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Richard T. Antoun

richard antoun, richard t. antoun
Richard "Dick" T Antoun March 31, 1932, in Worcester, Massachusetts – December 4, 2009, in Vestal, New York was an American anthropologist who specialized in Islamic and Middle Eastern studies He was a Professor Emeritus at Binghamton University

His work centered on religion and the social organization of tradition in Islamic law and ethics, among other things He was stabbed to death in his office at Binghamton University in December 2009; a Saudi graduate student pleaded guilty to killing him, and was sentenced to 15 years in prison


  • 1 Education and academic work
  • 2 Murder
    • 21 Al-Zahrani legal proceedings and guilty plea
  • 3 Publications
    • 31 Major works
    • 32 Select other publications
  • 4 See also
  • 5 References
  • 6 External links

Education and academic work

Antoun grew up in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, graduating from Shrewsbury High School in 1949 He received his BA from Williams College 1953; History, his MA from Johns Hopkins University 1955; International Relations, and his PhD from Harvard University 1963; Anthropology and Middle Eastern studies; thesis on "Kufr al-Ma: A Village in Jordan, A Study of Social Structure and Social Control" Antoun was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and a Fulbright Scholar

In October 1959 Antoun began his career with ethnographic field work in Jordan Over the next four decades, he lived intermittently in Kufr al-Ma—a small Sunni Muslim village—studying the Qur'an with the local self-educated preacher He also did field work in Beirut, Lebanon 1965 and 1966, Gorgan, Iran 1971 and 1972, and Katerini, Greece 1993

During his career he taught at the Manchester University in England 1960–62, Harvard University 1963, Indiana University 1963–70, American University of Beirut 1965–67, Binghamton University 1970–2009, University of Chicago 1977, and Cairo University 1989

At Binghamton he became the Bartle Professor of Anthropology He was “a sociocultural anthropologist who conducted research among peasants in Jordan, urbanites in Lebanon, peasant farmers in Iran, and migrants in Texas and Greece” In 1981 he was elected President of the Middle East Studies Association of North America In 1999 he became a Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at Binghamton, and continued to conduct research and hold an office on campus He did not teach many classes, nor could he chair any dissertation committees, because of his emeritus status


Binghamton University campus police were called to Antoun’s office at 1:41 pm on December 4, 2009 Antoun, 77 years old at the time, had been stabbed four times in the chest with a 6-inch kitchen blade while in his office, suffered a punctured lung, and died

The suspect was still in the university's Science 1 building when police arrived; they tackled the suspect, and frisked him When they inquired about Antoun, witnesses said he replied, "Yeah, I just stabbed him" The knife used in the stabbing was later recovered

The suspect, Abdulsalam S al-Zahrani, was a 46-year-old Binghamton University cultural anthropology graduate student from Saudi Arabia Antoun had worked with al-Zahrani, and had known him for quite some time Antoun served on the three-person doctoral dissertation committee that was to judge al-Zahrani's dissertation on "Sacred Voice, Profane Sight: The Senses, Cosmology, and Epistemology in Early Arabic Culture", see external link below for related article

One of al-Zahrani’s roommates, who lived with him for three weeks, said the suspect spoke of financial problems, often mentioned death, and said he was being persecuted because he was Muslim “I said he was acting oddly, like a terrorist,” said Souleymane Sakho, a graduate student from Senegal "He was all the time shouting in Arabic, shouting threats, insulting this country for no reason"

Sakho said that he told his academic adviser about al-Zahrani, and the adviser referred him to the school’s counseling center Sakho said that the head of the counseling center suggested he avoid interaction with al-Zahrani, and move out of the apartment

Al-Zahrani legal proceedings and guilty plea

After his arraignment in Town Court in Vestal, New York, al-Zahrani was charged with second-degree murder, and held without bail at the Broome County Sheriff’s Correctional Facility

The Saudi Gazette reported that the Saudi Consulate in New York retained a lawyer to represent al-Zahrani New York City lawyer Frederica L Miller represented him Members of the consulate met with Al-Zahrani, and the consulate was in touch with his family, including one relative who lived in the US

Senator Charles Schumer followed the case, and was in touch with the District Attorney's office This was Broome County's second case involving the prosecution of a foreign suspect in two years; in 2008, Miladin Kovacevic was charged with beating a Binghamton student, and a Serb consulate worker helped Kovacevic leave the US after posting bail Schumer said: "We have to make sure it's not like the situation where this person flees the county The law enforcement authority says they're keeping a careful eye there"

On January 22, 2010, al-Zahrani was indicted by a grand jury in Broome County Court for intentionally stabbing and killing Antoun, and charged with second degree murder A conviction of second-degree murder would carry a minimum sentence of 15 years to life, and a maximum of 25 years to life, under New York statutes Al-Zahrani remained in Broome County jail without bail His legal expenses were paid by the Saudi Consulate

On February 4, 2010, al-Zahrani pleaded not guilty to one felony count of second-degree murder, and declined a bail hearing before Broome County Judge Martin E Smith

Al-Zahrani's attorney wrote in a notice of intent to use psychiatric evidence that she filed in Broome County Court on July 21, 2010, that psychiatric evidence would show he lacked substantial capacity to know or appreciate the nature and consequences of his conduct, and was "psychotic and suffering from a longstanding major mental illness, schizoaffective disorder" Evidence was to include testimony from the defense's medical experts, Steven Simring and Charles Patrick Ewing

A competency hearing was held after mental health professionals concluded that al-Zahrani was mentally incompetent to understand his charge or be tried On February 22, 2011, Broome County Judge Joseph F Cawley Jr ordered Al-Zahrani be placed in the custody of a state psychiatric facility for treatment, until he was deemed mentally competent to be tried No new trial date was set, and the order was good for up to year Al-Zahrani was to go on trial when deemed mentally competent

Al-Zahrani pleaded guilty on May 20, 2011, to one felony count of first-degree manslaughter, and agreed not to appeal his sentence In September 2011 he was sentenced in Broome County Court to 15 years in prison He is to be deported to Saudi Arabia after he serves his prison sentence


Major works

Antoun left behind a legacy in his writings He wrote Understanding Fundamentalism: Christian, Islamic and Jewish Movements in 2001; the book came out just before the September 11 attacks Sally K Gallagher reviewed it for Sociology of Religion, writing that the book: "is a readable overview and introduction to how conservative elites and communities in three monotheistic religious traditions orient themselves to modernity" Peter A Huff, reviewing it, said that Antoun wrote about how:

his presence became increasingly problematic as the climate of the cultural environment dramatically changed Dialogue turned argumentative, and outspoken villagers, especially young men, attempted to convert him to Islam From Antoun's perspective, he was witnessing the birth of a local strain of fundamentalism

Scott R Appleby, reviewing it for the Middle East Quarterly, wrote: "There is much to commend in this general and accessible overview"

Antoun later wrote Documenting Transnational Migration: Jordanian Men Working and Studying in Europe, Asia and North America, published in 2005 Ronald R Stockton, writing in The Middle East Journal, described Antoun's examination of the sons of a Jordanian village who had been sent abroad and returned:

He found a range of experiences, many different from what one might expect Some findings are surprising, for example, comparing Jordanians in the Gulf with those in Pakistan or the West Jordanians share language and culture with the Gulf but were "encapsulated in residence, work, and leisure activities" and saw "surprisingly little of the indigenous inhabitants" In Pakistan, because they did not speak Urdu, they were isolated and restricted to campus life The Pakistani family structure also made it difficult to meet local women In the West, in spite of religious and cultural differences, they found it easier to meet local people Greece was the most open society they encountered The students "acculturated rapidly, and assimilated to Greek society and culture" Six of the nine married Greek women, four settling permanently in Greece In Pakistan only one of 27 married a Pakistani In Saudi Arabia the number was zero

Select other publications">edit]

  • "Institutionalized deconfrontation: A case study of conflict resolution among tribal peasants in Jordan," in Conflict Resolution in The Arab World, ed by P Salem, American University of Beirut, 1997
  • "The Case of the Lost Tooth," in How People Negotiate: Resolving Disputes in Different Cultures, edited by Guy Oliver Faure, Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2003
  • "Fundamentalism, Bureaucratization, and the State's Co-optation of Religion: A Jordanian Case Study", The International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol 38, No 3, August 2006

See also

  • List of Williams College people


  1. ^ Drellich, Evan, "Richard Antoun's widow: Society has lost a wonderful peacemaker", Ithaca Journal, December 5, 2009, accessed December 10, 2009
  2. ^ Nicodemus, Aaron, "Professor spent career seeking peace; Grad student charged in fatal stabbing", Worcester Telegram & Gazette, December 7, 2009, accessed December 8, 2009
  3. ^ "Huff, Peter A, "Understanding Fundamentalism: Christian, Islamic, and Jewish Movements book review," ''International Journal on World Peace'', March 1, 2003, accessed December 6, 2009" Findarticlescom Retrieved March 2, 2011 
  4. ^ "Curriculum Vitae; June 14, 2005, accessed December 9, 2009" Archived from the original on July 19, 2011 Retrieved March 2, 2011 
  5. ^ a b Standora, Leo, "Prof Emeritus Richard T Antoun stabbed, killed at Binghamton University by grad student: cops," New York Daily News, December 5, 2009, accessed December 7, 2009
  6. ^ "Saudi graduate student charged with murder of New York professor; The professor was stabbed in his campus office on Friday, and the weapon was later recovered, authorities said," Gulf News, December 7, 2009, accessed December 7, 2009
  7. ^ Schmidt, Michael S, "Binghamton Campus Grieves for Slain Professor", The New York Times, December 7, 2009, accessed December 29, 2009
  8. ^ Al-Zahrani, Abdulsalam June 16, 2006 "Sacred Voice, Profane Sight: The Senses, Cosmology, and Epistemology in Early Islamic History" Numen 56 4: 417 doi:101163/156852709X439641 
  9. ^ ""Roommates and Neighbors Speak about Al-Zahrani", ''Fox 40'', December 7, 2009, accessed December 7, 2009" Wiczcom Retrieved March 2, 2011 
  10. ^ Schmidt, Michael, "Binghamton Student Says He Warned Officials," The New York Times, December 6, 2009, accessed December 7, 2009
  11. ^ Baker, Al, "Student Held in Killing of Binghamton Professor", The New York Times, December 5, 2009, accessed December 6, 2009
  12. ^ "Saudi Embassy Reportedly Secures Lawyer For Al-Zahrani," WBNG News, December 10, 2009, accessed December 10, 2009 Archived December 12, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ "Embassy in US assigns lawyer to Saudi accused," , December 10, 2009, accessed December 10, 2009]
  14. ^ Swartz, Debbie, "Saudi consulate will pay legal fees of man accused of killing Binghamton University professor", December 10, 2009, accessed December 10, 2009
  15. ^ "Schumer Watching Al-Zahrani Case", WBNG News, December 10, 2009, accessed December 10, 2009 Archived December 14, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^
  17. ^ ""Al-Zahrani Charged With Second Degree Murder," ''Fox 40 WICZ TV'', January 22, 2010, accessed January 27, 2010" Wiczcom Retrieved March 2, 2011 
  18. ^ "Al-Zahrani indicted in killing of BU prof", Press & Sun-Bulletin, January 22, 2010, accessed January 27, 2010
  19. ^ "Al-Zahrani pleads not guilty to murder", Press & Sun-Bulletin, February 4, 2010, accessed February 17, 2010
  20. ^ a b "Lawyer claims student accused of killing BU professor suffers from mental illness" Press & Sun-Bulletin Retrieved October 20, 2010 
  21. ^ "Court: Al-Zahrani not competent to stand trial", Press & Sun-Bulletin, February 22, 2011, accessed March 2, 2011
  22. ^ a b c
  23. ^ Gallagher, Sally K, Understanding Fundamentalism: Christian, Islamic and Jewish Movements book review, Sociology of Religion September 22, 2003, accessed December 6, 2009
  24. ^ "''Parallels in Muslim, Christian, and Jewish FundamentalismUnderstanding Fundamentalism: Christian, Islamic, and Jewish Movements'' book review, ''The World and I'', December 1, 2004, accessed December 6, 2009" Accessmylibrarycom December 1, 2004 Retrieved March 2, 2011 
  25. ^ Appleby, R Scott, Understanding Fundamentalism: Christian, Islamic, and Jewish Movements book review, Middle East Quarterly, January 1, 2003, accessed December 6, 2009
  26. ^ Stockton, Ronald R, Documenting Transnational Migration: Jordanian Men Working and Studying in Europe, Asia and North America book review, The Middle East Journal, January 1, 2006, accessed December 9, 2009
  27. ^ Binghamton University bio, accessed December 7, 2009 Archived June 18, 2009, at the Wayback Machine

External links

  • Binghamton University bio
  • Curriculum Vitae; June 14, 2005

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