be porn, for all he knew. It is just this cavalier attitude I found to be so insulting. Saliba never talks about the readings in lecture, but sort of extemporaneously philosophizes about how bad "colonialism" is. Everything he says just seems to be common sense.

May 2002

Saliba prefers to prowl the stage while lecturing, and refers to himself as the "tiger." He is more like a preacher at the pulpit, though, delivering emphatic, wandering lectures that are so tangential that you can forget taking notes. Especially frustrating is when he begins to outline a point by saying, "there are two things about _______". He then starts talking about the first one and gets so lost on his point that he forgets to mention the second. All lectures eventually lead to the same conclusion: Colonialism=Bad (Now you can sleep during lectures). All said, I can't help but like the guy. He has a good sense of humor, and seems benign. in the end, I actually learned a bit. Advice: Get a good TA for section, that'll make all the difference.

Sep 2001

He's friendly, charismatic, and interesting. He's smart too. Really nice guy, presents some fantastic ideas (none of which are his, of course) that will likely change the way you view the world. Runs lectures like big class discussions at times, though he tends to cut people off. NOTE: While Massad is very smart and interesting, he is very opinionated and radically biased. Do NOT take this course unless you are prepared to filter what he says. Massad tells you as much himself, and if you learn from Massad in a constructive way, you will be much more able to learn from other Columbia scholars who are equally biased in less conspicuous ways.

Sep 2001

He might as well have cut through the bullshit and titled the class "Contemporary Egyptian Civ", because we didn't get exposure to any other culture within the class. The reading is interesting, mostly, particularly the literature. Like the Intro to Islamic Civ class, however, it is all heavily biased. The professor (and, shockingly, many of the students) tend to turn discussion sections into "us vs. them" blame game, where they list the west's various cultural crimes ad nauseum... not that it's not justified, but it's not really productive or interesting; if you're in this class, chances are you already know Europe and the US suck. It's a lecture course, but in an effort to make it a discussion class, Massad arbitrarily picks on people to answer questions that come out of the blue. If they aren't answered satisfactorily, he tends to just let the subject drop instead of elaborating or correcting. There's no context; one never gets a timeline of Egyptian history or politics, and so it's easy to forget which work is a commentary on which leader or movement. The spring 2001 class was blessed with TAs who made it all worthwhile, but all in all, there are better courses in the MEALAC dept.

Jan 2000

One of the funniest, sweetest and most brilliant people you'll ever meet. Unconventional in every way; you either love him or you hate him, and you love him. He's one of those "changed my life" profs. If you have even a faint interest in the Middle East, or in cultural relativism, or in thought at all, take anything this man offers, while you still can. No one else in the school can casually compare Latin and Arabic versions of a translation from Persian, and correct them both. Only one warning: his courses tend to involve lots of discussion, and lots of him correcting your statements and your assumptions. If you are looking for academic rigor, or you don't like know-it-all professors, he may not be the one for you.