In “What does it mean to be Islamic now?” in The Australian, June 7 (thanks to JE), Irfan Yusuf, a “Sydney lawyer and recipient of the 2007 Allen & Unwin Iremonger award for public affairs writing,” says that it means nothing in particular to be Islamic now, and that those wicked folks who say otherwise (such as I) are just intellectually lazy polemicists. And then, as you might expect, he turns around and endorses the work of the intellectually lazy polemicists Esposito and Mogahed, and dances around the key issue, which is, however wonderfully diverse Muslims may be, where exactly is there a sect or school of Islam that teaches that Muslims and non-Muslims should coexist peacefully as equals before the law on an indefinite basis?
WE don’t often associate the skin tones, exotic culture and poverty of the world’s largest Catholic continent with Catholicism.
Few Australian Catholics would recognise the popular beliefs and practices of their Latin American co-religionists.
So if I were to make an ambit criticism of Christianity based on the extreme poverty and draconian politics of Latin America, Catholics would be justified in poking their fingers at me and ridiculing my simplistic reasoning. But among those pointing at me in ridicule would be the polemicists and cultural warriors with three fingers pointing back at themselves. Google jihad. Featuring prominently is JihadWatch, a blog moderated by far-right Catholic polemicist Robert Spencer.
Here come the hate words — and make no mistake, that’s what they are. By calling me “far-right,” “Catholic,” and a “polemicist,” Yusuf is semaphoring to the enlightened classes that I am someone with whom they should have nothing to do. The mainstream media and the governing elites despise the “Right” and the Catholic Church, and abhor “polemics” in favor of multicultural harmony. “Far-right,” of course, has overtones of racism and fascism, and those are just the overtones Irfan Yusuf wishes to convey.
But do these epithets (and that is what they are, to Irfan Yusuf) really apply to me or Jihad Watch? Unless resistance to the jihad is in and of itself “far-right,” and I would suspect that Irfan Yusuf would say it is, what conceivably justifies calling me or this website “far-right”? What “far-right” positions have we taken? We have repeatedly rejected racist and neo-fascist approaches to the jihad resistance, and as far as other issues go the uncomfortable fact for Irfan Yusuf is that we haven’t taken any positions on anything outside of questions relating to jihad and Islamic supremacism in the West. But of course that is it, for him — I am “far-right” the way Geert Wilders or Pim Fortuyn or Ayaan Hirsi Ali or anyone who opposes the Islamization of the non-Muslim world is. In that sense, as matters come to a head, I hope and expect that Irfan Yusuf will find more and more people in Australia and other countries becoming “far-right.” I’ve repeatedly said that the resistance to the jihad is not a Left or Right issue, but an issue involving defense of Western and all non-Muslim civilization, and that I want to build a broad coalition here. Over the years I’ve come to have less and less hope that any significant forces on the Left will give up their hatred of America and the West and join us in this, but nonetheless, this is a civilizational issue, not a partisan one.
“Catholic” — have you ever noticed that guys like Irfan Yusuf mention that I’m Catholic far more often than I myself do? In one sense it’s fine with me — I am Catholic — but I am also aware of what Yusuf and others are doing. They’re trying to give you the impression that this site is a sectarian one, motived by some kind of competition for religious market share. Well, look around. Search the archives. You won’t find any evaluations of the respective truth claims of Christianity and Islam, you won’t find any proselytizing, you won’t find any calls to prayer or any other kind of overtly religious content. Even in my book about Christianity and Islam, you’ll find none of that. I focus only on the aspects of each that are pertinent to today’s global jihad, evaluating the question posed so eloquently by Rosie O’Donnell a few year back (she offered it as a statement of fact): is “radical Christianity” really just as much of a threat as “radical Islam”?
Here at Jihad Watch, rather than religious content, you’ll find examinations of Islamic jihad activity, explanations of the motives and goals of the jihadists, and related material. Everyone — Jewish, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, atheist, secular Muslim — is invited to join us in resisting Islamic jihad supremacism, as I have stated here for nearly five years. So why doesn’t Irfan Yusuf tell you that? You and I both know why.
“Polemicist” — sure. But only because I have had to become one. I provide evidence here for every position I take, and in response get these ad hominem smears on a more or less regular basis from people like Irfan Yusuf, who have the audacity at the same time to claim that they are the ones working on the basis of evidence. Well, Mr. Yusuf, I am calling you out on that point. I will be happy to debate you, and ask you to have the decency to reply to this post — with evidence supporting your position, not more smears.
It takes a certain degree of intellectual laziness (often combined with irrational prejudice) to attribute negative characteristics to an entire group of people, especially when members of this group rarely, if ever, regard themselves as sharing some uniform identity.
Here we go, Mr. Yusuf. Please provide one quote from me in which I ascribe any characteristics at all to the “entire group” of Muslims worldwide. As the Qur’an says (2:111, 27:64), bring your proof, if you be truthful!
Do entities such as the Muslim community or the Muslim world really exist? Do all Muslims regard themselves as belonging to the same community of believers? Indeed, do all Muslims regard each other as Muslims? If so, how do we explain the rhetoric of Iraqi Sunni groups who attack Shia Muslim shrines with a view to destroying the infidel? And how do we explain that an elderly Lakemba-based imam who once claimed the title of mufti of Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific wasn’t recognised by many Australian Muslims as playing any religious role whatsoever?
I can see why Irfan Yusuf got the 2007 Allen & Unwin Iremonger award for public affairs writing: he’s slick. Certainly it is common teaching among Muslims that they are part of one worldwide supranational umma, or community. Does that mean that all Muslims believe that? No. Does that mean that the Islamic world is not beset by schisms, such as the Sunni/Shi’ite split or, on a much smaller scale, the dispute in Australia to which he refers? No. But such splits do not negate the common teaching, either.
Yet we still see, hear and read of the Muslim community and the Muslim world having a uniform manifestation of faith in a monolithic (usually violent and hostile) manner. We so easily lump together 1.2 billion people in the same category. Riaz Hassan, a sociology professor at Flinders University, argues that the tendency to generalise about Muslims is caused largely by the lack of empirical research.
I have pointed out, and will continue to do so, that all the orthodox sects and schools of jurisprudence teach warfare against and the subjugation of unbelievers. Does that mean every Muslim in the world has signed on to this program? To say that would be asinine, and I have never said it (prove otherwise, Mr. Yusuf). As I have pointed out ad infinitum, there is a spectrum of belief, knowledge and fervor among Muslims, as there is among any ideological group, religious or non-religious. Some take it very seriously, some don’t, with every variation in between. I am not saying we can count on those who don’t care to wage jihad against unbelievers to transform themselves suddenly into staunch allies of the U.S., but that doesn’t mean they’re all giving aid and comfort to Osama and company either.
As someone familiar with the literature in this area, Hassan is well-placed to suggest that “sociologically informed analysis that explores the nature and content of Muslim piety remains very underdeveloped”.
His recently published Inside Muslim Minds outlines some of the results of a comparative study of Muslim religiosity that began 12 years ago. Just under 6400 Muslims from seven Muslim-majority countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Egypt, Iran, Turkey and Kazakhstan) were interviewed on propositions covering the nature of jihad, blasphemy laws, segregation and the role of Islam in politics.
Unfortunately Hassan’s propositions do not (and perhaps cannot) factor in the notion that different religious terms conjure up different meanings and images in the collective minds of Muslims from different regions. For instance, most respondents agreed strongly with the proposition that Muslim societies must be based on the Koran and sharia law. On the surface, this may suggest widespread support for theocratic Islamist political parties and opposition to secularism. However, Islamic sacred law means different things to people from different cultures.
Maybe. In which cultures does it mean equality of rights before the law for non-Muslims as well as Muslims?
In Pakistan, even the most secular parties would not dare oppose the operation of courts that decide on family law and inheritance matters based on the shariat (as it is referred to in Urdu). Meanwhile, in a conservative (yet ironically matriarchal) mercantile societies such as West Sumatra, the idea of governments not pursuing policies that support usury-free financial products based on (to use Indonesian spelling) syariah-compliant economics would be an anathema to entrepreneurs, many of whom are women. Further, while public manifestations of sharia law may signal theocracy for some, it may merely refer to increasing religious observance in civil society for others.
And in which society does jihad not include the concept of warfare against and the subjugation of unbelievers?
Anyway, Yusuf then reports, and attempts to dismiss, Hasan’s finding that — surprise! — a “patriarchal, misogynistic and exclusionary orientation” is “alive and well” in Muslim communities worldwide. But even he acknowledges that his own “exposure to young Australian Muslims leads me to believe that many misogynistic and narrow-minded forms of theology are alive and well in many Muslim communities.”
And Yusuf’s conclusion:
The irony is that when extremist groups set out to harm the infidel, they include in this category ordinary Muslims who refuse to join their pseudo-jihad. It’s little wonder the survey confirms results from other studies of Muslim opinion: that many Muslims may sympathise with the causes cited by terrorist groups (Palestine, Kashmir and so on) but they strongly oppose the methods used by these groups.
So they differ as to method, but not as to goal. I don’t find that reassuring. In fact, that makes me think it is all the more important to expose jihadist goals, and to alert people to the ways they are pursuing them that don’t involve violence.
[…] Both works place greater emphasis on empirical evidence in debates on Islam’s relations with the West. Or as Esposito and Mogahed plead: “Let the data lead the discourse.” It’s not a message extremists from either side wish to dominate the dialogue between civilisations.
But, then, since when have extremists been interested in dialogue?
Let the data lead the discourse indeed — that’s just what Esposito and Mogahed, and Irfan Yusuf, did not do. In reality, at Jihad Watch I provide on a daily basis mountains of evidence, cascades of evidence, for the reality of Islamic supremacist activity around the world. Irfan Yusuf’s straw-man attack and ignoring of that evidence, and his pushing of pseudo-studies designed to whitewash the extent of jihadist activity and sympathy in the Islamic world, is evidence in itself. What does it reveal, Mr. Yusuf?