Please take 12 minutes and 45 seconds and watch the two YouTube segments from a show hosted by Michael Coren. Part 1 is above. Part 2, which I will discuss in a future piece, is here.
Now we can continue.
Recently Michael Coren, host of a discussion program on Canadian television, had on three guests to discuss Islam: Tarek Fatah, the well-known (in Canada) Muslim Moderate, and two non-Muslim guests, Steve Gilchrist and Joan Crockatt. The program began with the usual career-promoting banter. Michael Coren observed that Tarek Fatah, author of “Chasing the Mirage,” was about to come out with his second book, the subtitle of which, Tarek Fatah said, was “Unveiling the Myths That Fuel Muslim Antisemitism.” Coren jocoseriously said that Fatah had the best publisher in the world, the very one that so intelligently published Michael Coren.
Pleasantries were swiftly over; it was time to be serious, about a serious subject. Coren mentioned that this discussion – all 12 minutes and 45 seconds of it – was prompted by a recent debate, held in a Toronto synagogue, between Wafa Sultan and Daniel Pipes, about the usefulness of relying on the notion of the “Moderate Muslim.” Wafa Sultan argued that the concept itself was of cold comfort, even dangerous, while Pipes – a prominent proponent of a distinction he finds between “Islam” and “Islamism,” argued, as he always has, that “moderate Muslims” are not part of the problem but part of the solution.
Coren then quotes Tarek Fatah as saying that when he had heard Wafa Sultan describe Muhammad as “a child-rapist,” those “words stunned me, like a jolt of electricity.” And what’s more, Wafa Sultan insinuated “that my Islamic faith was filth” by stating that she was “clean of Islam.” Apparently Tarek Fatah, who exhibits a certain shakiness with English here and there, does not think the word “clean” can mean “free of,” and he can only think in levi-straussian le-cru-et-le-cuit polarities. And of course many in the audience, unless they are paying close attention and know something about Islam, are likely to think, why yes, how wantonly cruel of that awful Wafa Sultan, how mean to insult this man’s faith, what with his soft-spoken earnest look and rumpled suit and rumpled tie, and pleasingly plump appearance (no lean-and-hungry Tariq Ramadan here).
And besides, Tarek Fatah is by now a well-recognized (in Canada, anyway) Voice of Moderate Islam – it’s his career, it’s what he does, it’s how he makes money, and he certainly doesn’t like Wafa Sultan coming in and queering his well-paid pitch to the synagogue set. He can be counted on to represent that well-known majority of good, true, tolerant, Muslims, trying-to-be-heard-over-the-din-and-false-deen of the handful of immoderate Muslims who make such incessant noise. Tarek Fatah was clearly there to tell the truth, and there was no hint of suspicion, any desire by Michael Coren, to really take Tarek Fatah on and engage in cross-examining, but he was not quite as charitable with his other two guests. Perhaps there is a Code of Professional Conduct, understood by all, that regulates behavior of one media star to another. Coren has been in hot water before, accused of mocking the obese. Tarek Fatah has been a candidate to be a guest-host on a show with Coren, so if Coren is going to cause any trouble, it’s going to be with his other guests, not with Tarek Fatah.
And besides, Coren is unprepared to deal with details of the Qur’an, Hadith, and Sira. He knows there is something wrong, but he doesn’t know quite what, and, to judge by this program, has not yet tried very deeply to find out. But in the context of Canada and the Western world, he’s not doing badly.
Tarek Fatah goes on to accuse Wafa Sultan of other things, in the same tone and with the same falsehoods that he used in a previous article about her, for which he was taken to task by the painstakingly accurate Joanne Hill in her own article to be found here. He accuses her, for example, of describing all “moderate Muslims” as “terrorists,” which is absurd. Then he uses Pipes, carefully described as “a Jewish scholar” (whom in another context he would throw overboard in a New York minute). He calls on Pipes to be his ally in his vilification of Wafa Sultan. Why, Pipes, he says, a “Jewish scholar,” was equally appalled by Wafa Sultan, because Pipes is wise enough to know that “that’s not where we should be headed to, because we should be working with Muslims,” and you can’t “work with Muslims” if those Muslims require you, as Tarek Fatah apparently does, to avoid all kinds of subjects, to play a game of permanent Let’s Pretend when it comes to what is in the texts, what Islam inculcates.
Then he gets back to Aisha, the one who had prompted that terrible remark by Wafa Sultan about “child-rape.” When Coren says that she was, was she not, a child (she was playing with her dolls, she was swinging on her swing), Tarek Fatah goes into defensive mode about Aisha.
He’s still indignant, he can hardly contain himself. Tarek Fatah could hardly believe his ears when he heard that horrible woman Wafa Sultan say – in front of an Infidel audience — that Muhammad had “raped Aisha who was” — nota bene – “a nine-year-old woman.” Now is that phrase a direct quote from Wafa Sultan? Do you think Wafa Sultan called Aisha “a nine-year-old woman”? No, she didn’t. It’s Tarek Fatah. And tell me, please, have you ever, in your life, heard anyone, yourself, or anyone you know, begin a phrase with the words “nine-year-old” and complete it with the noun “woman”? Try it out. Say “nine-year-old.” Now try to think of a word to complete the sentence. “Girl” comes to mind. So does “child.” So does “daughter.” But one word that never comes to mind, that would be inconceivable for any of us to mistakenly use or choose, would be the word “woman.” But not for Tarek Fatah. Wafa Sultan described her, he claims, as a “nine-year-old woman.”
But there’s more. Tarek Fatah tells us this whole business about Aisha being a girl is just so much nonsense. It comes, he says, from “one single source written two hundred years after this incident and was used by the caliphs to fill up the harems with the 200 girls that we require.” Now what is the audience supposed to make of this? So it was just “one single source”? That “one single source” turns out to be a Hadith, and perhaps it is true that that Hadith, and others saying the same thing that may, as Tarek Fatah suggest, merely be variants on that single source. They may come from a practical need of the “caliphs” (which ones? Where?) to “fill up the harems with the 200 girls that we require,” but still there is something missing here. No, it is not the fact that the age of Aisha has nothing to do with how many girls you need to fill up a harem, because even without Aisha being nine years old a harem could be filled with plenty of girls a half-dozen years older, nubile as all get out, unless those caliphs were pedophiles, and we have no evidence of that.
We’re just a minute or two from the end of Part I, and it’s now time for Steve Gilchrist to come back in, and Michael Coren asks him what he thinks. Does he think that it is “radical Islamic fundamentalism” that is the problem, or is it “Islam” itself?
It’s not clear that Steve Gilchrist knows anything about Islam, and therefore would not be entitled to an opinion and should not be asked to give one. But it is clear that he is someone who is clearly uninhibited by lack of specific knowledge, and used to expressing his strongly held views quite forcefully. Possibly, when he was young, and there was still time to train him, his parents or teachers were negligent. You meet many such people at alumni reunions.
Steve begins, “I think ironically it waters down what should be a very real extremist…” and then he lurches right into Tu-Quoque, about such “extremists…whether it’s David Koresh…” or whether it’s “the very people that were criticizing with such loaded language….before the show started Tarek was saying that the response of the audience [in the synagogue] to those comments was surprisingly positive.” (Then follows an audible assent, a kind of quiet “hear, hear,” from Tarek Fatah.)
Well, just who are those people who apparently gave a “surprisingly positive” assent to Wafa Sultan when she gave her impassioned and intelligent views, informed by a deep sympathy for those who are born into and can’t get out? It’s quite clear whom he has in mind. It’s that synagogue audience in Toronto. They represent “the Jews,” just the way David Koresh represents “the Christians.” And their “extremism,” on display when they sat through, and did not protest, and even seemed willing to offer comments “that were surprisingly positive” after Wafa Sultan’s speech, puts them on the same level as those who carried out the mass-murders on 9/11/2001, those who took part in the terrorist attacks in London, Beslan, Moscow, Amsterdam, Mumbai, Madrid, and those who attacked non-Muslims in Pakistan, Thailand, Indonesia, Iraq, the Philippines, Sudan, and two dozen other places. Those were cases of “Muslim extremism,” and those people who “offered surprisingly positive comments” are examples of “Jewish extremism,” and David Koresh represents “Christian extremism.”
Anything wrong with this picture, or shall we refrain from what may turn out to be, I’m afraid, surprisingly negative comments? Why didn’t Gilchrist mention “Jews” by name? Why such obliquity in his obloquy? Could it be that he held back because he doesn’t want to tangle with Michael Coren directly, to raise his hackles, but rather wants, you see, to be invited back?
And he isn’t done with his Tu Quoque yet. He starts talking about how all religions have their tenets, and those tenets direct the lives of those adherents. Then he appears to ascribe “extremism” to all those various religions – he’s mentioned Islam and Christianity by name. And he says that “if you believe the basic tenets,” the ones “that direct you” in your life, such as that one about the need to “love your fellow man,” it’s clear here that he is not talking about Christianity alone but weirdly but ascribing that sentiment about “loving your fellow man” to Islam itself. Thus it is also clear that he is has no idea what he’s talking about. He’s making it up. For all I know, he may think there’s a Golden Rule in Islam; he’s never bothered to find out that there is no Golden Rule in Islam. And there certainly is nothing in Islam about loving your fellow man. That would make no sense, to tell a Muslim to love the ungrateful Kuffar. In fact, Muslims are told to stay away from non-Muslims: “take not Christians and Jews for your friends, for they are friends only with each other.” And elsewhere you are told to make war on Infidels, if they do not yield to Muslims, do not convert, or, in the case of fellow monotheists, do not fulfill all of their many duties, and observe all of the many onerous restrictions put upon them as dhimmis under Muslim rule.
If you were to explain this to Steve Gilchrist, I have the sinking feeling that he’d deal with this new information by telling you angrily that he’s got a Muslim friend, a hell of a nice guy, he’s had him over to dinner and been to his house, too, and so that proves that there is no such passage in the Qur’an. Q.E. D. It’s at that level.
But now Part 1 has come to an end, and we will take a short station break.