Serge Trifkovic and Dinesh D’Souza debated yesterday on WDAY’s Hot Talk with Scott Hennen, and Serge has kindly sent me a partial transcript. Serge got a chance to do what I was not given the opportunity to do at CPAC: actually ask D’Souza about what he knows and what he is saying, and hold his feet to the fire. And he made the most of it, catching D’Souza out brilliantly:
TRIFKOVIC: The problem with his book is primarily that Dinesh denounces me and my friend Robert Spencer for writing about Islam the way we do. What is truly remarkable for an intellectual is that he does not do so on the basis of any failure on our part to offer empirical evidence for our fundamental thesis — which is that Islam is inherently aggressive, racist, violent, and intolerant — but rather that this shouldn’t be allowed to be published, because it undermines the possibility of establishing some mythical alliance with the conservative Muslims. The problem there is that a conservative Muslim is obviously a person inherently opposed to any rationalistic revision of the Kuran or the Sunna, or any reinterpretation of Islam in the way that would enable it to be reformed. What we have is a self-proclaimed “conservative,” here in the United States, acting in exactly the same way as… that reminds me of my youth under communism in Tito’s Yugoslavia, denouncing a certain approach to a subject purely on the grounds of its alleged ideological unacceptability. He uses the term “Islamophobia” — which is a classic term invented by the Race Relations Industry, by the very people of the Left that he seeks to denounce. Once you subscribe to the term “Islamophobia” all debates about Islam cease, because the only valid definition of “Islamophobia” is the one offered by those people he blames for 9-11!
D’SOUZA: One of the problems here is a little bit of paranoia. These guys, Spencer, Serge, have been running around basically saying I am trying to silence them, whereas all I am doing is disagreeing with them.
Caught making an indefensible point, D’Souza lies about it. In his book, this is exactly what he says: “In order to build alliances with traditional Muslims, the right must take three critical steps. First, stop attacking Islam. Conservatives have to cease blaming Islam for the behavior of the radical Muslims. Recently the right has produced a spate of Islamophobic tracts with titles like Islam Unveiled [by Spencer], Sword of the Prophet [by Trifkovic], and The Myth of Islamic Tolerance [by Spencer]. There is probably no better way to repel traditional Muslims, and push them into the radical camp, than to attack their religion and their prophet.”
D’Souza does disagree with Serge Trifkovic and me: he says that when we speak about the elements of Islam that give rise to violence, we drive Muslims who reject those elements of Islam to espouse them. But aside from the patent absurdity of this, he says, “Stop attacking Islam. Conservatives have to cease blaming Islam for the behavior of the radical Muslims.” And who, in his view, is attacking Islam and blaming Islam? Serge and I. So we should stop. That is not just a disagreement; it is a call for us to be silenced, or to be silent.
D’Souza wants to have it both ways: he wants to make the point, and then deny making it when it is uncomfortable for him to have done so.
In my book I say this: we can’t win the War on Terror without driving a wedge between the radical Muslims and the traditional Muslims… There are many Muslims who are very different from the stereotypical Muslim that Serge and Spencer feature in their work.
Another inaccuracy. There is no “stereotypical Muslim” in any of my books, or Serge’s. In all of mine I speak of peaceful Muslims and their plight in Islamic communities today. If he had actually read my books, he would know this. He claimed indignantly to have done so when we debated at CPAC. I think he was bending the truth again on that point.
My point is simply this: ultimately I think that we have to draw traditional Muslims away from radical Islam, because the radical Muslims are fishing in the pool of traditional Islam. So for this reason I think that these attacks on Islam — the Koran [sic!] is a gospel of violence, Mohammed [sic!] is the inventor of terrorism —
He retailed the same false charges at CPAC. I have never called Muhammad “the inventor of terrorism.” Neither has Serge. That he continues to retail such falsehoods after being corrected makes me wonder if he in interested in the truth at all, or just in sloganeering.
…they are not just tactically foolish, they are historically wrong because Islam has been around for thirteen hundred years, Islam radicalism was invented in the 1920s, and came to power in 1979. How can we blame the Prophet Mohammad for things that Khomeini and Bin Laden are saying, that are very new.
Khomeini and bin Laden invoke Muhammad to justify their positions. D’Souza’s “traditional Muslims,” as he himself acknowledges, have no theological differences with the jihadists. And clearly they have mounted no large-scale or effective response to the jihadists. So we are supposed to ignore the fact that the jihadists use Muhammad, instead of calling upon those “traditional Muslims” to formulate some effective counter to this use — whether by rejecting the literal meaning of Muhammad’s words in some cases, or by some other means?
Historian Bernard Lewis points out that radical Islam is a radical break with traditional Islam. Never before have Muslim mullahs, or clergymen, ever ruled a Muslim country. All Muslim countries have been ruled by non-clergymen until Khomeini.
Here again D’Souza continues to repeat points that have no substance, all the while robotically invoking Lewis like the homo unius libri that Hugh Fitzgerald pointed out that he is. One would think an established conservative such as D’Souza would recognize that sometimes the conventional wisdom on a given topic is incorrect, and that the truth can be found among those who are despised and vilified by the lemmings of the mainstream. And even Lewis doesn’t say what D’Souza would have us believe he says. For example, D’Souza insists that the Qur’an is essentially innocuous and that non-Muslims in the Islamic empires fared better than non-Christians in Catholic Europe, dropping Lewis’s name all the while. Yet Lewis actually explains in The Jews of Islam that Qur’an 9:29 “deals with the need for the holy war against the unbelievers and the imposition on them of a poll tax.” Of that tax, or jizya, Lewis says that it was “not only a tax but also a symbolic expression of subordination.” Lewis explains that “the Qur’an and tradition often use the word dhull or dhilla (humiliation or abasement) to indicate the status God has assigned to those who reject Muhammad, and in which they should be kept as long as they persist in that rejection.”
Lewis notes that that humiliation was at times brutally enforced. He quotes a European traveler in Istanbul in 1828, who called the Jews of the Ottoman Empire “the last and most degraded of the Turkish rayahs.” Lewis quotes another traveler in Ottoman domains in 1836 saying, “I never saw the curse denounced against the children of Israel more fully brought to bear than in the East”¦They are considered rather as a link between animals and human beings than as men”¦” Christians fared little better.
Also, when D’Souza asserts that “all Muslim countries have been ruled by non-clergymen until Khomeini,” he is apparently suggesting that a non-establishment, separation of religion and state tradition is dominant in Islamic history, when in fact just the opposite is the case. There has never been in Islam a separation of the sacred and the secular realms. Sharia law is rooted in religious principles, and inseparable from religion. Here again, it is hard to escape the impression that D’Souza either doesn’t know the facts of Islamic history and law, or actually wishes to give his audience a false impression.
So I think the flaw we see in this work and in the Islamophobic literature is that it tries to link the early centuries of Islam. It cherry-picks the Koran and finds all the violent passages, leaves out all the peaceful passages, and then basically concedes to Bin Laden that he is the true Muslim, that his reading of the Koran is correct, and it pushes the traditional Muslims towards the radical camp by denouncing their religion. Then we complain all these traditional Muslims [indistinct] … by denouncing Islam itself.
At CPAC I explained that the doctrine of naskh, or abrogation, was mainstream in Islam, and so is the idea that the Medinan suras take precedence over the Meccan ones — that is, the violent passages are considered to take precedence over the peaceful ones. Numerous Islamic authorities enunciate this common view, including Muhammad’s first biographer, Ibn Ishaq, early jurists such as Ibn Qayyim, and in our own day a Pakistani Brigadier (S.K. Malik, author of The Qur’anic Concept of War) and a Saudi Chief Justice (Sheikh Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Humaid, author of “Jihad in the Qur’an and Sunnah“), along with Sayyid Qutb and many others.
Yet D’Souza, confronted with this, ignores it and continues to prate about “cherry-picking.” I must say that if I were in his position, I would at least adjust my public statements to deal with the new information with which I had been confronted. He doesn’t have to agree, but it is irresponsible of him to pretend that all this just doesn’t exist. Why doesn’t he incorporate some response to this into his public remarks, rather than repeat patent falsehoods? Is it because he knows most of his hearers will not know about these elements of Islamic theology?
Anyway, here Serge lowers the boom:
TRIFKOVIC: This is really rich. First of all, to claim that the Kuran is a pacifist tract…
D’SOUZA: I didn’t say it’s a pacifist tract.
TRIFKOVIC: Well, you do say that people like Spencer and I pick and choose. Have you actually read the Kuran? Have you ever actually read the Kuran?
D’SOUZA: Of course I have.
TRIFKOVIC: Do you know how are the Suras arranged?
D’SOUZA: They are… er… they are not arranged in any chronological order… er… [pause] and… er… [pause] and so I quote in my book both the violent and…
TRIFKOVIC: Just tell me how ARE they arranged.
D’SOUZA: The other point…
TRIFKOVIC: Can you just tell me how are the Suras arranged?
D’SOUZA: … right. You can’t just call…
TRIFKOVIC: Why don’t you just tell me how are the Suras arranged?
HENNEN: OK, one at a time here; your question for Dinesh, Serge, is?
TRIFKOVIC: In what order are the Suras arranged in the Kuran?
D’SOUZA: [long silence] I really don’t know what you mean by that. When you say “in what order” then… err… [pause] there…
TRIFKOVIC: … an interlocutor who tries to pass authoritative judgments on the subject is refusing to tell me how are the Suras and the verses of the Kuran arranged. They happen to be arranged by SIZE, from short to long!
The interview goes on for another 10 minutes or so. Meanwhile, Serge tells me: “To avoid misunderstanding, let me point out that my ‘explanation’ to D’Souza about the arrangement of the Suras in the Kuran (‘They happen to be arranged by SIZE, from short to long!’) was not a slip, it was the final proof-positive of his fraud, as HE DID NOT CORRECT ME but went on babbling…”
It would be refreshing for Mr. D’Souza to engage in a dialogue about the points raised above, rather than propagandistically repeating points that are manifestly false to anyone who has actually studied these issues. If he is willing, so am I.