In response to the invitation posted here some time ago, syllabi for college courses on Islam or Islam-connected subjects have arrived from amused or disgruntled students and faculty from around the country. One of the most revealing to be found slipped in under the transom was from the University of Colorado, where Professor Anita Weiss offers a course on “Islam and Global Forces.”
The description of Professor Anita Weiss”s achievements, as detailed by Professor Anita Weiss, should allay any initial fears students or others might have about her course, for it is an impressive record of publication:
I have published extensively on social development and gender issues in Pakistan, and am now engaged in related research on comparative Muslim societies. My publications include the following books: Power and Civil Society in Pakistan (co-edited with S. Zulfiqar Gilani, Oxford University Press, 2001); Walls within Walls: Life Histories of Working Women in the Old City of Lahore (Westview Press, 1992; being republished by Oxford University Press with a New Introduction, 2002); Culture, Class and Development in Pakistan: the Emergence of an Industrial Bourgeoisie in Punjab (Westview Press, 1991), and Islamic Reassertion in Pakistan: the Application of Islamic Laws in a Modern State (editor, Syracuse University Press, 1986); and numerous articles on culture, women and development in Pakistan including (more recent “Debates and Challenges” (in Suad Joseph (ed.) Women’s Human Rights in the Muslim World, in press); “Much Ado about Counting: the Conflict over Holding a Census in Pakistan” Asian Survey(July/August 1999); “Women, Civil Society and Politics in Pakistan “Citizenship Studies (3(1)1999, pp. 141-150); “Pakistan: Some Progress, Sobering Challenges” (in Selig S. Harrison, Paul H. Kreisberg and Dennis Kux (eds.) India & Pakistan: the First Fifty Years Cambridge University.”
The wary will notice that her “books” consist of those she has either edited or co-edited, or are compilations of testimonies by others — the data of sociology. These include “Walls Within Walls,” that contains “Life Histories of Working Women in the Old City of Lahore.” Only one of the listings on her siliconized resume is a book that she neither “edited” nor “co-edited,” nor for which she recorded (tape, transcription, and it’s done) the “life histories” of others, but actually wrote herself, one word after the other. And that book is Culture, Class and Development in Pakistan: the Emergence of an Industrial Bourgeoisie in Punjab.
In the spring of 2007 Anita Weiss offered undergraduates at the University of Oregon a course on “Islam and Global Forces.” Note the title. Islam becomes itself not a Global Force, but rather is acted upon by “Global Forces.” Its followers have not, for 1350 years, aggressively conquered large parts of the land area of the world, and destroyed, caused to disappear, whole civilizations, and managed to both Islamize and, at least in the Middle East and North Africa, arabize, pre-existing populations of Christians and Jews (and only in Persia was the arabization successfully resisted). Islam, rather, is “acted upon” — by new currents that buffet it, and that buffeting comes mostly from the unstoppable powerful West, with its “colonialism” and its “capitalism,” and now, as we shall see, with its grim need to “create a new enemy to replace its Cold War enemies.” Islam, little inoffensive Islam, must be studied to see how it is dealing with these cruel and powerful outside forces.
The syllabus for this course consists of five required books. The teacher warns: “Some of the readings present pretty dense material,” and therefore, apparently, “you [the student] will not be held responsible for specific, detailed facts.” Those are tough to handle, aren’t they? — those “specific, detailed facts,” as opposed to the other kind.
Here is that syllabus:
Esposito, John L., Islam: the Straight Path
Kamrava, Mehran (ed.), The New Voices of Islam: Rethinking Politics and Modernity
Kepel, Gilles, Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam
Qureshi, Emran and Micahel A. Sells (eds.), The New Crusades: Constructing the Muslim Enemy
Tripp, Charles, Islam and the Moral Economy: the Challenge of Capitalism
Perhaps you are as surprised as I was to discover that a semester course has only five books assigned — and then, not even the full five, but rather excerpts from them. Not long ago, college courses would have routinely assigned that amount of reading for a week’s, or two weeks” worth, of classes.
And what strikes one even more forcefully is that there is little “Islam” in a course on Islam. The students are not given, it appears, any assignments that will make them thoroughly familiarize themselves with the Qur’an and the Hadith. Yet the first is available, in four or five different English versions, presented synoptically, online. And so are the Hadith of the most authoritative muhaddithin, Bukhari and Muslim. And there are hundreds of Muslim websites of the “Ask Mr. Fatwa” variety, where one can find the kinds of questions that are asked, and answered, by muftis offering the chapter and verse from Qur’an and Hadith, that give students a view of how Islam so thoroughly regulates the life of Believers. There they can also find out about such matters as the view of women, or Muhammad as a Model for All Time, or the view — supremely important, one would have thought, for American students to find out about — that is inculcated about non-Muslims, and the attitude that Believers should assume toward them.
No, apparently the only guide to “Islam” as an ideology is not to be found by assigning Qur’an, Hadith, or any of the many lives of Muhammad (the Sira), but rather by entrusting the matter to the well-known John L. Esposito.
Esposito is the entrepreneur who heads the “Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding.” This Center was founded with Arab money from a Lebanese contractor, and continues now with even larger continuous infusions of funds from the Saudis. Esposito has become famous as an apologist for Islam.
Here is more, from earlier entries at JW, on John Esposito:
Esposito has come a long way, the mediocre producer of nondescript texts and prettified couleur-locale “studies” of Islam, those coffee-table concoctions in which the pictures first overwhelm the reader — those blue mosques, those Iznik tiles, those colorfully turbaned Turks — and prevent any sober recognition of just how empty or misleading so many of the texts offered in these anthologies, or by Esposito himself, really are. All those pretty pictures make the reader swoon and overlook the fact that he has learned nothing about the actual contents of Qur’an, hadith, and sira.
No one of sense — no one — takes John Esposito seriously anymore. Esposito’s loaded title The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality? pointed the way to his vacuous conclusion — of course it is a “myth” and not a “reality.” That was the book in which he mentioned the word “Jihad” exactly twice. He has tried to do a little better since, but now it is all about blaming one particular group of Muslims, the “Wahhabis.”
Of course it was not a “Wahhabi” Muslim who murdered Theo van Gogh. It was not “Wahhabis” who have been killing Christians and Confucians in Indonesia by the hundreds of thousands over the past few decades, and destroying, in 2003 alone, more than 3,000 churches. It is not “Wahhabi” Muslims in Bangladesh who have been murdering Hindus — 3 million since the 1971 war against West Pakistan. It is not “Wahhabis” who conducted, in Col. Ojukwu’s words, the “Jihad” against the Christian Ibos in southern Nigeria who felt compelled to declare the independence of Biafra. It was not “Wahhabis” who have been making war on black Christians and animists in the southern Sudan, or now insufficiently “Arab” Muslims in Darfur. It was not “Wahhabis” but that severe and learned theologian of Shi’a Islam, the Ayatollah Khomeini, who set up the murderous, fanatical Islamic Republic of Iran — about which, if you can stand it, you can find a great deal from many Iranian exiles, at www.faithfreedom.org.
Nobody needs Esposito’s writings. Margoliouth and Schacht have recently been reprinted. Antoine Fattal’s book on the legal status of non-Muslims under Islam never went out of print. K. S. Lal is easily obtained. Tritton, Arthur Jeffery, Armand Abel, Georges Henri Bousquet, Snouck Hurgronje — they are all about to be reprinted, at least in relevant part. Of course, I don’t think for a minute that Esposito or any of his crew are familiar with any of these great scholars, and dozens more. I doubt they’ve even read them. They seem actually to believe that the only person to have written about dhimmitude is Bat Ye’or, whom they like to airily dismiss as “polemical” so that they will not have to confront her meticulous, scrupulous, and irrefutable scholarship.
But what may be most interesting is the reply Esposito gave at a Muslim website some months ago, in which he noted that after 9/11 he — John Esposito — was “pleasantly surprised” to see that there had been no diminution in the number of “reverts” (or converts) to Islam.
Now we all know how keenly interested Muslims are in the rate of conversion, how important Da’wa is, how much an instrument of conquest it is believed to be — for one is swelling the ranks of the recruits into the umma al-islamiyya, the Community of Believers, who owe their loyalty to that Community alone, never to the Infidel nation-state. We recall, do we not, that the very first thing Osama bin Laden inquired about on that first tape filmed after 9/11, and which pleased him mightily to discover, was the rate of conversion of Infidels. He was told, and gave a smile when he heard the news, that “people in Holland were converting at an even faster pace” than before.
Now here is John Esposito, now of Georgetown, formerly of Holy Cross. One might expect that he would be a student of Islam, but not an enthusiast, not someone delighted to receive news of the swelling of Muslim ranks. But this is what he said at this website:
“I was pleasantly surprised” to discover that the numbers of conversions [to Islam] have not gone down, but increased.”
“Surprised” — sure.
But “pleasantly” surprised? Why? Why would a certain John Esposito of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (or whatever it is called) be “pleasantly surprised” that there had been no diminishment, because of 9/11, in the number of converts to Islam?
In other words, why did John Esposito express precisely the same reaction as — Osama bin Laden?
Were I the president of Georgetown, or an alumnus, or a parent, or a Congressman, or a journalist who had been told to “interview John Esposito,” that is the question that I would first wish to have answered.
He’s got a good thing going. $20 million for his “Georgetown” Center, which means a lot more for lean, mean, jogging John Esposito, and John Voll, and Yvonne Haddad. And of course John Esposito is hardly alone in having earned, on some future gravestone, that epitaph which so many in the Western world over the past thirty years have earned, in Washington and London and Paris, in their own ways, as they did nothing to prevent Muslim immigration, nothing serious to limit OPEC revenues, and thought only of how to obtain some of those revenues for themselves, their friends, their relatives, their companies.
Recently Steven Emerson, who tracks Muslim terrorists in the United States through “The Investigative Project,” having learned that John Esposito has been invited to address a meeting in New Jersey called by the Department of Homeland Security, noted the ties of Esposito to Sami al-Arian, a convicted terrorist, and to others with doubtful backgrounds:
“On Wednesday, October 3rd, the New Jersey Department of Homeland Security is hosting its “5th Annual Counter-Terrorism Conference” titled, “Radicalization: Global Trend, Local Concern?” The conference is part of the agency’s “First Responder Training” and speakers and experts are brought in to instruct department employees on various topics related to security and counter-terrorism.
In a decision that defies reason, slated to speak on a panel called “To What Extent is Radicalization a Concern in the U.S.?,” is none other than Georgetown University’s John Esposito, a man who has never met a radical Muslim he didn’t like.
At a banquet held by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Dallas in August of this year, Esposito stated:
I’ve got to tell you, you know, I mean, Sami Al-Arian’s a very good friend of mine. I remember that when his kids told me that he was supporting a Republican I just said, “˜Tell your dad, as a lifelong Democrat, even though I don’t always vote Democrat, he’s “˜gonna regret voting for a Republican. And you know, God help Sami Al-Arian in terms of this administration and any others who have to live through this.
Esposito finished his speech, telling the crowd, “One of the most impressive people I have met under fire is Sami Al-Arian.” Incidentally, the banquet was in large part held to support the defendants in the current trial against the Holy Land Foundation for Relief in Development (HLF), in which the closing arguments are underway. The charity stands accused of diverting over $12 million to the terrorist group Hamas. And Esposito told the audience that his appearance at the banquet was intended to “show solidarity not only with the Holy Land Fund, but also with CAIR,” and started his speech by saying, “let me begin by saying that CAIR is a phenomenal organization.”
At the banquet, CAIR Chairman Parvez Ahmed unleashed the following corker, in a typical effort to conflate his organization and his favored causes as representative of all American Muslims:
It is not the Holy Land Foundation that is under fire, but it is the entire American Muslim community is under fire.
CAIR is, of course, an unindicted co-conspirator in the trial, and if nothing else, the HLF trial has officially and publicly exposed CAIR’s numerous links to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.
But back to Esposito: His good friend Sami pled guilty in 2006 to a “conspiracy to make or receive contributions of funds, goods or services to or for the benefit of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a Specially Designated Terrorist.”
A notorious firebrand when speaking to perceived supporters, Esposito’s buddy told a crowd of Muslim supporters both “Let us damn America, let us damn Israel, let us damn their allies until death” and “The Koran is our constitution”¦ Jihad is our path “¦ Victory to Islam”¦ Death to Israel”¦ Revolution”¦ revolution till the victory” at meetings held in support of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Esposito knows this, as these videos were entered into evidence into Sami’s trial. Yet as recently as last month he still refers to Sami, in front of a crowd of American Muslims at a conference held by a Muslim Brotherhood/Hamas-front group, as his “very good friend.”
Additionally, Esposito has praised Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Yusuf al-Qaradawi as a “reformer,” interested in the relationship between Islam and “democracy, pluralism and human rights.” The very same Qaradawi who has sanctioned suicide bombings against American troops in Iraq, calling those who die fighting U.S. forces “martyrs,” and civilians in Israel, referring to such terrorist acts as “just” and a “divine destiny.”
In a perfect world, such praise and associations would be as damaging as they are damning, yet Esposito has profited tremendously from such views, endorsements and friends. In December 2005, Saudi “philanthropist” Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal donated $20 million to Georgetown University to “teach about the Islamic world to the United States.”
According to the Washington Post, this is what the Prince got for his money:
The Georgetown center, part of the university’s School of Foreign Service, will be renamed the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding. The $20 million will endow three faculty chairs, expand programs and academic outreach, provide scholarships for students and expand library facilities, Alwaleed said.
Center director John L. Esposito said in an interview that “a significant part of the money will be used to beef up the think tank part of what the center does.”
Famously, money from Alwaleed Bin Talal comes with strings attached, not that Esposito would be bothered by such preconditions. After 9/11, then-NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani turned down a check for $10 million from the prince, after Alwaleed Bin Talal issued a press release stating that America had to “re-examine its policies in the Middle East and adopt a more balanced stance towards the Palestinian cause.” Despite the prince’s “generous” gift to Georgetown, his money is probably better spent elsewhere, as anyone who knows anything about Esposito would understand he hardly has to be bribed to parrot the radical Islamist/Saudi worldview.
And for those who insist that voicing skepticism and concern about the influx of Saudi money on institutions of higher learning is nothing more than “Islamophobia,” not every one is fooled, including various leaders of the Australian Muslim community, as reported in The Australian, “Muslims attack $1m Saudi gift to uni”:
UP to $1 million will be pumped by Saudi Arabia into an Australian university, sparking fears the money will skew its research and create sympathy for an extremist Muslim ideology espoused by al-Qai’da.
Muslim leaders and academics have attacked Queensland’s Griffith University for accepting an initial $100,000 grant from the Saudi embassy, which they accused of having given cash in the past to educational institutions to improve the perception of Wahhabism – a hardline interpretation of Islam.
The Australian understands the Griffith Islamic Research Unit will in coming years receive up to $1 million from Saudi Arabia, which has injected more than $120 million into Australia’s Islamic community since the 1970s for mosques, schools, scholarships and clerical salaries.
A former member of John Howard’s Muslim reference board, Mustapha Kara-Ali, accused the Saudis of using their financial power to transform the landscape of Australia’s Islamic community and silence criticism of Wahhabism. “They want to silence criticism of the Wahhabi establishment and its link to global terrorism and national security issues,” he said.
Esposito does not share Kara-Ali’s fears and wholeheartedly embraced his Saudi gift horse. But the New Jersey Department of Homeland Security should know better. During his August 2007 CAIR speech, Esposito stated, “The reality of it is there is no major significant threat in the mosques in America,” and no one should expect anything other than his continued downplaying of the threat posed to the U.S. by radical Islam and its adherents. Inviting the self-described “good friend” of a convicted terrorist operative, a man who praises as a “reformer” the pro-suicide bombing spiritual head of the Muslim Brotherhood, a bought and paid for spokesman for the Wahhabist, Saudi worldview, to discuss the issues and problems associated with Islamic radicalization in the U.S. is very likely the most counter productive and wrongheaded approach yet devised by a government agency dedicated to protecting the United States.”
That is Esposito, whose “The Straight Path” serves as the main text for “Islam and Global Forces.” The students will not learn of the existence of Joseph Schacht’s work on Islamic law, of Arthur Jeffrey”s book on Muhammad, or about Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s “Infidel” on the condition of women in Islam, based on her own experience, and that of other Muslim women she knew in Somalia, Saudi Arabia, and the Netherlands. They may be kept in the dark about those who, such as Wafa Sultan and Mithal al-Alusi and Ibn Warraq, signed the St. Petersburg Declaration, unafraid to announce a program of measures that would have to be taken if there is to be hope for peaceful co-existence, not between Islam and the West, but between Islam and the rest. And it is strange that they should be go unmentioned, given that one unit of the course is supposedly devoted to “revival” and “reform” in Islam.
After Esposito’s “The Straight Path” comes “The New Voices of Islam: Rethinking Politics and Modernity,” by Mehran Kamrava. Kamrava is an Iranian, presumably an exile from the Khomeini regime, now a professor at California State at Fullerton. The title “New Voices of Islam” suggests a ferment that is greatly exaggerated, a product mostly of Bright Young Muslim Reformers in the West, the kind who are given every conceivable foundation or government grant for their “reform” projects that are never quite made clear, and that never quite can come to anything, for to do so would require changing the minds not of fellow grant recipients, but of a billion primitive and true Believers. If the Qur’an is uncreated and immutable, and hints of changing it could lead to the life-threatening charge of apostasy, how likely is it that these “new voices of Islam” will have any echo in the Islamic world, whatever attention they are given in university courses in the Infidel United States? Some educated Muslims in the West, or even in Dar al-Islam, may be keenly embarrassed now that the texts and tenets of Islam are becoming more widely understood by Infidels, but with a few exceptions they appear determined to defend Islam.
Among them are no doubt the Pakistani friends and professional colleagues of Professor Anita Weiss — who, naturally, would not wish to offend them. That puts a limit on the nature of her inquiry into Islam, or what she might permit her students to learn. The teaching of Islam is like the teaching of nothing else in the way in which one’s colleagues, or those with whom one team-teaches (Amarah Niazi), or has as a teaching assistant, can inhibit one, put limits on the discussion that happens in no courses on subjects other than Islam. It is now a problem for the profession that few will wish to recognize, or speak about.
Kamrava’s subtitle — “Rethinking Politics and Modernity” — bespeaks a refusal to acknowledge that Islam is not separate from, but contains, what we mean by “politics,” and that “modernity” is simply the name for all those developments in the Western world that Muslims in the West encounter, or Muslims in Muslim-ruled lands now cannot fail, because of technological advances, to be aware of, and to wonder about. And one suspects that in Kamrava’s own treatment of his native Iran, such things as the coup against Mossadegh in 1953, and the Shah’s development schemes that helped unhinge the villagers of rural Iran and caused them to turn not to a fictional Islam but more deeply to the real Islam, which meant support for Khomeini and the Islamic Republic of Iran, are glossed over. One would love to know whether or not a single article in Kamrava’s anthology actually addresses the tenets of Islam that pertain to Infidels.
For surely the most unsettling feature of the modern world is the fact of obvious Infidel civilizational superiority which leads to Muslim ressentiment and cold fury, especially among Muslims living in the West, who have learned that by right it is they who should be on top, and Islam that should prevail. It is not merely that as yet that has not happened, but that Infidels seem secure in their own achievements, and not inclined to recognize, as Muslims think they should, the superiority of Islam, and the rightness of the claims of the Muslims to rule.
If, as I suspect, Mehran Kahrava is not a supporter of the Islamic Republic of Iran, he is likely to be in the nationalist-leftist line of Mossadegh. These were the people who thought they could use Khomeini and his followers to get rid of the Shah, and then they, the better-educated and secular political opposition, would naturally inherit Iran, for they could not conceive of a troglodyte such as Khomeini actually taking power. It turned out that it was they who were being used by Khomeini, not the other way round, and it was they who lost out, and some had to go into exile. But still, even the Iranians who hate Khomeini console themselves with the idea that he represented something new, something with shallow roots. But that description better fit the Shah, and his father, especially in their decency toward non-Muslims. The treatment of the Zoroastrians, the forced conversions of Jews and Armenians by Shah Abbas II, the severe punishments inflicted on Iranian Jews outside Teheran even well into the twentieth century, should they dare to go outside in the rain (where a drop might fall on an “unclean” Jew and then ricochet onto a Muslim, thereby defiling him) — this history may seem fantastic to the leftist-nationalist elite who study such Western categories as “politics” but do not relate the behavior of Muslim peoples, their inability to accept “modernity” as people in East Asia have done so for example, to Islam itself.
The texts chosen by Anita Weiss have all been published within the last six years. She makes no use in her course of any of the great historical works on Islam and Islamic societies. Not a hint in the syllabus of anything before the year 2000. Everything is new. Not a whisper about Snouck Hurgronje, and Henri Lammens, and Joseph Schacht, and Antoine Fattal, and K. S. Lal, and a hundred other great scholars of Islam. The course is sociology and current events, as if history was not here an indispensable guide, given that Muslims themselves are constantly harking back to a “glorious past,” a veritable Golden Age, of high Islamic civilization, and given that events of 1300 years ago in the Islamic world are more vivid, and important, than events of the past five or ten or 100 years. The role of history, remembered or imagined, is one thing that Anita Weiss”s students will not be taught.
Another book on the syllabus — “Jihad: the trail of political Islam” — is by the French sociologist Gilles Kepel. Kepel for years dismissed worry over Islam. Just as Esposito published “The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality” before the 9/11/2001 attacks, and came down firmly, in answer to his title” s question, on the site of myth, so Gilles Kepel wrote about “The End of Jihad,” and confidently asserted that Muslim terrorism was on the decline, a thing of the past, on its way out. Unfortunately for Kepel, his book appeared within a week of the 9/11/2001 attacks. Yet somehow he managed to cover his tracks too, going back, revising for later editions, and coming out quickly with a book that would obscure, or make people forget, his predictions in “The End of Jihad.”
When he is not foreseeing a quick end to Muslim terrorism worldwide, Gilles Kepel has been a government adviser on the “integration” of Muslims into French society. He sees no reason — none at all — why this cannot be accomplished, just as has happened with so many previous groups of immigrants. That Islam presented a unique problem, for it required large numbers of Muslim immigrants to accept the legal, political, and social institutions of the Infidel nation-state (and a laic one at that) of France, never appears to have crossed the mind, or the prose, of Gilles Kepel. Kepel’s “Jihad: the Trail of Political Islam,” assigned by Anita Weiss, suggests that there is something called “political Islam,” and therefore there must be an Islam that is “non-political,” that pays no attention to things of this world. But there is no such Islam, save for the most extreme deliberately unworldly among the Sufis. But Sufis make up about 2% of the world’s Muslims, and those who are “non-political” are a fraction of that. In Islam, there is no distinction between the “religious” and the “political.” Islam does not separate the sacred and profane, the purely religious, such as the rituals of prayer, from the geopolitics that is contained in, is a central part of, Islam. In deliberately using the phrase “political Islam,” Kepel implies that the good Believer is free to take or leave that “politics.” Islam doesn’t work like that. It is, in the main, a political or geopolitical ideology. Under Chirac, Gilles Kepel (and Olivier Roy) were consulted. One doubts that the new rulers of France, much more realistic about the menace, to France and the French, of Muslim immigration, will be consulting Kepel in quite the same way.
Possibly the most atrocious book on the syllabus is that edited by Emran Qureshi and Michael Sells: “The New Crusades: Constructing the Muslim Enemy.” We know where this is going. It is a tale of innocent Muslims, depicted by a vicious American government and its fanatical agents, to create a “Muslim enemy” to replace “the Other” of Soviet Communism. Why? Well, because the Pentagon, and Bush, and so many others, need that outward enemy, in order to justify military spending, and the totalitarian state they are building.
For those who know nothing, but are prepared to believe anything, about Islam, this notion may have a certain appeal. It is far more comforting, in a way, to believe that the American government itself was responsible for the attack on 9/11; at least, then, the enemy has been identified, and he is us, and therefore he fits into some pre-fabricated notion of malevolent Republican reactionary elements, determined, when the Soviet Union was no more, to create an enemy, and innocent Islam was at hand, and fit the bill.
That “Jihad” is not a concept made up by Westerners, or Americans. It is and has been a central duty of Muslims, a duty that at times is a collective one and at times an individual one, a duty that goes back to the first years of Islam. The Model of Conduct, uswa hasana, the Perfect Man, al-insan al-kamil, Muhammad, devoted his life to war-making. He was a warrior who fought in 78 separate battles, laid down his own rules of warfare including those governing the distribution of booty and the treatment of women seized in war. He is recorded famously as saying that “war is deception.” The history of Islam shows it to have been a fighting faith, with Arab Muslims conquering non-Muslim lands, first in the Middle East and North Africa and into the Iberian peninsula and southern France, and then, centuries later in the west, Muslim Turks, both Seljuks and Ottomans, conquering the Byzantine Empire and much of southern and eastern Europe. Muhammad was nothing like Jesus.
The Qureshi/Sells book is, in contrast to all this, designed to convince the credulous that Islam is inoffensive, and that it is the Western world, especially the United States, that has had to satisfy the need for an enemy, and Islam was conveniently at hand and was “constructed” to be that new enemy.
Michael Sells, of course, is well-known for his own concoction — his concocting, out of the Qur’an, of a carefully-bowdlerized version which removes all the disturbing bits, the things about Infidels that Infidels would not like, and instead offers a syrupy “Approaching the Qur’an: The Lyrical Suras.” That syrup was force-fed, ladled out into the mouths, forcibly held open, of entering freshmen at the University of North Carolina a few years ago. Qureshi is not an academic, but a “freelance journalist” who specializes in Defending-the-Faith articles. This is worth noting, because so many of those who have crept into academic positions as members of MESA Nostra make much of the supposed lack of proper academic qualifications of Robert Spencer and others who dare to submit Islam to critical rather than adoring scrutiny. Apparently, however, they do not raise the same objection about those who, such as Qureshi, are on their side, the side of Defending the Faith.
Here is how the book is described in its own blurb:
Not since the Crusades of the Middle Ages has Islam evoked the degree of fear, hostility, and ethnic and religious stereotyping that is evident throughout Western culture today. As conflicts continue to proliferate around the globe, the perception of a colossal, unyielding, and unavoidable struggle between Islam and the West has intensified. These numerous conflicts, both actual and ideological, have revived fears of an ongoing “clash of civilizations–”an intractable and irreconcilable conflict of values between Western cultures and an Islam that is portrayed as hostile and alien.
The New Crusades takes head-on the idea of an emergent “Cold War” between Islam and the West. It explores the historical, political, and institutional forces that have raised the specter of a threatening and monolithic Muslim enemy and provides a nuanced critique of much received wisdom on the topic, particularly the “clash of civilizations” theory. Bringing together twelve of the most influential thinkers in Middle Eastern and religious studies””including Edward Said, Roy Mottahedeh, and Fatema Mernissi””this timely collection confronts such depictions of the Arab-Islamic world, showing their inner workings and how they both empower and shield from scrutiny Islamic radicals who operate from similar paradigms of inevitable and absolute conflict.