Syllabus: Islam and Global Forces
by Hugh Fitzgerald (Nov. 2007)
In response to the invitation posted here and at Jihad Watch some time ago, syllabi for college courses on Islam or Islam-connected subjects have arrived from amused or disgruntled students and faculty from around the country. One of the most revealing to be found slipped in under the transom was from the University of Colorado, where Professor Anita Weiss offers a course on “Islam and Global Forces.”
The description of Professor Anita Weiss’s achievements, as detailed by Professor Anita Weiss, should allay any initial fears students or others might have about her course, for it is an impressive record of publication:
I have published extensively on social development and gender issues in Pakistan, and am now engaged in related research on comparative Muslim societies. My publications include the following books: Power and Civil Society in Pakistan (co-edited with S. Zulfiqar Gilani, Oxford University Press, 2001); Walls within Walls: Life Histories of Working Women in the Old City of Lahore (Westview Press, 1992; being republished by Oxford University Press with a New Introduction, 2002); Culture, Class and Development in Pakistan: the Emergence of an Industrial Bourgeoisie in Punjab (Westview Press, 1991), and Islamic Reassertion in Pakistan: the Application of Islamic Laws in a Modern State (editor, Syracuse University Press, 1986); and numerous articles on culture, women and development in Pakistan including (more recent “Debates and Challenges" (in Suad Joseph (ed.) Women's Human Rights in the Muslim World, in press); "Much Ado about Counting: the Conflict over Holding a Census in Pakistan" Asian Survey(July/August 1999); "Women, Civil Society and Politics in Pakistan "Citizenship Studies (3(1)1999, pp. 141-150); "Pakistan: Some Progress, Sobering Challenges" (in Selig S. Harrison, Paul H. Kreisberg and Dennis Kux (eds.) India & Pakistan: the First Fifty Years Cambridge University.”
The wary will notice that her “books” consist of those she has either edited or co-edited, or are compilations of testimonies by others -- the data of sociology. These include “Walls Within Walls,” that contains “Life Histories of Working Women in the Old City of Lahore.” Only one of the listings on her siliconized resume is a book that she neither “edited” nor “co-edited,” nor for which she recorded (tape, transcription, and it’s done) the “life histories” of others, but actually wrote herself, one word after the other. And that book is Culture, Class and Development in Pakistan: the Emergence of an Industrial Bourgeoisie in Punjab.
In the spring of 2007 Anita Weiss offered undergraduates at the University of Oregon a course on “Islam and Global Forces.” Note the title. Islam becomes itself not a Global Force, but rather is acted upon by “Global Forces.” Its followers have not, for 1350 years, aggressively conquered large parts of the land area of the world, and destroyed, caused to disappear, whole civilizations, and managed to both Islamize and, at least in the Middle East and North Africa, arabize, pre-existing populations of Christians and Jews (and only in Persia was the arabization successfully resisted). Islam, rather, is “acted upon” -- by new currents that buffet it, and that buffeting comes mostly from the unstoppable powerful West, with its “colonialism” and its “capitalism,” and now, as we shall see, with its grim need to “create a new enemy to replace its Cold War enemies.” Islam, little inoffensive Islam, must be studied to see how it is dealing with these cruel and powerful outside forces.
The syllabus for this course consists of five required books. The teacher warns: “Some of the readings present pretty dense material,” and therefore, apparently, “you [the student] will not be held responsible for specific, detailed facts.” Those are tough to handle, aren’t they? -- those “specific, detailed facts,” as opposed to the other kind.
Here is that syllabus:
Esposito, John L., Islam: the Straight Path Kamrava, Mehran (ed.), The New Voices of Islam: Rethinking Politics and Modernity
Kepel, Gilles, Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam
Qureshi, Emran and Micahel A. Sells (eds.), The New Crusades: Constructing the Muslim Enemy
Tripp, Charles, Islam and the Moral Economy: the Challenge of Capitalism
Perhaps you are as surprised as I was to discover that a semester course has only five books assigned -- and then, not even the full five, but rather excerpts from them. Not long ago, college courses would have routinely assigned that amount of reading for a week’s, or two weeks’ worth, of classes.
And what strikes one even more forcefully is that there is little “Islam” in a course on Islam. The students are not given, it appears, any assignments that will make them thoroughly familiarize themselves with the Qur’an and the Hadith. Yet the first is available, in four or five different English versions, presented synoptically, online. And so are the Hadith of the most authoritative muhaddithin, Bukhari and Muslim. And there are hundreds of Muslim websites of the “Ask Mr. Fatwa” variety, where one can find the kinds of questions that are asked, and answered, by muftis offering the chapter and verse from Qur’an and Hadith, that give students a view of how Islam so thoroughly regulates the life of Believers. There they can also find out about such matters as the view of women, or Muhammad as a Model for All Time, or the view -- supremely important, one would have thought, for American students to find out about -- that is inculcated about non-Muslims, and the attitude that Believers should assume toward them.No, apparently the only guide to “Islam” as an ideology is not to be found by assigning Qur’an, Hadith, or any of the many lives of Muhammad (the Sira), but rather by entrusting the matter to the well-known John L. Esposito.
Esposito is the entrepreneur who heads the “Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding.” This Center was founded with Arab money from a Lebanese contractor, and continues now with even larger continuous infusions of funds from the Saudis. Esposito has become famous as an apologist for Islam.
Here is more, from earlier entries at JW, on John Esposito:
Esposito has come a long way, the mediocre producer of nondescript texts and prettified couleur-locale "studies" of Islam, those coffee-table concoctions in which the pictures first overwhelm the reader -- those blue mosques, those Iznik tiles, those colorfully turbaned Turks -- and prevent any sober recognition of just how empty or misleading so many of the texts offered in these anthologies, or by Esposito himself, really are. All those pretty pictures make the reader swoon and overlook the fact that he has learned nothing about the actual contents of Qur'an, hadith, and sira.
No one of sense -- no one -- takes John Esposito seriously anymore. Esposito's loaded title The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality? pointed the way to his vacuous conclusion -- of course it is a "myth" and not a "reality." That was the book in which he mentioned the word "Jihad" exactly twice. He has tried to do a little better since, but now it is all about blaming one particular group of Muslims, the "Wahhabis."
Of course it was not a "Wahhabi" Muslim who murdered Theo van Gogh. It was not "Wahhabis" who have been killing Christians and Confucians in Indonesia by the hundreds of thousands over the past few decades, and destroying, in 2003 alone, more than 3,000 churches. It is not "Wahhabi" Muslims in Bangladesh who have been murdering Hindus -- 3 million since the 1971 war against West Pakistan. It is not "Wahhabis" who conducted, in Col. Ojukwu's words, the "Jihad" against the Christian Ibos in southern Nigeria who felt compelled to declare the independence of Biafra. It was not "Wahhabis" who have been making war on black Christians and animists in the southern Sudan, or now insufficiently "Arab" Muslims in Darfur. It was not "Wahhabis" but that severe and learned theologian of Shi'a Islam, the Ayatollah Khomeini, who set up the murderous, fanatical Islamic Republic of Iran -- about which, if you can stand it, you can find a great deal from many Iranian exiles, at www.faithfreedom.org.
Nobody needs Esposito’s writings. Margoliouth and Schacht have recently been reprinted. Antoine Fattal's book on the legal status of non-Muslims under Islam never went out of print. K. S. Lal is easily obtained. Tritton, Arthur Jeffery, Armand Abel, Georges Henri Bousquet, Snouck Hurgronje -- they are all about to be reprinted, at least in relevant part. Of course, I don't think for a minute that Esposito or any of his crew are familiar with any of these great scholars, and dozens more. I doubt they've even read them. They seem actually to believe that the only person to have written about dhimmitude is Bat Ye'or, whom they like to airily dismiss as "polemical" so that they will not have to confront her meticulous, scrupulous, and irrefutable scholarship.
But what may be most interesting is the reply Esposito gave at a Muslim website some months ago, in which he noted that after 9/11 he -- John Esposito -- was "pleasantly surprised" to see that there had been no diminution in the number of "reverts" (or converts) to Islam.
Now we all know how keenly interested Muslims are in the rate of conversion, how important Da'wa is, how much an instrument of conquest it is believed to be -- for one is swelling the ranks of the recruits into the umma al-islamiyya, the Community of Believers, who owe their loyalty to that Community alone, never to the Infidel nation-state. We recall, do we not, that the very first thing Osama bin Laden inquired about on that first tape filmed after 9/11, and which pleased him mightily to discover, was the rate of conversion of Infidels. He was told, and gave a smile when he heard the news, that "people in Holland were converting at an even faster pace" than before.
Now here is John Esposito, now of Georgetown, formerly of Holy Cross. One might expect that he would be a student of Islam, but not an enthusiast, not someone delighted to receive news of the swelling of Muslim ranks. But this is what he said at this website:
"I was pleasantly surprised" to discover that the numbers of conversions [to Islam] have not gone down, but increased."
"Surprised" -- sure.
But "pleasantly" surprised? Why? Why would a certain John Esposito of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (or whatever it is called) be "pleasantly surprised" that there had been no diminishment, because of 9/11, in the number of converts to Islam? In other words, why did John Esposito express precisely the same reaction as -- Osama bin Laden?
Were I the president of Georgetown, or an alumnus, or a parent, or a Congressman, or a journalist who had been told to "interview John Esposito," that is the question that I would first wish to have answered.
He's got a good thing going. $20 million for his "Georgetown" Center, which means a lot more for lean, mean, jogging John Esposito, and John Voll, and Yvonne Haddad. And of course John Esposito is hardly alone in having earned, on some future gravestone, that epitaph which so many in the Western world over the past thirty years have earned, in Washington and London and Paris, in their own ways, as they did nothing to prevent Muslim immigration, nothing serious to limit OPEC revenues, and thought only of how to obtain some of those revenues for themselves, their friends, their relatives, their companies.
Recently Steven Emerson, who tracks Muslim terrorists in the United States through “The Investigative Project,” having learned that John Esposito has been invited to address a meeting in New Jersey called by the Department of Homeland Security, noted the ties of Esposito to Sami al-Arian, a convicted terrorist, and to others with doubtful backgrounds:
“On Wednesday, October 3rd, the New Jersey Department of Homeland Security is hosting its "5th Annual Counter-Terrorism Conference" titled, "Radicalization: Global Trend, Local Concern?" The conference is part of the agency's "First Responder Training" and speakers and experts are brought in to instruct department employees on various topics related to security and counter-terrorism.
In a decision that defies reason, slated to speak on a panel called "To What Extent is Radicalization a Concern in the U.S.?," is none other than Georgetown University's John Esposito, a man who has never met a radical Muslim he didn't like.
At a banquet held by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Dallas in August of this year, Esposito stated:
I've got to tell you, you know, I mean, Sami Al-Arian's a very good friend of mine. I remember that when his kids told me that he was supporting a Republican I just said, ‘Tell your dad, as a lifelong Democrat, even though I don't always vote Democrat, he's ‘gonna regret voting for a Republican. And you know, God help Sami Al-Arian in terms of this administration and any others who have to live through this.
Esposito finished his speech, telling the crowd, "One of the most impressive people I have met under fire is Sami Al-Arian." Incidentally, the banquet was in large part held to support the defendants in the current trial against the Holy Land Foundation for Relief in Development (HLF), in which the closing arguments are underway. The charity stands accused of diverting over $12 million to the terrorist group Hamas. And Esposito told the audience that his appearance at the banquet was intended to "show solidarity not only with the Holy Land Fund, but also with CAIR," and started his speech by saying, "let me begin by saying that CAIR is a phenomenal organization."
At the banquet, CAIR Chairman Parvez Ahmed unleashed the following corker, in a typical effort to conflate his organization and his favored causes as representative of all American Muslims:
It is not the Holy Land Foundation that is under fire, but it is the entire American Muslim community is under fire.
CAIR is, of course, an unindicted co-conspirator in the trial, and if nothing else, the HLF trial has officially and publicly exposed CAIR's numerous links to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.
But back to Esposito: His good friend Sami pled guilty in 2006 to a "conspiracy to make or receive contributions of funds, goods or services to or for the benefit of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a Specially Designated Terrorist."
A notorious firebrand when speaking to perceived supporters, Esposito's buddy told a crowd of Muslim supporters both "Let us damn America, let us damn Israel, let us damn their allies until death" and "The Koran is our constitution… Jihad is our path … Victory to Islam… Death to Israel… Revolution… revolution till the victory" at meetings held in support of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Esposito knows this, as these videos were entered into evidence into Sami's trial. Yet as recently as last month he still refers to Sami, in front of a crowd of American Muslims at a conference held by a Muslim Brotherhood/Hamas-front group, as his "very good friend."
Additionally, Esposito has praised Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Yusuf al-Qaradawi as a "reformer," interested in the relationship between Islam and "democracy, pluralism and human rights." The very same Qaradawi who has sanctioned suicide bombings against American troops in Iraq, calling those who die fighting U.S. forces "martyrs," and civilians in Israel, referring to such terrorist acts as "just" and a "divine destiny."
In a perfect world, such praise and associations would be as damaging as they are damning, yet Esposito has profited tremendously from such views, endorsements and friends. In December 2005, Saudi "philanthropist" Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal donated $20 million to Georgetown University to "teach about the Islamic world to the United States."
According to the Washington Post, this is what the Prince got for his money:
The Georgetown center, part of the university's School of Foreign Service, will be renamed the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding. The $20 million will endow three faculty chairs, expand programs and academic outreach, provide scholarships for students and expand library facilities, Alwaleed said.
Center director John L. Esposito said in an interview that "a significant part of the money will be used to beef up the think tank part of what the center does."
Famously, money from Alwaleed Bin Talal comes with strings attached, not that Esposito would be bothered by such preconditions. After 9/11, then-NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani turned down a check for $10 million from the prince, after Alwaleed Bin Talal issued a press release stating that America had to "re-examine its policies in the Middle East and adopt a more balanced stance towards the Palestinian cause." Despite the prince's "generous" gift to Georgetown, his money is probably better spent elsewhere, as anyone who knows anything about Esposito would understand he hardly has to be bribed to parrot the radical Islamist/Saudi worldview.
And for those who insist that voicing skepticism and concern about the influx of Saudi money on institutions of higher learning is nothing more than "Islamophobia," not every one is fooled, including various leaders of the Australian Muslim community, as reported in The Australian, "Muslims attack $1m Saudi gift to uni":
UP to $1 million will be pumped by Saudi Arabia into an Australian university, sparking fears the money will skew its research and create sympathy for an extremist Muslim ideology espoused by al-Qai'da.
Muslim leaders and academics have attacked Queensland's Griffith University for accepting an initial $100,000 grant from the Saudi embassy, which they accused of having given cash in the past to educational institutions to improve the perception of Wahhabism - a hardline interpretation of Islam.
The Australian understands the Griffith Islamic Research Unit will in coming years receive up to $1 million from Saudi Arabia, which has injected more than $120 million into Australia's Islamic community since the 1970s for mosques, schools, scholarships and clerical salaries.
A former member of John Howard's Muslim reference board, Mustapha Kara-Ali, accused the Saudis of using their financial power to transform the landscape of Australia's Islamic community and silence criticism of Wahhabism. "They want to silence criticism of the Wahhabi establishment and its link to global terrorism and national security issues," he said.
Esposito does not share Kara-Ali's fears and wholeheartedly embraced his Saudi gift horse. But the New Jersey Department of Homeland Security should know better. During his August 2007 CAIR speech, Esposito stated, "The reality of it is there is no major significant threat in the mosques in America," and no one should expect anything other than his continued downplaying of the threat posed to the U.S. by radical Islam and its adherents. Inviting the self-described "good friend" of a convicted terrorist operative, a man who praises as a "reformer" the pro-suicide bombing spiritual head of the Muslim Brotherhood, a bought and paid for spokesman for the Wahhabist, Saudi worldview, to discuss the issues and problems associated with Islamic radicalization in the U.S. is very likely the most counter productive and wrongheaded approach yet devised by a government agency dedicated to protecting the United States.”
That is Esposito, whose “The Straight Path” serves as the main text for “Islam and Global Forces.” The students will not learn of the existence of Joseph Schacht’s work on Islamic law, of Arthur Jeffrey’s book on Muhammad, or about Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s “Infidel” on the condition of women in Islam, based on her own experience, and that of other Muslim women she knew in Somalia, Saudi Arabia, and the Netherlands. They may be kept in the dark about those who, such as Wafa Sultan and Mithal al-Alusi and Ibn Warraq, signed the St. Petersburg Declaration, unafraid to announce a program of measures that would have to be taken if there is to be hope for peaceful co-existence, not between Islam and the West, but between Islam and the rest. And it is strange that they should be go unmentioned, given that one unit of the course is supposedly devoted to “revival” and “reform” in Islam.
After Esposito’s “The Straight Path” comes “The New Voices of Islam: Rethinking Politics and Modernity,” by Mehran Kamrava. Kamrava is an Iranian, presumably an exile from the Khomeini regime, now a professor at California State at Fullerton. The title “New Voices of Islam” suggests a ferment that is greatly exaggerated, a product mostly of Bright Young Muslim Reformers in the West, the kind who are given every conceivable foundation or government grant for their “reform” projects that are never quite made clear, and that never quite can come to anything, for to do so would require changing the minds not of fellow grant recipients, but of a billion primitive and true Believers. If the Qur’an is uncreated and immutable, and hints of changing it could lead to the life-threatening charge of apostasy, how likely is it that these “new voices of Islam” will have any echo in the Islamic world, whatever attention they are given in university courses in the Infidel United States? Some educated Muslims in the West, or even in Dar al-Islam, may be keenly embarrassed now that the texts and tenets of Islam are becoming more widely understood by Infidels, but with a few exceptions they appear determined to defend Islam.
Among them are no doubt the Pakistani friends and professional colleagues of Professor Anita Weiss -- who, naturally, would not wish to offend them. That puts a limit on the nature of her inquiry into Islam, or what she might permit her students to learn. The teaching of Islam is like the teaching of nothing else in the way in which one’s colleagues, or those with whom one team-teaches (Amarah Niazi), or has as a teaching assistant, can inhibit one, put limits on the discussion that happens in no courses on subjects other than Islam. It is now a problem for the profession that few will wish to recognize, or speak about.
Kamrava’s subtitle -- “Rethinking Politics and Modernity” -- bespeaks a refusal to acknowledge that Islam is not separate from, but contains, what we mean by “politics,” and that “modernity” is simply the name for all those developments in the Western world that Muslims in the West encounter, or Muslims in Muslim-ruled lands now cannot fail, because of technological advances, to be aware of, and to wonder about. And one suspects that in Kamrava’s own treatment of his native Iran, such things as the coup against Mossadegh in 1953, and the Shah’s development schemes that helped unhinge the villagers of rural Iran and caused them to turn not to a fictional Islam but more deeply to the real Islam, which meant support for Khomeini and the Islamic Republic of Iran, are glossed over. One would love to know whether or not a single article in Kamrava’s anthology actually addresses the tenets of Islam that pertain to Infidels.
For surely the most unsettling feature of the modern world is the fact of obvious Infidel civilizational superiority which leads to Muslim ressentiment and cold fury, especially among Muslims living in the West, who have learned that by right it is they who should be on top, and Islam that should prevail. It is not merely that as yet that has not happened, but that Infidels seem secure in their own achievements, and not inclined to recognize, as Muslims think they should, the superiority of Islam, and the rightness of the claims of the Muslims to rule.
If, as I suspect, Mehran Kahrava is not a supporter of the Islamic Republic of Iran, he is likely to be in the nationalist-leftist line of Mossadegh. These were the people who thought they could use Khomeini and his followers to get rid of the Shah, and then they, the better-educated and secular political opposition, would naturally inherit Iran, for they could not conceive of a troglodyte such as Khomeini actually taking power. It turned out that it was they who were being used by Khomeini, not the other way round, and it was they who lost out, and some had to go into exile. But still, even the Iranians who hate Khomeini console themselves with the idea that he represented something new, something with shallow roots. But that description better fit the Shah, and his father, especially in their decency toward non-Muslims. The treatment of the Zoroastrians, the forced conversions of Jews and Armenians by Shah Abbas II, the severe punishments inflicted on Iranian Jews outside Teheran even well into the twentieth century, should they dare to go outside in the rain (where a drop might fall on an “unclean” Jew and then ricochet onto a Muslim, thereby defiling him) -- this history may seem fantastic to the leftist-nationalist elite who study such Western categories as “politics” but do not relate the behavior of Muslim peoples, their inability to accept “modernity” as people in East Asia have done so for example, to Islam itself.
The texts chosen by Anita Weiss have all been published within the last six years. She makes no use in her course of any of the great historical works on Islam and Islamic societies. Not a hint in the syllabus of anything before the year 2000. Everything is new. Not a whisper about Snouck Hurgronje, and Henri Lammens, and Joseph Schacht, and Antoine Fattal, and K. S. Lal, and a hundred other great scholars of Islam. The course is sociology and current events, as if history was not here an indispensable guide, given that Muslims themselves are constantly harking back to a “glorious past,” a veritable Golden Age, of high Islamic civilization, and given that events of 1300 years ago in the Islamic world are more vivid, and important, than events of the past five or ten or 100 years. The role of history, remembered or imagined, is one thing that Anita Weiss’s students will not be taught.
Another book on the syllabus -- “Jihad: the trail of political Islam” -- is by the French sociologist Gilles Kepel. Kepel for years dismissed worry over Islam. Just as Esposito published “The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality” before the 9/11/2001 attacks, and came down firmly, in answer to his title’ s question, on the site of myth, so Gilles Kepel wrote about “The End of Jihad,” and confidently asserted that Muslim terrorism was on the decline, a thing of the past, on its way out. Unfortunately for Kepel, his book appeared within a week of the 9/11/2001 attacks. Yet somehow he managed to cover his tracks too, going back, revising for later editions, and coming out quickly with a book that would obscure, or make people forget, his predictions in “The End of Jihad.”
When he is not foreseeing a quick end to Muslim terrorism worldwide, Gilles Kepel has been a government adviser on the “integration” of Muslims into French society. He sees no reason -- none at all -- why this cannot be accomplished, just as has happened with so many previous groups of immigrants. That Islam presents a unique problem, for it requires large numbers of Muslim immigrants to accept the legal, political, and social institutions of the Infidel nation-state (and a laic one at that) of France, never appears to have crossed the mind, or the prose, of Gilles Kepel. Kepel’s “Jihad: the Trail of Political Islam,” assigned by Anita Weiss, suggests that there is something called “political Islam,” and therefore there must be an Islam that is “non-political,” that pays no attention to things of this world. But there is no such Islam, save for the most extreme deliberately unworldly among the Sufis. But Sufis make up only about 2% of the world’s Muslims, and those who are “non-political” are a fraction of that. In Islam, there is no distinction between the “religious” and the “political.” Islam does not separate the sacred and profane, the purely religious, such as the rituals of prayer, from the geopolitics that is contained in, is a central part of, Islam. In deliberately using the phrase “political Islam,” Kepel implies that the good Believer is free to take or leave that “politics.” Islam doesn’t work like that. It is, in the main, a political or geopolitical ideology. Under Chirac, Gilles Kepel (and Olivier Roy) were consulted. One doubts that the new rulers of France, much more realistic about the menace, to France and the French, of Muslim immigration, will be consulting Kepel in quite the same way.
Possibly the most atrocious book on the syllabus is that edited by Emran Qureshi and Michael Sells: “The New Crusades: Constructing the Muslim Enemy.” We know where this is going. It is a tale of innocent Muslims, depicted by a vicious American government and its fanatical agents, to create a “Muslim enemy” to replace “the Other” of Soviet Communism. Why? Well, because the Pentagon, and Bush, and so many others, need that outward enemy, in order to justify military spending, and the totalitarian state they are building.
For those who know nothing, but are prepared to believe anything, about Islam, this notion may have a certain appeal. It is far more comforting, in a way, to believe that the American government itself was responsible for the attack on 9/11; at least, then, the enemy has been identified, and he is us, and therefore he fits into some pre-fabricated notion of malevolent Republican reactionary elements, determined, when the Soviet Union was no more, to create an enemy, and innocent Islam was at hand, and fit the bill.
That “Jihad” is not a concept made up by Westerners, or Americans. It is and has been a central duty of Muslims, a duty that at times is a collective one and at times an individual one, a duty that goes back to the first years of Islam. The Model of Conduct, uswa hasana, the Perfect Man, al-insan al-kamil, Muhammad, devoted his life to war-making. He was a warrior who fought in 78 separate battles, laid down his own rules of warfare including those governing the distribution of booty and the treatment of women seized in war. He is recorded famously as saying that “war is deception.” The history of Islam shows it to have been a fighting faith, with Arab Muslims conquering non-Muslim lands, first in the Middle East and North Africa and into the Iberian peninsula and southern France, and then, centuries later in the west, Muslim Turks, both Seljuks and Ottomans, conquering the Byzantine Empire and much of southern and eastern Europe. Muhammad was nothing like Jesus.
The Qureshi/Sells book is, in contrast to all this, designed to convince the credulous that Islam is inoffensive, and that it is the Western world, especially the United States, that has had to satisfy the need for an enemy, and Islam was conveniently at hand and was “constructed” to be that new enemy.
Michael Sells, of course, is well-known for his own concoction -- his concocting, out of the Qur’an, of a carefully-bowdlerized version which removes all the disturbing bits, the things about Infidels that Infidels would not like, and instead offers a syrupy “Approaching the Qur’an: The Lyrical Suras.” That syrup was force-fed, ladled out into the mouths, forcibly held open, of entering freshmen at the University of North Carolina a few years ago. Qureshi is not an academic, but a “freelance journalist” who specializes in Defending-the-Faith articles. This is worth noting, because so many of those who have crept into academic positions as members of MESA Nostra make much of the supposed lack of proper academic qualifications of Robert Spencer and others who dare to submit Islam to critical rather than adoring scrutiny. Apparently, however, they do not raise the same objection about those who, such as Qureshi, are on their side, the side of Defending the Faith.
Here is how the book is described in its own blurb:
Not since the Crusades of the Middle Ages has Islam evoked the degree of fear, hostility, and ethnic and religious stereotyping that is evident throughout Western culture today. As conflicts continue to proliferate around the globe, the perception of a colossal, unyielding, and unavoidable struggle between Islam and the West has intensified. These numerous conflicts, both actual and ideological, have revived fears of an ongoing "clash of civilizations"—an intractable and irreconcilable conflict of values between Western cultures and an Islam that is portrayed as hostile and alien.
The New Crusades takes head-on the idea of an emergent "Cold War" between Islam and the West. It explores the historical, political, and institutional forces that have raised the specter of a threatening and monolithic Muslim enemy and provides a nuanced critique of much received wisdom on the topic, particularly the "clash of civilizations" theory. Bringing together twelve of the most influential thinkers in Middle Eastern and religious studies—including Edward Said, Roy Mottahedeh, and Fatema Mernissi—this timely collection confronts such depictions of the Arab-Islamic world, showing their inner workings and how they both empower and shield from scrutiny Islamic radicals who operate from similar paradigms of inevitable and absolute conflict.
“Edward Said, Roy Mottahedeh, Fatema Mernissi.” Edward Said we already know about. His “Orientalism” was an attack on all the great Western scholars of Islam, claiming that they were nothing more than handmaids of imperialism. It was pointed out that many of the greatest Orientalists were not mentioned by Said at all, perhaps because they came not from England or France and thus had no connection to Western imperialism in the Middle East and North Africa. It was pointed out by Bernard Lewis that Westerners became Orientalists out of curiosity about the languages and peoples of the East. That curiosity is a Western trait, and Said simply could not believe it, could not trust that there could be such a thing as a disinterested desire to study such matters. Lewis, and others, also showed that Said’s book was filled with historical howlers, including Said’s insistence that Muslims conquered Byzantium some 600 years before they actually did -- conquered it before the Arab conquest of North Africa. Said has been demolished by so many real historians, and lately by Robert Irwin for his ignorance of the Orientalists, and now by Ibn Warraq in his “Defending the West: A Critique of Edward Said,” that save for the most loyal MESA-Nostrans, nothing much of Said remains where he once seemed to bestride the world like a colossus.
As for Roy Mottahedeh, a professor at Harvard and a great booster of that thrusting young academic, Noah “After Jihad” Feldman (who has sammy-glickishly obtained his heart’s desire, a job, with tenure, at Harvard Law School, where apparently no one on the faculty knew enough about Islam to see right through Feldman). He disgraced himself long ago, in an Op/Ed in the Times in the fall of 2001, with his claim that “Jihad” and the “Crusades” were identical in nature. He is cleverer and better educated than most MESA-Nostrans; the best thing in his book on Khomeini is a line he borrows from Robert Benchley. But he remains a Defender of the Faith like many of far less ability than he, such as Esposito and Ernst. It’s a puzzlement.
Fatima Mernissi is a supposed “defender of women in Islam” who has drawn back from that position, for she has sensed that the study of women in Islam has led to Islam itself being subject to critical examination. She has decided to be loyal to Islam and has been of late attributing the mistreatment of women under Islam not to anything in Islam, but simply ascribed it to “cultural” factors, which, presumably, are disconnected from Islam.
Still others in the same line include Neil MacMaster, a great believer in the perfidy of the French, who according to MacMaster have for decades been whipping themselves up into a racist fury about Muslims. Yet MacMaster never thinks to explain why it is, if there was this racist fury against Muslims, that France blithely allowed into its country millions of Muslims. They were allowed in first as single men. Then, in the hope that such a policy would diminish the amount of Muslim crime and other asocial behavior (which is prompted by Islam), the French allowed a policy of letting those men bring their “families” -- which turned out to mean plural wives and lots and lots of children.
MacMaster’s essay on “Islamophobia and the “Algerian Problem’ in France” is a classic of blaming the victim, of pretending that Muslims everywhere have not been making war on Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, but rather, it is those mad Americans who have “constructed” the Muslim enemy just as, for decades, the very different French have also found it necessary to “construct” that Muslim enemy. Amazing how those blacks in the Sudan and southern Nigeria, and those Hindus in Bali and Bangladesh and Pakistan, those Christians in Indonesia and Pakistan, and Buddhists in Thailand and Malasia have all found it necessary to create, to make up, to fabricate, to “construct” a Muslim enemy out of the entirely inoffensive Muslim populations in the lands they inhabit.
Then there is Maria Rosa Menocal, whose book on Cordoba, “The Ornament of the World,” is a comical compendium of every cliché and myth about Andalucia, and the wonders of its “convivencia” under Muslim rule. Maria Rosa Menocal, whose field is romance languages, somehow decided that she would make a scholarly contribution to a future “convivencia” and so produced a book that contains a bibliography that fails to list any of the most important scholarly works on Islamic Spain, including that of Levi-Provencal. But this has apparently not chastened the Director of the Whitney Humanities Program at Yale, so that she might quietly withdraw from her embarrassing forays into Muslim history.
There are still others in the same vein. The ecstatic reception of this book might itself be the object of study:
“There is no Muslim enemy. In the 11th century the First Crusaders constructed him to cover spurious conquests and wanton killings. In the 21st century the New Crusaders reconstruct him to cover global asymmetries and moral blunders. Both sets of Crusaders are zealots with feet of clay. Their opposite is Eqbal Ahmad. Ahmad was an educator with a heart of gold. He was also a tireless, fearless agonist for justice. It is in his vision that these essays are cast and to his memory that they are collectively dedicated. This volume holds out true hope. Its message will resonate for all who look beyond Crusades to imagine, then construct a new world order without Muslim enemies." —Bruce B. Lawrence, Nancy and Jeffrey Marcus Humanities Professor, Duke University
"A scholarly work of exceptional clarity, forthrightness and position taking. This brilliant work pulls no punches as it provides answers to and refutes the clichés (conventional wisdom) of today – that there is a clash of civilizations and that militant Islam is on the march threatening Western civilization. The most comprehensive group of essays you will find which rebuts assertions made by establishment and neo-conservative scholars . This book provides answers and arguments many people have been waiting for and many have needed." —Ahmed Rashid, author of Taliban and Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia
"A collection of first-rate essays that offer much-needed critiques of parochial, xenophobic, or merely simplistic Western approaches to Islam, Muslims, and the Muslim-majority world. These writings offer acute analyses of, and responses to, those writers who ought to know better (e.g., Bernard Lewis), those who don't want to know better (e.g., V.S. Naipaul), and those who need to know better (e.g., Robert Kaplan). Collectively, they expose the faults of the "clash of civilizations" approach to the contemporary world and remind us how much it has become a self-fulfilling prophecy recently. This volume needs to be on the reading list of every thoughtful American before it is too late." —William A. Graham, Murray A. Albertson Professor of Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University
"A book of major importance, revealing the extraordinary strength of Islamophobic prejudice in modern society worldwide. The authors demonstrate the depth of this dehumanizing problem with painful clarity, and they challenge us to move beyond the sinister opposition of 'us' and 'them.'" —Carl Ernst, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
These enthusiasts include plummy-voiced Ahmed Rashid, an Anglophone Pakistani who on the first page of his book “Jihad” denies the meaning of that word, and proceeds to describe it as an internal spiritual struggle, every bit as misleading as Karen Armstrong at her worst.
Carl Ernst has been the recipient of one of my tributes at JW:
I suspect that Carl Ernst’s Following Muhammad would not be recognized by Snouck Hurgronje, or St. Clair Tisdall, or Sir William Muir, or Tor Andrae, or Maxime Rodinson, or David Margoliouth, or Joseph Schacht, or Ignaz Goldziher, as presenting a recognizable view of Muhammad. On the other hand, the straightforward presentation of Muhammad's life as set down by the most authoritative Muslim biographers, which is what Robert Spencer has given us in his forthcoming (October 9) biography of Muhammad will no doubt be dismissed as "polemical" and "unscholarly" by Ernst and three-quarters of the membership of MESA Nostra. The remaining ¼, however, will be secretly delighted with Spencer's book, even if they will not be so brave as to assign it(though they may list it among "Other Reading" on their syllabi, giving the students a hint). They will only wish that they had dared to produce something similar, but they had too much, departmentally, to lose. It required an intelligent outsider to do the necessary job, and Spencer came along and did it.
Carl Ernst's book on Muhammad leaves out all the unsettling and disturbing and indelicate parts. Instead, it gives us something as if viewed through Karen Armstrong's vie-en-rose tinted glasses,
Carl Ernst is too modest. He is a prize-winning author, recognized for his services to the better worldwide appreciation of Muhammad with his book. Following Muhammad is a masterpiece of haute vulgarization -- what Robert Spencer only pretends to be able to do -- and might as well hold the haute. That book, or rather that series of essays, is by authorial intention devoid of the usual apparatus criticus of scholarly books. Apparently Carl Ernst wished to put off, off, those scholarly lendings, and to let down his hair, and deliberately present an "unscholarly text" (no doubt contributors to the Encyclopedia of Islam will sniff, but let them -- what do they know?), easy on the footnotes, in order to find and please that wider audience that perhaps had eluded him with his previous scholarly contribution, The Shambhala Guide to Sufism.
I am informed, given Ernst’s contempt, documented here at Jihad Watch, for non-scholarly presses, that that was a book that Clarendon Press would dearly like to have published, if Shambhala Publishing hadn't gotten there first. And as for the reaction to that book in the Departments of Islamic Studies at Leiden, Aix-en-Province, and Cambridge at the news, later on, that the author of The Shambhala Guide to Sufism had received tenure at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill -- well, I don't have to tell you.
Last year I offered a write-in nomination for Karen Armstrong to be awarded the King Faisal Prize, in the category of Services to Islam. But apparently Armstrong did not make the Saudi grade. Perhaps her bizarre flitting from this to that (what is it this week from the fingers and mind of Karen Armstrong? A treatise on Buddhism? How to Bring World Peace? The Search for Bridey Murphy?) offended them, or perhaps there was something in her favorite forms of recreation that might have offended those dour and judgmental Saudi judges. She didn't win, and I suspect now that she won't. She's become, in the Western world, too well-known and too much a figurine of fun.
But I have another candidate waiting in the wings, not quite so obviously silly as Karen Armstrong. True, there is that little matter of all those Shambhala shambolic sham books on Sufism, which Saudis would hardly find to their liking but there is one way to free those judges of their doubtful minds and warm their cold cold hearts. And that way is to point not only to the hagiographical Following Muhammad but far more important, to take note of the tireless toiling in the vineyard of the Lor-- no, make that toiling or perhaps lolling in the conquered oases of Muhammad. Let us point to Ernst’s ongoing effort -- really, beyond the call of dhimmi duty -- in inveigling or forcing non-Muslim students, right in the heart of what Saudis no doubt think of as hopelessly Christian evangelical country (unaware as they must be of the special case of Chapel Hill, and even of North Carolina, the state that in the last century produced, inter alia, Ava Gardner and Walter Clay Lowdermilk, and is hardly part of the Deep South), to read not only Sells's Approaching the Qur'an but also large doses of both Esposito and Armstrong.
If such an achievement, which required ignoring criticism by parents and students, does not merit recognition as a Service to Islam, and beyond that, a well-endowed (va-va-va-voom) prize, offered in recognition of that recognition, then one hardly knows what would.
And thus it is for me both a rare privilege, and an honor, to nominate at this very posting, at this most relevant website, Professor Carl Ernst, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, to be the 2007 recipient of the King Faisal Prize.
I am sure a great many people, some of them no doubt Professor Ernst's faculty colleagues, will be happy to second that nomination.
Please note, students of prizes, that in the categories of science and medicine, the King Faisal awards go to recipients who are genuinely and entirely worthy. The results are skewed only by one thing -- no one identifiably Jewish has ever won the King Faisal Prize. That does narrow the number of potentially worthy candidates. The Infidels who have won the prize in the category "Services to Islam" deserve to be treated as the object of a separate study. For all you intrepid undergraduates casting about for a thesis topic, here's the ungainly title you are free to use: "Paying the Scholarly Jizyah: Winners of the King Faisal Prize for Services to Islam." Make it a prosopographic analysis, year by year, Infidel winner by Infidel winner. Make Sir Lewis Namier proud. [September 1, 2006]
Ernst is the apologist for Islam whose antics first prompted the notion of Asking For Syllabi at Jihad Watch. It was Ernst who pushed the idea of having Chapel Hill freshmen read Michael Sells’ “Approaching the Qur’an: The Lyrical Suras” as a way to teach them “about Islam.”
Bruce Lawrence has been dissected at JW by Robert Spencer:
“Bruce Lawrence is the Duke professor who says that jihad means "being a better student, a better colleague, a better business partner. Above all, to control one's anger." Now he has joined to that bit of wisdom the assertion that Osama bin Laden needs to take his place among the world's statesmen. Unfortunately, were he ever to meet Osama in person, I expect that the terrorist mastermind might wisely and gently differ with his definition of jihad. "Do not await anything from us but Jihad, resistance and revenge," he told the American people in 2002. I guess he meant "Do not await anything from us but being better students, better colleagues, better business partners, and controlling our anger."
All that said, I expect that Lawrence's book will be a useful sourcebook, showing Osama to be something quite different from how Lawrence characterizes him. "Prof publishes bin Laden’s words," from the Duke University Chronicle, with thanks to Ruth King:Bruce Lawrence, professor of religion, is publishing a book of Osama bin Laden’s speeches and writings.
Only days after the fourth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, a Duke professor is trying to explain the motivations of the tragedy’s organizer—jihadist Osama bin Laden.
Bruce Lawrence, professor of religion, edited and wrote the forward to the book Messages to the World—The Statements of Osama bin Laden. The text, which goes into print today and will arrive in bookstores in the fall, is the first to include the translations of the Arabic writings of bin Laden.
The book features a collection of 22 speeches and interviews given by the leader of the terrorist organization al Qaeda between 1994 and 2004....
“If you read him in his own words, he sounds like somebody who would be a very high-minded and welcome voice in global politics,” Lawrence said.
After analyzing his writings, Lawrence said he concluded bin Laden does not have an ultimate goal that he wants to achieve in his jihad but that he does have a specific target.
He doesn't have an ultimate goal, eh? Apparently Lawrence did not read the writings he was editing all that closely. Osama makes it quite clear in his message to the American people of November 24, 2002 that he is waging "Jihad in the way of Allah so that Allah's Word and religion reign Supreme." He criticizes the United States for failing to adopt Islamic law: "You are the nation who, rather than ruling by the Shariah of Allah in its Constitution and Laws, choose to invent your own laws as you will and desire. You separate religion from your policies, contradicting the pure nature which affirms Absolute Authority to the Lord and your Creator."
What, then, is his goal? To restore the caliphate and Sharia in the Islamic world, and then by offensive jihad to extend it over the non-Muslim world. This is emphasized not only by Osama but by other jihadists around the world. How could Lawrence have missed it? [September 15, 2005]
And then there is William A. Graham: “Graham is a well-known apologist for Islam, and he dances to Leila Ahmed's tune, and possibly that of Diana Eck as well. Both Eck and Graham were enlisted by Ahmed in an attempt to get Omid Safi appointed to the Divinity School. But that was a bit too much even for Harvard's often-compliant faculty at the Divinity School. Graham somehow has managed to elide the tenure problem; denied it by his own department, he ended up as an administrator when a hasty replacement had to be found for his predecessor. One wonders if, as part of the deal, he was given, most irregularly, tenure -- despite that departmental vote.”
Here are some excerpts from a 2003 speech given by Graham, Dean of Harvard Divinity School, at an alumni event in Washington, D.C.:
"Everyone, of course, posits September 11 as the watershed moment when Islam impinges on consciousness. That is a very sad commentary on our knowledge about this major world tradition of culture and of religion. What is also sad is the kind of attitude that has been furthered by my colleague at Harvard, Samuel Huntington."
"Starting with September 11 this so-called "clash of civilizations," to take the title of article and book, has now become a watchword of foreign policy, probably not only here but in other places in the Western world. In large part, this happened because it felt good as a basic premise for those who like to think about the world in terms of "the West and the rest."
"Despite the sometimes admirable attempts of the current politicians here in the capital to make irenic comments about Islam and about Muslims, I am afraid actions are speaking louder than words. What I see, currently, is an unwillingness to think about Islam as anything except an "other" that belongs to some monolith that is the big, present danger in the world."
"We have the proclaimed new "Green Menace" that is supposed to replace the Communist Red Menace of our previous xenophobia. This one happens to be the xenophobia of the moment, and I fear that it may go on being that for some time." [March 27, 2007]
For the full speech click here.
Ernst, Graham, Esposito -- these are the people who find impressive a collection of essays that, like the crazed conspiracy theorists who claim that the C.I.A., or the Mossad, or the C.I.A. and the Mossad together, were behind the 9/11/2001 attack, and insists that there is nothing about Muslim behavior, or the ideology of Islam, that should worry Infidels. The “war on terror” is merely part of an attempt by ruling circles in the American government to "construct an enemy" to replace the Soviet Union. It’s all a fiction, designed to keep the arms industry afloat, designed to make Americans ready for that police state that our ruling classes are just itching to impose. They are impressed by Neil MacMaster, by Fatema Mernissi, by Maria Rosa Menocal. Impressed, impressed, impressed.
Let us ask the relatives of murdered Buddhist monks in Thailand, or relatives of the two million non-Muslim blacks in the southern Sudan, or the relatives of Christian schoolgirls decapitated in Indonesia, or the relatives of Hindus murdered in Bangladesh by Muslims exiting from mosques, if they think that the “Islamic threat” exists, or is, as the authors of the Qureshi/Sells anthology maintain, they are merely imagining a threat from an imaginary and “constructed” Islamic enemy. “Constructed.”
And finally, the syllabus offers “Islam and the Moral Economy: the Challenge of Capitalism” by Charles Tripp. Tripp is a lecturer at the School of Oriental and African Studies, now a well-known hotbed of antisemitism, with put-upon Jewish students beginning to complain openly about the scandalous situation. Tripp himself served as the co-editor of a book, “Israel's Holocaust and the Politics of Nationhood” by one Idith Zerthal.
The book is an Israeli “revisionist” attack on Israel, akin to the work of Ilan Pappe, which claims that Israel has exploited “the memory of the Holocaust in order to define and legitimise its existence and politics.” But in 1948, Israel was full of the survivors of the death camps, or those who had managed to escape the camps, and it received others later. And even after the war, the British as Mandatory Authority, in defiance of their responsibilities, turned away ships laden with refugees attempting to arrive in Mandatory Palestine, even firing on them, just as had happened to refugee-laden ships just before and during the war, that were turned away from “Palestine” or never allowed to set sail for it in the first place. In many cases they were either sunk with all aboard (see the case of the Struma, sunk in the Black Sea), or forced to return to German ports, where the frantic human cargo was off-loaded to certain death.
Only a moral idiot would claim that in such circumstances survivors and relatives of survivors should not be permanently and deeply affected, not just by the Nazi murders, but by the spectacle of all those who did not lift a finger, who actively prevented Jews from being rescued, even in Mandatory Palestine itself. Why should not “the Holocaust” have been studied, and taken in, and a lesson drawn from it – that lesson being that, in the end, the Jews could only rely on themselves, and that they needed a state capable of surviving in order to do it? What is wrong, or sinister, about that? What would be strange is if the Israelis had not been affected by such history? In any case, in 1948 not a soul in the Attlee Administration -- certainly not the anti-Semite Ernest Bevin -- was willing to help. See R. H. Crossman’s intimate account of that Labor government of 1948 which, as he put it from his inside knowledge, was determined to “destroy the Jews of Palestine.”
Besides, as every educated person knows, for decades after the war there was an amazing, almost total silence about what is called “the Holocaust.” The Israelis did not make much of it. Israel was preoccupied with taking in hundreds of thousands of refugees, first from Europe, and then from all the Arab countries, where small and large-scale attacks on Jews had steadily been taking place after the war, and increased to terrifying levels during and after the 1948 war, in such places as Libya, Iraq, Morocco, Egypt, and Yemen, where in “Operation Magic Carpet,” in 1951, nearly the entire ancient community of Yemenite Jews had been held as chattel slaves for centuries and murdered at will (see the studies on the condition of Jews in Yemen by R. S. Serjeant, who can hardly be called sympathetic to Jews or unsoliticitous toward Islam).
Tripp’s connection to this ahistorical and repellent work, in which Zerthal “argues that the centrality of the Holocaust has led a culture of death and victimhood” -- my god, “a culture of death and victimhood” when for more than fifty years the Israelis have managed to minimize, for the sake of its own population’s sanity, the full extent of the historic mistreatment of Jews not only in Western Christendom but at this point far more importantly, in the Lands of Islam. The forthcoming work of Andrew Bostom will put paid, forever, to the dreamy belief that antisemitism in the Muslim world is an import from Europe, as Bernard Lewis has, with an air of authority but ultimately unconvincingly, maintained.
Tripp’s book, however, is, as the title suggests, one more of those that appears to believe that in Islam the ills and sins of capitalism are absent, that -- just as Muslim proselytizers like to pretend -- Islam is capable of a “social justice” that the cruel world of capitalist Infidels does not understand. But anyone who has visited the Muslim Arab countries knows that the way to wealth in those countries is not so much through hard work, or entrepreneurial flair, but rather through access to political power. At the top, the Al-Saud, or Mubarak with his Family-and-Friends Plan, or the Assads, or Qaddafy, or the Al-Thani, Al-Sabah, Al-Khalifa, Al-Maktoum families in the sheiklets, obtain their vast wealth by simply seizing it. They rule; they take as much of the national wealth as they feel they can get away with. That’s it. And the maldistribution of wealth in “non-capitalist” Islamic countries is as bad, is worse, than anything in the benighted West. Look at the zamindars who still own much of Pakistan -- and compare that with the situation in India.
Indeed, Tripp never discusses the refusal of the rich Arabs and Muslims to share their wealth with resource-poor (for natural resources and the disguised Jizyah of Infidel foreign aid are the only ways that the Muslim states have to acquire wealth) fellow Muslims of the umma. Save for sums raised for the families of those participating in violent Jihad (i.e., terrorists setting off bombs in Israel), the publics in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and other rich Muslim states are entirely uninterested in sharing their wealth with, say, the Muslims of Egypt, or Yemen, or Sudan, or -- still more unlikely -- with the Muslims of Indonesia (now coming to the end of its oil exports) or Pakistan. No, the assumption is that the Americans and Europeans have a duty -- why, exactly? -- to send tens of billions to Egypt, and to Pakistan, and billions to the “Palestinians,” and indeed to all Muslims who claim they need outside aid. It is not our problem, the Saudis and Kuwaitis and Qataris say. Suddenly that loyalty to fellow Muslims, a loyalty that is only when it comes to lining up with Muslims against Infidels, evanesces.
And then there is the basic question that Tripp’s book fails to answer. Why is it, that despite the ten trillion dollars received by Arab and other Muslim members of OPEC since 1973 alone, received because of an accident of geology, that not one of these states has managed to create a modern economy, that not one of these states has ceased to rely, almost totally, on foreign workers? What is it? Could it be, in Muslim countries, that Islam itself, the very nature, the atmospherics, the mental formation and attitudes that arise naturally in societies suffused with Islam, explains that economic backwardness? Could Tripp not have even hinted at the effect on economic development of the discouragement of individual enterprise? That discouragement that comes from discouraging all forms of individual autonomy, and the exercise of critical faculties, of free and skeptical inquiry that is necessary not only for science, but for the development of attitudes helpful in economic activity as well. Could Tripp find room for nothing about the negative effects of the encouragement of the habit of mental submission (so bad for science, so bad for entrepreneurial activity)? Could Tripp make no investigation, finally, and perhaps most importantly, of the inshallah-fatalism by which riches, like everything else, are seen as a gift from Allah, and unrelated to individual or collective effort?
After all, the great source of wealth of the Arabs -- oil -- has indeed not been the product of any effort on their part. A theme in Muslim Arab literature is that these oil deposits, and the revenues they generate, are not a geological accident, but a deliberate sign of Allah’s special dispensation toward the “best of people,” to whom he revealed the uncreated and immutable Qur’an, and in the Arabic language, and to the Prophet, himself an Arab. None of this is in Tripp. For him, nothing about Islam apparently holds the key to the behavior, attitudes, and outcomes, economic and otherwise, of Muslim societies.
This is the perfect book for Anita Weiss’s students to read, rather than studies about Islam and economic underdevelopment, such as Ernest Gellner’s “Muslim Societies” (few may remember that Gellner’s doctoral thesis was on Berber society) or those to be mined from the footnotes in the Ottoman studies of Rifa’at Abou-El-Hajj. Then there is Nikolai Todorov, whose “The Conquering Balkan Orthodox Merchant” suggests that Islam bred habits inimical not merely to the charging of interest, but of profit itself. L. S. Stavrianos has also dealt with the retarding effect of Islam on economic development in those eastern European lands that came under Ottoman rule. O. L. Barkan, the Turkish student of Braudel, wrote about Ottoman revenues in the 16th and 17th centuries, as has Niyazi Berkes, at McGill, on the role of religion in the late Ottoman Empire. Caglar Keyder has studied economic development in both Europe and the Ottoman domains. Finally, Bernard Lewis in “The Emergence of Modern Turkey” notes that the Ottoman merchant class was almost entirely non-Muslim -- Greeks, Armenians, Jews. Few, if any, of these writers, appear to have been used by Tripp, and he nowhere suggests that there might be something about Islam -- rather than the banal and obvious and usual suspects, i soliti ignoti, of Western “colonialism” and “imperialism” -- that explains economic backwardness in the lands of Islam.
Oh, I forgot to add that there is, in this thoroughly-modern-millie of a college course, an audio-visual component, not on the list of Required Readings. There are two movies. One is about the splendors of Islam. And the second one is about the splendors of Islam, in all its rich profusion and welcome “diversity.” Remember, if you remember nothing else from this course: Islam is buffeted by powerful “global forces” that will not leave it alone. And Islam is not, I repeat not, “monolithic,” so don’t get any ideas about discussing, much less, criticizing, something called “Islam.” Unless of course you come not to bury, but to praise it. In that case, generalize away.
In fact, let’s end this weary session with a slide show. Get comfortable in your seats. Slides please. Pictures of Muslims worshipping in Cairo. In Delhi. In Jakarta. In Kano and Kansas City and the Comoros. At the huge new mosques in Rome, Granada, London, Paris, Rotterdam, Malmo. In Xinjiang, and Dearborn, and in Washington, D.C. Oh, the humanity. Oh, the diversity. The colorful clothes and headgear. And now shots of those Iftar dinners. The chicken with pita. The falafel. The curried lamb. Punjabi Iftars, Parisian Iftars, Iftars with those sights and smells. And of course, there are the things that cannot be shown on slides, or in movies, and communicated only with great difficulty in the kinds of texts that are now available. What are those things? Those things are the beliefs that someone who is a Believer naturally holds, based on a straightforward reading of the Qur’an and the Hadith. There is no way to convey that, except by imaginatively entering the mind of a Believer, and then reading those texts, reading them as a Believer who considers the Qur’an the uncreated and immutable Word of God, would read them, or who takes Muhammad as the Perfect Man, and reads what he says in the Hadith.
And that is the kind of thing that requires a cultivated intelligence, an imaginative sympathy, and the time to put in the study necessary. Few, in the hectic vacancy of today’s political class, have the time or inclination or ability to do so. Some rely on their young aides to take in the universe, and pre-digest it, and then to regurgitate the material in a form that the busy Senator or President can manage to comprehend. It isn’t the best way to come to comprehend Islam. There are those highly articulate people, such as Wafta Sultan and Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Ibn Warraq and Ali Sina, who have, in their own writings, made clear what Muslims believe, what they say among themselves rather than what they say when Infidels may possibly be eavesdropping. It is not hard to find their books, to read them, to fill out more and more of the picture. But if one is subject, at a young and impressionable age, to the likes of the course offered by Anita Weiss and her MESANostran ilk, a layer of confusion, of deliberate misdirection, is added, and must be mentally discarded or fought through before the truths about the texts and tenets and attitudes of Islam can indeed be comprehended.
Courses round and about Islam that do not further Infidel understanding, but rather are determinedly used to delay that understanding, can be found all over American college campuses. Many are far worse than “Islam and Global Forces.” It is one more example of the successful assault, from within, on the ability of Infidels to learn, to comprehend, and then to understand how best to defend themselves. If such follies as Tarbaby Iraq are to be prevented in the future, then such courses must be examined publicly, held up for close and critical inspection, and little by little, the academic study of Islam be reclaimed from those who are, whether out of naivete nor something more sinister, merely apologists (even if they would bristle at the charge), for Islam, by those who know better.
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