In FrontPage this morning I discuss Eboo Patel’s Washington Post blog in which he charges that the New York Times, of all people, is being dishonest about Islam — and while making the charge, Patel himself (surprise!) is…dishonest about Islam.
In his “The Faith Divide” blog at the Washington Post“s website, Eboo Patel took umbrage Monday at two recent reviews in the New York Times Book Review charging “Dishonesty About Islam in the NYT Book Review.” Patel was angry at favorable reviews of what he called “Bruce Bawer’s alarmist book Surrender” (about which he huffed, “the subtitle says it all: Appeasing Islam, Sacrificing Freedom“) and Christopher Caldwell’s Reflections on the Revolution in Europe (which was reviewed by Fouad Ajami). Yet while making the improbable claim that the New York Times printed material that was dishonest and negative about Islam, Patel showed himself to be not a little disingenuous — suggesting that before he call these reviewers on their alleged dishonesty, he should look to his own.
“Ajami,” complains Patel, “opens his piece by juxtaposing two disparate pieces of history: the departure of Spain’s last Muslim ruler in 1492, and the terrorist attacks on Madrid in 2004. “˜A circle was closed,” Ajami writes, “˜and Islam was, once again, a matter of Western Europe.– What is wrong with this? “The Muslim presence in medieval Spain,” asserts Patel, “is widely regarded as a time of tolerance, good government and support for the arts and education. In fact, Ajami himself wrote a positive review of one of the many books on that era, Maria Rosa Menocal’s The Ornament of the World. Placing Al-Andalus, as it was known, in the same breath as a ghastly terrorist attack – as if to say “˜Here’s what happens when Muslims are around” – is beyond questionable. A dead fish wouldn’t want to be wrapped in a newspaper article with that level of intellectual dishonesty.”
Funny that Patel should mention Menocal. Certainly her Ornament of the World is largely responsible for the contemporary myth of a tolerant, pluralistic, proto-multicultural Al-Andalus. But even Menocal, in that very book, admits that tolerance and pluralism went only so far in Muslim Spain, which institutionalized discrimination against Jewish and Christian dhimmis:
The dhimmi, as these covenanted peoples were called, were granted religious freedom, not forced to convert to Islam. They could continue to be Jews and Christians, and, as it turned out, they could share in much of Muslim social and economic life. In return for this freedom of religious conscience the Peoples of the Book (pagans had no such privilege) were required to pay a special tax “” no Muslims paid taxes and to observe a number of restrictive regulations: Christians and Jews were prohibited from attempting to proselytize Muslims, from building new places of worship, from displaying crosses or ringing bells. In sum, they were forbidden most public displays of their religious rituals. (Pp. 72-3)
So much for a paradise of tolerance and multiculturalism. Historian Kenneth Baxter Wolf observes that “much of this new legislation aimed at limiting those aspects of the Christian cult which seemed to compromise the dominant position of Islam.” After enumerating a list of laws much like Menocal’s, he adds: “Aside from such cultic restrictions most of the laws were simply designed to underscore the position of the dimmÃ®s as second-class citizens.”