Professor Ahmed Afzaal has sent me this reply to my open letter to him.
Dear Mr. Spencer, Peace and Greetings!
Thanks a lot for providing me this much space in your website. I would greatly appreciate if could also kindly post this response immediately following your open letter.
First of all, my comment that “your lecture was brilliant” was entirely sincere. I did believe your lecture was coherent, concise, to-the-point, and, most of all, it was internally consistent. Your facts were correct and the logical links you developed were virtually flawless. I believe it was these qualities of your presentation that allowed you to easily deal with the negative responses from the audience. You knew exactly what you wanted to say, and you said it with great effectiveness. In fact, I would consider myself extremely lucky if I could ever deliver such a presentation myself. I admire you for your speaking and reasoning skills.
Secondly, I had absolutely no intention of being rude to you or anyone else. I don’t like if someone is rude to me, and I certainly try not to be rude to anyone else. However, human beings do err. Consequently, since you feel that I sounded rude at one occasion, I must express my deepest apologies. Being rude to an invited speaker is an unacceptable behavior, and it serves no useful function. Please accept my apologies.
Thirdly, regarding some of my writings you have posted on your website, I have something important to say. These writings date back to the time between 1996 and 1998; we are now several years beyond that point in time. Generally speaking, I have outgrown most of those ideas and the way in which they were formulated, which I now believe was simply naÃ¯ve. As you know, people grow and mature with the passage of time, with the acquisition of knowledge, and with exposure to diverse experiences. In fact, when I was in graduate school, the papers I would write one semester would appear to me completely idiotic by the end of the next semester. Such growth is a sign of life. If I were you, I wouldn’t worry too much about these writings.
Fourthly, since I understand the nature of much of the Jihadi ideology because of my experience, as embodied in the writings you have quoted, I feel I am better qualified to critique it than many others who never believed in it. Don’t you think that one can deconstruct a worldview most effectively after when one has a sympathetic understanding of what it entails? I happen to understand the weaknesses of this ideology, as well as the reasons for its attractiveness, in a slightly deeper fashion. I therefore enjoy deconstructing it for my students.
Fifthly, I did say that I would like to use your writings in my classes, and I did mean it. Whether or not it was a compliment depends on how you look at the statement. Consider this: I had no question or criticism of what you had said, which means that I was unable to point out any major flaws in your presentation. Furthermore, my statement obviously meant that I thought your writings must have some sort of merit that would make them possible teaching tools, and I am sure they do. When a particular piece of writing is included in the syllabus, it means that students will be discussing and debating both the strengths and weaknesses of the arguments and evidences presented in it. The same would be true if I were to use your writings.
Sixthly, my students are extremely intelligent and well-informed. They cannot be brainwashed. Don’t you agree that one of the great virtues of the Western academia is its freedom to criticize those who pose as authorities? I am happy to report that my students are not passive receptacles of information or ideas. They question, argue, criticize, and disagree. They never stop teaching me a lesson or two in every class. I believe I learn more from them than what they learn from me. I love them, and I am proud of teaching them.
Finally, you and I both agree that the violent and extremist form of Muslim fundamentalism is a horrible monster, and that it is the duty of both Muslims and non-Muslims to control and subdue this monster. There is no doubt that the monster exists and that it is dangerous. The only disagreement that I have with you is on the nature of this monster, how was it created, how does it work, what makes it tick, and, most importantly, how to check its growth. On this issue, I believe you may be able to expand, correct, or focus your ideas in order for them to be truly effective. Since you said you would like to come to my class, I suggested you come as a student and take the entire course. Again, this was not supposed to be an insult; instead, it was an acknowledgement on my part that the monster that both you
and I are interested in subduing requires sober and sustained analytic attention rather than quick emotional exchanges.
I hope I have clarified myself to the best of my ability, though in human communication one can never exclude the possibility of misunderstandings.
I wish you and everyone else on earth true and lasting peace.
Dear Professor Afzaal:
Thank you for your response. One final point from me, Professor: you will find “sober and sustained analytic attention rather than quick emotional exchanges” in any of my books. Moreover, I do not believe that the largeness or complexity of a subject renders discussion of various aspects of it useless if those discussions are not sustained over long periods of time. Thus I renew my offer to appear in your class or anywhere else for a friendly discussion of whatever may be our points of disagreement. In fact, I believe such a discussion would be quite unusual and enriching in the atmosphere that pervades most campuses today.
I can be reached, as ever, at firstname.lastname@example.org.