Jihad Watch reader Eric has alerted me to a review of the documentary film Islam: What the West Needs to Know, in which I appear. It’s a silly, largely substanceless and poorly reasoned review by Ian Arbuckle on a silly-looking site called Cinematic Happenings Under Development, mostly on the pie-throwing level of the caption above that he placed underneath a photo of me, but it does provide an opportunity to clarify some things.
Interviews with noted anti-Islam folks such as Robert Spencer and Serge Trifkovic, along with scholars of Islam like Bat Ye’or, Abdullah al-Araby…
“Anti-Islam folks” like me. Now, this is simply false. I am not “anti-Islam.” I am against supremacism and subjugation, I am against the denial of human rights to women and religious minorities. As I say here, any Muslim who renounces violent jihad and dhimmitude is welcome to join in our anti-jihadist efforts. Any hate in my books comes from Muslim sources I quote, not from me….It is not an act of hatred against Muslims to point out the depredations of jihad ideology….Am I “anti-Muslim”? Some time ago here at Jihad Watch I had an exchange with an English convert to Islam. I said: “I would like nothing better than a flowering, a renaissance, in the Muslim world, including full equality of rights for women and non-Muslims in Islamic societies: freedom of conscience, equality in laws regarding legal testimony, equal employment opportunities, etc.” Is all that “anti-Muslim”? My correspondent thought so. He responded: “So, you would like to see us ditch much of our religion and, thereby, become non-Muslims.”
In other words, he saw a call for equality of rights for women and non-Muslims in Islamic societies, including freedom of conscience, equality in laws regarding legal testimony, and equal employment opportunities, as a challenge to his religion. To the extent that they are, these facts have to be confronted by both Muslims and non-Muslims. But I make no apologies: it is not “anti-Muslim” to wish freedom of conscience and equality of rights on the Islamic world — quite the contrary.
Over the course of six segments, the filmmakers work to convince you that Muslims are bad and the West is foolish to suppose that those Muslims who are not terrorists are members of a religion of peace.
This is a misstatement of the documentary’s intent. The film does not state or imply or try to convince anyone that “Muslims are bad.” It is an investigation of Islamic theology, which (as you will see) even this reviewer acknowledges to be accurate. But the content of Islamic theology doesn’t say anything whatsoever about any individual Muslim, any more than the Catholic Church’s prohibition of contraception means that all Catholics oppose contraception. The teachings of a religion are one thing and the thoughts of the people who identify themselves as adherents of that religion are quite another. The documentary does not confuse the two.
I’m not even sure why this movie exists. It has to be a propaganda piece. Why else would people sacrifice time and effort to produce a documentary with such an intellectually corrupt thesis? The terrorists have scriptural backing for their actions, goes the argument. Those millions of Muslims who are not terrorists are members of the same violent religion.
That’s the whole thesis. It’s not even a proper argument. It just gives you those two facts and winks and gestures at them a bit going, “Eh? Eh? See?”
“I do not see.”
Leave aside for a moment that the thing looks to have been constructed on iMovie, or maybe PowerPoint, with static images and dreadful voiceovers intercut with black-background interviews with its subjects. The argument they’re trying to make isn’t even necessary. The West already knows that the Islamic terrorist organizations use scripture to justify their actions. This is not news. Yet the film spends almost an hour minutely detailing how Qu’ranic scripture supports terrorist actions.
Actually, the West does not know that the Islamic terrorist organizations use scripture to justify their actions. On the contrary, the mainstream media and even the allegedly fearless politically incorrect conservative talking heads and publications frequently hasten to assure us that the Islamic terrorist organizations do not have Islamic scripture on their side, and are hijacking a religion that teaches peace. The fact that the Islamic terrorist organizations use Islamic scripture to justify their actions is the inconvenient truth that virtually no one dares to acknowledge, despite the fact that acknowledging it is the only genuine path to Islamic reform and true Islamic moderation: you cannot reform what you won’t admit needs reform.
The cognitive stretch that the filmmakers are hoping the audience will make is absurd. They want the audience to equate Muslim terrorists with practitioners of Islam the world over. The stance is morally repugnant. How does it even follow logically that we shold approach all of Islam as if it were a giant, violent hive of men and women eager to convert the unbeliever through any means necessary? There’s is a weight of evidence to the contrary, millions of humans deep.
Here the cognitive stretch that Ian Arbuckle is hoping his readers will make is absurd. He wants his readers to believe that the documentary equates Muslim terrorists with practitioners of Islam the world over, when it doesn’t do any such thing. He also demonstrates that he hasn’t even grasped what the documentary says about Islamic teachings when he suggests that it intends to compel us to “approach all of Islam as if it were a giant, violent hive of men and women eager to convert the unbeliever through any means necessary.” There is no imperative within Islam to convert the unbeliever through any means necessary, and the film doesn’t say there is.
In reality, within Islamic teaching there is an imperative to offer conversion to the unbeliever or to subjugate him as an inferior under the rule of Islamic law — an inferior, but free within limits to practice his religion. This is made clear in the documentary. Does this mean that every Muslim is intent on implementing this imperative? Of course not, any more than every Catholic is intent on eschewing contraception. But Catholics’ rejecting that teaching does not mean it is not Church teaching, and Muslims doing nothing about jihad and Islamic supremacism does not mean that those things don’t exist. In reality, peaceful Muslims must confront and reject these aspects of Islam in order to stop their use by jihadist recruiters; this cannot and will not be done if they continue to ignore these teachings or deny they exist.
For most of the film, I thought that the fearmongering was an end to itself, that the filmmakers just wanted to play at having revelations. It gets worse than that, though. The nadir of this mess is when the term jihad, meaning struggle, is equated with Mein Kampf, which also translates to “my struggle.” Yes, that’s right, the filmmakers have invoked Hitler, and as a result the holocaust, in their little project.
The point is that simply to point out that jihad means “struggle” does not render it innocuous. It is a point confirmed by every day’s headlines.
This shit makes me angry. I’m a passive kind of guy, but the dissemination of idiocy boils my blood. It’s not that the factual and textual references are incorrect. On the contrary, the readings from the Qur’an and attendant texts seem to be accurate and well-researched. It’s the context they’re placed in that makes the film so worthless as an academic piece, or successful as a propaganda piece. (Although Leni Riefenstahl the filmmakers ain’t.) Instead of using the thesis: “Terrorists have textual support for their actions. Isn’t that interesting?” the filmmakers have extended it to the ill-connected mess of theses that they hope will breed together just by being placed in proximity.
“They’re right, but wrong.” Arbuckle seems to be saying that even though what the film says is correct, it is just too fearful a prospect to contemplate, and therefore must be rejected.
The West doesn’t need to know any of this. The West already knows that religion can be used as justification for the most inhumane acts on the planet. But to devote an entire documentary to casting Islam as a ticking time bomb of violence and hysteria? The West needs only to ignore that kind of shrill, illegitimate work.
Really? Then what will keep Islam from being used as justification for the most inhumane acts on the planet? If we just ignore it, it will go away?
I may be funny looking, but at least I am not as befuddled, confused, and willfully ignorant as Ian Arbuckle.
ADDENDUM: It is worth emphasizing that I post such things in order to use them as an opportunity to clarify matters and respond to common objections to points that I raise. I may have clouded the issue here by mentioning Ian Arbuckle’s snarkiness regarding my picture, but in reality this is not personal at all. This is about issues that Arbuckle raises, which are unexamined assumptions that many people have. His review just provided an opportunity to discuss them and offer some responses that you may find useful in other contexts.