Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A00256 - Ali Mazrui, Controversial Scholar of Africa


Dr. Ali A. Mazrui in 1986. CreditChris Terrill/BBC Enterprises

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Ali Mazrui, a scholar and prolific author who set off a tsunami of criticism in 1986 by writing and hosting “The Africans: A Triple Heritage,” a public television series that culminated in what seemed to be an endorsement of African nations’ acquiring nuclear weapons, died on Oct. 12 at his home in Vestal, N.Y. He was 81.
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.
The National Endowment for the Humanities, which had contributed $600,000 toward the making of the series, was so upset with Professor Mazuri’s message that it removed its name from the credits. Lynne Cheney, the chairwoman of the endowment, called the series “worse than unbalanced,” noting that it included no interviews giving divergent views.
Professor Mazrui’s answer to Mrs. Cheney was that he had intended from the beginning to represent the views of one African — “a view from the inside,” he called it. “There are many parts that are anti-imperialist,” he told The New York Times. “Africa is concerned with past domination and afraid of redomination.”
Reviewing the series for The Times, John Corry called its scholarship “empty” and said it was “a vehicle solely for Mr. Mazrui’s feelings.”
But Clifford Terry, writing in The Chicago Tribune, suggested that this personal perspective was in fact a strength: “It is obvious, through it all, that here is a man who deeply cares about what he likes to call a ‘remarkable continent.’ ”
Tom Shales of The Washington Post applauded the shows’ abrasiveness. “The alternative,” he wrote, “would be an innocuous, safely ‘balanced’ documentary on Africa that made no ripples, provoked no discourse.”
Ali Al’Amin Mazrui was born on Feb. 24, 1933, in Mombasa. His father was an eminent Muslim scholar and the chief Islamic judge of Kenya.
As a boy he was not a good student and studied typing at a technical school. He stayed on at the school as a clerk and kept unsuccessfully applying to university, he said in a 2009 interview with The Observer, a Ugandan newspaper.
The Observer reported that the school’s governor had heard him give a speech on the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday and had been impressed. That led to a series of interviews and a scholarship to finish secondary school in England. He ended up earning a bachelor’s degree from the University of Manchester, a master’s from Columbia in New York and, in 1966, a doctorate from Oxford.
The next year he published three books on African politics. In 1973, he began teaching at Makerere University in Uganda. When he fled Uganda, he went to the University of Michigan to teach political science. In addition to teaching at Binghamton, he held an at-large professorial appointment with Cornell and lectured at many schools around the world.
He was president of the Association of Muslim Social Scientists of North America and president of the African Studies Association of the United States. He advised the United Nations and the World Bank.
Professor Mazrui’s marriage to the former Molly Vickerman ended in divorce. He is survived by his wife, the former Pauline Uti; his sons, Jamal, Alamin, Kim, Farid and Harith; his daughter, Grace Egbo-Mazrui; three grandchildren; and a sister, Alya.
In editing “The Africans” for American television, Professor Mazrui deleted his description of Karl Marx as “the last of the great Jewish prophets” because producers feared it might be taken as anti-Semitic.
In Britain, where the line was used, he had worried that Marxists might be offended by the reference to Marx as a prophet.
“My life,” he once said, “is one long debate.”


Ali Al'amin Mazrui (24 February 1933 – 12 October 2014), was an academic professor, and political writer onAfrican and Islamic studies and North-South relations. He was born in MombasaKenya. He was an Albert Schweitzer Professor in the Humanities and the Director of the Institute of Global Cultural Studies at Binghamton University inBinghamton, New York.[1][2]


Mazrui was born born on 24 February 1933 in MombasaKenya Colony.[3] He studied at schools in Mombasa, in Kenya. Mazrui obtained his B.A. with Distinction from Manchester University in Great Britain in 1960, his M.A. fromColumbia University in New York in 1961, and his doctorate (DPhil) from Oxford University (Nuffield College) in 1966.[4]

Early career[edit]

Upon completing his education at Oxford University, Mazrui joined Makerere University (KampalaUganda), where he served as head of the Department of Political Science and Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences. He served at Makerere University until 1973, when he was forced into exile by Idi Amin. In 1974, he joined the faculty of the University of Michigan as professor and later was appointed the Director of the Center for Afroamerican and African Studies (1978–81). In 1989, he was appointed to the faculty of Binghamton UniversityState University of New York as the Albert Schweitzer Professor in the Humanities and the Director of the Institute of Global Cultural Studies (IGCS).[5]

International acclaim[edit]

In addition to his appointments as the Albert Schweitzer Professor in the Humanities, Professor in Political Science, African Studies, Philosophy, Interpretation and Culture and the Director of the Institute of Global Cultural Studies (IGCS), Mazrui also holds three concurrent faculty appointments as Albert Luthuli Professor-at-Large in the Humanities and Development Studies at the University of Jos in Nigeria, Andrew D. White Professor-at-Large Emeritus and Senior Scholar in Africana Studies at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York and Chancellor of the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and TechnologyNairobiKenya. In 1999, Mazrui retired as the inaugural Walter Rodney Professor at the University of GuyanaGeorgetownGuyana. Mazrui has also been a Visiting Scholar at Stanford University, The University of ChicagoColgate UniversityMcGill UniversityNational University of Singapore, Oxford University, Harvard UniversityBridgewater State College,Ohio State University, and at other institutions in CairoAustraliaLeedsNairobiTeheranDenverLondonBaghdad, and Sussex, amongst others. In 2005, Ali Mazrui was selected as the 73rd topmost intellectual person in the world on the list of Top 100 Public Intellectuals by Prospect Magazine (UK) and Foreign Policy(United States).[6]

Professional organizations[edit]

In addition to his academic appointments, Mazrui also served as President of the African Studies Association (USA) and as Vice-President of the International Political Science Association and has also served as Special Advisor to the World Bank. He has also served on the Board of the American Muslim Council,Washington, D.C.


Mazrui's research interests included African politics, international political culture, political Islam and North-South relations. He is author or co-author of more than twenty books. Mazrui has also published hundreds of articles in major scholastic journals and for public media. He has also served on the editorial boards of more than twenty international scholarly journals. Mazrui was widely consulted by heads of states and governments, international media and research institutions for political strategies and alternative thoughts.
He first rose to prominence as a critic of some of the accepted orthodoxies of African intellectuals in the 1960s and 1970s. He was critical of African socialism and all strains of Marxism. He argued that communism was a Western import just as unsuited for the African condition as the earlier colonial attempts to install European type governments. He argued that a revised liberalism could help the continent and described himself as a proponent of a unique ideology of African liberalism.
At the same time he was a prominent critic of the current world order. He believed the current capitalist system was deeply exploitative of Africa, and that the West rarely if ever lived up to their liberal ideals and could be described as global apartheid. He has opposed Western interventions in the developing world, such as theIraq War. He has also long been opposed to many of the policies of Israel, being one of the first to try to link the treatment of Palestinians with South Africa's apartheid.
Especially in recent years, Mazrui has also become a well known commentator on Islam and Islamism. While rejecting violence and terrorism Mazrui has praised some of the anti-imperialist sentiment that plays an important role in modern Islamic fundamentalism. He has also argued, controversially, that sharia law is not incompatible with democracy.
In addition to his written work, Mazrui was also the creator of the television series The Africans: A Triple Heritage, which was jointly produced by the BBC and thePublic Broadcasting Service (WETA, Washington) in association with the Nigerian Television Authority, and funded by the Annenberg/CPB Project. A book by the same title was jointly published by BBC Publications and Little, Brown and Company.

Positions held[edit]

Membership of organizations (1980–1995)[edit]


Mazrui was a regular contributor to newspapers in Kenya, Uganda, and South Africa, most notably the Daily Nation (Nairobi), The Standard (Nairobi), the Daily Monitor (Kampala) and , and the City Press (Johannesburg).


  • Millennium Tribute for Outstanding Scholarship, House of Lords, Parliament Buildings, London, June 2000
  • Special Award from the Association of Muslim Social Scientists (United Kingdom), honoring Mazrui for his contribution to the social sciences and Islamic studies, June 2000
  • Honorary Doctorate of Letters from various universities for fields which include Divinity, Humane Letters, and the Sciences of Development
  • Icon of the Twentieth Century, elected by Lincoln UniversityPennsylvania, 1998
  • Appointed Walter Rodney Professor, University of GuyanaGeorgetown, Guyana, 1998
  • Icon of the Twentieth Century Award, Lincoln University, Pennsylvania, 1998
  • DuBois-Garvey Award for Pan-African Unity, Morgan State UniversityBaltimore, Maryland, 1998
  • Appointed Ibn-Khaldun Professor-at-Large, School of Islamic and Social Sciences, Leesburg, Virginia, 1997–2001
  • Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1988
  • Appointed Distinguished Andrew D. White Professor-at-Large, Cornell UniversityIthaca, New York, USA (1986–1992)
Mazrui was ranked among the world's top 100 public intellectuals by readers of Prospect Magazine (UKForeign Policy Magazine (Washington, D.C.) (see The 2005 Global Intellectuals Poll).


According to press reports, Mazurui had not been feeling well for several months prior to his death.[7] He died of natural causes at his home in Vestal in New Yorkon Sunday, 12 October 2014.[8] His body was repatriated to his hometown Mombasa and it arrived early morning on Sunday 19 October. It was taken to the family home where it was washed as per Islamic custom.[9] The funeral prayer was held at the Mbaruk Mosque in Old Town and he was laid to rest at the family's Mazrui Graveyard opposite Fort Jesus. His burial was attended by Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala, Majority Leader Aden Bare Duale, Governor Hassan Ali Joho; and Senators Hassan Omar and Abu Chiaba[10]


  • 2008: Islam in Africa's Experience [editor: Ali Mazrui, Patrick Dikirr, Robert Ostergard Jr., Michael Toler and Paul Macharia] (New Delhi: Sterling Paperbacks).
  • 2008: Euro-Jews and Afro-Arabs: The Great Semitic Divergence in History [editor: Seifudein Adem], (Washington DC: University of America Press).
  • 2008: The Politics of War and Culture of Violence [editor: Seifudein Adem and Abdul Bemath], (New Jersey: Africa world Press).
  • 2008: Globalization and Civilization: Are they Forces in Conflict? [editor: Ali Mazrui, Patrick Dikirr, Shalahudin Kafrawi], (New York: Global Academic Publications).
  • 2006: A Tale of two Africas: Nigeria and South Africa as contrasting Visions [editor: James N. Karioki] (London: Adonis & Abbey).
  • 2006: Islam: Between Globalization & Counter-Terrorism [editors: Shalahudin Kafrawi, Alamin M. Mazrui and Ruzima Sebuharara] (Trenton, NJ and Asmara, Eritrea: Africa World Press).
  • 2004: The African Predicament and the American Experience: a Tale of two Edens (Westport, CT and London: Praeger).
  • 2004: Almin M. Mazrui and Willy M. Mutunga (eds). Race, Gender, and Culture Conflict: Mazrui and His Critics (Trenton, New Jersey: African World Press).
  • 2003: Almin M. Mazrui and Willy M. Mutunga (eds). Governance and Leadership:Debating the African Condition (Trenton, New Jersey: African World Press).
  • 2002: Black Reparations in the era of Globalization [with Alamin Mazrui] (Binghamton: The Institute of Global Cultural Studies).
  • 2002: The Titan of Tanzania: Julius K. Nyerere's Legacy (Binghamton: The Institute of Global Cultural Studies).
  • 2002: Africa and other Civilizations: Conquest and Counter-Conquest, The Collected Essays of Ali A. Mazrui, Vol. 2 [series editor: Toyin Falola; editors: Ricardo Rene Laremont & Fouad Kalouche] (Trenton, NJ and Asmara, Eritrea: Africa World Press)
  • 2002: Africanity Redefined, The Collected Essays of Ali A. Mazrui, Vol. 1 [Series Editor: Toyin Falola; Editors: Ricardo Rene Laremont & Tracia Leacock Seghatolislami] (Trenton, NJ, and Asmara,Eritrea: Africa World Press).
  • 1999: Political Culture of Language: Swahili, Society and the State [with Alamin M. Mazrui] (Binghamton: The Institute of Global Cultural Studies).
  • 1999: The African Diaspora: African Origins and New World Identities [co-editors Isidore Okpewho and Carole Boyce Davies] (Bloomington: Indiana University Press).
  • 1998: The Power of Babel: Language and Governance in the African Experience [with Alamin M. Mazrui] (Oxford and Chicago: James Currey and University of Chicago Press).
  • 1995: Swahili, State and Society: The Political Economy of an African Language [with Alamin M. Mazrui] (Nairobi: East African Educational Publishers).
  • 1993: Africa since 1935: VOL. VIII of UNESCO General History of Africa [editor; asst. ed. C. Wondji] (London: Heinemann and Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993).
  • 1990: Cultural Forces in World Politics (London and Portsmouth, N.H: James Currey and Heinemann).
  • 1986: The Africans: A Triple Heritage (New York: Little Brown and Co., and London: BBC).
  • 1986: The Africans: A Reader Senior Editor [with T.K. Levine] (New York: Praeger).
  • 1984: Nationalism and New States in Africa: From about 1935 to the Present [with Michael Tidy] (Heinemann Educational Books, London).
  • 1980: The African Condition: A Political Diagnosis [The Reith Lectures] (London, Heinemann Educational Books and New York, Cambridge University Press).
  • 1978: The Warrior Tradition in Modern Africa [editor] (The Hague and Leiden, The Netherlands: E.J. Brill Publishers).
  • 1978: Political Values and the Educated Class in Africa (London: Heinemann Educational Books and Berkeley, CA: University of California Press).
  • 1977: State of the Globe Report, 1977 (edited and co-authored for World Order Models Project)
  • 1977: Africa's International Relations: The Diplomacy of Dependency and Change (London: Heinemann Educational Books and Boulder: Westview Press).
  • 1976: A World Federation of Cultures: An African Perspective (New York: Free Press).
  • 1975: Soldiers and Kinsmen in Uganda: The Making of a Military Ethnocracy (Beverly Hills: Sage Publication and London).
  • 1975: The Political Sociology of the English Language: An African Perspective: (The Hague: Mouton Co.).
  • 1973: World Culture and the Black Experience (Seattle: University of Washington Press).
  • 1973: Africa in World Affairs: The Next Thirty Years [co-edited with Hasu Patel] (New York and London: The Third Press).
  • 1971: The Trial of Christopher Okigbo [novel] (London: Heinemann Educational Books and New York: The Third Press).
  • 1971: Cultural Engineering and Nation-Building in East Africa (Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press).
  • 1970: Protest and Power in Black Africa [co-edited with Robert I. Rotberg] (New York: Oxford University Press).
  • 1969: Violence and Thought: Essays on Social Tentions in Africa (London and Harlow: Longman).
  • 1967: Towards a Pax Africana: A Study of Ideology and Ambition (London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, and University of Chicago Press).
  • 1967: On Heroes and Uhuru-Worship: Essays on Independent Africa (London: Longman).
  • 1967: The Anglo-African Commonwealth: Political Friction and Cultural Fusion (Oxford: Pergamon Press).

Ali Al Amin Mazrui,  (born February 24, 1933, Mombasa, Kenya—died October 12/13, 2014, Binghamton, New York, U.S.), Kenyan American political scientist. After receiving a doctorate from the University of Oxford, he taught at Uganda’s Makerere University (1963–73) and later at the University of Michigan (1974–91). At SUNY–Binghamton (now Binghamton University) he founded and directed the Institute of Global Cultural Studies. He also taught at many other universities worldwide, was a consultant to numerous international organizations, and wrote more than 30 books on African politics and society as well as postcolonial patterns of development and underdevelopment, including The African Predicament and the American Experience: A Tale of Two Edens (2004). For television he wrote the nine-hour BBC-PBS coproduction The Africans (1986) and was featured in the documentary film Motherland (2009). Mazrui received numerous honours and awards, including the Association of Muslim Social Scientists UK (AMSS UK) Academic Achievement Award (2000).

Ali Al Amin Mazrui,  (b. February 24, 1933, Mombasa, Kenya - d. October 12/13, 2014, Binghamton, New York, United States), Kenyan American political scientist. After receiving a doctorate from the University of Oxford, he taught at Uganda’s Makerere University (1963–73) and later at the University of Michigan (1974–91). At SUNY–Binghamton (now Binghamton University) he founded and directed the Institute of Global Cultural Studies. He also taught at many other universities worldwide, was a consultant to numerous international organizations, and wrote more than 30 books on African politics and society as well as post-colonial patterns of development and underdevelopment, including The African Predicament and the American Experience: A Tale of Two Edens (2004). For television he wrote the nine-hour BBC-PBS co-production The Africans (1986) and was featured in the documentary film Motherland (2009). Mazrui received numerous honors and awards, including the Association of Muslim Social Scientists UK (AMSS UK) Academic Achievement Award (2000).

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