Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 06/2010

Amin Rihani, 1876-1940: The Apostle of the Arab-American Relationship

Irfan Shahid

January 2010

Center for Contemporary Arab Studies


In the text, Sultanate of Oman Professor in Arabic and Islamic Literature Dr. Irfan Shahid examines the life of Amin Rihani, “the father of Arab-American literature in the first quarter of the twentieth century.” Through Rihani’s Romantic and prose poetry, written in Arabic and inspired by Thoreau and Whitman, respectively, as well as Rihani’s attempts to bring the U.S. and the Arab world together in the political and economic sphere, “Rihani spent much of his life in the process of reconciling the Arab-Islamic world with the West,” writes Shahid. In the face of an Arab-American relationship that today suffers from the Palestine question and a marred image of Arabs and Muslims in the West due to the events of September 11, 2001, Dr. Shahid urges that we concentrate on restoring the Arab-American and Muslim-American bridges that Amin Rihani worked so hard to establish.