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Obituary for Khalil Ibrahim Hannah Semaan

Professor Emeritus of Arabic
6 March, 1920 – 16 October, 2017

Professor Khalil SemaanIt is with great sadness that we announce that the long life of Khalil I. H. Semaan came to a sudden but painless and dignified end on the 16th of October 2017.

His family celebrates his life as a husband, father, grandfather, relative, friend, teacher, and colleague. We also remember his kindness and his determination to put his voice and resources behind the causes of peace, justice, and dignity for all.  

As a son of Safita, Syria, born at the end of the Ottoman Empire, Khalil experienced a remarkable life that brought him to the United States, where he proudly attended both Georgetown and Columbia Universities. After earning his Ph.D. from Columbia, he became a prominent and oft-cited academic in Classical and Near Eastern Studies as a full professor (later emeritus) at the State University of New York at Binghamton.  

During the course of a long and influential career, Khalil published dozens of academic articles and several books, including Linguistics in the Middle Ages: Phonetic Studies in Early Islam, Islam and the Medieval West, and The Crusades: Other Experiences, Alternate Perspectives. In all of these publications, he worked hard to inspire a Western understanding of Arab language, culture, and history and to eradicate the West's misunderstandings, biases, and racism. His indefatigable will to spread this knowledge kept him at the typewriter and in the classroom and took him to the four corners of the earth.

Remaining vital, cogent, and good humored to his last day, Khalil left us at 97 while out for a walk in his newly adopted home of Malmö, Sweden, where he lived with his wife and companion of 58 years, Aline Semaan (née Elofson). He leaves behind Aline; sons, Jan Jeffery and Johan Nicholas; daughter, Ingrid Emily Theresa; grandchildren, Olivia, Jana, Alec, and Maya; and hundreds of relatives, friends, students, and colleagues.

We ask that any expressions of remembrance or thanks be donated to a center of higher education or an organization involved in the rights or sustenance of the poor or oppressed.

Last Updated: 11/6/17