Letter: Eden’s Muhammad not a worthy ambassador

Re: “A post-modern Muhammad and me” (Sept. 25). I am a Yale graduate, a journalist and an Emirati, and I found Eden’s essay to be one of the more irresponsible and misguided pieces of writing I’ve read on the topic of Emirati culture. It was unjust, even for an opinion piece, and especially for a Yale publication. Though I have been anything but subtle in my vocal and written criticism of the Emirati socioeconomic metamorphosis and its ramifications, I don’t think it’s possible to overestimate the importance of being well-informed, particularly when writing about our own experiences with a compromised degree of objectivity.

If the real enemy is ignorance, then Muhammad — a sheltered, indolent, spoiled brat — may be waging his own personal jihad against himself (and his lamentable genitalia). But this unpleasant character, as conveyed by Eden at his own expense, was not the mind on which the opportunity for enlightenment was lost. The tragedy here is the opportunity squandered by the writer himself, in his myopic and implausible recounts of a dialogue that is risible at best. Neither young man comes across as likable or sophisticated, but I expected greater potential for diplomacy and wisdom from a young Yalie, and was disappointed.

It would behoove Eden to seek out a fair education on Arab thought. Among other things, he might find that his implication that Jews are unwelcome in the UAE was oversimplified and inaccurate, though I’d be interested in learning more about the perceptions of Eden’s UAE-residing father.

If Eden had a sincere interest in philosophical discourse with Emirati contemporaries, I wish he’d done more homework and interviewed an Emirati at Yale, now home to citizens of the Gulf who represent the diametrical opposite of Muhammad. Indeed, Muhammad is hardly a worthy ambassador of Emiratis or Muslims, just as an extremist, backwoods-living born-again Christian radical does nothing to dispel myths and misconceptions about who Americans really are, how they think, and what is wonderful about and unique to American life.

Nouf Al-Qasimi

Santa Fe, N.M.

Sept. 29

The writer is a 2001 graduate of Branford College.


  • branford

    Thank you for writing this. I was appalled by the original article.

  • anon


  • desert felicitations

    I took the time to find out what this Eden guy wrote and honestly, it is just atrocious, and definitely doesn’t sound like a plausible, realistic account of what actually happened, and if that is true, that it isn’t, it saddens me that someone would make it up.

    One of my friend’s is from the ruling family of Abu Dhabi, and when one of my best guy friend’s came to visit from Sweden, the young sheikh was kind and patient enough to take us on a tour of the desert followed by servings of gahwa (traditional arabic coffee) around the fire whilst we sat and spoke for another 2 hours and none of what was said there came anywhere close to what this Mohd guy supposedly said (and if anything, my friend from Sweden was so pleasantly surprised by the hospitality, insight and intelligence of the Emiratis, and i would invite Eden to share a similar experience but i doubt he’s worth it and even if given the opportunity that he would see past his own prejudice), and i’m so glad that you wrote a piece completely questioning the account of the whole incident because never in all of my 15+ years of being in this area have i ever come across anything as dumb as that, and especially as laughable as the small penis thing, not saying i haven’t heard a few funny things here and there ;). Too funny. I have no idea what this Eden guy’s motives were with writing this piece but it was just plain DUMB.

  • YLS 12

    Great response, thanks for writing. After reading Max Eden’s horrendous commentary I was appalled that something so (a) ignorant and (b) racist would be published by the paper.


    Thank God there’s finally a mature voice in the dialog.

  • wow

    There was nothing racist or ignorant about Max’s piece. He never claimed that the individual, with whom he had this individual, highly personal experience, was a representative for all Muslims. The piece was a subjective exploration of an encounter, not a geopolitical manifesto.

  • Yalie

    Also, I’m pretty sure Mr. Eden has no idea what “post-modern” actually means.

  • Hieronymus

    Frankly, I’m impressed that someone could focus enough on the original to formulate a coherent critique; I was too busy cleaning the barf off my keyboard to bother finishing Eden’s piece.

  • Nouf Al-Qasimi

    Nothing racist or ignorant about this essay? Right.
    Max was on thin ice right out of the gate, and there was nothing subjective or exploratory about it. First, he deliberately gave Muhammad prophetic overtones with his choice of title; one that smacks of the callow socioreligious philistinism that, ironically, Muhammad also brandished. Does it really matter whether Muhammad consciously took it upon himself to speak on behalf of other Emiratis or Arabs or Muslims? The narrative was Max’s responsibility from the moment he decided to write an essay detailing this “individual, highly personal experience.” But instead of a relatable story, readers got several strained, self-indulgent paragraphs of cathartic meta-narrative, wherein the protagonist, caught in his assailant’s crossfire, is ultimately ejected from a Porsche with his tail between his legs after an arduous session of fundamentalist chastening from an indolent homophobe.

    Do you also believe it’s not prejudice, however educated, that led Max to eventually thank his aggressor, in Arabic no less, for gifting him with these gems of wisdom? Had Muhammad been a homeless man on the streets of New Haven, would it not have been easy to dismiss his extremist diatribes? But no: in the spirit of cultural sensitivity, Max chose to placate Muhammad. Welcome to the Al-Ain petting zoo: please don’t anger the 300-pound sheikh! What was conveyed in the essay was Max’s respectful deference to Muhammad on account of assumed authenticity and perceived aristocracy.

    Here’s the thing. Arabs are badly misunderstood and misrepresented, and guys like Muhammad don’t exactly help our case. That isn’t Max’s fault. But it was Max who decided after visiting the UAE that his encounter with Muhammad was a story worth sharing with the YDN, and he was responsible for determining what would make the character compelling to readers.

  • Ali

    “It would behoove Eden to seek out a fair education on Arab thought. Among other things, he might find that his implication that Jews are unwelcome in the UAE was oversimplified and inaccurate…”


    You’re an honest man who really does his reasearch:

    Thu Feb 19, 2009 1:51pm EST
    Email | Print | Share| Reprints | Single Page[-] Text [+] By Pritha Sarkar
    LONDON, Feb 19 (Reuters) – The threat of an international sporting boycott led to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) backing down on its stance of denying Israeli athletes into the country, WTA chief Larry Scott said on Thursday.

    Five days after Shahar Peer was barred from competing at the women’s Dubai Championships, her fellow Israeli Andy Ram was granted a visa to play in the men’s equivalent next week.

    Scott said he had been assured all Israeli athletes would be given “a special permit” by the UAE government to enter the country if they have qualified for a tournament.

    “They had no idea of the international condemnation and the ripple effects, not just in the world of sport but beyond … that they were starting to feel, in the worlds of business, arts, culture,” Scott told Reuters in an interview.

    “I had been in touch with heads of several other sports and people in the Olympic movement and there was shock and dismay over this decision and real concern as to what the implications would be.

    “I know certain organisations called for a sporting boycott or suspension of all sporting activities in the UAE until this policy was changed. So there were potential ramifications for all other sports.”

    While Scott declined to say which governing bodies he had been in touch with, the UAE hosts a series of high profile sporting events including the Dubai Desert Classic golf tournament while Abu Dhabi is set to stage its first Formula One race later this year.

    The UAE, like most Arab countries, has no diplomatic ties with Israel and routinely denies entry to Israelis.

  • Ali

    “Here’s the thing. Arabs are badly misunderstood and misrepresented, and guys like Muhammad don’t exactly help our case.”

    Why don’t you list a couple of examples of how westerners misunderstand or misrepresent Arabs?

  • Nouf Al-Qasimi

    1- It’s Nouf, not Youf.
    2- I am an honest woman. Not a man.
    3- I wrote ‘Jewish’, not ‘Israeli’. Big difference.

    From Cleveland Jewish News:
    Former news editor Eden ‘sees it all’ in the UAE
    Published: Friday, March 13, 2009
    Douglas J. Guth

    While the educator (David Eden)has not met any other Jews in the UAE, he has not experienced anti-Semitism during his six months in the country.

    Most of Eden’s Muslim friends and co-workers know he’s Jewish. After getting to know him, “they have been very good about it,” he contends. “In many minds, Jews are Israelis, but I’m an American Jew, which is a huge oddity (to them), a change in paradigm.”

  • Ali

    Thanks for the clarification. So it is only the 50% of the world’s Jewish population (those 6 million living in Israel) that the UAE treat as unworthy of stepping foot in their country?

    Riddle me this: Why is it 99% of the indiginous Jewish population has been eminiated from the Arabian Peninsula? TIA

  • Nouf Al-Qasimi

    Ali, pull up a chair, how do you like your tea? I don’t belong on the receiving end of your (very) personal gripes with Gulf policies toward Israel. I don’t represent the UAE government, I didn’t defend anyone’s beliefs besides my own, and neither my thoughts on the matter nor yours change the fact that Max’s implications of anti-Judaic sentiment were oversimplified and inaccurate. (Ever heard of Huda Ezra Ebrahim Nonoo?)
    Anyway, look, if you’d like to begin mixing politics and religion, Max can probably put you in touch with Muhammad. :-)

    Just to lighten the mood for a moment, here’s something that might be of mild interest to you. It’s an excerpt from a story I published in my food column not long ago about the Lebanese law suit against Israel for the exclusive rights to falafel. For the record, I am half Lebanese:

    “One of the kinks in (Fady Abboud, the president of the Association of Lebanese Industrialists) mission is that others, including Palestinians, claim to be the originators of the dishes that Abboud wishes to patent… Abboud’s convictions laughable at best. Israel does not appear to be claiming sole custody of falafel, nor does Lebanon own the rights to it… There are, of course, plenty of Arab Jews, and the immigration of Arab Jews to Israel may be responsible for the ubiquity of falafel stands run largely by Yemenite Jews. If there is no denying that falafel is Arab in origin, then is Israel to blame for our prior lack of capitalist marketing abilities?”