Ali Eteraz, a Muslim writer with whom I have had a few exchanges in the past, stopped by earlier to inform me that he had written a response to my letter to Emory University. (I am just about to board a plane and don’t have time to insert links, but you can find all this through searches if you’re interested.) I took a look at his reply (actually it had been sent to me earlier by Jihad Watch reader James), and found that unlike most responses to my work, it actually contained some substantive points, which I will address as soon as possible once my plane lands.
Also, however, Eteraz’s message contains the abuse that generally passes for substantive argument in responses to my work, and I thought I would take a moment to address that.
Dear Ali Eteraz,
Thanks for stopping by. A reader sent me a link to your comments on my Emory piece a while ago; I am stuck in an airport now and will reply asap. Thanks for at least attempting to respond with some substance, unlike your pathologically insecure and slanderous friend Esmay. (Pathologically insecure, for only such close off discussion and debate.)
One thing I want to ask you about now, however: you report my offer to debate an Emory college student as if it were something unseemly. Do you think college students who comment on matters as if they have knowledge of them should be immune from challenge on those points? I am ready to discuss anything I have ever asserted about Islam with anyone, from Bernard Lewis to Sheikh Tantawi to, yes, college students. I don’t see anything wrong with open and free discussion, and I do believe that even college students ought to be able to defend positions they take publicly.
Yet instead of open discussion on matters of substance, I have received from you and your friends character assassination, vilification, slander, and outright lies — the least of which is the falsehood that what you and they have rendered as “Roobart Sbunsar” manifests ignorance of Arabic on my part, when in fact it is a 100% correct rendering of my name in Arabic. Google روبرت سبنسر, or just روبرت, and you will see that it is not only correct, but is the dominant rendering of the name, used by Al-Jazeera, the Syria News Service, and many others. I suppose they don’t know Arabic either.
But the point is that you knew what you were doing was false and misleading when you did it, since I expect you know Arabic. Why did you abet this falsehood about how I wrote my name in Arabic? You must have known better. Did you want Dean and his friends to think I was stupid?
The further point is this: you all can have your fun, but you should know that you are not the only ones on the Internet who know Arabic, and in that episode, it was not me who came out looking silly, not to mention dishonest, to those who were able to see what you were doing.
Why do I mention all this? Because you have now come in here and addressed me with contempt and derision: “i believe that d’souza KO’d you…when you are not as busy hobnobbing with america’s leading intellectuals perhaps you can address this response i wrote to your article on jihad in the emory paper…alas i cannot offer you any air time on cspan.” Yet in every interaction we have had in the past, I have offered substantive reponses to points you have raised, and have never assailed your character or motives. You, by contrast, have egged Esmay on in his slanderous rants, and have joined them on occasion. Neither you nor Aziz Poonawalla, who in fact had promised to do so, ever corrected the post by “Matoko” in which she asserted that my translation of al-insan al-kamil, which is the same translation as that used by numerous authorities in the field, including many Muslim scholars, was incorrect.
And now you come in again, full of contempt for which you have no cause in my writings to you, and summon me to answer your objections to my letter to Emory. Very well, I will do so probably tonight. And when I do so, I will not belittle, insult, or lie about you, or pretend that I know your motives.
Your behavior toward me is the behavior of virtually every Muslim who has responded to my work at all (although I had a delightful chat with Muhammad — alas, I don’t recall his last name — at the Muslims for America booth at CPAC yesterday, and we shared a hug), as well as some non-Muslims: instead of engaging my substantive points, they just impugn my knowledge (without specific examples), my character, my motives, my honesty, my basic decency as a human being. With respect, I don’t think this is an effective or decent way to proceed. Your post at Eteraz today about my Emory letter is a bit different, in that you offer some substance, but again do so couched in the same derision and contempt.
Now, the fact is that contempt and derision are not arguments. If I am wrong on the substance, show evidence for that. The response to my letter written by the four Emory students does not offer any such evidence; instead, it concentrates solely on what a bad person I am. Sir, that does not mean that I am wrong, and is an unworthy form of argumentation.
Also, if you had actually ever read any of my books, you would know that I do not characterize “all” Muslims as doing or believing anything, and I do not engage in slurs or character assassination or anything of the kind. I discuss, and do not deny as I have been charged with doing, the existence of and plight of peaceful Muslims. I am very careful to document all my sources, and am always, as I said above, happy to engage anyone on the substantive issues.
When I published my first book I thought there would be thoughtful Muslims who would be happy to engage me on the issues. Six years have passed now since I wrote my first one, and that has never happened. You are welcome to be the first. But I would hope that we could do it in an atmosphere of mutual respect as human beings.
PS: Oh, and by the way, the link to documentation of Ali Gomaa’s support for Hizballah, which you claim I do not supply, is in this Jihad Watch post:
As you will see, it’s from the New York Times.