Dear Professor Afzaal,
As you well know, since you were in the audience, last night I spoke at Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. In my address I explained the motives and goals of the mujahedin around the world, which necessitated that I touch upon the elements of the Qur’an and Sunnah that the mujahedin use to justify their actions and recruit within the larger Muslim community worldwide.
Yours was the last question of a question-and-answer period that was sometimes sharp on both sides. You didn’t have a question, however, but only a statement. You said that I was an excellent teacher, had communicated my message very well, and that indeed, you would be using my books as textbooks in your upcoming classes. Of course it was clear that you did not mean all this as a compliment, as was confirmed by your response to my offer to come speak to your classes: “You are welcome to come to my classes,” you said, “but not as a teacher, but as a student.” You also declined to give me your name, telling me rudely to look it up in the campus course offerings.
Well, I did, sir, and I see you are teaching a course called “Islam and Modernity.” If this is the course in which you plan to use my books, I suspect that you will make use of them somewhat after the fashion of my dear friend Professor Omid Safi of Colgate University, who has consigned me to the propagandistic and manipulative purgatory of “Islamophobic writers” — although there I am in splendid company, with Bat Ye’or, Ibn Warraq, Bernard Lewis, Samuel Huntington and others.
And that is why I am writing to you now. It was interesting that you did not choose to ask me a question or to challenge me on the substance of what I had said. Many students in the audience had more courage. But instead, you resorted to the rhetorical trick of casting aspersions on the entirety of my presentation — but it was an empty rhetorical trick, since you specified nothing I had said that was allegedly false or inaccurate.
And that is indicative of a tendency. From Safi to Stephen Schwartz and many others, Islamic apologists have declared that what I am saying is false, without ever coming up with even one specific example. And that is just what you did. So I have decided to ask you to be the first: back up what you implied last night with some substantive arguments.
Ultimately this involves much more than my own work — and hence my message to you today. For there is a growing number of Americans who have learned various facts about the agenda and motives of the global mujahedin. They have read the Qur’an in whole or part, and some have even become familiar with the major events in the life of Muhammad and with what role Qur’an passages and events in Muhammad’s life play in Islamic theology. You can dismiss these people, or you can engage them. If you engage them, you will be doing a valuable service to help increase understanding. If you sneer at them and dismiss them, you will just be increasing the already growing suspicion about the overall jihad agenda and the way it is being advanced today through non-violent as well as violent means.
Now, I do not claim to represent anyone but myself, but in my own work I have done just that: examined the Qur’an and Sunnah and explored how they are used today to advance the global jihad agenda. If you think that I have misused or misunderstood this material, then meet me in an open discussion and debate, either in your classes or in any other venue of your choosing. Specify where and how I have misused this material. In so doing, you may help clarify for more Americans than just me how peaceful Muslims can blunt the force of the jihad imperative within the Muslim community in America and around the world.
Or you can continue to sneer and refuse to engage investigations such as mine, or simply to caricature and dismiss it — in which case you will, of course, have cast into doubt the objectivity and scholarly quality of your own work.
I look forward to hearing from you.
UPDATE: Professor Afzaal has responded here.