Gustave E. von Grunebaum

Austrian historian (1909-1972)

Gustave Edmund von Grunebaum (1 September 1909 in Vienna Austria – 27 February 1972 in Los Angeles United States, born Gustav Edmund Ritter von Grünebaum) was an Austrian historian and Arabist.


  • “The most superficial scanning of the statements produced in connection with the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965 and the Arab-Israeli War of 1967 provides abundant evidence of the continuing power of the jihad concept in its original drastic and military intent. Fighting the unbeliever is a religious duty of the collectivity and secures religious merit; however ‘secular’ the issues, the simple fact of their involving a confrontation between Muslim and non-Muslim suffices for popular sentiment, and hence for governmental direction, to identify the armed dispute as religious warfare. Denials of this fact by the authorities when they address themselves to a Western audience have no meaning beyond constituting an attempt, inevitable in the present international situation, at making their point in a manner likely to be acceptable to a forum averse to the spirit of the religious crusade and altogether disposed to take for granted the separation between religious sentiment and political action.…What is truly and unqualifiedly reprehensible lies elsewhere. It is to be found in the projection of internal Western self-criticism on to the plane of comparative culture studies, in the reification of Western complexes, in the conferring of objective existence to what is little more than a stage setting for a Western cathartic monologue. Psychological and political needs, anguish kept alive by the weight of four dead centuries, pride and ambition supported by dependence on loaned weapons, they combine quaintly to sustain this deliberate illusionism sprung from history undigested and, almost typical of a faltering denial of reality, proclaimed as a new moral gospel. Transferred to the printed page this mood assumes various shapes of which perhaps the most objectionable—to those promoted to cultural donors as much as to those demoted to recipients, for it is the inadequate system of coordinates which inevitably oversimplifies historical process and works offensive injustice to both artificially constituted ‘parties’—is to be found in such Western writing as tries to buy friendship by self-debasement.…. Whatever the motivation, learning or stylistic skill, it is this kind of scholarship and parascholarship which is reducing the incentive of the societies most in need of them for self-comprehension and more than momentary self-esteem to identify with modern historical scholarship, regardless of the constellation of the hour of publication.…Self-criticism in the Anglo-Saxon and French style, itself a fairly recent phenomenon of great pedagogical value, must not be abused to mislead. Why accept anyone on his own terms unless there is reason for accepting the terms? This goes first of all for ourselves; but only arrogance would exempt the others.”
    • —Gustave von Grunebaum, 1970 quoted in Bostom, A. G. (2015). Sharia versus freedom: The legacy of Islamic totalitarianism.
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