Sunday, July 29, 2007

Noting Jihad Watch Problem #3


In a couple of previous essays here on this blog—particularly here and here—, I have counted the ways that Jihad Watch, as managed and executed by Robert Spencer and Hugh Fitzgerald, et al., is flawed. The flaw that my blog has paid least attention to was enumerated in the above noted first essay as #3:

3) The problem of where Jihad Watch stands with regard to the evil and danger of Islam, and with regard to directly subsidiary questions, such as: Is a reformation of Islam possible? Can we, and do we, trust certain Muslims (however few they seem to be in numbers) who seem to be on our side in grappling with this global problem? Is Islam itself evil and dangerous, or is its evil and danger a peripheral, marginal, or somehow detachable chunk from its corpus—i.e., a chunk whose detachment would not entail the destruction of the body (let alone that such detachment is even feasible)?

In an article on Jihad Watch today, Robert Spencer writes in one of his characteristically aphoristic editorial remarks, concerning the recidivism of Gitmo detainees returning to their jihadist activities after they have been released:

Why should this surprise anyone? No effort was made at Gitmo to disabuse them of jihadist sympathies.

There is no reason to believe Spencer is merely being rhetorical here. He has expressed more or less this same principle—usually couched in those parenthetically aphoristic remarks—numerous times before. Given all the reportage and analyses that Spencer and Fitzgerald over the years have industriously published documenting and exploring the evil and danger of Islam, this remark by Spencer impresses the reader as puzzlingly absurd. What kind of “effort” could possibly “disabuse” these hard-bitten mujahideen of their ideologically, sociologically and psychologically fixed resolve? Certainly not—for Spencer himself expressed sarcastic skepticism about it—the effort that Major General Douglas Stone, the commander of detainee operations in Iraq, attempts daily—to wit: to read the Koran himself in order to see how he can convince his Muslim prisoners that they have interpreted their own holy book incorrectly.

A clue to what answer Spencer might possibly supply to this question lies, I think, in his relentlessly reiterated motif concerning the dereliction of duty of the so-called “moderate Muslims” with regard to their terrorist brethren: namely, that the former have yet to directly and substantively refute the latter’s ostensibly solid claim of grounding their paramilitary jihad in core Islamic texts and tradition. Expanding on this clue, then, might Spencer believe that an effective “effort” by which jihadists could be “disabused” of their jihadism would be some kind of concerted campaign by “moderate Muslims” who will successfully use the Islamic holy texts and traditions to persuade those jihadists? Although this seems to be the logical conclusion of everything Spencer alludes to with regard to this problem, Spencer never supplies any inkling as to the actual substance and methodology of such a campaign by those moderate, anti-jihadist Muslims.

Rather than chide our military for not making any “effort” to “disabuse” their detainees before letting them free, Spencer should articulate more clearly and directly why it is likely that any such “effort” is doomed to fail as long as the core texts and tradition of Islam are not (at the very least), by Muslims themselves, defanged, spayed and neutered—which is to say, given that such an invasive surgery of the corpus of Islam would kill the patient (or, more likely, rouse the patient, Frankenstan monster to the end, to rise off the table and kill the surgeons who would try): it is simply doomed to fail; i.e., impossible.

3 comments:

Nobody said...

Erich

On #3, both Robert & Hugh are on record as stating that it's highly unlikely that reform in Islam is possible. That's completely different from the question of whether certain Muslims are trustworthy. I believe that your differences with them are quantitative rather than qualitative - whereas they seem to be of the stand that any Muslim who concedes the problematic contents of the Islamic texts, such as Tasbih Sayyid, is trustworthy, your (and my) threshold seems to be that is that any Muslim who meets this criteria and yet refuses to jettison Islam - a la Ali Sina, Wafa Sultan, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, et al - hasn't yet earned that threshold of trust.

On the question of whether Islam itself is evil and dangerous, we had thrashed this out on JW, along with NeverPayRetail and SomethingAboutIslam. I recall you doing some essays on Hesperado about how relavant the magnitude of evil is for evil to be a qualifier. While that was an intriguing discussion, the number of facets of evil in Islam - from violence against Infidels, women, gays and others to their belligerent practices - such as forcing institutions to accomodate their needs such as special school prayer times, footbasins, toilets not facing Mecca, tombstones facing Mecca, et al - makes that point relatively moot.

On the issue of today's article on Gitmo released prisoners re-entering the Jihad, the problem isn't one about reform of Islam, which is extremely problematic: it's that as long as the institutions starting from the White House and going right down to Centcom buy into the notion that the Gitmo detainees are twisting Islam and that their activities isn't the true Islam, they were not going to make the practice of Islam more difficult.

If Centcom had over the last 6 years a program to deny them halal food or any of their Islamic needs such as prayer rugs, ill treated them, made attempts to forcibly convert them to (say) Christianity, improved treatment for those who converted, meted out 2nd class status to those who didn't (sound familiar), there might have been the case of those released not re-entering the Jihad. But with all the self deception about Islam itself, it's no wonder that that didn't happen. And I don't think anybody @ JW is oblivious to that fact.

Erich said...

Nobody,

"both Robert & Hugh are on record as stating that it's highly unlikely that reform in Islam is possible."

I don't recall ever seeing a remark like that from either of them. One may infer such a sentiment from them, from the sheer volume of reportage and analysis they put out documenting the evil and danger of Islam, but that's different from actually seeing them write that in so many words -- and that is precisely the core of my criticism inherent to JW's "Problem #3": viz., their inconsistency. If you have a link, I'd appreciate it.

"whereas they [Robert and Hugh] seem to be of the stand that any Muslim who concedes the problematic contents of the Islamic texts, such as Tasbih Sayyid, is trustworthy, your (and my) threshold seems to be that is that any Muslim who meets this criteria and yet refuses to jettison Islam - a la Ali Sina, Wafa Sultan, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, et al - hasn't yet earned that threshold of trust."

Even if I concede that the Tasbih Sayyids of the world are trustworthy, their numbers are simply insufficient to make any practical difference in terms of the enormous problem of Islam. But again, I don't see Spencer saying this; and I can only infer from what Hugh writes that he seems to lean this way.

"On the question of whether Islam itself is evil and dangerous, we had thrashed this out on JW, along with NeverPayRetail and SomethingAboutIslam. I recall you doing some essays on Hesperado about how relavant the magnitude of evil is for evil to be a qualifier. While that was an intriguing discussion, the number of facets of evil in Islam - from violence against Infidels, women, gays and others to their belligerent practices - such as forcing institutions to accomodate their needs such as special school prayer times, footbasins, toilets not facing Mecca, tombstones facing Mecca, et al - makes that point relatively moot."

The point of whether, and to what extent, Islam is evil & dangerous, with relation to JW's Problem #3 is not the mere theoretical structure of the question, but Spencer's apparent ambivalence about whether Islam is sufficiently centrally evil & dangerous to make calls for "reform" pointless. I think it's about time that Spencer take a stand on this issue. For God's sake, I'm sick and tired of being treated like a child (by not only the MSM, but even by anti-Islamists like Spencer) in this most momentous debate. We are all adults. We can handle the truth. While Hugh does come closer to saying this, he never actually delineates what this would mean for our actions: i.e., if Islam is irredeemable, then what do we do, exactly? Hugh has never specified, only hinted (as with his ambiguous and never formally published ruminations about the Czech relocations of Germans).

(A similiar argument is often proferred with relation to Bush's mantra "Islam is a religion of peace" -- to wit, that he is just doing that as a tactical maneuver, lest the American people, who are apparently millions of childish savages just waiting to lynch Muzzies, might go postal. Absurd and insulting to the American people.)

"On the issue of today's article on Gitmo released prisoners re-entering the Jihad, the problem isn't one about reform of Islam, which is extremely problematic: it's that as long as the institutions starting from the White House and going right down to Centcom buy into the notion that the Gitmo detainees are twisting Islam and that their activities isn't the true Islam, they were not going to make the practice of Islam more difficult."

I don't think making the practice of Islam more difficult is going to do any good.

"If Centcom had over the last 6 years a program to deny them halal food or any of their Islamic needs such as prayer rugs, ill treated them, made attempts to forcibly convert them to (say) Christianity...there might have been the case of those released not re-entering the Jihad."

For the most part, I believe this would only have the effect of causing the mujahideen to dig their feet deeper in their hatred and hostility and steel them to try to do anything they could to dupe or deceive their captors.

"...improved treatment for those who converted, meted out 2nd class status to those who didn't (sound familiar)..."

I believe most mujahideen would only pretend to convert, thereby increasing the risk of "double agents".

Your prescriptions, it seems to me, only show the fallacy of thinking there is something we can do about these captured mujahideen. There isn't. At best, we can torture them to learn intelligence. Otherwise, they should be permanently disabled (by hook or by crook, i.e., execution) and never freed. That's the problem with Spencer's statement which formed the basis of my essay above: he presumes there is something we can do about these prisoners, short of torturing, executing or life terms. Realistically speaking (where the probability of rare exceptions and margin for error are too risky to be used for our policy), there isn't.

Nobody said...

I'll see if I can dig up the place where Hugh stated (in one of the occasions that JW was invaded by trolls) that he didn't think Islam is reformable. It could take some digging. As for Spencer himself, on some of the radio programs that he's appeared, I've heard him state that it's unlikely, as opposed to impossible, but then, he seems to allow for the option stating that in history, strange things have happened.

I agree with your position that execution would have been the only treatment for the detainees, and that it's likely that nothing can be done about them: my point was that if anything had any chance, nothing short of a conversion out of Islam would have done. Of course, like you point out, that's itself something that would have to be verified, but I think it's another option between Complete Release and Execution.