professor
George Saliba

Feb 2021

This professor gets hate from students because he is opinionated. However, anyone who truly knows Saliba will know how caring he truly is. He is practically the founder of his own field and has dedicated his life to eradicating false histories. I learned more in this class than in all my other classes at Columbia. This professor is exceptionally brilliant, caring, and never fails to amaze me. He is the definition of a walking textbook and database of information. His lectures are thought-provoking and make you question your own approach. With that being said, his classes are not easy. Saliba except for a lot of his students and the readings on the ancient sciences can be dense. He is always willing to break them down with you and explain any concept you are confused out. Saliba remains one of the best professors at Columbia and MESAAS.

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

This class sounded amazing. It was maybe the worst class I've taken in my time here. READ: DO NOT TAKE THIS CLASS. The concept of intercultural science sounds interesting, and it could be - but not with this class. The readings are devastating. They are long and dense - it's like reading ancient scientific textbooks. If fact that is what you are doing - and unless you happen to major in whatever the texts cover (units were astronomy/cosmos, physics, optics and the body) they are impossible to comprehend. There is very little context for what you are reading. Also this isn't reading about things that are fascinating - it's literally a bunch of explanations of scientific concepts (geometrical proofs etc.) - so there isn't much actual culture in the readings. The seminar itself is maybe even worse than the readings. If that was possible. Professor Saliba is clearly a giant (and basically the founder of the field) - but he clearly doesn't realize how far out of touch he is with students who haven't studied Arabic mathematicians etc before. He is also mostly deaf - this means that the discussion format of the class is useless. He can't actually hear what you are saying, so he lets you speak and then just says whatever. The class is entirely composed of non-sequiters. That being said, he's clearly a smart guy. He also is obsessed with California and grad school. If you aren't ready for either of those things - be prepared. Prof. Newsome is clearly aware of the problems with the class. He tries to bring in lots of gadgets and pictures to explain the unconquerable concepts. Sometimes they are ridiculous - but overall a really interesting way to learn. The thing is - he is clearly hyperaware of Prof. Saliba's place in the field. He is often too intimidated to actually assert himself to make the class function.

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.

Jan 2011

Note to future students: do not purchase every book the professor lists, because he scans all of the excerpts into Courseworks for you to print out; you really only need to purchase Islam by Fazlur, because you're expected to read the whole book. A lot of students enroll in this class expecting to receive an easy A minus, but I want to warn future students ahead of time that you will need to work for even a B+; I know a few people that made extremely poor grades in this class, so don't think you can just breeze through the semester. That said, I made an A. How did I make that A? I showed up for almost every single class, I spoke during discussion sections, I actually did all of the readings, and I made it known to both the professor and my TA that I wanted to learn the most that I could from the course. This is a large class and it's very easy to become invisible, and it's definitely impossible to speak up during class, so I suggest trying to go to at least one office visit with the professor, but make sure the visit is for a valid reason; for instance, perhaps you could ask the professor to clarify a point he made in class or ask for additional information on something you were interested in. Although the class covers a great deal of information, the midterm and finals are very doable if you keep detailed notes. I suggest writing small blurbs about each individual you cover in class, remembering the major battles and confrontations, know the publications of scientists that you cover toward the end of the class, and have something interesting to say in your essay that shows you can think outside of the box and do more than memorize. Also, as there are so many readings in this class, I suggest writing a few lines about every reading assignment so that you don't have to re-read anything while studying, and can just use your notes; big time saver! Common sense suggestions: attend class (attendance is counted), write as many notes as you can (information from the slides WILL appear on the midterms and finals), read the assignments, and attend your discussion section, because your discussion grade is worth 20% of your final grade; that means you need to actually not sleep through your discussion section, so be honest with yourself when you enroll in your section.

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

Professor Saliba's class will be useful to you if you come to it with reasonable expectations and prepare adequately. To begin, as survey course it is pointless to expect any epoch to receive in-depth coverage. Saliba is a good lecturer, and I would describe him as a jolly Arabic Santa Claus wearing Indiana Jones' hat. His area of expertise is Arabic Islamic science from about the time of the Crusades until about the European Renaissance, so that's the most academically interesting epoch covered in the class. The biggest take home point from that part of the class is this: after the Roman empire's decline, Islamic civilization grew and developed. It assimilated Greek and Roman ideas and used these to develop novel ideas and approaches in fields like algebra, optics, medicine, and astronomy. This section fascinated me, since it filled in a lot of gaps left by Lit Hum and traditional intellectual histories taught in American schools. Apparently, civilization still developed during the thousand years between the decline of the Roman Empire and the European Renaissance. Saliba getting fired up as he explains the Arabic Islamic underpinnings of Copernicus' heliocentric theory of the solar system was the best lecture in the course. However, as the history approaches the colonial era near the end of the course, the politics of post-colonialism come out, and these will be jarring to a lot of students. It's useful to have read Edward Said's "Orientalism" (or to be familiar with its thesis) if you're taking any MESAAS (formerly MEALAC) courses, since these ideas saturate the department. Said writes that the West / Occident studies the East / Orient from a position of power. The enduring discourse about the Orient is that it is exotic, strange, depraved, despotic, static, and ultimately inferior. This discourse was developed in the West, by the West, and for the West. It is utilized economically and militarily to define the Orient and to control it. "Orientalism" has had a giant effect in the academic world, and has been taken up by a variety of academics and writers for various political purposes. Like any academic school of thought, the post-colonial discourse has its share of ridiculousness and excess, and some of these ideas creep into Saliba's class. He does not differentiate between valid cultural transmission of ideas and "the colonized mind." To listen to Saliba, it would seem every European idea or practice taken up in the non-European world is invariably the result of colonial domination, and therefore must be opposed and rejected. He opened up one of the last units talking about reformers in the Islamic world. One of the reformers mentioned is Sayid Qutb, an Egyptian writer whom Saliba compared to Martin Luther of the Protestant Reformation. What Saliba failed to mention is that after Qutb was hanged, his brother Muhammed continued teaching his works in Saudi Arabia. There he found an eager student in Ayman Zawahiri, who later mentored Osama bin Laden. Comparing Martin Luther to the intellectual forefather of al Qaeda in an Intro-level course without any qualification or explanation seems a little careless to me. So, overall, I'd recommend the course, but with a few qualifications. Do not raise your blood pressure by getting pissed off at post-colonial discursive excesses. You're a big kid going to an Ivy League school now: you are smart enough to filter out the bullshit while taking useful lessons from the class. The class is a good basic overview of Islamic history; if all you want to learn is the difference between Persians and Arabs, this class will be enough, and if you want to delve deeper, this class will whet your appetite. If you're taking it for a cultural diversity requirement, don't expect an A unless you are an overachiever. There are enough students taking the class for their major that the competition is pretty intense. Conversely, there are lots of kids who don't give a shit in the class. They surf Facebook and watch movies during lectures, and they pad the bottom of the curve, so if you are taking the class for your major, shop around early for a section full of Long Island Princesses and slack-jawed bros wearing Columbia jerseys.

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.

Dec 2009

Professor Saliba is a decent professor. His class is entertaining and easy to follow along if you are interested in Islamic Culture. It is definitively NOT an easy A like some others have suggested. The issue with his class is that the curve is completely dubious. Students are curved only within their recitation class which means that the final grade is completely arbitrary and does not reflect the student's overall performance. This means a 80/100 student could get a better grade than a 90/100 student depending on their recitation group. Also, he likes to interject his own political opinions into an otherwise fact based class. This seems to be common procedure in the MEALAC department.

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 mandatory.....so 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...

Jun 2009

Possibly the worst class I've taken at Columbia. The lectures were incredibly boring and consisted of Saliba rambling about whatever topic he pleased, usually only tangentially related to the class. The readings he assigns in the textbooks and coursebook are not particularly well chosen either -- I would've appreciated more context and structure. Saliba considered himself a riot, but I felt that he was trying too hard with everything he said. For both the midterm and final, I studied off almost purely Wikipedia (the class has no central text and Saliba's lectures were not particularly helpful) and I got an A. If you're looking for an easy A class just to get your Major Cultures requirement over with and are willing to waste 150 minutes of your time each week for that, perhaps this is the class for you. But if you're looking to actually learn something and to stay awake in class, stay AWAY.

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.

Apr 2007

While he can be fun and funny, generally, the lectures are disjointed, repetitive and boring. The TA section was just as pointless. This class would have required a fair amount of work,and been more challengin, however, I bought the "blanknotes", which have notes on the class and the readings. Look for signs to buy these when the semester starts and you won't have to buy any books, do any readings or show up to lecture, and you will get that easy, beefy 4 point A.

Oct 2006

You have to give this guy a chance. Not only is he a great professor and does he genuinely care about every one of his students, but he is a pretty bright and interesting guy as well. (In addition to his expertise in the subject, which is extense, he holds a Masters in Mathematics and a Masters in the History of Science.) I personally find the classes tolerable to fascinating and the readings well-organized. He started off not following the readigs but has since started to discuss each one of the readings in detail. NOTE: This class is not on Islam...It is about Islamic Civilizations (stress the civilizations). Regarding the other [mostly negative] reviews...I would bet that most of these reviewers had problems with Saliba's opinions. ***[Check the "do you agree with this review" part under every review to see what the majority really thinks.] And on that note, I've heard that he's toned down his opinions drastically: I am currently halfway through the class and he hasn't said a single thing against Israel.

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.

Jan 2005

If you’re looking to build yourself a perspective on the Middle East, or on modern international political relations, or even an impartial understanding of the history of Islamic culture itself, then keep looking. Fine, Saliba’s a riot…but it seems like I tried to register for Islamic Civ and accidentally hit the Varsity Show. Some of the readings are OK, but neither he nor his TA’s spends nearly enough time discussing them meaningfully, especially given they are the only source of exam questions. Speaking of the exams, which together make up 80% of the grade, the short answer and essays are pretty obvious, as long as your TA is willing to grade you fairly on them, but the multiple choice is incredibly confusing. He says that they are meant to be clear-cut, but all his petty humor gets filtered into this section, and diverts attention from the “clear-cut” objective. But apparently this is the way the previous reviewer operates. Don’t take this class…if your interested, you’re better off just reading about it on your own.

Jan 2005

The easiest A+ I have ever gotten. All you have to do is show up to class (he takes attendance at every class) and do the reading and you're golden. I only studied for the midterm and final each for about 3 or 4 hours. But if you're interested in learning about Islam, take another course. I barely learned a thing. The lectures are rather boring, aside from the occasional joke that Saliba cracks. If you want an easy way to fulfill the Major cultures requirement and you don't care, take this class.

Dec 2004

Professor Saliba is the teacher you've always wanted! He's is definitely a character. He'll joke around during lectures because they'll wake you up from your "nap cats". All in all, the sweetest professor at Columbia and worth having a conversation with during his office hours...even if you're not in his class.

Dec 2004

Lectures are very boring. Weekly recitations are a waste of time. Midterm and final both were quite challenging. I don't know the way he structured previous classes but this is definitely not a class to get an easy A in.

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

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.

Jul 2003

It is amazing the number of reviews this man has received. If the passion people feel is any indication of how moving his class is (one way or the other), maybe you should check it out. I took him and loved him. My suggestion is check out one of his classes for the first few days, I have a feeling you will stay. You will stay so that you can complain about him over dinner, or you will stay out of respect for a amazing professor. No doubt you will feel strongly about him and his class.

May 2003

After glancing over the reviews I had to write something about prof. Saliba. I took intro Islamic Civ class with him and I found it very fascinating and at the same time challenging. The reading materials were really interesting. And to the best of my knowledge, Saliba is one of the best professors I have ever had at Columbia. In fact, my fellow reviewers are not revealing the fact that is true to the nature (shame!). Saliba knows his materials and his memory is sharper than any young professor at Columbia. His accent is quiet understansable. His lectures may get too intense or out of scope sometimes, but the exams are directly from the course pack and assigned readings. Just do the readings and take notes in class--you will get A. The slides he uses are excellent and absolutely relavent to the subject matter. In fact, we don't want to work rather do the 'word puzzle' in class when he mentions some of the important points. So how could you imagine to get most out of it while you don't work? We should also keep in mind that we are not here to criticize our instructors in the ugliest way. We should be respectful and convey the truth regardless of anything..

May 2003

The most important things every Columbia student should know: 1) always take the elevators in Lerner 2) Islam and Western Science is a class that should be avoided at ALL costs. I took this class thinking I would be avoiding Saliba's rumored rantings in his Contemporary Islamic Civ course and instead ended up learning about.....well, i'm still not actually sure. The only thing I'm sure of after taking this course is that Saliba owns more turtlenecks than any other person I've ever met. Saliba's teaching style was totally disorganized and quite incoherent (especially if you sat more than three rows from the front of the room). He'd segue from pre-class chatter (the class was only about 30 students) right into the lecture, and after 75 minutes of his chatting, the class would suddenly be over with seemingly no material covered. It took me four weeks to realize that when he said, "I have the funniest story to tell you guys...." it meant "take notes". Assigned reading was two boring books (both out of print) and a coursepack that contained about 25 articles, 20 of which he wrote himself. Believe me, his writing isn't much better than his lecturing. After a midterm that was plagued with arbitrary facts (I had to search through the index of one of the books we read to even find a few of the people he asked questions about on the test b/c he never mentioned them in class), he told the class he decided that to make his life easier, the midterm and final were each going to be worth 50 points (no extra credit), and he'd add together the scores from each exam and that would be our grade for the semester, no questions asked. Apparently, class participation made no difference, and the only other way to affect one's grade was to lower it by being absent more than three times. Btw, for a man who claims to be secular, he is absolutely religious about taking attendance at the beginning of each class. The class was not, as I had expected, a study on the attitude of modern Islam towards modern Science. Rather, it was a confusing montage of Why the West is Evil (Yet Again), Islam: it Totally Rocks!, Islamic Astronomy of the 7-14th centuries (stolen by the West), and How to Compute Kibla (direction one prays in Islam) Through Ridiculously Impossible Trigonometric Functions. The saving grace of this class was that I miraculously emerged with an A (I expected a B) and got to enjoy a pleasant dinner with Saliba and some other students at Faculty House. The bottom line is: you won't learn anything that fits together in the sense of an overall course objective, you may not learn anything at all, you'll be bored out of your ming 2 1/2 hours a week, and it's questionable what sort of grade you'll get.

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.

Dec 2002

Okay. Saliba was generally good though at times excellent—like the science lecture. I have no complaints about his lectures—people doing crossword puzzles in class get on my nerve. This was literally the first time I was in contact with this kind of material. I go to the only section I can make and here’s this TA talking about how we need to shape up and work hard etc. Many people who showed up the first two weeks saw that the TA was gonna be trouble and split. I couldn’t switch so I stayed. Here’s the deal: this guy worked us like crazy with all kinds of “voluntary” assignments and even in-class quizzes. It’s weird but somehow I had a crush on him. The most unlikely candidate for a crush, he was tough, made us work, but at the same time got us to think about the material and more importantly about life in completely new ways. I swear I was happy to do extra-credit stuff. I never did that in my life. I just got my grade and I didn’t get anywhere near an A but I feel so good about having started to think critically (his words). I can’t believe I’m writing this but this is the most intelligent and honest person at Columbia and he’s so cute! I don’t care if he’s married I never got as much pleasure from learning as I did with him. Unfortunately, he’s not gonna TA the Contemporary Islamic Civ class…Bravo Saliba for picking the best TA’s at Columbia!

Dec 2002

I really cant figure out why so many people have an axe to grind with Saliba. He didnt express many political views in class, and those he did werent very extreme. His lectures are definitely scattered, but very interesting. Sourcebook readings are long, but they are really good and the only ones you actually have to do. For the reviewer who disliked Jason: He is a kick ass TA and the most brilliant person I have ever met. Yes, he was outrageously offensive the first two classes, but that was the point and you obviously missed it. Sure, we never discussed anything relating to the class, but what we did talk about was fasicnating. He uses a really intense form of the Socratic method to teach, which is often bizzare and a little freaky, but it forces everyone to truly think, not just regurgitate randome facts and theories.

Nov 2002

I seriously cannot understand the problem many of you have with George Saliba, but then again the MEALAC dept is quite "controversial," no? All that aside, I took this class my first semester at Columbia (so long ago), and I can honestly say it was one of the best classes I have ever taken. Maybe some confuse his sense of humor for arrogance, I am not sure, but his lectures were completely engaging and yes, I agree with the reviewer who found his lecture on Islam and Science brilliant. His lectures are not that disorganized, and he's able to weave the lecture with a storylike quality. For those of you who "can't understand him" - get over it and listen a bit harder, or sit in the front row. His accent is not that bad, though his voice gets soft at times. And he's "old"? He's probably 60 or so, but he's sharper than some of the young professors I have had classes with. Get over whatever ideological barriers you have and take this course! The only thing that sucks is the ultra expensive reader - he's principled enough to pay the copyright fees.

Nov 2002

This class was such a huge disappointment. While it is very apparent that Saliba knows a great deal about the subject, he is completely inept at transmitting that knowledge to his students in any comprehensible or interesting form. His lectures were totally disorganized; I spent the class scribbling down every word because I had no idea what was actually relevant. One glance around the classroom will show you how incoherent and just plain boring his lectures are. Most people are asleep and the rest are gazing off into space. The readings were long and for the most part uninteresting. The TAs were ATROCIOUS. I jumped around from TA to TA trying to find a decent person. They were all just as disorganized as Saliba and in some cases cynical and mean. Saliba himself is a very nice guy and you cannot help but laugh at his broken-English and his love of the subject. But extensive knowledge does not make a good teacher. I learned some but I feel like I could have gotten a lot more out of such a culture filled history.

Nov 2002

Oh my god. This is the single worst class I have ever had at Columbia. Professor Saliba, if you can call him a professor, is barely understandable, unapproachable, and old. The lectures have nothing to do with anything. If he didn't take attendance, there would be four people in the class (out of 200) for every lecture. The tests ask some of the most ridiculous questions ever, the majority of which were never even mentioned in lecture. Discussion sections are worthless as not even the TA's can figure out what in God's name Saliba is blathering about. Worthless, worthless class. Absolutely worthless. My time would be better spent licking the inside of the study carrels in Butler. Avoid Saliba at all costs.

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)

Aug 2002

[CULPA CENSOR: This review was not fit for publishing. Overall, the reviewer feels Saliba is pompous, and expresses his/her negative feelings towards the "liberal left." The word "ass" was used about 5 times.]

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.

Mar 2002

Saliba may be amusing at times, but his lectures are disorganized and sometimes difficult to follow. This becomes unfortunate when the material from the reading becomes confusing. In addition, Saliba devotes way too much time trying to show the class how the stereotypes of Islam, Arabs, etc. are wrong. (Shouldn't merely teaching the material be enough to do that?) I certainly ended up taking the class during an unusual semester (Fall 2001), but too often the discussion sections (and occasionally the lectures) became a forum where liberals could rail against "evil America" and more conservative and moderate views seemed unwelcome. In the end, I left the class knowing more than when I had started but with the feeling that I ought to know more. The material was often interesting, but the class was just too disorganized and unfocused. I think my frustratation with certain elements just ended up outweighing everything else.

Jan 2000

Saliba is an old bore. He jokes are lame, outdated, and smell funny. For some reason he likes to use Yiddish words. Loves to repeat he knows Arabic, Hebrew, Syriac, Aramaic, French, German, Italian, Latin and whatnot. Secular Arab nationalist, reminded us often he was Christian. Superficially cares about students, but try getting a hold of him! Mainly because of the 'civ' issue but also because of the lecture, class is disorganized, readings unhelpful. Poor TAs tried to make sense but eventually gave up. Definitely take the class. In the confusion, you'll come out on top...if allah wants!!!

Jan 2000

Like a great jolly Lebanese (I think) Santa Claus...with a white beard and his ever-present red sweater, the comparison can't be avoided. Once you get past it, though, he's pretty much the man for his job; the lectures on science and mathematics are BRILLIANT. Course is scattered, and a bit of a bully pulpit, but in the end you've learned more than you thought. Saliba is very enthusiastic, which is kind of refreshing in a lecture class. Bravo!

Jan 2000

Although I used this class to fulfill the Major Cultures requirement, that was not my only reason for taking it. I genuinely wanted to gain an understanding of the history and culture of the Islamic World. Unfortunately, what I got instead was a lesson in the hypocrisy of the academic left, thanks to George Saliba. Saliba and the TAs in this class were constantly discussing stereotypes of Islam and of Middle Easterners, but they seemed to have never challenged their own stereotyped thinking. It is reprehensible that one TA (Jason) thought it was acceptable to tell me I must think certain things because I was white, middle class, and American. As far as work goes, this is an easy class. I managed a B with practically no effort, just studying for the midterm and the final. But in my humble opinion, the university ought to sanction Saliba for some of the comments he made in this class.

Jan 2000

Saliba is a dynamic lecturer who clearly cares a lot about his field and the class. Except some tiresome repetition, he makes class interesting. He's a genuintely nice guy who is very open to questions both during the lecture and outside of class. Although the first half of the class is very informative, the second half is a waste of time and he just repeats a few ideas over and over. You can get through this course without ever showing up at lecture, but attendance at the required discussion sections is a must.

Jan 2000

Always entertaining, though a bit light on content. Lectures are sprawling and sometimes feel a bit disconnected; readings are moderate to heavy. Structurally, the class is overambitious: hundreds of years of history are crammed together with 'civ' stuff--poetry, painting, film, science, math. It's can be bewildering, and makes studying difficult. Irresistable sense of humor, though, so while you may complain about the lectures, you probably won't sleep through them.