Sunday, 28 August 2011

"Fear, Inc", the flawed critique of the critics of Islam

A new report by the Center for American Progress, titled “Fear, Inc” aims to “shine a light” on the “Islamophobic network” in the United States.  The thesis of the report is that the criticism of Islam by a core of five “Islamophobia misinformation experts” spreads unfounded fear and misinformation about Islam; that they are funded by a small group of mainly Jewish organisations;  and that they have an agenda to promote right wing political parties. 
The unwritten subtext is that if you see yourself as member of the Left: beware!  Do not dare to criticise Islam, for that’s “radical right wing” stuff, and puts you beyond the pale of civilized discourse.
The report itself is full of misinformation: either by commission or omission.  One of those specifically attacked, Robert Spencer, has ably defended himself with a rebuttal here.
In this post, I just want to cover two areas:
  • Islamic Supremacism
  • The threat of Sharia.
In the view of the authors of “Fear, Inc”, in both these areas the five “Islamophobic misinformation experts” are spreading lies and disinformation.
Here are some of the report’s comments on these areas:
  • [p2]manufacture and exaggerate threats of “creeping Sharia,” Islamic domination of the West, and purported obligatory calls to violence against all non-Muslims by the Quran.
  • [p23]: highly inaccurate or purposively deceptive material
  • [p27]: grossly mischaracterize the dangers of Sharia law in our country
  • messages polluting our national discourse
  • ….deeply mistaken portrayal of Islam… as an inherently violent ideology that seeks domination over the United States and all non-Muslims
  • inaccurate and perverse view of Islam as “the only religion in the world that has a developed doctrine, theology and legal system that mandates violence against unbelievers and mandates that Muslims must wage war in order to establish the hegemony of the Islamic social order all over the world.”
  • … define Sharia as a “totalitarian ideology” and “legal-political-military doctrine” committed to destroying Western civilization.
  • P28: intentionally misdefining Sharia itself as the problem
These criticisms are  ad hominem.  Nowhere that I could see does the report address the issues and try to refute this allegedly "highly inaccurate" material. It's simply stated that they're wrong, "inaccurate", "perverse", whatever, with no counter argument.  Ipse dixit.
What we're supposed to think, in reaction to this ipse dixitism: What could these five “misinformers” be thinking? 
Well, as they say themselves: they are merely reporting what Islamic clerics and Islamic texts [*] say. 

Islam as a supremacist religion

There are many references to Islam’s view of itself as the religion to be dominant in the world.  They come from Muslims and they come from Islamic texts.
I take here just one example, because it is (1) very authoritative and (2) very clear. The author is Abul a’la Maududi.  Maududi is a revered Islamic scholar, a “major 20th Century Islamic thinker".  He was the first recepient of the King Faisal International Prize for his services to Islam. 
Here he is in “Jihad in Islam” (my emphases):
But the truth is that Islam is not the name of a ‘Religion’, nor is ‘Muslim’ the title of a ‘Nation’. In reality Islam is a revolutionary ideology and programme which seeks to alter the social order of the whole world and rebuild it in conformity with its own tenets and ideals. ‘Muslim’ is the title of that International Revolutionary Party organized by Islam to carry into effect its revolutionary programme. And ‘Jihād’ refers to that revolutionary struggle and utmost exertion which the Islamic Party brings into play to achieve this objective. [Jihad in Islam, A'la Maududi, Holy Koran Publishing House, Beirut, 1979, p5]

On the Nation State: 
Islam has no vested interest in promoting the cause of this or that Nation. The hegemony of this or that State on the face of this earth is irrelevant to Islam. [ibid p6]

Living in peace with other nations and religions? 
Islam wishes to destroy all states and governments anywhere on the face of the earth which are opposed to the ideology and programme of Islam regardless of the country or the Nation which rules it. [ibid p7] 
Now, I ask:

Is there anything unclear in this?  No.  It is crystal clear.
Is there anything out of date in this? No, it is core doctrine and regularly repeated by Islamic scholars and politicians, up to heads of State (eg: Ahmandinejad)
Is there anything in this which should give us pause?  Yes, of course there is.  Not to do so is irresponsible.
Are the five “misinformation experts” misrepresenting these words? No, they are simply reporting them.
Is the “Fear, Inc” document misrepresenting these words?  Yes, because they ignore them.  They would have their readers know nothing about them: too dangerous to their thesis that it’s all a misinformed radical right plot.

The threat of Sharia

[p3]: Gingrich went on to claim that “Sharia in its natural form has principles and punishments totally abhorrent to the Western world.”
Your reaction to the above statement is supposed to be “Oh my god, how could Gingrich say such a thing?!  What a fool!  What an ignoramus!  He’s crazy!” 
In fact, if you know anything at all about Sharia – and it’s easy enough to, the classic manual of Islamic law is available at Amazon – then you know that he’s absolutely right. 
In the Classic Manual of Islamic Jurisprudence (Umdate al-Salik) we have: 
  • stoning for adultery (o12.2);
  • execution of apostates (f1.3);
  • penalty for killing a woman only half that of killing a man (o4.9);
  • no penalty for killing one’s child (o1.2);
  • no indemnity for a Muslim killing a non-Muslim (o1.2(4));
  • amputation of limbs for theft (o14);
  • caning of women for disobedience (m10.12)
  • killing of homosexuals (p17.3)
  • clitorodectomy (e4.3)
  • supremacism of Islam (w4.1(2))

Knowing of these, knowing that they are in the religious law, in Sharia, knowing moreover that these punishments are indeed implemented in countries that practice Sharia, are we nonetheless supposed to think that Sharia is somehow consistent with – not “abhorrent” to – the western world?
Or are we simply to ignore them?  They are written down in black and white.  They are practiced in Sharia states like Iran, Saudi and Pakistan.  Are we simply to ignore the written word, to ignore the actual practice?  Should we simply ignore these and choose to believe that Sharia means “justice, fairness and mercy”, because the authors of “Fear, Inc” tell us so? [p28].

Now, I ask:

Who is doing the “misinforming” here? 
Is it the people pointing to the clear and unambiguous prescriptions of Sharia? 
Or is it those, the authors of this paper, who say it is sweetness and light and mention not even a single one of Sharia’s many problematic areas?

What of the claim that it’s only the “radical right” that’s concerned about Sharia?  It certainly is the case, in my observation, that Republicans in the US, conservative parties in other countries, are the ones most concerned about Islam.  But they are not the only ones and the list of people “of the left”, or centre, or independent, include: Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Bill Maher, Maryam Namazie, Rooshanjie Ejaz, Ayyan Hirsi Ali.  To suggest that one is only critical of Islam if one is beholden to a bigoted right-wing agenda is a calumny.

There are many people concerned about Islam, and not because they are in “Fear”.  But because they have some common sense and can read and see for themselves what Sharia and a supremacist religion can do to a country.  

Better forewarned than too late.

[*]: Koran 9.5Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.