The keenest and most aware, in every part of the Western world, are now engaged in one vast, but not collective, History Lesson. Those in this class are necessarily a class of autodidacts, given the failure of our governments to instruct us, and given the near-total monopoly over academic departments and courses on Islam by those engaged not so much in instruction as in apologetics.
Muslims and non-Muslims are conducting that apologetics. In 1970, Muslims constituted 3% of the members of the Middle East Studies Association, or MESA. Now they make up over 60% of the membership of what is known here as MESA Nostra. And they are assisted by non-Muslims who are eager not to offend Muslim colleagues, on whom they may depend for advancement and favors — summer grants, book blurbs, light teaching loads, not to mention how unpleasant departmental meetings can be made by resentful Muslims, aware that a colleague may be guilty of presenting students with something like the truth about the teachings of Islam and about Jihad, and the treatment of non-Muslims under Muslim rule.
Of course, some of those non-Muslims may well have been attracted to their field in the first place by something in their own mental makeup that made Islam, or the Arabs, appealing to them. That is also true for those in the State Department who man the Middle Eastern desks. These self-selected students of the subject are unlikely to be the best guides. Furthermore, there is so much Arab money around to endow chairs, or even whole centers — such as the two carefully placed at Georgetown, the better to influence government policymakers and the national media: Esposito’s fiefdom, the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (a farcical undertaking, by Esposito, Voll and Haddad, that deserves a book-length study of its own) and Michael Hudson’s Center for Contemporary Arab Studies. The rich Lebanese contractor who first got Esposito on his way has had his initial funds supplemented by the Saudis and others; the Kuwaitis appear to have been the major donors, early on, to Hudson’s undertaking. One center is in charge of misleading Infidels about Islam; the other handles the “Palestinian” matter. Their portfolios overlap, of course.
So here we are, now rediscovering the history of India, even if we are not Indians, and perhaps learning more about it, reading more sympathetically about what Muslim rule did to India, than many Indians who, to prove their lack of parochialism, their freedom from “communalism,” overlook the real history, and continuing menace, of Islam in India. Here we are, even those who until a few years ago hardly knew about the Ottomans in Europe, realizing why the Serbs need to be protected from Muslim demands, either by “Bosnians” or by Albanians. Here we are, even those who up until recently had no real understanding of why the Arabs seemed incapable of making any kind of peace or accepting one Israeli compromise and surrender after another of Jewish claims, legal, moral, and historic, but always wanted more. Of course, according to Islam, they must always want more — as we have learned by teaching ourselves about the Treaty of Al Hudaibiyya, learning, since no one in the press chooses to mention, the basis for all Muslim treaties with Infidels.
And here we are, learning not the Arab or Eurabian version of French rule in North Africa, but the real version. Here we are, learning who it was who stamped out slavery in the Maghreb (the French), and gave freedom from legalized Muslim oppression (1871, la loi Cremieux) to various communities of non-Muslims. We are learning who stamped out the African slave trade conducted by the Arabs in East Africa (the British), and who prevented the Arab tribes from constant mutual slaughter, which is why those “Trucial” states were given their names — one hudna or truce after another. Here we are, learning about the Seljuk and the Ottoman Turks.
Oh, we are not experts. We can’t compete with Schacht and Snouck Hurgronje and St. Clair Tisdall. But we can read Schacht and Snouck Hurgronje and St. Clair Tisdall and Arthur Jeffery and Tor Andrae and Henri Lammens. For that matter, some of us can even read Noldeke and Ignaz Goldziher. We can compare these scholars with what passes for “experts” from Esposito to Olivier Roy, from Khaled Abou el Fadl to Mark LaVine and so many others who have managed to first creep into, and then to slither upwards from rung to slippery rung, in that academic game of snakes-and-ladders with which some are long familiar.
Here we are, all over the world, the unsung History Boys.
And we are learning a lot. And passing it on. And we no longer accept the false authority of those whom, we realize, have been falsely instructing us on the nature of Islam. We have the real authorities to go to — that Schacht, that Snouck Hurgronje, that St. Clair Tisdall, that Jeffery, and the hundreds of others, from many different countries, who saw Islam steadily and whole, and whose work, preserved in books and articles, can no longer be hidden from view.