IN REMEMBRANCE: 10-26-2014

ALI MAZRUI, SCHOLAR OF AFRICA WHO DIVIDED U.S. AUDIENCES

Dr. Ali A. Mazrui in 1986. Credit Chris Terrill/BBC Enterprises

His family announced the death without specifying a cause.

Uhuru Kenyatta, the president of Kenya, where Professor Mazrui was born, said at the time of his death that he was “a towering academician whose intellectual contributions played a major role in shaping African scholarship.”

His books and his hundreds of scholarly articles explored topics like African politics, international political culture, political Islam and globalization. He was for many years a professor at the University of Michigan, and since 1989 had held the Albert Schweitzer chair at Binghamton University, State University of New York.

Reflecting his habit of provocation, Professor Mazrui wrote an article in 2012, posted on Facebook, accusing Dr. Schweitzer, the revered medical missionary in pre-independence Gabon, of being “a benevolent racist.” He wrote that Dr. Schweitzer had called Africans “primitives” and “savages,” and had treated Africans in a hospital unit that was separate from, and less comfortable than, one for whites.

Professor Mazrui’s courage transcended ideas. When he was a political-science professor in Uganda in the early 1970s, the country’s brutal dictator, Idi Amin, invited him to be his chief adviser on international affairs — “his Kissinger,” Professor Mazrui told The New York Times in 1986. Instead, he publicly criticized Amin and fled Uganda.

“The Africans,” a nine-part series that was originally broadcast by the BBC and later shown on PBS, portrayed Africa as having been defined by the interplay of indigenous, Islamic and Western influences. Professor Mazrui had acquired the perspective by growing up speaking Swahili, practicing Islam and attending an English-speaking school in Mombasa, Kenya.

“My three worlds overlapped,” he said in the interview with The Times.

The series glorified the Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi, saying he inspired Africans to have a sense of destiny and become actors on the world stage — a stance that set off storms of criticism. In the last episode, Professor Mazrui predicted a “final racial conflict” in South Africa that would end with whites’ shrinking from using nuclear weapons for fear of killing themselves and then being defeated in an armed struggle, ending apartheid. Victorious blacks, he said, would then inherit “the most advanced nuclear infrastructure on the continent,” and nuclear weapons would become a bargaining chip in a worldwide black-white struggle.

Ali Mazrui.

He told The Los Angeles Times that he was “uneasy” that the United States and the Soviet Union could start a nuclear war, without Africa having the same capability. “I want black Africa to have the bomb to frighten the system as a whole,” he said.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

One response to “IN REMEMBRANCE: 10-26-2014

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s