Let’s be clear on who we’re dealing with here. Bruce Lawrence is emeritus professor of Islamic studies at Duke University. In 2013 he was reported as saying that Islam “has no connection with terrorism and the propaganda of the forces which are trying to link Islam with terrorism is baseless.” In 2005, he said that Osama bin Laden sounded “like somebody who would be a very high-minded and welcome voice in global politics.”
So it is no surprise that Lawrence would be blaming Pamela Geller for having the gall to be attacked by violent jihadists in Garland, Texas.
“The jihad of Pamela Geller (COMMENTARY),” by Bruce B. Lawrence, Religion News Service, May 6, 2015:
(RNS) Can poetry be an antidote to poison? Can it provide an alternative to the jihad of Pamela Geller?
Let’s pause and think for a moment about how ghastly Bruce Lawrence’s moral equivocation is here. Three days after Islamic jihadists tried to commit mass murder at our free speech event in Texas, Bruce Lawrence is writing not about the jihad of Ibrahim Simpson and Nadir Soofi, and discussing how such people can be stopped before they take up their AK-47s, but about how “the jihad of Pamela Geller” can be stopped. And what does the respected professor recommend for that? Reading some poetry by Muslim mystics:
A life without His love is nothing but slow death.
The sum total of love is but three words:
I-burn, I-burn, I-burn.
These verses come from the 13th-century whirling dervish, Rumi. The fire that burns also gives life in the logic of love-induced immolation that Muslims call Sufism. Its opposite is the fire that comes from the end of a gun barrel or a detonated bomb that takes a life; such is the logic of hate-induced terror that some Muslims call jihad.
In the first place, the existence of Muslims who are peaceful does not negate the existence of Muslims who are not; nor does it negate the responsibility of free people to resist jihad terror and Islamic supremacism.
But also, Lawrence is opposing Sufism to violent jihad in the wake of a jihad attack by a Muslim named Soofi. Even the Muslim writer Stephen Schwartz, in a vicious attack on Pamela Geller after the jihad attack on her, admitted: “Soofi’s very family name is dismaying, as it suggests a background in the spiritual tradition of the Sufis.” Also, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, the recently killed former Iraqi army general, was the leader of a Naqshbandi Sufi group that was allied with the Islamic State — clearly al-Douri and his comrades did not believe that Sufism and violent jihad were incompatible. Sufis led the Chechen jihad for centuries, and Muslim Brotherhood founder Hasan al-Banna prescribed Sufi spiritual exercises for the early Brothers — even at a time when the Brotherhood in Egypt did not eschew violence. So Lawrence’s assumption that Sufism is somehow antithetical to violent jihad simply has no basis.
For true Sufis, the first fire is the only fire, since it requires the greater struggle, also known as jihad (jihad al-akbar): to conquer one’s self.
For Geller, as for Ayaan Hirsi Ali, it is only the second fire that matters. Jihad takes but one form: warfare in the name of Allah. The God of Islam produces hate, not love. His fire brings horror rather than hope: Its flames neither thrill nor elevate; they only kill and decimate.
It is only the second fire that matters to any Infidel. There may be hundreds of millions busy peacefully waging the “greater struggle”; what does that do to stop those Muslims who show up at art exhibits with AK-47s?
In 2015 we witness a growing imbalance of imagery, perception and practices of Allah sweeping across the Atlantic, from Western Europe to North America. Charlie Hebdo inaugurated the New Year with death and carnage in Paris, then Copenhagen. There was no immediate copycat in the U.S. till the shootings in Garland, Texas, last week.
First it was “the jihad of Pamela Geller,” and now “Charlie Hebdo inaugurated the New Year with death and carnage in Paris, then Copenhagen.” Is Bruce Lawrence really this morally inverted? Charlie Hebdo did not bring death and carnage to Paris or Copenhagen. Islamic jihadists did. They are wholly and solely responsible for the death and carnage.
Not that negative sound bites about Islam have been absent. Hirsi Ali’s latest screed, “Heretic,” received more than the expected favorable features and reviews from Fox News, The Wall Street Journal and NPR’s Diane Rehm Show. An alluring presence, Hirsi Ali is shy on facts but near perfect in affect: Time and again she says nothing with a convincing smile; her acolytes applaud.
Geller, by contrast, imitates the French extremist Jean-Marie Le Pen. No smiles, just grimaces; the more outrageous the claim, the more tenacious its defense. In 2009 she opposed a mosque project for Ground Zero.
What exactly was outrageous about opposing what would have been understood by many Muslims around the world as a triumphal mosque built at the site of a jihad victory, a la the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount, or converted cathedrals like the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, etc.? Lawrence doesn’t say. He just takes it for granted that his RNS readers will shake their heads in multiculturalist dudgeon.
When Muslims “pray five times a day,” she bellowed, “they’re cursing Christians and Jews five times a day.”
Geller was referring in this “bellow” (did Ibrahim Simpson and Nadir Soofi “bellow,” Professor Lawrence, or were they more soft-spoken?) to the fact that the Fatiha, the first sura of the Qur’an and most common prayer in Islam, ends with the request that Allah “guide us to the straight path, not the path of those who have earned your anger, or the path who have gone astray.” As Lawrence doubtless knows, many mainstream Muslim exegetes of the Qur’an explain that the “straight path” is Islam (cf. the title of one of Islamic apologist John Esposito’s books, Islam: The Straight Path), while “those who have earned your anger” are the Jews and “those who have gone astray” are the Christians.
Can Lawrence demonstrate that to be false?
One of the 2012 Washington subway posters she sponsored read: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.”
Does Lawrence then support the jihad savagery of those “Palestinians” who murder innocent civilians, such as the Fogel family, and then celebrate the murders?
What is missing in these made for media histrionics is the Allah of history, etched in the Quran and replete in the lives of everyday Muslims, from Arabia to America, across Africa, Asia and also Europe. The Allah of piety and poetry, of table talk and critical life decisions, is also the Allah defined, above all, by mercy. The opening words of the Quran announce: In the Name of God, the All Merciful, Always Merciful.
While echoes of that Allah resound through the corridors of time and in the daily acts of millions of Muslims, they have been drowned out in 2015 by provocateurs — first Charlie Hebdo terrorists, and then the respondents to Geller’s parlor game in Garland. Hers is a charade of free speech, a mockery of democratic values. If ISIS hates the West, Geller provides its mirror image: hatred of Islam.
So does that mean we have to love Islam so as not to provoke the “respondents to Geller’s parlor game”? If we just don’t offend them, then all will be well? If we don’t dare draw Muhammad, but submit instead to Sharia blasphemy restrictions, they won’t hurt us? If we signal to them that violent intimidation works, we won’t be rewarded with more violent intimidation?
Recently a New York court allowed her to continue to garnish buses and subways with a poster that read: “Killing Jews is Worship that draws us close to Allah. That’s His Jihad. What’s yours?”
If it weren’t so incendiary, it would be ludicrous, but its consequences are far from funny. It’s important to distinguish true Islam from Geller’s barbs, but also her assault from Hirsi Ali’s.
Lawrence represents this statement as an outrageous claim on Geller’s part. He doesn’t mention the fact that it comes from a Hamas video that ran on its official TV station, containing the words, “Killing Jews is worship that draws us close to Allah.” Our ad was (quite correctly) pointing out that the jihad of mystical communion and romping through the daisies that Hamas-linked CAIR was representing as the principal meaning of jihad was the not, unfortunately, the only understanding of jihad among Muslims.
One can disagree with Hirsi Ali in a civil forum. While she panders to a level of fear about Islam and Muslims, at home and abroad, she also tries to reconstruct the “good” Muslim as part of humanity.
There is no humanity in those whom Geller decries. They are subhuman beasts, worthy of any assault, whether a punitive police or all-out military action. Jihad for Geller can never encompass the self-denying, ever-burning Sufi adept. Jihad is only and always the blinkered savages who hate us; they use jihad as both instrument and pretext for endless war. Hers is a responsive jihad, to equal their hate with her hate, matching their physical violence with her verbal violence.
Where does Geller ever say that jihadis are “subhuman beasts, worthy of any assault, whether a punitive police or all-out military action”? Why, nowhere, of course. She wants them defeated, as any sane person would, but she has never denied their humanity — which is more than can be said about the fusillade of media attacks on her and her motives. But in any case, here again, Lawrence’s entire piece falters on the fact that the existence of peaceful Muslims and peaceful understandings of jihad does nothing to negate the existence of violent Muslims and violent understandings of jihad.
There is more than a minor difference between free speech badly performed and public space consciously subverted. Hirsi Ali upholds free speech yet undermines its practice, never granting her opponents a grain of truth. Geller, however, has made as her modus operandi the repeated abuse of public space for dissemination of her vitriolic message.
The true lovers of Islam, like Rumi, twist and turn, twirl and burn for Allah. The free-speech jihadis, led by Geller, fume and bluster, excoriate and desecrate. Absent love, they lust for fame, to see their names in headlines yet again, a trophy of ill gain, their only glory but a fleeting fantasy.
How ironic that Lawrence would call Pamela Geller a “free speech jihadi.” He means, of course, that she is a terrorist, but he has just spent his whole article telling us that there exists a jihad that is good and wholesome and beneficial for the soul; so if Pamela Geller is a “free speech jihadi,” might she not be on the side of the angels, trying to defend this all-important freedom against encroachment from bullies, supremacists, killers, and cosseted, blinkered academics?