x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Ibrahim Ibrahim, early adviser to UAE, dies in Washington, DC

The distinguished Arab scholar Ibrahim Ibrahim, who acted as an adviser to the UAE Government soon after the country's formation, has died aged 75.

The distinguished Arab scholar Ibrahim Ibrahim, who acted as an adviser to the UAE Government soon after the country's formation, has died aged 75. Dr Ibrahim became a senior adviser to the UAE's Foreign Minister in 1972, a year after the country was founded, and conducted an international seminar for the country's diplomats with experts from the US, Europe and elsewhere.

He later became the director of the Centre for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University in Washington DC. Dr Fatma al Sayegh, a professor of UAE and Gulf history at UAE University in Al Ain, and who studied at Georgetown University, described Dr Ibrahim as "one of the finest Arab scholars in the West". Dr al Sayegh said Dr Ibrahim was comparable in stature to his Palestinian contemporaries, Edward Said, the academic and Palestinian rights activist, and Dr Hisham Sharabi, who also worked at Georgetown.

"He was part of this generation who emigrated from the Arab world and went to the West," she said. "They made a valuable contribution to the West's understanding of the Arab world. Being a bridge between the Arab world and the West benefited both sides." Born in Palestine, Dr Ibrahim grew up in a village called Zeita when the region was under British control. He studied in Jerusalem and spent the 1950s as a teacher and education official in Kuwait.

He continued his studies in Germany and in 1967 completed a doctorate at Oxford University on 20th century intellectual trends in Egypt. After teaching in England and at the American University of Beirut, he became an adviser to the UAE's foreign minister before spending two years in the country as a businessman. In 1979 he joined Georgetown University as a research professor and in 1990 began a three-year term as director of the institute's Centre for Contemporary Arab Studies. He retired in 1994.

Clovis Maksoud, the director of the Centre for the Global South at Washington's American University, said Dr Ibrahim helped to make the Arab studies centre one of the finest in the world. Dr Maksoud said Dr Ibrahim helped to found a centre for diplomacy in the UAE and was "one of the pioneers in institutionalising the study of diplomacy". "He made very great contributions for a man who was so humble. He was modest, authentic and committed to the people of Palestine," he said.

Dr Ibrahim, who died of cancer on Nov 30 at his home in Washington, is survived by his wife, Mary McDavid, two brothers and two sisters. dbardsley@thenational.ae