This post could be entitled Why Can’t Muslims Debate? Part II — perhaps this should be an ongoing series. In Why Can’t Muslims Debate? Part I I noted the tendency of self-proclaimed moderate Muslim spokesmen to engage in ad hominem attacks, not just as a secondary feature of their presentation, but as the entirety of their argument. And I suggested: “I am beginning to suspect that all the abuse they delight in is not just a manifestation of their abysmal intellectual bankruptcy, although it is that also; it is at the same time a demonstration of their Islamic supremacist assumptions. The filthy kaffir is not to be respected, much less his arguments answered; rather, he is to be rebuked for his insolence and put in his place.”
There is as a companion to this also a tendency toward projection, as manifested by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad here; this is also found among those of his coreligionists who profess to reject his Islamic supremacism and hatred.
And so it is that an associate of the raving spitblogger Dean Esmay, Ali Eteraz, with whom I have had several exchanges in the past, attacks this site today in a comment at his own site (thanks to James). After a commenter named Susan recommends Jihad Watch, Eteraz writes:
Let the record reflect that while many pro-Steyn people do not uphold such xenophobic views, a great many of those defending him are quite happily, under the guise of being defenders of pluralism, people of acute bigotry and supremacist tendencies themselves, as evidenced by the website Susan references.
“Acute bigotry and supremacist tendencies”? Really? Is resisting Islamic supremacism in the name of the equality of dignity of women and men, the equality of rights of all people before the law, and the freedom of conscience really “acute bigotry”? It is, of course, in the eyes of American Muslim advocacy groups that seem determined to stamp out all anti-jihad resistance, and which have numerous questionable ties and activities themselves (here is the most notorious example). But shouldn’t someone like Ali Eteraz, who claims to abjure Islamic supremacism, see us as an ally?
Maybe so, but instead, he accuses us in turn of “supremacist tendencies” — and that’s where the projection comes in. It isn’t that he himself is necessarily an Islamic supremacist, but that he would see in us exactly what we are fighting is an extremely odd charge that I think is illuminated by something Eteraz wrote a few months ago (thanks to Admiral Adama). After a commenter on one of his articles referred back to this piece under the heading, “Ali Eteraz torn up by Robert Spencer,” Eteraz responded:
torn up? really?
are u kidding me? that christian supremacist? i used to take him seriously until i realized he’s a christian polemicist and not a philosopher. his last book was revealing wasn’t it? whats it called? how Christianity is better than everything? Even conservative secularists don’t take him seriously anymore (and christian traditionalits like d’souza call him an islamophobe.). but im glad you mentioned him here so we could air it all out. good job.
maybe you should consider the following:
Robert Spencer, Confused By Islamic Reformer [Ghamidi]Calls Him Inauthentic; Abuses Me Again
As to Spencer maligning me:
Despite complaining about how much I abuse him, Spencer keeps misrepresenting me. In the post at issue, I am called a “highly disingenuous Islamic apologist.”
Yeah Robert, real apologetic when I call for the separation of mosque and state, and argue for the abolition of the death penalty for apostasy.
But leaving aside Eteraz’s apparent ignorance of the meaning of the word “apologist,” it seems that his characterization of Jihad Watch as a website manifesting “supremacist tendencies” comes from the fact that I wrote a book with the title Religion of Peace?: Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn’t. Now is this, in itself, a “supremacist” exercise? It might arguably be if it were a proselytizing book, which it isn’t (unlike, incidentally, the latest offering from Eteraz’s friend D’Souza), or possibly if I had discussed questions of the truth of either religion in it (which I didn’t), or more to the point if I had called for the conquest and Christianization of the Islamic world (which I didn’t). In reality, the book is a defense of Judeo-Christian Western values and civilization on the points on which they are challenged by the Islamic jihadists’ supremacist agenda. It is a call for the general recognition of concepts including the equality of dignity of all people that have their roots in the Judeo-Christian tradition. I have in many other places also (including here, many times), called upon Muslims to renounce supremacism and live in peace with non-Muslims as equals on an indefinite basis — which is a far cry from any supremacism on my part. Do I want anyone to be subjugated? Anyone to be a dhimmi? Anyone to be subservient to anyone else? Absolutely not. Ali Eteraz has in this entered the realm of fantasy.
A little later on in the comments thread at his site today, Eteraz says something even weirder to Susan:
Well my dear, I urge you to be honest and treat us Fifth Columnists as we deserve to be treated. Just one question: will you be calling it “internment camp” or “concentration camp.”
By the way, I am glad you stopped by and expressed your views Susan. I will hope that the editors from National Review, who have linked to this post, see it; this, I imagine, will only further assure them that their longstanding refusal to not link to jihadwatch remains in effect.
The first paragraph is the kind of paranoid smear we often see these days: you oppose the jihad, therefore you must want to put Muslims in camps. If Eteraz were to try to establish that Jihad Watch actually advocates such things, he would have a very hard time finding any statement from me or Hugh or any other Jihad Watch writer to substantiate his claim. We do not hold such positions, we oppose them, and have never come close to advocating anything like that here.
And the part about National Review is just foggy — is he saying that NR refuses to link to Jihad Watch? But actually they do every so often, most recently on the 3rd of this month, when I participated in a Symposium there and the link to JW was right in my author tagline. Or is he saying that they have refused to stop linking here? In which case I’d like to know who exactly is pressuring them to do so, and in what way.
Later still he accuses us of “nativist bigotry,” and goes on to say:
Ultimately I call this xenophobic view of “oh no Muslim immigration!” a form of supremacism because its operative assumption is that something about having a relationship to Islam renders one inherently incapable of adapting to the West. The list of groups to which this kind of supremacism has been applied to in the past includes everyone from the Catholic to the Chinese.
This is getting close to a substantive point, but on close examination it dissolves into just another smear. The idea that because there were anti-Catholic and anti-Chinese nativists in bygone days means that resistance to the global jihad and Islamic supremacism must be the same thing is simply absurd. Eteraz simultaneously overlooks the fact that Muslims are the first immigrant group ever to come to a new country with a ready-made societal model that many believe it is their divine duty to work to implement, and the fact that it is not Jihad Watch or Robert Spencer who originated the idea that Islam will have difficulty adapting to the West — this is said by Muslims not infrequently. Note, for example, the statements by Muslims about democracy and Islam that I quote here. I wonder by what logic Eteraz thinks that attributing their views to me will keep Muslims from thinking such things.
Anyway, that Eteraz can only call names is a long-standing pattern: I gave up on attempts to discuss matters rationally with him after he savagely attacked my late friend and colleague Tashbih Sayyed — an attack that came not too long after I had asked him to maintain a civil level of discourse.
Of course, civil discourse is hard to come by in any arena nowadays, and I would be the last one to object to bare-knuckle rhetoric. Name-calling becomes description when you have facts to back it up — but if mudslinging is all you’re bringing to the bout, your chances of winning are not going to be too good. There is a real difference between vacuous name-calling and trenchant description, and it is determined by the substance of one’s arguments. When all you can do is call names and traffic in venomous caricatures, people are going to begin to see through you.
And that is why so many people have growing suspicions about many Muslim spokesmen today: people aren’t stupid, and they can see when more heat is being generated than light. Of course, Ali Eteraz can engage in substantive discussion, and has done so with me. But in my very first encounter with his writing, I noted that he was leaving inconvenient material out of his statements about Muhammad, and concluded: “I am all for supporting Muslim reformers. But I don’t believe that people who ignore or brush aside material that obviously refutes their views are worth trusting as reformers. Because the mujahedin will not ignore or brush aside the material that these pseudo-reformers are busy sweeping under the rug.” Then in our lengthy exchanges early this year, he denied clearly established facts and charged me with ignorance for affirming them — not a tactic that builds trust in one’s willingness to deal honestly.
And now, as he begins to work on a larger stage, others are noticing as well. In this Guardian column, Eteraz takes Ayaan Hirsi Ali to task and asserts:
Muslims will cite certain instances from the time of Muhammad, in which he refused to carry out the prescribed flogging even after the adulterers themselves demanded it. Muslims are thus further able to demonstrate – conclusively they believe – that when it came to flogging, Muhammad was compassionate and forgiving.
A commenter, “PeterNW1,” called out Eteraz on this:
Chapter and verse please?
Muhammad is neither compassionate nor forgiving in this Hadith …
“Then came to Muhammad a woman from Ghamid and said, ‘Messenger of Allah, I have committed adultery, so purify me.’ The Holy Prophet turned her away. On the following day she said, ‘Messenger of Allah, why do you turn me away? By Allah, I have become pregnant.’ He said, ‘Well, if you insist upon it, then go away until you give birth to the child.’ When she was delivered she came with the child wrapped in a rag and said, ‘Here is the child I have given birth to.’ He said: ‘Go away and suckle him until he is weaned.’ When she had weaned him, she came to the Holy Prophet with the child who was holding a piece of bread in his hand. She said, ‘Allah’s Apostle, here is the child. I have weaned him and he eats food.’ The Holy Prophet entrusted the child to one of the Muslims, and then pronounced punishment. She was put in a ditch up to her chest and he commanded people to stone her. Khalid ibn Walid came forward with a stone which he flung at her head. The woman’s blood spurted onto Khalid’s face and he cursed her. Allah’s Apostle heard Khalid’s curse. He said, ‘Khalid, be gentle. By Him in Whose Hand is my life, she has made such a repentance that even if a wrongful tax-collector were to repent, he would have been forgiven.’ Then giving command regarding her, the Holy Prophet prayed over her, and she was buried.”
(Sahih Muslim, Volume 3, Book 17, no 4206)
There are many other ahadith like that one. Here is just one more, also from Sahih Muslim, Volume 4, Book 56, Number 829:
The Jews came to Allah’s Apostle and told him that a man and a woman from amongst them had committed illegal sexual intercourse. Allah’s Apostle said to them, “What do you find in the Torah (old Testament) about the legal punishment of Ar-Rajm (stoning)?” They replied, (But) we announce their crime and lash them.” Abdullah bin Salam said, “You are telling a lie; Torah contains the order of Rajm.” They brought and opened the Torah and one of them solaced his hand on the Verse of Rajm and read the verses preceding and following it. Abdullah bin Salam said to him, “Lift your hand.” When he lifted his hand, the Verse of Rajm was written there. They said, “Muhammad has told the truth; the Torah has the Verse of Rajm. The Prophet then gave the order that both of them should be stoned to death. (‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar said, “I saw the man leaning over the woman to shelter her from the stones.”
A wrenching image at the end of that one. That man was compassionate, and loving to this woman to the end; Muhammad was not. When Ali Eteraz doesn’t even mention such traditions long enough to explain why he rejects them, and doesn’t offer any concrete examples of the compassionate Muhammad he prefers, he doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in his readers.
I have no intention of engaging Eteraz at this point. I have written this merely as a case study of another moderate Muslim spokesman who, like so many others, offers a version of Islam that ignores large elements of mainstream Islamic tradition, such that the likelihood that he will actually sway any Muslims to his view is extremely small — and has a healthy taste for ad hominem attacks instead of a genuine interest in engaging people with differing perspectives on these issues.
And so I will continue to search for a Muslim who is able and willing to engage in a genuine and mutually respectful dialogue about issues involving Islamic supremacism and reform. Mr. Eteraz ain’t the one.