Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Robert Spencer: Soft on Islam? Part 2
In our previous essay, we presented the argument that Spencer is too soft on Islam. This doesn’t mean he is not harder on Islam than many other people; it just means that as hard as he is, it is not hard enough for the type of danger we face from Muslims.
Just yesterday on Jihad Watch, there was posted this news story:
Al-Qaeda’s nuclear attack against the US is in planning stages, top American intelligence officials have said.
In light of this horrific and imminent threat, and in light of the psychosociopolitico-cultural dispersal and fungibility of Al-Qaeda among Muslims throughout the globe in the Islamic diaspora, we are forced, rationally, to treat Islam itself, and all Muslims, as our mortal and immediate enemy. We do not have the sufficient means or methods to distinguish any given seemingly harmless Muslim from Muslims who are, in one form or another, to one degree or another, in collusion with the goals of Al-Qaeda.
Furthermore, Al-Qaeda is not the only Islamic threat to the West: there exists all over the globe an amorphously disparate taxonomy of Islamic terrorist groups, more or less affiliated with Al-Qaeda. And this is complicated and augmented by the ability and predisposition we have seen time and time again of individual Muslims or rag-tag groupings of Muslims to improvise paramilitary behavior with little or no central command or hierarchical organization. In addition, there is the remarkable, nay unique, degree of psychosociological cohesion among Muslims throughout international Islam—despite the wonderfully diverse tapestry that Islamic culture presents—which is conducive to nourishing a vast and complex support system even from the millions of more or less passive Muslims who, through their mere existence as Muslims coupled with their passive enablement of classical fanaticism and supremacism, effectively stand on the side of our Enemy. Finally, we Infidels cannot sufficiently identify harmless Muslims—even if they exist in great numbers—and distinguish them from dangerous Muslims. Given our fundamental ignorance on this most important aspect, it would certainly be perilous if not suicidal to base any of our policies concerning the Problem of Islam on the mere assumption that harmless Muslims exist.
In light of the above factors, the stakes are too high for us to continue to be laying the groundwork of any expectation whatsoever of discussion, dialogue or debate with Muslims—any Muslims, no matter how “moderate” they might seem to some.
Thus, consider Spencer’s challenge to Ali Eteraz, the Muslim counter-critic of anti-Islam critics:
Eteraz then might more effectively discredit [Geert] Wilders by directing his efforts within the Islamic community, against the jihadists and jihadism, rather than against those who hear the jihadists say repeatedly that they represent pure Islam, and don't see any large-scale significant countermovement opposing them among Muslims.
This call for apparently moderate Muslims such as Eteraz to direct their energies inward to Islam and to counter jihadism is an incessant refrain from Spencer. As we argued in our last essay, this refrain could be merely rhetorical: Spencer may believe that actually it is useless to expect any such redirection of critical energies from any Muslims, but he persists in framing his project this way as a way of putting the burden of the problem upon the putative moderate Muslims themselves.
However, as we also argued, the rhetorical function of this refrain could easily be accomplished by Spencer coming clean and being transparent. There is no need to pretend here. Good God, we are all grown-ups. Spencer can continue to put the burden upon the putative moderate Muslims, but he doesn’t have to couch it in terms that imply any realistic expectation at all. Spencer can, in fact, couch it in terms of our utter abandonment of all hope in any Muslim, and put the entire burden upon Muslims—any Muslims—to pleasantly flabbergast us with a widespread musterment of real reformist change. And until such time as we are pleasantly flabbergasted, we have the right to remain utterly inimical to Islam and to all Muslims, and to act accordingly. It then would be entirely up to Muslims to do what needs to be done to turn the dreadfully unidirectional course of our ship around: only in this way will the urgent gravity of the situation be impressed upon Muslims, and only in this way can we optimally prepare for the measures which our proactive self-defense requires.
Indeed, certain things Spencer has written indicate that in fact he does not seem to be issuing his refrain merely rhetorically:
Recently, he responded to a reader in the comments section of Dhimmi Watch, who wrote:
“A Muslim is loyal only to Islam.”
That is an impossible generalization. There are millions upon millions of people who are culturally Muslim but are not interested in advancing the jihad agenda or even necessarily aware of it. This is true just as it is also true that there are millions of people who call themselves Christians but who pay little or no attention to the effort of conforming their lives to Christian teachings. In every belief-system there is a spectrum of belief, knowledge, and fervor, and Islam is no different. To extrapolate from Islamic teachings to the proposition that all Muslims believe in and are advancing the jihadist cause is just as absurd as assuming that because Jesus said to love your enemies, that every last Christian is humble, self-effacing, non-combative, and forgiving. That's why Wilders' distinction between Muslims and Islam is not illogical, not false, and in fact is quite useful and important.
Here, Spencer demonstrates a remarkably simple-minded grasp of the complex, singularly cohesive and uniquely trans-national sociological dimension of Islamic culture.
Secondly, he is indulging in a bit of ET—Equivalency Theory—to which his simple-minded grasp of the sociological factor all to easily lends itself.
Thirdly and most importantly, he is assuming knowledge of the minds of millions of Muslims. How does Spencer know what millions of Muslims are “interested in” or what they are “aware of”? The answer is, of course, that he cannot know what he professes here to know. The best we can know about those hundreds of millions of Muslims who are not currently exploding, beheading, shooting or stabbing people (or plotting to do same, or aiding those who are plotting to do same) is that they are apparently harmless. Spencer’s failure to see this elementary distinction, and to articulate it clearly for the pedagogy of the growing Anti-Islam Movement over which he has considerable influence, demonstrates serious irresponsibility on his part.
While Spencer elsewhere, and quite regularly, seems to show a glimmer of understanding about this demographic/sociological problem of Islam vis-a-vis our unavoidable ignorance of Muslim minds and motives, that glimmer proves to be only an approximation to the position we argue is essential—the Case of the Asymptotic Cigar—but not its adequate comprehension.
For example, he will write things like the following, in introducing a story about Umar Islam, yet another Muslim terrorist who takes Islam to heart (note Spencer is writing with “sarcasm mode” on):
There is no indication that any Muslim today takes Qur’an 9:111 as some sort of justification to. . . kill and be killed. What's that? It seems as if Umar Islam sees it in just that way? Well, all right, possibly, but he is just one of a Tiny Minority of Extremists. The Vast Majority of Peaceful Muslims regard 9:111 as, at best, a relic of the past, not applicable to our own day, or else as a poorly translated and even more poorly understood exhortation to hug and be hugged. What’s that? What is the Vast Majority doing to convince Muslims like Umar Islam that they’re Misunderstanding Islam, and to instruct them in its true, peaceful teachings?
How do we square the apparent recognition, in this quote, of the problem of the vast majority of Muslims, with the previous statement we quoted above, where he is basically categorizing that same vast majority of Muslims as people who are not “interested in” the jihad agenda, or even “aware of” it? The only way to reconcile these two statements is through Spencer’s challenge to Muslims, which has become a leitmotif repeated nearly every day on Jihad Watch in one form or another. We see it in the last sentence above (as we also saw it with the quote about Ali Eteraz above):
What is the Vast Majority doing to convince Muslims like Umar Islam that they’re Misunderstanding Islam, and to instruct them in its true, peaceful teachings?
As we argued, this is likely not a rhetorical device predicated upon a disingenuous white lie. Spencer really thinks this is a viable option—however much he might layer it with realistic padding along the lines of “it is probably not very likely. . .” etc. And again, my point is that we must fling any such notion of hope and possibility decisively and utterly out the window, because:
1) The stakes are too high;
2) To hold out such hope, and to predicate it upon a viable notion of millions of harmless “cultural Muslims” as Spencer does, is effectively to lay the ground for a weakening of our ruthlessness and of the specific concretizations of that ruthlessness that we will have to be ready to do in the interest of our proactive self-defense;
3) Muslims are not equivalent to other sociological groups—in fact they are unique in the following ways, and these examples of the uniqueness of their culture intensifies the danger they pose:
a) they are formed psycho-socially by a trans-national sense of exclusivist belonging;
b) their founding texts, traditions and current teachings are saturated with evil supremacism, pathological eschatology, and fanatical puritanism;
c) their culture inculcates the reception of those texts and traditions with far more literalness and obsessive seriousness than other religions, particularly Judaism and Christianity, do—and let us not forget the modern West is more than merely Judaism and Christianity: it is a vast, sophisticated and substantive system of Secularism, a system wholly foreign to Islamic culture and only affecting Islamic culture extraneously as a foreign, and imperialistically perceived, import;
d) aside from accidental variations due to extraneous factors, their culture is essentially and ideally a holistic system that includes all spheres of life—Politics, Religion, Philosophy, Military, Laws, Society, Family Life, Hygiene—a grandiose totalitarianism that exacerbates the intolerance of their supremacism, tending to motivate them to reject other Systems of life for the one they have;
e) because of all of the above, too many Muslims are prone to passively enable their fellow fanatics at best, and actively support them at worst;
f) and finally, even if there exist a certain number of Muslims here or there who are actually harmless and will remain so, we cannot sufficiently identify them and distinguish them from the Muslims who are potentially dangerous—and because of #1 above, this forces us, rationally, to treat all Muslims equally under the same degree of utmost suspicion.
Continue reading Part 3.