Unimportant in himself, Tom Friedman has become important by virtue of his station: he is one of the columnists for The New York Times. He is read, and by many, and is assumed to know whereof he speaks. He has a line in name-dropping (“When I met with the ambassador” or “when I had a chat with [Indian or Chinese industrialist or American entrepreneur]”) that offers, for some, a superficial gleam. His world-traveling makes him, for some, soothing, soothing because of his simplifying, his cheerful reductionism. He is soothing also for some because of his eager enthusiasm for whatever topic that he is already preparing for his next Tom-Friedman-Splains-It-All-To-You book, to be followed by $45,000/per lectures to busy businessmen who are suitably impressed with Tom Friedman (“He must know what he’s talking about. He’s got a Pulitzer. He writes for the Times. He goes on Charlie Rose.”).
Friedman’s reductions to sound-bite, lecture-ready phrases (e.g., “the world is flat”) are not those of someone who has mastered a great deal of material and then managed to present it, after thought, in a lucid form, accessible to many because of his mastery of phrase that reflects a complete grasp of the material. No, his simplifications are truly those of someone who is a simpleton himself, and who is not so much in the business of lucidly making sense of things, but of finding a catch phrase, and then finding bits and pieces of anecdotal evidence to weave a little tale that will make no demands on reader, or listener. The perfect thing for business-babbitts wanting a complicated and disturbing world made simple. No mental activity necessary. Just listen to the self-satisfied guru, a mountebank of the updated Chautauqua circuit, who expresses no nuance, who hints at no doubts. He knows what’s going on. He”ll tell you everything you need to know.
A nice example of this was Friedman’s column the other day, about what he, Tom Friedman, had discovered on his trip to India. He had found that Indian Muslims — all 150 million of them, apparently — were responding splendidly to the Mumbai massacres, rallying around the flag of Mother India, showing that they were horrified by this “terrorism” that, bien entendu, had “nothing to do with Islam.” And so the lesson that Tom Friedman wanted millions of readers to take away was this: you have nothing to fear from Islam, rightly understood. Here are Indian Muslims, declaring in no uncertain terms that Islam and terrorism are incompatible, that Islam forbids the very things that those terrorists, in the name of Islam, in Mumbai did.
After the thousands upon thousands of terrorist acts plotted or committed by Muslims, that is, by those who have been raised within Islam, and who have been prompted by what Islam inculcates, and who have never been found to rely on a single made-up Qur’anic passage, or a single inauthentic Hadith, or a single episode in the life of Muhammad that cannot be found in the Muslim biographies, it’s a tall order to convince people of this, but Tom Friedman, the eternal enthusiast, is happy to make the attempt.
And he has exactly two Muslims whom he adduces, as evidence that 1) 150 million Indian Muslims have shown clearly that they are on the side of the Indian state, are as loyal as all get out and as outraged by those Mumbai terrorists as anyone else in India; and 2) that Islam does not command, but actually prohibits (for Islam only commands or only prohibits) acts of terrorism.
Here’s how Friedman attempts to do this. He begins by quoting Haif Nalkhande, “a spokesman for the Muslim Jama Masjid Trust [that runs a large Muslim cemetery in Mumbai] as insisting that “people who committed this heinous crime cannot be called Muslim.” This is enough for Friedman; he has no further questions. Apparently the fact that the Muslims in Mumbai have decided it prudent not to give Muslim burials to the terrorists is simply, in Friedman’s view, to be taken as a sign of their horror at such terrorism. But is that the only conceivable explanation? Blood was boiling among all non-Muslims in Mumbai, and in India well beyond Mumbai. It is inconceivable, in those circumstances, that the local Muslims would have dared to offer space for the burial of the Muslim terrorists. Can’t Friedman at least consider that possibility, instead of simply accepting, at face value, the same assurances from Muslims that, of course, were hastily offered, right after the 9/11/2001 attacks, by certain Muslim clerics — many of their names can be found at this website — who were quick to drop crocodile tears, quick to show up and piously address interfaith rallies (all designed, by the most naÃ¯ve of interfaith-racketeers, “in this time of their greatest need, to show solidarity with our Muslim brothers”), and who, subsequently, were discovered to have made to fellow Muslims, either before those meetings or sometimes after them, bloodcurdling remarks about non-Muslims? Why, some of those clerics even had to leave the country, once they were exposed, as did a few Egyptian clerics, decamping back to Egypt where they soon revealed themselves to hold views quite different from what they ostentatiously offered non-Muslim audiences. Why, even some non-clerics, prominent Muslims who were involved in various promotions of Islam, such as a key backer of the Boston Mosque, were discovered to have made all kinds of most disturbing remarks, and once exposed, felt it better to leave and, once safely in the Middle East, showed by their statements what had been their real views, briefly obscured by taqiyya, all along.
But Friedman does not rely on Hanif Nalkhande alone to represent the views of 150 Indian Muslims. That would be absurd. He calls one additional witness, to make his case iron-clad. That witness is one M. J. Akbar, “the Indian-Muslim editor of Covert, an Indian investigative journal,” who tells Tom Friedman that “Indian Muslims are proud of being both Indian and Muslim, and the Mumbai terrorism was a war against both India and Islam.” To drive that point home — that Muslims are as much “victims” as any one else, Akbar explains (Friedman: “explained”) that in the Real Islam, “Terrorism has no place in Islamic doctrine. The Koranic term for the killing of innocents is “˜fasad.” Terrorists are fasadis, not jihadis. In a beautiful verse, the Koran says that the killing of an innocent is akin to slaying the whole community. Since the”¦terrorists were neither Indian nor true Muslims, they had no right to an Islamic burial in an Indian Muslim cemetery.”
What would a good journalist do at this point? He would have at least wondered aloud about such passages as Qur’an 9.29 and 9.5. He might have quoted those bits about “striking terror in the hearts of Unbelievers” (8.60). He might have noted the more than 100 so-called “Jihad Verses” in the Qur’an. He might have adduced some of the Hadith that support the same theme — of “terrorizing” Unbelievers. He might have noted the example of Muhammad in saying, and doing, that very same thing. And then he might have asked aloud something like this:
It is only when the apologists for Islam begin to truthfully admit what is clearly in the Qur’an, the Hadith, and the Sira that we, the Infidels, will be able to begin to listen to, much less start to believe, their assurances. As long as we were ignorant of Islam, this kind of thing could be done with impunity. But we, and especially those in the governments, and in the media, of the Western world, that is, those of us who have a duty to protect or instruct, or protect and instruct, others, have a solemn responsibility to find out about Islam and to see through, rather than blandly pass on, obvious apologetics. And if Muslims are ever to change either the texts, or the widespread understanding — let’s call it the “interpretation” — of those texts by Muslims, they will have to stop misrepresenting, to Infidels, what those texts contain. Nothing so arouses suspicion as the example of Muslims, self-described “moderates,” misrepresenting, or lying about, Islam.
So let me ask, on behalf of my readers, to whom I have passed on M. J. Akbar’s assurances, first, when you claim that Islam prohibits the killing of innocents, what is your definition of “innocents”? And does your definition exclude all civilians, or only some? And does your definition have the same, or less, or greater weight, than the definitions offered by, inter alios, the head of Al-Azhar, or Sheik Al-Qaradawi, or the dozen leading Saudi imams, or the assorted ayatollahs and lesser mullahs now running the Islamic Republic of Iran? And does the behavior of Muslims around the world, those using violence as their main instrument of Jihad, support your definition, or theirs? And why should Infidels take comfort in your definition, when the Muslims who participate in violent Jihad appear so completely to disagree?
Then there is your quoting of what you call a “beautiful verse” from the Qur’an, about how someone who kills a single person, it is as if he killed the whole “community” or, perhaps more exactly, the whole world. Yes, that is Qur’an 5.32, as you surely know. What you do not surely know is that the exact same sentiment is to be found in the Jewish scriptures. That is less important, however, than your failure to quote the very next, and modifying verse, in the Qur’an, 5.33, which endows 5.32 with quite a different meaning.
And here is Qur’an 5.33: “The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter”¦”
So apparently killing someone is not quite so awful, for Muslims, as one might be led to believe by highly selective quotation, that is of 5.32 without 5.33. And 5.33 not only does not prohibit but commands killing, or other unpleasant punishments, for those who “wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land.” Any Infidel, that is, who refuses to submit to Allah and His Messenger, who opposes the spread and domination of Islam, deserves condign punishment, including death. Surely when M. J. Akbar carefully recited 5.32, he had a duty to explain its real meaning by offering 5.32 and 5.33 together. Apparently he took me for an officious fool, and believed I would, out of ignorance, simply pass on his apologetic nonsense. Of course I am unwilling to do so, and am here reporting to my readers on this attempt to fool me, and them.
Oh, Tom Friedman might have written something like that. But he didn’t. He couldn’t. None of this would ever have occurred to him. He wouldn’t understand the need. He is, you see”¦..Tom Friedman.