When I wrote my book Islam Unveiled in 2001, I hoped that thoughtful Muslims would address the points I raised in it, and that we could open up a dialogue that might be useful in illuminating what could be done about the elements of Islam that give rise to fanaticism and violence. In that I was naive. The response by critics to that book as well as to every other book that I have written has consisted only of vague assertions that I am ignorant of Islam, without ever providing a single substantive refutation of anything I wrote.
It’s the same with this Alt.Muslim review of the documentary in which I appear, Islam: What The West Needs To Know. Reviewer Zahir Janmohamed seems to think that sneering is a good substitute for argumentation. He raises not a single substantive point to attempt to show that what the movie says is wrong.
This is an extremely common tendency, and that’s why I am writing this post. The opposition is, from an argumentative standpoint, unarmed. They know that what we are saying about Islam, jihad, and terrorism is true — if they really believed it wasn’t, they would show their readers the exact ways in which we are wrong, but they don’t do that, because they can’t. But they know that a few well-placed sneers will scare away many people of good will — and that is a game that they play expertly.
The directors believe we have been duped. The result is a comically self-righteousness 98-minute film that seeks to correct (and to warn) the west one simple thing: Islam is not what you think. It’s a religion of violence. “What part of kill don’t you understand?” one “expert” says, looking deadpan. It’s a priceless moment that should ideally be punctuated by a scene of a burly man taking a large bite out of an oversized, chicken drumstick….
Aside from the film’s homage to cheesy South Asian wedding video special effects, we are subjected to hearing five or six talking heads offering their “expertise.” One of them is Robert Spencer, a Frontpage magazine columnist and current director of JihadWatch. He sprinkles his observations about Islam with a liberal use of Arabic terms, as if somehow this is supposed to impress us. There can be a peaceful Muslim, he tells us, but not a peaceful Islam. Later in the film, he credits Edward Said as someone who Islamized Middle Eastern Studies in the US and wrote his seminal Orientalism to silence critics of Islam. It’s a scene that is more embarrassing than offensive.
Well, I’m always glad not to offend. But note what he says about Arabic. Islamic apologists and terror apologists frequently claim that I must not know what I’m talking about because I don’t know Arabic — although they don’t actually have the slightest idea whether or not I know the language. In this film I use Arabic, and that’s wrong too. In other words, for Islamic apologists, any port will do in a storm. If I don’t know Arabic, I’m ignorant. If I know it, I’m vainly trying to impress the audience. If you have no ties to the Islamic world, they will say you are ignorant because you’re completely cut off from your subject. If you have ties there, they will say your local concerns in whatever Islamic country you’re dealing with have blinded you to the larger reality. And so on — this is not, in other words, honest argumentation.
Another expert we hear from his Srđa Trifković, a Serbian historian who served as a spokesman for the Bosnian Serbian government. He has called the rape of Bosnian women “entirely fictitious” and once said, “For a Christian the real task is to help our fellow humans who are trapped in Islam and to help them become free.” His comments in the film are so absurd that to respond would only be to give credence to his assertion of being a “historian.”
Of course. They always are — and not just Trifkovic’s. Every critic of Islamic jihad terror immediately renders himself absurd and beneath the need to reply simply by being a critic of Islamic jihad terror. But the questions that Trifkovic and others have raised nevertheless remain.
The film does, however, have its redeeming moments. Bat Ye’or, an Egyptian born British Jew whose books include titles like The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam, offers a useful grammatical lesson on to use the word infidel in a sentence. She sprinkles her commentary with sentences like “Islam is a religion started to fight infidelity and to bully infidels until they rid the infidels of their infidelity.” Its no wonder that Sidney H. Griffith in the International Journal of Middle East Studies writes of her: “The problems one has with the book are basically twofold: the theoretical inadequacy of the interpretive concepts jihad and dhimmitude, as they are employed here; and the want of historical method in the deployment of the documents which serve as evidence for the conclusions reached in the study. There is also an unfortunate polemical tone in the work.”
Which work? We’re not told. Examples of these scholarly misdemeanors? Not forthcoming. All we get is mockery of the English of someone who is not a native speaker. How gallant of you, Janmohamed….
In any case, these sections illustrate the quality not only of Janmohamed’s review of the film, but also of the general “dialogue” that apologists for jihad are carrying on today with the rest of the world: when cornered, sneer and deflect responsibility.