Fred Halliday died yesterday, and I first heard of his existence, via Normblog, today. The Guardian has an obituary, which as you'd expect casts Halliday as one of them, in the negative meaning of the term. Yet Norm is more serious than the Guardian, and if he's mourning the passing of an important scholar, I decided to look a bit further. It took only a few minutes to find this list of articles he's written in recent years. David Hartman taught me many years ago that the best way to show respect for the passing of a scholar is to read something he or she has written (this was on the death of Gershom Scholem), so I picked two of Halliday's articles from the list. This one, about Palestine Tibet and other entities that did or didn't attain statehood, and this one in which he reported his thoughts on a visit to Auschwitz.
The articles demonstrate a breadth and depth of knowledge which are mostly lacking in public discourse. More important, they express an ideological commitment tempered by rational investigation. I get the feeling that he and I might have disagreed on some rather important matters in the areas where our expertize overlapped (he knew about lots of things I don't, and I know about some things he didn't). Yet we would have been able to disagree on rational grounds; indeed, we'd have been able to explain to each other in calm tones where our differences came from, and we'd each have come away from the discussion at least with an intellectual acceptance of the sources of the other fellow's positions. We could have had a rational discussion, in short.
Not something to take for granted, unfortunately. So may he rest in peace, but his intellectual example continue to reverberate.