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A Letter to Mr. Y Halabi

Reader comment on item: The Problem with Middle East Studies

Submitted by Geoffrey Sherwood (United States), Jul 17, 2008 at 22:19

Dear Mr. Halabi,
I read Mr. Daniel Pipes' account of what he alleges is your misquote of something he wrote, and would be interested in your side of the story.

Mr. Pipes claims to have written: "Muslim countries have the most terrorists and the fewest democracies in the world."

He claims that you distorted that quote by writing that what he actually wrote was: "One such writer Daniel Pipes, for example, depicts Muslims as "permanent" anti-democrats and terrorists. In his words: "Muslim countries [not only] have the most terrorists and the fewest democracies in the world, but that they always will."

He described your response to his complaint by saying that you "wrote back and justified his inaccuracy with a reference to post-modern subjectivity, with its convenient insouciance toward such concepts as truth and falsehood: "This is the way I understood and interpreted your article. When you write an article, you cannot control the way others interprete [sic] it."

Was that really your response? If it was, then I have to say that my interpretation of all of this is that you have compounded one pernicious lie with another. I don't use the word "lie" lightly. But it is obvious that you don't really believe what you wrote to Mr. Pipes. How do I know that? It's very simple: The only conceivable reason for putting your interpretation of Mr. Pipes in quotes, as though he really said those words, is so that you can UNDERMINE any attempt at interpretation on the part of the reader. Obviously, if someone really did say "permanent", he meant "permanent". What interpretation is needed?

There is absolutely no place in this world for so-called post-modern subjectivity when it comes to quoting someone. It is an evil, pure and simple. That form of subjectivity, if it is described accurately by Mr. Pipes, can serve only one purpose - to deceive. If you were an honest human being with any intellectual integrity at all, you would have stated outright that you were interpreting Mr. Pipes.

You could have at least said "I feel that Mr. Pipes thinks that Muslims are permanently terroristic and undemocratic". That would be the honest way to write what you did. Instead, it appears that you purposely tried to manipulate the reader - the exact opposite of letting the reader interpret things for himself.

Since you claim that you were "interpreting" Mr. Pipes, let me ask you exactly what Mr. Pipes has written that would lead any reasonable person to think the he believes terrorism and anti-democracy is a permanent condition of Muslims.

It will probably be extremely difficult for you to answer these questions honestly, but, with a sincere effort, you might just be able to do it. Just like Mr. Pipes, I believe that anyone and anything can change for the better.

Kind Regards,
Geoffrey Sherwood
New Jersey, USA


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