Yes. “Perhaps another time.” Svend White, Defender of the Faith (that faith being the Total Belief-System of Islam), will “perhaps another time” be able to begin to find time in his busy schedule of Defending That Faith and Attacking All Those Who Raise Uncomfortable Questions About It to begin to answer the questions Robert Spencer actually asked him to answer. But right now Svend White, an apparent convert to Islam, simply can’t be bothered. You see, he has other things to deal with, such as questioning the “credentials” of Robert Spencer to discuss Islam. Here’s how Svend White originally put it:
He’s neither a librarian nor a community outreach professional–an understatement if ever there was one–and while the popular tracts against Islam that he churns out at such regular intervals may earn him an ‘A’ for effort he certainly isn’t taken seriously as a scholar in the fields of Religious Studies or Middle Eastern Studies. So his qualifications and relevance seem exceedingly dubious for an event of this nature.
Never mind the business of being that doubtful, even unappetizing, thing, a “community outreach professional.”
Never mind the baseless assertion that “he [Robert Spencer] certainly isn’t taken seriously as a scholar in the fields of Religious Studies or Middle Eastern Studies.” Ibn Warraq, who has produced four scholarly books on early Islam and the origins of the Qur’an, takes Spencer seriously, and so do all of the apostates from Islam — those highly articulate, morally advanced people who, through no fault of their own, were born into Islam (unlike Svend White, who appears to be one of those who voluntarily signed on as a recruit to the Army of Islam), and who, in the mental freedom of the West, and in the physical security that powerful non-Muslim countries can offer apostates, analyzed the nature of Islam, in ways not different from those employed by Spencer. They find him to be perfectly credible and, indeed, a truth-teller among a great many purveyors of plausible (and implausible) nonsense.
What was the “event of this nature” for which Spencer was, in the opinion of podsnappish Svend White, so uncredentialed and therefore so unfit? The ALA panel was not supposed to defend or promote the texts and tenets of Islam, or the beliefs of Muslims in that Total Belief-System which has won the heart, and the troubled mind, of Svend White. It was supposed to contain people who would forthrightly discuss the teachings of Islam, help members of the ALA understand what Muslims are taught, or rather what is inculcated, and what a great many of them so obviously deeply believe, and others, who may not so obviously deeply believe, nonetheless defend and explain away whenever they can, out of fear or filial piety or civilisational embarrassment or some combination or permutation of the three.
And while Svend White, if that is his name, provides us with the always-fascinating spectacle of someone in the free and advanced West who chooses to surrender himself to a Total System that calls all the shots, out of whatever emotional or intellectual desarroi one can speculate all one wishes, that tells you what is Commanded and what is Prohibited, from soup to notes, from dawn to dusk, all the livelong day. For he has volunteered to become a “Slave of Allah,” volunteered to enter a world where one checks one’s own moral and intellectual sense at the door, as if such sense were a mental sense that Islam could not be expected to tolerate, and to submit to an ideology that encourages the habit of mental submission. It causes, over time, those converts or reverts to lose the ability to engage in free and skeptical inquiry, since the all-embracing faith of Islam itself is entirely off-limits to questioning, in any of its aspects, by Believers, so brittle is that faith, so incapable of withstanding questioning of this or of that. It is a faith that offers, as the final answer to every question to which an answer is given, a nearly-robotic repetition of passages from the Qur’an, the Hadith (often with a long recital of the particular isnad-chain, which recital has its own hypnotic or dulling effect on the mind), and Sira. Since it has been more than a millennium that the Gates of Ijtihad were slammed shut with a thud, and there is no appeal against what was long ago set in amber, Muslims must be well satisfied, or pretend to be, with the stark Appeal To Authority: “Allah Knows Best.”
Islam discourages a Believer from thinking for himself. That would be dangerous for the edifice of Islam. If too many Believers did so, and were allowed to continue to do so, the whole brittle edifice might come tumbling down. And it might come tumbling down just if the non-Arabs who make up 80% of the world’s Muslims could be made to see — and it is not difficult to show them, though it is difficult to broadcast the message to the right places — that Islam is, in every fiber of its being, a vehicle for Arab supremacism, for cultural and linguistic imperialism, and also for imperialism of the other kind. Islam is indeed the vehicle for the most successful imperialism in human history — that of the Arabs, who have made many peoples believe they should forget their own histories, their own languages, their own literatures, and become little Arabs, preferably Arabs of the seventh or eighth centuries.
Does Svend White really think that intelligent people, born into Islam, never question it? Some do so slowly and reluctantly, some without any inhibitions whatsoever, once they have shed their filial piety and their fear, and also their defensiveness about Islam. It need not be defended. They need not be embarrassed about questioning and then jettisoning it. They should be proud of themselves for unlocking the mind-formed manacles that they, and their ancestors, did nothing to deserve. And if the non-Arab Muslims let their minds and imaginations go back far enough in time, they can think about the conditions that their own Christian and Jewish and Zoroastrian and Hindu and Buddhist ancestors had to endure under Muslim masters, and the conditions, and the circumstances, that led them, over slow time, to convert to Islam to escape what seemed to them to no longer be endurable.
Spencer is “not respected”? By whom? By Omid Safi? By John Esposito? By Karen Armstrong? By Carl Ernst? By Mark LeVine? Do, for more on all of these comically transparent figures, insert their names, one by one, into the Search Box at Jihad Watch. In some cases, you might also include the word “Tribute” or possibly the word “Hugh.” Read about the kind of “experts” on Islam who are “respected” these days. And say, while we have Svend White on the phone, why don’t we ask him to explain the “credentials” of Karen Armstrong to discuss Islam. Somehow I don’t think he finds fault with them, though they do not exist.
And what does Svend White think that such people as Wafa Sultan (from Syria), and Ayaan Hirsi Ali (from Somalia), and Ibn Warraq (from Pakistan), and Ali Sina, (from Iran), and Magdi Allam (from Egypt) think or would think (if it were brought to their attention) of the act of haute vulgarization in which Spencer is engaged? Would they think: here is someone who knows nothing or very little about Islam? Or would they think: Ah, here is someone who is not fooled, who is not dissuaded, who understands the texts of Islam, understands fully their importance, and that of certain jurisconsults and Qur’anic commentators, and who is sufficiently well-versed in all the wiles and guiles of Defenders of the Faith that he simply cannot be fooled, cannot be distracted, cannot be bullied into submission, cannot be made to get off the track? What do you think Ibn Warraq, who wrote “Why I Am Not A Muslim” and edited the collection of testimonies in “Leaving Islam,” and Ayaan Hirsi Ali (author of, among other works, “Infidel”) and others such as Wafa Sultan and Ali Sina, think of Spencer’s guides to the Qur’an, to the figure of Muhammad, to Islam as a Total Belief-System? Does Svend White think they would be willing to join in his attempted dismissal of Spencer, or would they not, rather, think that it is the assorted svend-whites of this world who deserve to be dismissed? They deserve to be dismissed either because they are shaky in their grasp of Islam, or because they are deliberate apologists, propagandists for the Faith practicing Taqiyya and Tu Quoque as best they can, and becoming frustrated with those who, steadied by the ballast of knowledge, cannot be sunk by a whiff of fake grapeshot from the likes of such corsairs as the S. S. Svend White.
Robert Spencer noted in his first article that Svend White claimed that he, Spencer, had “dubious credibility and no evident qualifications to discuss” Islamic issues.
But here is how Svend White chooses to put it now:
I made it quite clear in my contributions that I was questioning your credibility and qualifications not to discuss “Islamic issues” but rather to participate in a forum on library policies and outreach to Muslim communities.
So Svend White now pretends, in a tone of injured innocence, that all along he was only questioning Spencer’s “credibility and qualifications”¦to participate in a forum on library polices and outreach to Muslim communities.” (This “outreach” that he claims is an important part of the mandate of this ALA panel is a fiction maintained by Svend White.) He says now that he was not raising the issue of Spencer’s fitness to discuss “Islamic issues.” And therefore, Svend White believes he has therefore relieved himself of the tedious burden of having to discuss Islam with the tedious and insufficiently-credentialed (unlike Svend White?) Robert Spencer, who has spent much of the past twenty years on the subject. Look again at what Svend White originally wrote.
It was quite clear in his original charge, one that he now attempts to misrepresent, that he was questioning Robert Spencer’s fitness to appear at the ALA not because of any perceived deficiencies in RS”s knowledge of Libraries or Library Science — for all I know Spencer may still be hopelessly wedded to the Dewey Decimal System and may not be quite au courant on Current Trends in Collection Development In the Age of Internet. But, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, who cares? That’s not the point, and I know it, and you know it, and even poor hopeless Svend White knows it and knows that was not the gravamen (do look it up Svend, before you try to use it) of the charge made against Spencer that he was unfit for participating on the panel.
White asserts with no supporting evidence that no one takes Spencer’s work seriously. Who are these “no ones”? List a few of these “no ones.” I’d like to know the names of a few of these “no ones” who dismiss Spencer as a crank and a clown. Might one of them be John Esposito? Might another be Karen Armstrong? Could still another be Carl Ernst? What about Hamid Dabashi, author of the famous “Ode to Edward Said” — “Hamid the Arab” as he is called by witty Iranian Ã©migrÃ©s, amazed that he has climbed so far in American academic life.
“No one” carefully ignores the well-educated and apostates, that is the defectors from Islam, who are so very different, so much more impressive, so much more steady and unswervingly truth-telling, than those who, in the West, convert to Islam not out of economic or social marginalization (those black prisoners), but out of mental or emotional bizarrerie, psychic disarray, the desire to have The Answer To Everything, and an instant “brotherhood” or Community of Believers, not to mention all the Secret Code (those Arabic words, that Arab Muslim name one gets to choose) and the Secret Decoder Ring that comes along with it, all in one handy package labeled “Islam.”
Svend White simply will not, because he cannot, discuss what is in the texts of Islam, the Qur’an, the Hadith, the Sira. He will not discuss the authoritative muhaddithin, or the authoritative Qur’anic commentators to whom Spencer constantly refers. Here’s how Svend White puts it:
I am not particularly inclined to write a treatise on special topics in Fiqh for Jihad Watch or otherwise play games with you.
He was not being asked, and he knows it, to “write a treatise on special topics.” He was being asked to reply to a series of very simple, very elementary questions about Islam. This he refused. This — the heart of the matter of Islam, and of all discussions of Islam — he characterizes as just “playing games.”
No, he, Svend White, who proudly describes himself as the “frank and opinionated” one (English is not his strong suit; see my comment on both his spelling, and his misunderstanding, of the word “gerrymander” in the initial reply to him by RS), is the one playing games, games of slip, games of slide, games of come-hither-and-then-slither. He’s the ludic and the ludicrous one. He’s the one who can’t be bothered to answer any substantive criticism because, you see, he doesn’t have the time.
“That will have to do for now,” Svend White says. “Perhaps another time,” he lamely promises.