Garbo talks! Dean Esmay has finally responded to my post here. His reply, as I might have expected, is nasty, mean-spirited, and full of ad hominem attacks and misrepresentations of my work and views.
Here is the substance:
Still, let’s try to get to the meat of this: Spencer’s ultimate argument is based on a red herring: I (and others) are supposed to point to any mainstream school of Islamic thought that completely rejects holy war (violent jihad). Well, none of them do. So what? I never thought they did.
Hey Robert! The Bible says not one word anywhere in it about slavery being wrong. Prove me wrong! Prove me wrong! Sure you say that some mainstream Christian groups have changed their ways on this, but their Bible and the vast majority of the faith’s history do not agree! Prove me wrong, prove me wrong!
Well, obviously this is a false analogy. If there were a global movement of Christian slavers today, justifying their actions by the Bible, it would be a workable analogy. But there isn’t.
Also, I am not saying that the Bible and the Qur’an are the only sources. Far from it. The Catechism of the Catholic Church notes that the Seventh Commandment forbids slavery. I frequently mention Islamic sources other than the Qur’an that only buttress the message of violence in it, rather than mitigating that message — see, for example, here.
In other words, the jihadists are working from a broad, mainstream tradition within Islam, not just from a few Qur’an verses. There are many implications of this. But above all, any genuine Islamic reformer needs to confront this entire jurisprudential tradition — not just ignore its existence.
Esmay also explains why he is so good and I am so evil:
Ditto his bizarre request that someone provide him with Islamic texts sufficient to make violent radicals put down their weapons–which I think any sane person would view as an outright impossibility.
Now here’s the thing: I knew this was impossible before I’d ever heard of Robert Spencer, and so did Robert Spencer. So what is the purpose of this argument? Well one of us, apparently, finds the fact far more significant than the other one does. And one of us apparantly makes a living selling books and on speaking engagements to explain how violent jihadism is to be found in Islamic scholarship. The other goes out of his way to befriend muslims who are anti-terrorism, and to highlight writings by muslims who reject terrorism. One of us obviously wants to help muslims, while the other insists that no he doesn’t hate muslims he just doesn’t trust any of them who object to violence on religious grounds.
I have explained this again and again, and he ignores it: I am for moderate Muslims who reject terrorism. I am not for those who try to sell me a bill of goods about how there is no basis in the Qur’an or Sunnah for religiously-based violence. That is not reform; it is deception. I love the former, but I will not put up with the latter. Esmay shows no sign of caring about the distinction. He says this:
What also troubles me, Robert, is that you claim you want to defeat jihadist terrorism, and you also claim you want to help muslims who work toward examining troubling aspects within their faith, but you accuse muslims who disagree with you of lying to you–they apparently can’t just be wrong, or draw different conclusions from you.
The difference is actually this: if a Lutheran preacher in 1520 said, “the Church teaches transubstantiation, and that is wrong,” he would have been a reformer (leaving aside the question of the legitimacy of the reform, which has nothing to do with my point). If he had said, “the Church has never taught transubstantiation,” he would not have been a reformer. He would have been a deceiver.
Anyway, for Esmay it is all because I have a tiny readership, and he has a huge one:
Spencer says he doesn’t do anything like this, but in fact this is exactly what he’s doing here. Apparently, from what I can see, he does it for a living, which is probably why he’s calling out high-traffic bloggers to pick fights with; it’s an absolute certainty that I have a lot more readers than he does, and he probably knows it despite his obsessively repeated claims that nobody reads me and that I am utterly unimportant to him (yes, so unimportant he feels the need to send me obsessive, juvenile emails and repeated taunts from his blog).
This is false in a number of ways. In the first place, I didn’t pick a fight with him; he was attacking me and my work before I had ever heard his name. As for readership, I was told by some people after my first response to him that he had a tiny readership, and that was borne out by this, which is what I base my assessment of readership on; it could be wrong for all I know. Actually it doesn’t matter, because I was actually referring to the impossibility of convincing him of anything, but the possibility of convincing people of good will. But anyway, it looks from that as if Jihad Watch has a much larger readership than Dean’s World. You tell me if I am reading that wrong and that the lower line actually somehow signifies a larger readership. But I don’t think it does.
And as for those “juvenile” emails, Esmay is no doubt referring to my reference to Matoko Kusanagi as “dodgy company” and my sarcastic reference to his calling me a traitor, when I said I was late for a flag-burning. I confess to being acerbic. But he ignores the substantive points I made in those emails, as he has breezed by virtually all the substantive points I have made. Here is a portion of one — which answers his point that it is absurd for me to call on moderate Muslims to refute the mujahedin. Juvenile? Taunting? You be the judge. Esmay’s statements are double indented, mine are single indented:
Most of the muslims I know say you’re incredibly duplicitous and malicious and engage in circular logic and straw man arguments
I wish you or they would provide an example of this duplicity and malice. The fact is that only I know what is in my heart, and whether I am doing this out of malice, and only I can know such a thing — just as only you know your own motives for anything. Their case would be aided considerably by specific examples of these alleged crimes. But all I can tell you is that I am doing my best to report honestly about Islamic theology and the Islamic world, and that the fact that I constantly meet with such charges — bereft as always of examples — makes me in turn doubt the good faith of those who make them.
–the most laughable being your demand that someone provide sufficient references to make the violent jihadis put down their arms, which any idiot knows is completely impossible.
This isn’t laughable in the least. Nor should it be impossible if what you and people like Matoko are saying about Islam were true. If the broad mainstream of peaceful Muslims really had the Qur’an and Islamic theology on their side, and they were just as appalled as anyone else by the global activity of the jihadists, they would be doing things like holding classes in every mosque, teaching Muslims the true peaceful Islam and inoculating them against recruitment by the mujahedin, which proceeds along the self-professed assumption that they represent “true Islam” and “pure Islam.” If this is not the case, as the moderates insist it isn’t, then they could do a great service to the Muslim community worldwide, and to the world at large, if they began a large-scale campaign to discredit the mujahedin on Islamic grounds.
I don’t think this is unreasonable at all, and I think it’s telling that it doesn’t exist. I speak of making violent jihadis lay down their arms in that context — assuming that someone who believes he is carrying out the will of Allah, as they undeniably do, will change his behavior if he comes to see the will of Allah in a different light. But ultimately what I am calling for in that way is the kind of campaign to which I refer above.
Thank you for your very first reasoned response, almost entirely free of insults and abuse. I can see from your site that you have good intentions, and have been stunned by your boiling and uninformed hostility toward me and my work. That hostility may continue, but I am going to keep giving you reasoned responses to your points, as I think ultimately we are working in the same direction — although I am aware you may indignantly reject such an idea.
Anyway, Esmay has entangled himself in an insuperable contradiction: he has admitted that no “mainstream school of Islamic thought…completely rejects holy war (violent jihad).” Then he renews his accusation that I am taking “the most tendentious and pernicious interpretations” of Islamic scholarship and declaring “that these are the inescapably correct views.” Well, if no mainstream school of Islamic jurisprudence rejects violent jihad, then violent jihad is the Islamic mainstream — and it is not I who am cherry-picking among Islamic texts to create my own private Islam.
The exchange between Dean Esmay and me is available for everyone to see. He accused me of misrepresenting peaceful Islam, and has now acknowledged that peaceful Islam is not mainstream. He did not respond to my request to demonstrate that mainstream Islamic teaching is peaceful and tolerant, which was his initial objection to my work — and of course, he cannot do so. As soon as his Muslim foes of terror are willing to acknowledge that as well, and to work among Muslims to mitigate the power of the Qur’an and Sunnah to recruit and motivate terrorists, I’ll be happy to give them all support. But as long as they continue to deny that that power exists at all, I respectfully decline to play along.