“Edward Said, Roy Mottahedeh, Fatema Mernissi.” Edward Said we already know about. His “Orientalism” was an attack on all the great Western scholars of Islam, claiming that they were nothing more than handmaids of imperialism. It was pointed out that many of the greatest Orientalists were not mentioned by Said at all, perhaps because they came not from England or France and thus had no connection to Western imperialism in the Middle East and North Africa. It was pointed out by Bernard Lewis that Westerners became Orientalists out of curiosity about the languages and peoples of the East. That curiosity is a Western trait, and Said simply could not believe it, could not trust that there could be such a thing as a disinterested desire to study such matters. Lewis, and others, also showed that Said’s book was filled with historical howlers, including Said’s insistence that Muslims conquered Byzantium some 600 years before they actually did — conquered it before the Arab conquest of North Africa. Said has been demolished by so many real historians, and lately by Robert Irwin for his ignorance of the Orientalists, and now by Ibn Warraq in his “Defending the West: A Critique of Edward Said,” that save for the most loyal MESA-Nostrans, nothing much of Said remains where he once seemed to bestride the world like a colossus.
As for Roy Mottahedeh, a professor at Harvard and a great booster of that thrusting young academic, Noah “After Jihad” Feldman (who has sammy-glickishly obtained his heart’s desire, a job, with tenure, at Harvard Law School, where apparently no one on the faculty knew enough about Islam to see right through Feldman). He disgraced himself long ago, in an Op/Ed in the Times in the fall of 2001, with his claim that “Jihad” and the “Crusades” were identical in nature. He is cleverer and better educated than most MESA-Nostrans; the best thing in his book on Khomeini is a line he borrows from Robert Benchley. But he remains a Defender of the Faith like many of far less ability than he, such as Esposito and Ernst. It’s a puzzlement.
Fatima Mernissi is a supposed “defender of women in Islam” who has drawn back from that position, for she has sensed that the study of women in Islam has led to Islam itself being subject to critical examination. She has decided to be loyal to Islam and has been of late attributing the mistreatment of women under Islam not to anything in Islam, but simply ascribed it to “cultural” factors, which, presumably, are disconnected from Islam.
Still others in the same line include Neil MacMaster, a great believer in the perfidy of the French, who according to MacMaster have for decades been whipping themselves up into a racist fury about Muslims. Yet MacMaster never thinks to explain why it is, if there was this racist fury against Muslims, that France blithely allowed into its country millions of Muslims. They were allowed in first as single men. Then, in the hope that such a policy would diminish the amount of Muslim crime and other asocial behavior (which is prompted by Islam), the French allowed a policy of letting those men bring their “families” — which turned out to mean plural wives and lots and lots of children.
MacMaster’s essay on “Islamophobia and the “Algerian Problem’ in France” is a classic of blaming the victim, of pretending that Muslims everywhere have not been making war on Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, but rather, it is those mad Americans who have “constructed” the Muslim enemy just as, for decades, the very different French have also found it necessary to “construct” that Muslim enemy. Amazing how those blacks in the Sudan and southern Nigeria, and those Hindus in Bali and Bangladesh and Pakistan, and those Christians in Indonesia and Pakistan, have all found it necessary to create, to make up, to fabricate, to “construct” a Muslim enemy out of the entirely inoffensive Muslim populations in the lands they inhabit.
Then there is Maria Rosa Menocal, whose book on Cordoba, “The Ornament of the World,” is a comical compendium of every clichÃ© and myth about Andalucia, and the wonders of its “convivencia” under Muslim rule. Maria Rosa Menocal, whose field is romance languages, somehow decided that she would make a scholarly contribution to a future “convivencia” and so produced a book that contains a bibliography that fails to list any of the most important scholarly works on Islamic Spain, including that of Levi-Provencal. But this has apparently not chastened the Director of the Whitney Humanities Program at Yale, so that she might quietly withdraw from her embarrassing forays into Muslim history.
There are still others in the same vein. The ecstatic reception of this book might itself be the object of study:
“There is no Muslim enemy. In the 11th century the First Crusaders constructed him to cover spurious conquests and wanton killings. In the 21st century the New Crusaders reconstruct him to cover global asymmetries and moral blunders. Both sets of Crusaders are zealots with feet of clay. Their opposite is Eqbal Ahmad. Ahmad was an educator with a heart of gold. He was also a tireless, fearless agonist for justice. It is in his vision that these essays are cast and to his memory that they are collectively dedicated. This volume holds out true hope. Its message will resonate for all who look beyond Crusades to imagine, then construct a new world order without Muslim enemies.” –Bruce B. Lawrence, Nancy and Jeffrey Marcus Humanities Professor, Duke University
“A scholarly work of exceptional clarity, forthrightness and position taking. This brilliant work pulls no punches as it provides answers to and refutes the clichÃ©s (conventional wisdom) of today – that there is a clash of civilizations and that militant Islam is on the march threatening Western civilization. The most comprehensive group of essays you will find which rebuts assertions made by establishment and neo-conservative scholars . This book provides answers and arguments many people have been waiting for and many have needed.” –Ahmed Rashid, author of Taliban and Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia
“A collection of first-rate essays that offer much-needed critiques of parochial, xenophobic, or merely simplistic Western approaches to Islam, Muslims, and the Muslim-majority world. These writings offer acute analyses of, and responses to, those writers who ought to know better (e.g., Bernard Lewis), those who don’t want to know better (e.g., V.S. Naipaul), and those who need to know better (e.g., Robert Kaplan). Collectively, they expose the faults of the “clash of civilizations” approach to the contemporary world and remind us how much it has become a self-fulfilling prophecy recently. This volume needs to be on the reading list of every thoughtful American before it is too late.” –William A. Graham, Murray A. Albertson Professor of Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University
“A book of major importance, revealing the extraordinary strength of Islamophobic prejudice in modern society worldwide. The authors demonstrate the depth of this dehumanizing problem with painful clarity, and they challenge us to move beyond the sinister opposition of ‘us’ and ‘them.’” –Carl Ernst, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
These enthusiasts include plummy-voiced Ahmed Rashid, an Anglophone Pakistani who on the first page of his book “Jihad” denies the meaning of that word, and proceeds to describe it as an internal spiritual struggle, every bit as misleading as Karen Armstrong at her worst.
Carl Ernst has been the recipient of a tribute at JW:
I suspect that Carl Ernst’s Following Muhammad would not be recognized by Snouck Hurgronje, or St. Clair Tisdall, or Sir William Muir, or Tor Andrae, or Maxime Rodinson, or David Margoliouth, or Joseph Schacht, or Ignaz Goldziher, as presenting a recognizable view of Muhammad. On the other hand, the straightforward presentation of Muhammad’s life as set down by the most authoritative Muslim biographers, which is what Robert Spencer has given us in his forthcoming (October 9) biography of Muhammad will no doubt be dismissed as “polemical” and “unscholarly” by Ernst and three-quarters of the membership of MESA Nostra. The remaining Â¼, however, will be secretly delighted with Spencer’s book, even if they will not be so brave as to assign it(though they may list it among “Other Reading” on their syllabi, giving the students a hint). They will only wish that they had dared to produce something similar, but they had too much, departmentally, to lose. It required an intelligent outsider to do the necessary job, and Spencer came along and did it.
Carl Ernst’s book on Muhammad leaves out all the unsettling and disturbing and indelicate parts. Instead, it gives us something as if viewed through Karen Armstrong’s vie-en-rose tinted glasses,
Carl Ernst is too modest. He is a prize-winning author, recognized for his services to the better worldwide appreciation of Muhammad with his book. Following Muhammad is a masterpiece of haute vulgarization — what Robert Spencer only pretends to be able to do — and might as well hold the haute. That book, or rather that series of essays, is by authorial intention devoid of the usual apparatus criticus of scholarly books. Apparently Carl Ernst wished to put off, off, those scholarly lendings, and to let down his hair, and deliberately present an “unscholarly text” (no doubt contributors to the Encyclopedia of Islam will sniff, but let them — what do they know?), easy on the footnotes, in order to find and please that wider audience that perhaps had eluded him with his previous scholarly contribution, The Shambhala Guide to Sufism.
I am informed, given Ernst’s contempt, documented here at Jihad Watch, for non-scholarly presses, that that was a book that Clarendon Press would dearly like to have published, if Shambhala Publishing hadn’t gotten there first. And as for the reaction to that book in the Departments of Islamic Studies at Leiden, Aix-en-Province, and Cambridge at the news, later on, that the author of The Shambhala Guide to Sufism had received tenure at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill — well, I don’t have to tell you.
Last year I offered a write-in nomination for Karen Armstrong to be awarded the King Faisal Prize, in the category of Services to Islam. But apparently Armstrong did not make the Saudi grade. Perhaps her bizarre flitting from this to that (what is it this week from the fingers and mind of Karen Armstrong? A treatise on Buddhism? How to Bring World Peace? The Search for Bridey Murphy?) offended them, or perhaps there was something in her favorite forms of recreation that might have offended those dour and judgmental Saudi judges. She didn’t win, and I suspect now that she won’t. She’s become, in the Western world, too well-known and too much a figurine of fun.
But I have another candidate waiting in the wings, not quite so obviously silly as Karen Armstrong. True, there is that little matter of all those Shambhala shambolic sham books on Sufism, which Saudis would hardly find to their liking but there is one way to free those judges of their doubtful minds and warm their cold cold hearts. And that way is to point not only to the hagiographical Following Muhammad but far more important, to take note of the tireless toiling in the vineyard of the Lor– no, make that toiling or perhaps lolling in the conquered oases of Muhammad. Let us point to Ernst’s ongoing effort — really, beyond the call of dhimmi duty — in inveigling or forcing non-Muslim students, right in the heart of what Saudis no doubt think of as hopelessly Christian evangelical country (unaware as they must be of the special case of Chapel Hill, and even of North Carolina, the state that in the last century produced, inter alia, Ava Gardner and Walter Clay Lowdermilk, and is hardly part of the Deep South), to read not only Sells’s Approaching the Qur’an but also large doses of both Esposito and Armstrong.
If such an achievement, which required ignoring criticism by parents and students, does not merit recognition as a Service to Islam, and beyond that, a well-endowed (va-va-va-voom) prize, offered in recognition of that recognition, then one hardly knows what would.
And thus it is for me both a rare privilege, and an honor, to nominate at this very posting, at this most relevant website, Professor Carl Ernst, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, to be the 2007 recipient of the King Faisal Prize.
I am sure a great many people, some of them no doubt Professor Ernst’s faculty colleagues, will be happy to second that nomination.
Please note, students of prizes, that in the categories of science and medicine, the King Faisal awards go to recipients who are genuinely and entirely worthy. The results are skewed only by one thing — no one identifiably Jewish has ever won the King Faisal Prize. That does narrow the number of potentially worthy candidates. The Infidels who have won the prize in the category “Services to Islam” deserve to be treated as the object of a separate study. For all you intrepid undergraduates casting about for a thesis topic, here’s the ungainly title you are free to use: “Paying the Scholarly Jizyah: Winners of the King Faisal Prize for Services to Islam.” Make it a prosopographic analysis, year by year, Infidel winner by Infidel winner. Make Sir Lewis Namier proud. [September 1, 2006]
Ernst is the apologist for Islam whose antics first prompted the notion of Asking For Syllabi at Jihad Watch. It was Ernst who pushed the idea of having Chapel Hill freshmen read Michael Sells’ “Approaching the Qur’an: The Lyrical Suras” as a way to teach them “about Islam.”
Bruce Lawrence has been dissected at JW by Robert Spencer:
“Bruce Lawrence is the Duke professor who says that jihad means “being a better student, a better colleague, a better business partner. Above all, to control one’s anger.” Now he has joined to that bit of wisdom the assertion that Osama bin Laden needs to take his place among the world’s statesmen. Unfortunately, were he ever to meet Osama in person, I expect that the terrorist mastermind might wisely and gently differ with his definition of jihad. “Do not await anything from us but Jihad, resistance and revenge,” he told the American people in 2002. I guess he meant “Do not await anything from us but being better students, better colleagues, better business partners, and controlling our anger.”
All that said, I expect that Lawrence’s book will be a useful sourcebook, showing Osama to be something quite different from how Lawrence characterizes him. “Prof publishes bin Laden’s words,” from the Duke University Chronicle, with thanks to Ruth King:
Bruce Lawrence, professor of religion, is publishing a book of Osama bin Laden’s speeches and writings.
Only days after the fourth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, a Duke professor is trying to explain the motivations of the tragedy’s organizer–jihadist Osama bin Laden.
Bruce Lawrence, professor of religion, edited and wrote the forward to the book Messages to the World–The Statements of Osama bin Laden. The text, which goes into print today and will arrive in bookstores in the fall, is the first to include the translations of the Arabic writings of bin Laden.
The book features a collection of 22 speeches and interviews given by the leader of the terrorist organization al Qaeda between 1994 and 2004….
“If you read him in his own words, he sounds like somebody who would be a very high-minded and welcome voice in global politics,” Lawrence said.
After analyzing his writings, Lawrence said he concluded bin Laden does not have an ultimate goal that he wants to achieve in his jihad but that he does have a specific target.
He doesn’t have an ultimate goal, eh? Apparently Lawrence did not read the writings he was editing all that closely. Osama makes it quite clear in his message to the American people of November 24, 2002 that he is waging “Jihad in the way of Allah so that Allah’s Word and religion reign Supreme.” He criticizes the United States for failing to adopt Islamic law: “You are the nation who, rather than ruling by the Shariah of Allah in its Constitution and Laws, choose to invent your own laws as you will and desire. You separate religion from your policies, contradicting the pure nature which affirms Absolute Authority to the Lord and your Creator.”
What, then, is his goal? To restore the caliphate and Sharia in the Islamic world, and then by offensive jihad to extend it over the non-Muslim world. This is emphasized not only by Osama but by other jihadists around the world. How could Lawrence have missed it? [September 15, 2005]
And then there is William A. Graham: “Graham is a well-known apologist for Islam, and he dances to Leila Ahmed’s tune, and possibly that of Diana Eck as well. Both Eck and Graham were enlisted by Ahmed in an attempt to get Omid Safi appointed to the Divinity School. But that was a bit too much even for Harvard’s often-compliant faculty at the Divinity School. Graham somehow has managed to elide the tenure problem; denied it by his own department, he ended up as an administrator when a hasty replacement had to be found for his predecessor. One wonders if, as part of the deal, he was given, most irregularly, tenure — despite that departmental vote.”
Here are some excerpts from a 2003 speech given by Graham, Dean of Harvard Divinity School, at an alumni event in Washington, D.C.:
“Everyone, of course, posits September 11 as the watershed moment when Islam impinges on consciousness. That is a very sad commentary on our knowledge about this major world tradition of culture and of religion. What is also sad is the kind of attitude that has been furthered by my colleague at Harvard, Samuel Huntington.”
“Starting with September 11 this so-called “clash of civilizations,” to take the title of article and book, has now become a watchword of foreign policy, probably not only here but in other places in the Western world. In large part, this happened because it felt good as a basic premise for those who like to think about the world in terms of “the West and the rest.”
“Despite the sometimes admirable attempts of the current politicians here in the capital to make irenic comments about Islam and about Muslims, I am afraid actions are speaking louder than words. What I see, currently, is an unwillingness to think about Islam as anything except an “other” that belongs to some monolith that is the big, present danger in the world.”
“We have the proclaimed new “Green Menace” that is supposed to replace the Communist Red Menace of our previous xenophobia. This one happens to be the xenophobia of the moment, and I fear that it may go on being that for some time.” [March 27, 2007]
For the full speech click on this link: http://www.hds.harvard.edu/news/bulletin/articles/graham.html
Ernst, Graham, Esposito — these are the people who find impressive a collection of essays that, like the crazed conspiracy theorists who claim that the C.I.A., or the Mossad, or the C.I.A. and the Mossad together, were behind the 9/11/2001 attack, and insists that there is nothing about Muslim behavior, or the ideology of Islam, that should worry Infidels. The “war on terror” is merely part of an attempt by ruling circles in the American government to “construct an enemy ” to replace the Soviet Union. It’s all a fiction, designed to keep the arms industry afloat, designed to make Americans ready for that police state that our ruling classes are just itching to impose. They are impressed by Neil MacMaster, by Fatema Mernissi, by Maria Rosa Menocal. Impressed, impressed, impressed.
Let us ask the relatives of murdered Buddhist monks in Thailand, or relatives of the two million non-Muslim blacks in the southern Sudan, or the relatives of Christian schoolgirls decapitated in Indonesia, or the relatives of Hindus murdered in Bangladesh by Muslims exiting from mosques, if they think that the “Islamic threat” exists, or is, as the authors of the Qureshi/Sells anthology maintain, they are merely imagining a threat from an imaginary and “constructed” Islamic enemy. “Constructed.”
And finally, the syllabus offers “Islam and the Moral Economy: the Challenge of Capitalism” by Charles Tripp. Tripp is a lecturer at the School of Oriental and African Studies, now a well-known hotbed of antisemitism, with put-upon Jewish students beginning to complain openly about the scandalous situation. Tripp himself served as the co-editor of a book, “Israel’s Holocaust and the Politics of Nationhood” by one Idith Zerthal.
The book is an Israeli “revisionist” attack on Israel, akin to the work of Ilan Pappe, which claims that Israel has exploited “the memory of the Holocuast in order to define and legitimise its existence and politics.” But in 1948, Israel was full of the survivors of the death camps, or those who had managed to escape the camps, and it received others later. And even after the war, the British as Mandatory Authority, in defiance of their responsibilities, turned away ships laden with refugees attempting to arrive in Mandatory Palestine, even firing on them, just as had happened to refugee-laden ships just before and during the war, that were turned away from “Palestine” or never allowed to set sail for it in the first place. In many cases they were either sunk with all aboard (see the case of the Struma, sunk in the Black Sea), or forced to return to German ports, where the frantic human cargo was off-loaded to certain death.
Only a moral idiot would claim that in such circumstances survivors and relatives of survivors should not be permanently and deeply affected, not just by the Nazi murders, but by the spectacle of all those who did not lift a finger, who actively prevented Jews from being rescued, even in Mandatory Palestine itself. Why should not “the Holocaust” have been studied, and taken in, and a lesson drawn from it – that lesson being that, in the end, the Jews could only rely on themselves, and that they needed a state capable of surviving in order to do it? What is wrong, or sinister, about that? What would be strange is if the Israelis had not been affected by such history? In any case, in 1948 not a soul in the Attlee Administration — certainly not the anti-Semite Ernest Bevin — was willing to help. See R. H. Crossman’s intimate account of that Labor government of 1948 which, as he put it from his inside knowledge, was determined to “destroy the Jews of Palestine.”
Besides, as every educated person knows, for decades after the war there was an amazing, almost total silence about what is called “the Holocaust.” The Israelis did not make much of it. Israel was preoccupied with taking in hundreds of thousands of refugees, first from Europe, and then from all the Arab countries, where small and large-scale attacks on Jews had steadily been taking place after the war, and increased to terrifying levels during and after the 1948 war, in such places as Libya, Iraq, Morocco, Egypt, and Yemen, where in “Operation Magic Carpet,” in 1951, nearly the entire ancient community of Yemenite Jews had been held as chattel slaves for centuries and murdered at will (see the studies on the condition of Jews in Yemen by R. S. Serjeant, who can hardly be called sympathetic to Jews or unsoliticitous toward Islam).
Tripp’s connection to this ahistorical and repellent work, in which Zertal “argues that the centrality of the Holocuast has led a culture of death and victimhood” — my god, “a culture of death and victimhood” when for more than fifty years the Israelis have managed to minimize, for the sake of its own population’s sanity, the full extent of the historic mistreatment of Jews not only in Western Christendom but at this point far more importantly, in the Lands of Islam. There needs to be a book that will put paid, forever, to the dreamy belief that antisemitism in the Muslim world is an import from Europe, as Bernard Lewis has, with an air of authority but ultimately unconvincingly, maintained.
Tripp’s book, however, is, as the title suggests, one more of those that appears to believe that in Islam the ills and sins of capitalism are absent, that — just as Muslim proselytizers like to pretend — Islam is capable of a “social justice” that the cruel world of capitalist Infidels does not understand. But anyone who has visited the Muslim Arab countries knows that the way to wealth in those countries is not so much through hard work, or entrepreneurial flair, but rather through access to political power. At the top, the Al-Saud, or Mubarak with his Family-and-Friends Plan, or the Assads, or Qaddafy, or the Al-Thani, Al-Sabah, Al-Khalifa, Al-Maktoum families in the sheiklets, obtain their vast wealth by simply seizing it. They rule; they take as much of the national wealth as they feel they can get away with. That’s it. And the maldistribution of wealth in “non-capitalist” Islamic countries is as bad, is worse, than anything in the benighted West. Look at the zamindars who still own much of Pakistan — and compare that with the situation in India.
Indeed, Tripp never discusses the refusal of the rich Arabs and Muslims to share their wealth with resource-poor (for natural resources and the disguised Jizyah of Infidel foreign aid are the only ways that the Muslim states have to acquire wealth) fellow Muslims of the umma. Save for sums raised for the families of those participating in violent Jihad (i.e., terrorists setting off bombs in Israel), the publics in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and other rich Muslim states are entirely uninterested in sharing their wealth with, say, the Muslims of Egypt, or Yemen, or Sudan, or — still more unlikely — with the Muslims of Indonesia (now coming to the end of its oil exports) or Pakistan. No, the assumption is that the Americans and Europeans have a duty — why, exactly? — to send tens of billions to Egypt, and to Pakistan, and billions to the “Palestinians,” and indeed to all Muslims who claim they need outside aid. It is not our problem, the Saudis and Kuwaitis and Qataris say. Suddenly that loyalty to fellow Muslims, a loyalty that is only when it comes to lining up with Muslims against Infidels, evanesces.
And then there is the basic question that Tripp’s book fails to answer. Why is it, that despite the ten trillion dollars received by Arab and other Muslim members of OPEC since 1973 alone, received because of an accident of geology, that not one of these states has managed to create a modern economy, that not one of these states has ceased to rely, almost totally, on foreign workers? What is it? Could it be, in Muslim countries, that Islam itself, the very nature, the atmospherics, the mental formation and attitudes that arise naturally in societies suffused with Islam, explains that economic backwardness? Could Tripp not have even hinted at the effect on economic development of the discouragement of individual enterprise? That discouragement that comes from discouraging all forms of individual autonomy, and the exercise of critical faculties, of free and skeptical inquiry that is necessary not only for science, but for the development of attitudes helpful in economic activity as well. Could Tripp find room for nothing about the negative effects of the encouragement of the habit of mental submission (so bad for science, so bad for entrepreneurial activity)? Could Tripp make no investigation, finally, and perhaps most importantly, of the inshallah-fatalism by which riches, like everything else, are seen as a gift from Allah, and unrelated to individual or collective effort?
After all, the great source of wealth of the Arabs — oil — has indeed not been the product of any effort on their part. A theme in Muslim Arab literature is that these oil deposits, and the revenues they generate, are not a geological accident, but a deliberate sign of Allah’s special dispensation toward the “best of people,” to whom he revealed the uncreated and immutable Qur’an, and in the Arabic language, and to the Prophet, himself an Arab. None of this is in Tripp. For him, nothing about Islam apparently holds the key to the behavior, attitudes, and outcomes, economic and otherwise, of Muslim societies.
This is the perfect book for Anita Weiss’s students to read, rather than studies about Islam and economic underdevelopment, such as Ernest Gellner’s “Muslim Societies” (few may remember that Gellner’s doctoral thesis was on Berber society) or those to be mined from the footnotes in the Ottoman studies of Rifa’at Abou-El-Hajj. Then there is Nikolai Todorov, whose “The Conquering Balkan Orthodox Merchant” suggests that Islam bred habits inimical not merely to the charging of interest, but of profit itself. L. S. Stavrianos has also dealt with the retarding effect of Islam on economic development in those eastern European lands that came under Ottoman rule. O. L. Barkan, the Turkish student of Braudel, wrote about Ottoman revenues in the 16th and 17th centuries, as has Niyazi Berkes, at McGill, on the role of religion in the late Ottoman Empire. Caglar Keyder has studied economic development in both Europe and the Ottoman domains. Finally, Bernard Lewis in “The Emergence of Modern Turkey” notes that the Ottoman merchant class was almost entirely non-Muslim — Greeks, Armenians, Jews. Few, if any, of these writers, appear to have been used by Tripp, and he nowhere suggests that there might be something about Islam — rather than the banal and obvious and usual suspects, i soliti ignoti, of Western “colonialism” and “imperialism” — that explains economic backwardness in the lands of Islam.
Oh, I forgot to add that there is, in this thoroughly-modern-millie of a college course, an audio-visual component, not on the list of Required Readings. There are two movies. One is about the splendors of Islam. And the second one is about the splendors of Islam, in all its rich profusion and welcome “diversity.” Remember, if you remember nothing else from this course: Islam is buffeted by powerful “global forces” that will not leave it alone. And Islam is not, I repeat not, “monolithic,” so don’t get any ideas about discussing, much less, criticizing, something called “Islam.” Unless of course you come not to bury, but to praise it. In that case, generalize away.
In fact, let’s end this weary session with a slide show. Get comfortable in your seats. Slides please. Pictures of Muslims worshipping in Cairo. In Delhi. In Jakarta. In Kano and Kansas City and the Comoros. At the huge new mosques in Rome, Granada, London, Paris, Rotterdam, Malmo. In Xinjiang, and Dearborn, and in Washington, D.C. Oh, the humanity. Oh, the diversity. The colorful clothes and headgear. And now shots of those Iftar dinners. The chicken with pita. The falafel. The curried lamb. Punjabi Iftars, Parisian Iftars, Iftars with those sights and smells. And of course, there are the things that cannot be shown on slides, or in movies, and communicated only with great difficulty in the kinds of texts that are now available. What are those things? Those things are the beliefs that someone who is a Believer naturally holds, based on a straightforward reading of the Qur’an and the Hadith. There is no way to convey that, except by imaginatively entering the mind of a Believer, and then reading those texts, reading them as a Believer who considers the Qur’an the uncreated and immutable Word of God, would read them, or who takes Muhammad as the Perfect Man, and reads what he says in the Hadith.
And that is the kind of thing that requires a cultivated intelligence, an imaginative sympathy, and the time to put in the study necessary. Few, in the hectic vacancy of today’s political class, have the time or inclination or ability to do so. Some rely on their young aides to take in the universe, and pre-digest it, and then to regurgitate the material in a form that the busy Senator or President can manage to comprehend. It isn’t the best way to come to comprehend Islam. There are those highly articulate people, such as Wafta Sultan and Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Ibn Warraq and Ali Sina, who have, in their own writings, made clear what Muslims believe, what they say among themselves rather than what they say when Infidels may possibly be eavesdropping. It is not hard to find their books, to read them, to fill out more and more of the picture. But if one is subject, at a young and impressionable age, to the likes of the course offered by Anita Weiss and her MESANostran ilk, a layer of confusion, of deliberate misdirection, is added, and must be mentally discarded or fought through before the truths about the texts and tenets and attitudes of Islam can indeed be comprehended.
Courses round and about Islam that do not further Infidel understanding, but rather are determinedly used to delay that understanding, can be found all over American college campuses. Many are far worse than “Islam and Global Forces.” It is one more example of the successful assault, from within, on the ability of Infidels to learn, to comprehend, and then to understand how best to defend themselves. If such follies as Tarbaby Iraq are to be prevented in the future, then such courses must be examined publicly, held up for close and critical inspection, and little by little, the academic study of Islam be reclaimed from those who are, whether out of naivete nor something more sinister, merely apologists (even if they would bristle at the charge), for Islam, by those who know better.