Seyla Benhabib, professor of political science and philosophy at Yale University, told Daniele Castellani Perelli (“Mosque and State,” Dissent Magazine, Fall 2007) that “Miss Hirsi Ali’s language is a language of confrontation that basically presents a homogeneous, orthodox Islam as closed to reform and transformation. And it is a language that presents a unified, uncritical and un-reflectively positive view of liberal democracies””as if they didn’t have their own problems and reasons to be criticized.”
Benhabib says the AK party is “carrying out an incredible experiment and it is unusual for some one who is a democratic socialist like myself to be supporting, and watching very carefully, a party like them. But we are all watching carefully because they also represent a kind of pluralism in civil society, which is absolutely essential for Turkey.” — from this article
Tu-Quoque from Seyla Benhabib, whose loyalty to Islam trumps all else, including her self-described “democratic socialist” leanings. No, she is like Fatima Mernissi and Leila Ahmad, who quickly draw back whenever they sense Islam itself may be criticized for the treatment of women in Islam. This shows that the loyalty to Islam trumps their supposed devotion to the cause of women’s rights. Seyla Benhabib’s attempt to call Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s piercing and truth-telling remarks into question with the usual blague about “reformation” in Islam is predictable, and nauseating. There is the deceptive ignis fatuus of such “reform,” but it keeps receding further into the marecage of Islam, the closer one tries to approach it.
Then she presents us with an equally revealing tu-quoque in telling us, amazingly, something of which we are all perfectly aware and which is irrelevant to Ayaan Hirsi’s Ali’s criticism — to wit, that she uses a “language that presents a unified, uncritical and un-reflectively positive view of liberal democracies””as if they didn’t have their own problems and reasons to be criticized.”
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, of course, does no such thing. And Seyla Benhabib merely reveals where her deepest loyalties lie. And they don’t lie with the survival of our most imperfect liberal democracies, not if such survival requires a true grasp of the nature of Islam, that “doubly totalitarian” (Georges Henri Bosquet) belief-system, based squarely on the uncompromising division of the world between Believer and Infidel.
A little Henri Lammens, Georges Vajda, Bousquet, and Bat Ye’or would do Seyla Benhabib, literary theorist, and Defender of the Faith (Democratic Socialist Division) good. That is, they would do her good if she were not impervious to learning truthfully, showing herself willing to end her innate bent toward Islamic apologetics, and being willing to study the tenets, attitudes, and atmospherics of Islam as contained in, or prompted naturally by, Qur’an, Hadith, and Sira.
Muslim apologists would prefer that one stick to the Qur’an. They become uneasy when their Infidel interlocutor raises the Hadith, and does not appear quite so willing to roll over and play dead when that single “inauthentic” Hadith (which is nowhere in Al-Bukhari) about the “lesser jihad” of war and the “greater jihad” of domestic wrestling with one’s conscience, is trotted out — the one that Karen Armstrong, for example, puts such stock in.
Still more disturbing to them, the most disturbing thing of all, is for Infidels to raise the matter of Muhammad as the Perfect Man (al-insan al-kamil) or as it says in a Qur’anic verse (33:21), “uswa hasana” — the Model of Conduct for all time (the phrase also appears two other times in the Qur’an, in reference to Abraham). But it makes no sense to discuss Islam without discussing the figure of Muhammad. He dominates Islam. He is almost more important, in Muslim psychology, than Allah — no, he is more important.
So what do Muslims believe he did? What do they think Muhammad, Model of Conduct and the Perfect Man, uswa hasana, al-insan al-kamil, did? Well, read the Sira, the biography of Muhammad. Read as well the biographies offered by such Western scholars as Arthur Jeffery, and Sir William Muir and Tor Andrae and even Maxine Rodinson. See what you think of the episode involving the mocking poetess Asma bint Marwan, or all the others assassinated at the instigation of Muhammad, or in order to carry out what was perceived as his desire. See what you think of the attack on the inoffensive Jewish farmers of the Khaybar Oasis. See what you think about Muhammad watching as the 600-900 bound prisoners of the Banu Qurayza were decapitated one by one. See what you think of the women, the widows of men Muhammad’s men had just killed, seized by him — such as Saifullah. See what you think of the whole business of little Aisha.
And then decide: does this remind me of some other figure in world religion? Does he remind me in any way of Jesus? Of the Buddha? Of Moses? Or of those who may be said to be religio-philosophical figures, such as Confucius?
No, Muhammad is in a special class by himself. He reminds one of no other figure in other world religions.
It does not matter what the historical Muhammad may actually have done — or whether or not he existed, or where. What matters is what Muslims believe.
When this whole business of “moderate” Muslims is raised, or as Seyla Benhabib prefers, “reformation” in Islam, one must inquire: what do those “moderates” who are being promoted so busily by assorted Infidels think of Muhammad? The foundation and government grant money is awfully good for those who know what they are doing. Are they willing to jettison the Sira and the Hadith altogether?
And if they are, who will follow them? Who will they represent?
These are the questions that are not trivial, not tangential. They are central. They are unavoidable. And they have no role whatsoever in what Seyla Benhabib calls the AK “experiment” in Turkey.