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Re: JihadWatch comments

Reader comment on item: Was Barack Obama a Muslim?
in response to reader comment: To Jaime

Submitted by Jaime (United States), Feb 1, 2008 at 01:50

Wow, I've got the attention of the big boy, Mr. Spencer… Hmmm… Interesting, I guess I'm moving up! I'll address some of his 'points' and make some of my own.

Firstly, I AM NOT a Muslim, or "a wolf in sheeps clothing" as he says. In fact I am a pork eatin', beer drinkin', Eucharist taking, American Christian. Apparently because I disagree with the ‘all knowing', ‘ever enlightening' Robert Spencer, I must be what he fights against. Or if I make an intellectual argument about Islam, I must be an ‘apologist' or a Muslim, which is total bull and reveals his motives behind JihadWatch, other than revealing the 'truth' behind Islam.

Secondly, which I really don't like to express because people who do online are unreliable, I am a veteran who has worked tirelessly in the military, abroad and domestically, in a major national security capacity, and am currently working in this capacity for the gov't (although much higher up) now. Oh no! Scary right? Someone who is actually completely versed in the study of Qur'an, hadith, early Islam, and Middle Eastern Area Studies working high up in the gov't, but that's what they hired me for actually. I have a blog, but unfortunately (for my bank account apparently) I do not have time to tirelessly blog away on how ‘backward' Islam is every day (see: jihadwatch.org). I am actually out there, as an extreme patriot putting my life on the line, for this country. I never stated that the Middle East is better. I have actually spent a large amount of time there, and have seen the issues. Trust me, the door will be hitting him in the face before it ever does mine. (Apparently his free speech rhetoric isn't as sound as it may seem since I should ‘leave' if I disagree).

Thirdly, ‘of course' Islam spreads because of its ‘immorality', right? There is truth to the fact that, so-called, 3rd World nations do have much worse education and resources to help with birth control, etc, which the Muslim World has a majority of followers in. But it surely does not regularly follow the bin Laden example put forth here. His family was rich, close to the al-Saud family, and Wahhabi, contributing to the fact that he had so many children. In fact, all of the Muslims I know all are against the modern idea of polygamy. Historical actors often took many, and young, wives, mostly for political reasons, whether it was Muhammad in the 7th century or the political moves of the Latin kings of Jerusalem, when, similar to ancient Arabia, life expectancy was low and political connections were the backbones of political power. In addition, Christianity is also followed strongly in the 3rd World these days, leading to a high birth-rate around the world (contributing to the ‘official' count on followers too). But I'm sure Mr. Spencer knows this, it just doesn't fit within his ideology, of course, and therefore the reasoning of something simple like this does not compute smoothly.

Fourthly, it's funny because without knowing it, Mr. Spencer depletes some fundamentals to his TOTAL argument by claiming that "To become a Muslim - just recite the shahada - bam! you are a Muslim - what a joke". But wait, his argument fundamentally argues that to be a Muslim an elemental rule is to participate in jihad and shahadat. Much of his strength is spent arguing medieval doctrine, and literal translation of Qur'an, pointing to ‘obligation' of jihad. This reminds me of Egyptian working-class, criminal, Islamist ‘Abd al-Salam Faraj (d. 1982). He founded al-Jama‘at al-Jihad (Egyptian Islamic Jihad) and explained his views in his book The Neglected Obligation (Al-Farida al-Gha'iba). Al-Jihad is the group associated with al-Qaeda via al-Zawahri, bin Laden's vizier, so to speak. The ideology spouted by al-Jihad, and its founder Faraj, led to the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat in 1982, and continues to be the foundation of groups such as al-Qaeda.

Anyway, the main gist of this book was that the ‘ulama (Muslim ‘clergy') had neglected their true duty to Islam to wage jihad and guide the common Muslim to wage jihad on the infidels. These infidels, besides the obvious non-Muslims, included Muslims who were seen as traditionally pious (conducting prayers, fasting, Hajj, and charity), but did not wage jihad. Instead they accepted the Egyptian state and went about their business in a state of jahiliyya. This was the ultimate betrayal of Islam, and he pressed that Islamic ‘renegades' committed greater sin than those who never claimed to be Muslims at all. They are truly apostates, and must be eradicated. He used ayat to justify this in very problematic ways and I go into this more in my blog.

In fact, Faraj's argument, as Mr. Spencer argues, is that jihad is a requirement to being a ‘true' Muslim. The "hurdles one has to do besides being personally convinced", what Mr. Spencer seems to require above for true religious conviction, was violence and sacrifice! Which, typically, is Mr. Spencer's argument too. See my argument here: http://speculative.wordpress.com/2008/01/01/who-needs-sound-methodology-and-rigor-waitaaah/ AND http://speculative.wordpress.com/2008/01/30/the-neglected-obligation-to-see-beyond-ones-uninformed-predetermined-ideology/

Unfortunately for both Faraj, and Mr. Spencer, acting as both sides of the same coin, this is wrong. While it may still be true to many violent Muslims abroad and here in the US, it certainly is not a fundamental trait of Islam. For instance, as the Qur'an invites the readers to ponder and reflect, one must continuously strive to see the full thrust of the Qur'an, because within the text God did not provide all the answers for the Muslim community. If this wasn't the case, the fundamental question to a Muslim, ‘How should a Muslim live?', would not have been asked for 1400 years. The text is to be wrestled with, as it always has been. But bin Laden, or Mr. Spencer, using authoritarian language, brush any debate away with a broad stroke! This is what I see as ignorant, and quite egotistical, thinking they can define the religion: the bin Laden-s and Mr. Spencer-s somehow negate 1400 years of research study and billions of humans or even the lifetime of one Muslim today who may live a peaceful life, dedicated to understanding their religion every day.

Fifthly, and in relation, Mr. Spencer also sweeps away some of the most respected and well-published Orientalists and scholars of even just the 20th century, not to mention beyond. For instance, English published books by Gibb, Watt, Burton, Hodgson, Browne, Geertz, Kramers, Hourani, Ajami, McAuliffe, Said, Lewis, Donner, Kennedy, Rahman, Sivan, Mitchell, Keppel, Rippen, etc., etc., etc. These scholars present a brilliant, and truly painstaking study of history, anthropology, politics, religion, philosophy, etc., which presents a true understanding of Islamic Civilization. But these books don't fight for the best-seller list, and can be hard to navigate through for the non-specialist, so books like Mr. Spencer's win the popularity contest, and this is a shame. But I am sure "the evidence suggests" that academics are truly only the ‘left'.

Sixthly, I have to say something about his publisher, Regnery. This is the self-proclaimed "nation's leading conservative publisher". This is fine of course, I am actually more conservative in my IR politics, as a structural realist/selective engagement-ist, and I have no problem with conservative political philosophy and theory. But what I do have a problem with are books that have an ax to grind touting themselves as some type of academic endeavor. Academic publishers have extremely rigorous editing standards. Neutrality is certainly not perfect, but the idea is not to prove a publisher's ideology. Oxford Univ Press, for instance, will publish Bernard Lewis' What Went Wrong? while simultaneously printing younger scholar Frederick Quinn's The Sum of All Heresies (these aren't the best examples of a perfect dichotomy, but the point should be clear). Unfortunately, publishers who lean a certain way, whether one agrees with that ideology or not, will not be scrupulous in the scrutiny of their authors. It's just their nature, and their system for making money, but it only highlights the flaws in the methodology of texts put out by these houses.

Anyway, I just wanted to mention a couple problems with his response. There are other issues in this world to take the blame for the extreme violence in this world that are much more immediate than religious and civilizational differences. I talk about all of this on my blog ( speculative.wordpress.com ) consistently. Mr. Spencer has been "whistle blowing" for a long time now, and I am sure he's got a library of rebuttals to the apologists, etc. He's built up a very large reputation, with a voluminous argument, and I somehow became a blip on his radar. Although, I am probably just some taqiyya-lovin-obviously-a-Muslim-who-is-a-blind-apologist-this-country's-doomed-if-it-continues-to-hire-people-like-me-non-thick-beard-sportin-liberal because my argument is in contrast to his. And if that means someone who is out there truly helping his country with real ‘blood and sweat' along with using intellectual rigor rather than ideological bias, than that's FINE WITH ME!

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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