Born on October 7, 1959, Aamir Mufti (a.k.a. Aaron Mufti) studied anthropology at Columbia University, the London School of Economics, and Hamilton College. He subsequently earned a Ph.D. in literature at Columbia University, where he was taught and supervised by the late Edward Said. Recalling that he felt “inconsolable sadness” upon Said’s death in 2003, Mufti has lauded Said for his “anti-imperialism,” his “critique of colonial knowledge,” and his “critique of Orientalism” – i.e., the notion that Westerners are not qualified to pass judgment on other cultures because their (Western) minds were shaped by an inherently racist, ethnocentric cultural tradition.
Today Mufti serves as a professor of Comparative Literature at UCLA. His principal fields of interest include “Islam and modernity in India” and “the cultural politics of Jewish identity in Western Europe,” with a focus on “understanding a range of forms of inequality in the contemporary world and how they impede the possibilities for historically autonomous action by social collectivities.” Mufti’s areas of specialization include: colonial and postcolonial literatures; Marxism and aesthetics; Frankfurt School critical theory; minority cultures; exile and displacement; refugees and the right to asylum; modernism and fascism; language conflicts; global English and the vernaculars; and the history of anthropology. He is also the author of two books: Enlightenment in the Colony: The Jewish Question and the Crisis of Postcolonial Culture (2007), and Forget English!: Orientalisms and World Literatures (2016). As one reviewer puts it, the latter book “critiques the continuing dominance of English as both a literary language and the undisputed cultural system of global capitalism.”
Mufti is an avid supporter of the Boycott, Divestment, & Sanctions (BDS) movement, a Hamas-inspired initiative that aims to use various forms of public protest, economic pressure, and court rulings to advance the Hamas agenda of permanently destroying Israel as a Jewish nation-state. In 2014, for instance, Mufti signed a letter calling on “scholars and librarians within Middle East studies to boycott Israeli academic institutions.” The signatories pledged “not to collaborate on projects and events involving Israeli academic institutions, not to teach at or to attend conferences and other events at such institutions, and not to publish in academic journals based in Israel.”
Similarly, in 2016 Mufti lent his name to a Modern Language Association (MLA) resolution that likewise called for a boycott of Israeli colleges and universities. In a personal statement encouraging (albeit unsuccessfully) the MLA to formally adopt that resolution, Mufti wrote that he supported BDS “because it is the only course of action left to us” as a means of dealing with what he termed Israel’s “violent colonial settlement project.” “Every other course of action,” Mufti elaborated, “including, above all, support for the diplomatic ‘peace’ process, has met its end in the sharp rightwards, neo-fascistic turn in Israeli politics and society and the clearly visible reality that no numerically significant segment of the Israeli political system … has any intention of reaching any kind of compromise with the Palestinians, let alone agreeing to a resolution based on the principles of equality and dignity.”
When the anti-Israel professor Steven Salaita was denied employment by the University of Illinois (UI) in 2014 because of a series of anti-Semitic tweets which he had recently posted, Mufti signed a petition calling on UI chancellor Phyllis Wise “to reverse her decision” not to hire Salaita. “Professor Salaita’s expulsion from [UI],” said the petition, “is part of a larger pattern of systematic squelching of free speech” – a trend that, “in effect, supports human rights violations against Palestinians.”
On October 7, 2015, Mufti used his Facebook account to argue that a recently published article by an Israeli journalist — who urged Israel to use checkpoints and unmanned drones as preventative measures against the possible rise of a Third Palestinian Intifada — was nothing more or less than “the discourse of Nazis, pure and simple.” That same month, Mufti wrote on Facebook that a boycott of Israel “can only (and must) apply to Israel as a whole, and not just to the settlements in the West Bank.” He also asserted that “the gravest danger to Jewish life is the so-called Jewish state.”
Further Reading: “Aaron Mufti” (Canary Mission, CompLit.ucla.edu, ICM.arts); “Aamir Mufti Statement in Support of a Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions” (MLAwordpress.boycott.com, 6-11-2016).