An article in The Islamic Monthly here (thanks to Ryan) explains at wrist-slitting length how Muslim professor Joseph Lumbard was denied tenure at Brandeis University because of “Islamophobia” among administrators there. I can’t imagine that anyone beyond Lumbard’s mom would care to read in such detail about his academic fortunes, so I’m not including any lengthy excerpts here; this suffices to capture the absurdity of the piece:
Even still, Lumbard’s case of denied tenure raises more questions than answers, and brings to the fore the tenuous relationships other Muslim educators may be having with their own administrations in the current atmosphere of normalized Islamophobia.
The idea that there is an “atmosphere of normalized Islamophobia” in academia today is so wildly ludicrous that it raises the question of whether The Islamic Monthly is a parody site; but of course, the author of the piece, Davide Mastracci, is po-faced, aggrieved, and utterly serious. A Muslim professor was denied tenure; what else could it possibly be but “Islamophobia”?
Well, how about opposition to the freedom speech and freedom of inquiry? Lumbard led the successful effort to intimidate Brandeis into rescinding an honorary degree it had planned to give to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, bringing Brandeis unwelcome international attention as a bastion of political correctness that capitulated to Islamic supremacists.
Or how about arrogant puffery? Lumbard once promised to “dominate” me in debate, and then, after demonstrating an embarrassing lack of knowledge of how to formulate a debate thesis properly, backed out of the debate. Did Brandeis administrators get wind of this incident and wonder why their boastful, chest-thumping professor didn’t just take on the debate and “dominate” the “ignorant Islamophobe” as he had promised to do? Did they wonder why he lost his nerve on what should have been (as no doubt both he and they would have thought) such an easy challenge?
If those two weren’t enough, how about incompetence? Lumbard was General Editor of The Study Quran, a cynical exercise in deception, with half-truths and word-twistings scattered across every page.
For example, The Study Quran translates Qur’an 48:29 as: “Muhammad is the Messenger of God. Those who follow him are harsh against the disbelievers, merciful to one another.” That’s fine as a translation of the Arabic, but the commentary on the verse, after dismissively granting the obvious, offers a particularly preposterous attempt at whitewashing the passage and convincing the hapless reader that it means the opposite of what it says: “That they are harsh against the disbelievers implies that they never relent in their opposition to them and fight them when necessary (IK [Ibn Kathir]). In this context it also reflects an aspect of mercy, for just as the sunlight is most intense on black surfaces and less so on white surfaces, so are the believers harsher or ‘more intense’ with the disbelievers. In this sense, the believers must display the truth to them with a greater intensity of light and insight. Among each other, however, there is less need for such intensity, because the truth is manifest as gentle warmth.”
So you see, this Qur’an passage is really all about tough love. When the Qur’an says be “harsh” with non-Muslims, it really means be merciful to them. It doesn’t mean burn their churches and drive them from their homes and demand from them the jizya or conversion to Islam. No, no: all that would be…harsh. Instead, it just means be “intense” in telling them about Islam. But the believers don’t need this, as they are already Muslim.
The Study Quran, therefore, would have you believe that being harsh equals being merciful, and that one must therefore be merciful to unbelievers when the Qur’an says to be harsh to them. But the passage in question also says that Muslims must be “merciful to one another” — but The Study Quran says that to be merciful equals “display[ing] the truth,” and since Muslims have the truth already, they need not be “intense” in displaying it to one another. So by the time The Study Quran is through, it has rendered the verse that says “Muhammad is the Messenger of God. Those who follow him are harsh against the disbelievers, merciful to one another” as “Muhammad is the Messenger of God. Those who follow him are intense in mercy toward the disbelievers, and less merciful to one another.”
Elsewhere, The Study Quran does so much not deny the ugly reality of violence and hatred in the Muslim holy book as bury it under mountains of irrelevant commentary. Often, The Study Quran hides the ugliness in plain sight by not addressing the obviously problematic content of particular verses.
This deflection begins right at the beginning, with The Study Quran’s treatment of the Fatihah. The Fatihah is the first chapter of the Quran, and is also the most commonly recited prayer in Islam. The translators opted for pseudo-King James Bible archaisms, rendering the last two verses of the Fatihah as follows:
Guide us to the straight path, the path of those whom Thou hast blessed, not of those who incur wrath or those who are astray.
Sounds reasonable. But virtually all mainstream and authoritative commentators on the Quran identify “those who incur wrath” as the Jews.
Similarly, “those who are astray” are overwhelmingly accepted to be the Christians.
The Study Quran doesn’t deny this; in fact, it acknowledges it … but only after seven windy paragraphs about what it means to be blessed and other related matters. Anyone who is still reading after all that chloroform in print, to borrow Mark Twain’s phrase, will come to this:
Based upon a saying attributed to the Prophet, though not considered to be of the highest degree of authenticity, one interpretation given by a number of commentators is that those who incur wrath and those who are astray refer to Jews and Christians, respectively (IK, JJ, Q, T, Z).
(“IK, JJ, Q, T, Z” are shorthands for Muslim commentators on the Qur’an: Ibn Kathir; Jalal al-Din al-Mahalli and Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti, “the two Jalals,” authors of the Tafsir al-Jalalayn; al-Qurtubi; al-Tabari; and al-Zamakhshari.)
The Study Quran doesn’t offer a single alternative interpretation of this verse (the editors could have invoked al-Nisaburi, to whose commentary they do refer on occasion. He says that “those who have incurred Allah’s wrath are the people of negligence, and those who have gone astray are the people of immoderation”). By introducing the interpretation by claiming it was based on a doubtful statement of Muhammad, and by only mentioning it at all after lengthy commentary about matters of slight import, the authors reveal an agenda of hiding the causes and justifications of “extremism”; of keeping readers from learning the reality of the verse’s historical and present significance.
This pattern continues on throughout The Study Quran. For example, Qur’an 98:6 reads:
Truly the disbelievers among the People of the Book and the idolaters are in the Fire of Hell, abiding therein; it is they who are the worst of creation.
The “disbelievers among the People of the Book” refers to Jews and Christians who do not become Muslims. (For an example, you can find this near-unanimously accepted description in the Tanwir al-Miqbas min Tafsir Ibn Abbas.)
The Study Quran, however, doesn’t want the reader to learn of that.
Instead, it offers a lengthy disquisition into mankind’s “unique place in the cosmos.” It never gets around to pointing out that the Qur’an just called Jews and Christians the “worst of creation,” or explaining the implications of that declaration throughout history, including the current purges and slaughter of Jews and Christians happening today.
Do Brandeis administrators know what a ridiculous farrago The Study Quran really is? Were they annoyed at Lumbard for trying to pass off a work of Islamic apologetics as an academic exercise?
Perhaps if Lumbard had wanted tenure, he could have published an honest commentary on the Qur’an, and not revealed himself so nakedly to be the arrogant pseudo-academic puffball he is.