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Columbia University Hysterical Professor is Behaving Predictibly

Reader comment on item: [Hamid Dabashi:] Columbia University's Hysterical Professor

Submitted by William Gawthrop (United States), Dec 2, 2004 at 07:18

With regard to Dr Dabashi, I believe that he is behaving IAW his cultural, religious, and legal precepts. The problem is that those same precepts induce unacknowledged, systemic bias in Columbia University's program of instruction. Below is an internal paper used to educate analysts on the this phenomena. For a foot noted copy contact me directly.

Wm Gawthrop

Tab B, Islamic Sacred Law Impacts on Muslim Scholarship and Its Implications for Intelligence Analysts

1. (U) PURPOSE. To describe the influence of Islamic Sacred Law on Muslim scholarship and its implication for Intelligence Analysts.

2. (U) BACKGROUND. A phenomenon confronting intelligence analysts is the Teflon effect in Muslim scholarship. Muslim scholarship appears to employ "positive bias" resulting in a curious lack of critical analysis and objective criticism by mainstream Islamic scholars and authors when addressing Islamic topics. In those instances where penetrating, objective, research is conducted by Muslim authors, the authors have been subjected to threats of violence disproportionate to the level of their inquiry. Criticism of Islam and Muslims frequently results in a surprisingly shrill and disproportionate hue and cry suppressing critical inquiries into Islamic topics. A source for this phenomenon lies in Islamic Sacred Law.


a. (U) Islamic Law. Islamic law is comprised of the Koran , the Hadiths , Consensus and reasoning by analogy. Within the Sunni tradition, a primary legal reference is Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri's Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law. These sources provide general guidelines for representing Islam in public writings. The provisions cited below exert pressures inducing bias, obstructing objectivity, and creating a Teflon effect which is intolerant of derogatory comments concerning Islam or Muslims. It is logical to infer that the more learned, the more devout, the Muslim writer or his reviewer, the more closely the writer adheres to Islamic precepts. Conversely, the more secular the Muslim writer, and the reviewer of his works, the less likely he is bound to these religious precepts. Accredited Muslim scholarship is bound by the strictures of the Koran, the Hadiths and Islamic Law (reflected in Reliance of the Traveller) and specific guidance is provided concerning the revelation of "the shameful points" of Islam.

b. (U) The Koran. A recurring theme in the Koran is the overlooking of the faults, evil deeds, or lesser sins of devout Muslims.

c. (U) The Hadiths. There is a similar theme of overlooking the faults of the pious and devout in the Hadiths.

d. (U) The Reliance of the Traveller. The following passage, taken from Reliance of the Traveller, quotes the Koran and the Hadiths and forms a powerful influence over Muslim scholarship.

(1) (U) Asking About Another's Mistakes. Objective inquiry, and the analysis based upon objective inquiry, is restrained in Islam. Historical research, historical accounts, investigative journalism and other lines of literary inquiry into Islam may be influenced by authors faithful to the following:
It is forbidden to ask about another's errors and blunders in order to tell them they have made a mistake or to embarrass them, being unlawful because it entails injury to another and belittling him in front of people. But when one's asking about mistakes is to learn or teach, or to test or sharpen student's minds or make them reflect, then it is recommended and desirable, because it facilitates the comprehension of religious knowledge.
If the pursuit is a religious inquiry, learning about another's mistakes is permitted. If the learning is for non-religious purposes and creates doubt, the inquiry is unlawful. Reliance of the Traveller, Book A (Communally Obligatory Knowledge), Chapter 7 (Subjects That Are Not Sacred Knowledge), Section 2 (Unlawful Knowledge) states that unlawful knowledge includes:
(6) anything that is a means to create doubt (n: in eternal truths). Such things vary in their degree of unlawfulness.
(2) (U) Searching Out A Person's Faults. Reliance of the Traveller addresses critical inquiry of persons.

Asking about and searching out the faults of others is spying, which Allah Most High has forbidden by saying: "Do not spy" (Sura 49:12), meaning to look for the shameful points of Muslims. The Prophet … said:
(1) "If you search for people's shameful points, you corrupt them…"
(2) "O you who have entered Islam with your tongues but whose hearts faith have not entered: do not slander people, and do not ferret out people's shameful points. Whoever searches out the shameful points of his brother, Allah will search out his own shameful points, be sure that He will disgrace him even if he should remain in the middle of his house."

Within this provision is a clear warning: those who impugn Islam will be subjected to retribution. (Analysts Comment: Throughout the Koran exist references to actions to be taken by God in addressing wrongs visited upon Islam. Similarly, provisions exist within the Koran for believers to take action on behalf of God for addressing these wrongs. This interpretation of the Holy Texts gives rise to a wide range of autonomous, decentralized, asymmetrical operations by individuals and small groups against those conducting penetrating inquiries.)

(3) (U) Secrets. The very object of analytical works focusing on Islamic subjects involves searching out the truth. For the Muslim, this may be a struggle to preserve secrets. In an all-Muslim setting, it is preferable to keep secrets unless the rights of a fellow Muslim are being violated. In that case, it is recommended to reveal the secret.

(Mohammed) said: "When a man says something. Then glances left or right, his words are a confidence to be kept."

"Telling a secret means to inform others of a remark, action, or state which one learns of from someone who wants to remain hidden, whether it be good or bad. This is hurting him, and hurting others is unlawful "

"When two people meet, it is obligatory to keep secret any act that occurs, any word spoken, or any state attributable to someone, when these concern something one would normally wish to remain confidential, while not being unlawful."

"If it is against Allah Most High alone and does not involve legal measures such as prescribed legal penalties or disciplinary action, then it must be kept secret."

"If it involves legal measure, as do fornication and drinking, then one has a choice between revealing it or not, though it is superior to conceal it."

"If it involves another person's rights, then if concealing it entails harm to anyone, or if it concerns prescribed legal measures such as retaliation for an injury or death, or covering the cost of an article destroyed through negligence, then if the person whose rights have been infringed is ignorant of it, one is obliged to make the matter known, and must testify to it if asked to."

"If it involves another's rights, but concealing it does not entail harm to anyone and it does not concern prescribed legal measures, or it entails one of these two, but the person concerned already knows of it through another and one has not been asked to testify about it, then one is obliged to conceal the matter."

This provision has applicability when trying to ascertain the inner workings of Islamic institutions and processes, the differences in Muslim supplied English translation of texts being at variance with (and less militant than) their Arabic counterparts, and the glossing over of sensitive issues in Islamic history. (For example, Muhammad, the Prophet, was personally responsible for several murders and actively conspired to commit murders of his detractors. This topic, along with a wide range of other issues, is never addressed in the straightforward manner associated with Western standards of scholarship.) Analysts dependant solely on Muslin sources risk inducing bias in their finished products.

(4) (U) Slander. Slander, in the Western context, is the utterance of false charges or misrepresentations which defame and damage another's reputation. Within the Sunni Islam tradition, slander means mentioning anything concerning a person that that person would dislike. The truth, then, becomes slanderous when an author or source mentions "anything concerning a person that that person would dislike."

(a) (U) The Koran provides specific guidance on slander.

Sura 49:11 - Oh you who believe! Let not a group scoff at one another group, it may be that the latter are better than the former. Nor let (some) women scoff at other women, it may be that the latter are better than the former. Nor defame one another, nor insult one another by nicknames. How bad is it to insult one's brother after having Faith [i.e. to call your Muslim brother (a faithful believer) as: "Oh Sinner" or "O wicked"]. And whosoever does not repent, then such are indeed Zalimun (wrongdoers).

Sura 49:12 - O you who believe! Avoid much suspicion; indeed some suspicions are sins. And spy not, neither backbite one another. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? Would you hate it (so hate backbiting). And fear Allah. Verily, Allah is the One Who forgives and accepts repentance, Most Merciful.

(b) (U) The Reliance of the Traveller also provides specific discussions on slander.

"Slander means to mention anything concerning a person that he would dislike, whether about his body, religion, everyday life, self, disposition, property, son, father, wife, servant, turban, garment, gait, movements, smiling, dissolution, frowning, cheerfulness, or anything else connected with him."

"Do you know what slander is?" They answered, "Allah and His Messenger know best." He said, "It is to mention of your brother that which he would dislike." Someone asked, "What if he is as I say?" And he replied, "If he is as you say, you have slandered him, and if not, you have calumniated him."

"The Muslim is the brother of the Muslim. He does not betray him, lie to him, or hang back from coming to his aid. All of the Muslim is inviolable to his fellow Muslim: his reputation, his property, his blood. Godfearingness is here (the heart). It is sufficiently wicked for someone to belittle his fellow Muslim."

An in depth, truthful, factual analysis of Muhammad's murders and his participation in conspiracy to commit murder, then, becomes slanderous and inappropriate for detailed pursuit. So then are the misdeeds of modern day activists pursuing their agenda against U.S. interests. Criticism of Islam is slander, critics of Islam are slanders, and Muslin scholarship cannot risk inquiry characterized as slander. Analysts may not be able to rely on sole sourced Muslim scholarship for discerning the whole truth of matters under investigation.

(5) (U) Deception and Lying. In specific situations, a Muslim has a positive duty to lie. As described in Reliance of the Traveller, lying is permitted in:

"war, settling disagreements, and a man talking with his wife or she with him." … If a praiseworthy aim is attainable through both telling the truth and lying, it is unlawful to accomplish through lying because there is no need for it. When it is possible to achieve such an aim by lying but not telling the truth, it is permissible to lie if attaining the goal is permissible and obligatory to lie if the goal is obligatory. When, for example, one is concealing a Muslim from an oppressor who asks where he is, it is obligatory to lie about him being hidden. Or when a person deposits an article with one for safekeeping and an oppressor wanting to appropriate it inquires about it, it is obligatory to lie about having concealed it, for if one informs him about the article and he then seizes it, one is financially liable (to the owner) to cover the article's cost. Whether the purpose is war, settling a disagreement, or gaining sympathy of a victim legally entitled to retaliate against one so that he will forbear to do so; it is not unlawful to lie when any of these aims can be obtained through lying."

Islamic scholars elaborate on this point.

"Believers when in a weakened stage in a non-Muslim country should forgive and be patient with people of the book when they insult Allah and his prophet by any means. Believers should lie to people of the book to protect their lives and religion." This passage has implications for press reporting, meetings and a wide range of activities where open source intelligence collection is practiced.

"As a subterfuge, they may deny Islam to escape punishment from non-believers who are their captors. (Precedence: Amar Ben Yasser, hostage of Quraysh Tribe)." This passage has implications for assessing source reporting.

"As a subterfuge to gain acceptance by non-believers for the purposes of cover for assassination and covert operations (Precedence: Muhammad sent Abed Allah Bin Anis to penetrate Shabban Bin Kalad Al-Handi's army and kill him.)" This passage has implications for criminal investigations, security programs, analytical work and other general research.

(6) (U) Giving a Misleading Impression. Giving a misleading impression is a preferable alternative to lying and may serve as one of several motivations and enablers for the problematic translations of Arabic texts into English. With disturbing regularity, English versions of Arabic texts are consistently demilitarized and rendered more pacifistic for non-Muslim or Western consumption. For the analyst, this means double checking translations which is more easily said than done.

The guidance contained in Reliance of the Traveller is specific.

"Giving a misleading impression is among the most important topics, being frequently met with and often abused. It befits us to examine the matter closely, and whoever learns of it should reflect upon it and apply it."

"Giving a misleading impression means to utter an expression that ostensibly implies one meaning while intending a different meaning the expression may also have, one that contradicts the ostensive purport. It is a kind of deception."
"It often takes the form of the speaker intending a specific referent while the hearer understands a more general one, as when a person asks a householder, "Is So and so here?" to which the householder, intending the space between himself and the questioner rather than the space inside the house, replies, "He is not here."

"Scholars say that there is no harm in giving a misleading impression if required by an interest countenanced by Sacred Law that is more important than not misleading the person being addressed, or if there is a pressing need which could not otherwise be fulfilled except through lying."

(7) (U) Giving a Positive Interpretation to Other's Seeming Mistakes. Students of Islam have an obligation to project a positive bias in their interpretations of Islam.

Nawawi … mentions, in the section of the introduction of Sharh al-Muhadhdhab about the behavior of teacher and student that "it is obligatory for a student to give a positive interpretation to every utterance of his brothers that seems to be wrong until he has exhausted seventy excuses. No one is incapable of this except a failure."

This has implications for the analyst relying on academic works (Master's Thesis and Doctoral Dissertations) that later find their way into main stream academia and open sources. It helps explain a peculiar pattern of evasion identifiable in televised exchanges between news commentators and Islamic authorities. The requirement for offering "seventy excuses" is an effective strategy in wearing down and eventually defeating investigative reporting. This may limit the usefulness of televised discussion forums as sources for intelligence analysts.

e. (U) Implications for Researchers. There are at least two critical research nodes vulnerable to this phenomenon: the entry point of scholarly works, characterized by academic members of Masters Thesis and Doctoral Dissertation Committees, and the end users of these scholarly works, individual researchers.

(1) (U) Academic Members of Masters Thesis and Doctoral Dissertation Committees. A survey of thesis and dissertations available through Digital Dissertations identifies a large number of academic products addressing Islamic topics. A review of these scholarly works gives anecdotal evidence that Islamic topics are treated by Muslim authors with a positive bias while non-Muslim authors tend to be more critical. In cases where Muslims comprise Thesis or Dissertations committee membership, thesis and dissertations tend to suppress criticism and accentuate more laudatory interpretations of the Islamic issues under discussion. Objective analysis appears to give way to positive bias under Islamic tutorage even in main stream academia. The Gate Keepers of Scholarship Integrity may not be functioning as well as possible when addressing Islamic issues. This has implications for researchers (including Intelligence Analysts).

(2) (U) Researchers (including Intelligence Analysts). Given the broad religious, legal and scholarly inertia toward projecting a positive bias when discussing Islamic topics, and the possible extension of that trend in mainstream U.S. academia and scholarship, it becomes essential that researchers (including intelligence analysts) exert more than the usual care when relying on Muslim sources. Whereas analysts should normally double check their sources, the existence of specific provisions in Islamic law to intentionally conceal and mislead requires analysts to exercise extreme caution when relying on Muslim sources.

4. (U) POINT OF CONTACT. Mr. William Gawthrop)


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