Saturday, April 12, 2008
Robert Spencer: Soft on Islam? Part 3
In Part 2, I quoted Spencer’s claim that Islam, in its “spectrum” of diversity—by which he also posited the existence of millions of “cultural Muslims” who are “not interested in advancing the jihad agenda or even necessarily aware of it”—, is “no different” from any other religion, including Christianity.
I noted the extraordinary simple-mindedness of such a claim that utterly ignores the sociological singularity of Islam. Spencer also seems to have a resistance to noticing the sociological dimension pertaining to the phenomenon of Politically Correct Multi-Culturalism (an odd lacuna in his perspicacity which I have documented and analyzed here on this blog until I am blue in the face; but that is another, albeit closely related, story).
At the time he made that claim about Islam in the comments field of a Dhimmi Watch article back in February, I had responded thusly:
Islam may be "no different" if one takes Spencer's description with a scrupulously meticulous and legalistic exactitude (thereby pinching one's eyes so as to screen out the larger picture). But Islam is profoundly different from other religions—particularly when contrasted with Judaism and Christianity, and even more acutely when contrasted with the West as a whole (which is what we should be contrasting Islam with—that Self-Contained Counter-Culture that tries to fuse not only Religion and State but everything else under the Sun into one Self-Sufficient Civilization). Judaism and Christianity have become profoundly affected by (and have richly contributed to) the development of modern Secularism, which in turn has become the wider context we call "the West"—a wider civilizational context that has so profoundly changed the sociological, the cultural, the political, the legal, the psychological attitudes and structures of people and institutions not only in the West, but throughout the world, as to make any such equivalency strange—particularly when emanating from the Director of Jihad Watch.
Islam is different from other religions, particularly Judaism and Christianity, by being sufficiently more resistant than other religions are to modern secularism, making it—Islam—in our time the uniquely hairy problem and danger it is. And this resistance to modern secularism makes the existence of nominal or lax Muslims—as well as actively secularist Muslims—a far less significant factor than pertains among Jews and Christians throughout the West and the world. (Ditto for Buddhists and Hindus, who seem to be able to secularize with significantly fewer problems than do Muslims.)
Spencer then replied to me:
Once again, whether out of ignorance or malice I do not know, you misunderstand me. I was talking about the distinction between Muslims and Islam. For you to take this to mean that I do not perceive the profound differences between Islam and other religions, after the several books and mountains of articles and JW posts I have written on that subject, is bizarre, at very least.
To which I then responded:
Robert wrote: "Once again, whether out of ignorance or malice I do not know, you misunderstand me." And: "I was talking about the distinction between Muslims and Islam."
Here is what Robert wrote, and I quote this for the second time on this thread (the first time to Robert in the very post he responded to):
"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."
Clearly, there is evoked here a comparison between the "millions of people who call themselves Christians" and Muslims, both of whom furthermore are embraced within "every belief-system" in which, as [Spencer] wrote, "there is a spectrum of belief, knowledge, and fervor, and Islam is no different."
Robert insists he was only talking about a distinction between Islam and Muslims? Why the mention of Christians? Why the mention of "every belief system"? Why the mention that Islam is "no different"? No different than what?
We are not quite done yet with this interchange. Spencer then dug himself deeper in his hole by responding yet again:
I really don't think my statement is unclear, except, of course, to a mean-spirited prosecutorial type who dislikes me intensely and is trying to catch me out. Not that that would be you, of course! Anyway, my friend, Islam is no different from Christianity or any other belief system IN THIS ONE PARTICULAR: there is a spectrum of belief, knowledge, and fervor among its adherents, such that one would be unwise, and incorrect, to assume that "all Muslims" think the same way about anything in particular. In saying that, does that mean that I think that Islam is, like Christianity, a religion of peace, or that it doesn't sanction violence and warfare? I suppose if you think that in a relatively offhand remark I would contradict literally hundreds of statements I have made to the contrary in books and articles and appearances on radio, television, and before numerous live audiences, statements that I have made at great personal cost to my reputation and personal safety but which I have continued to make because I believe them to be true—if you really think I would blandly contradict all that in a comments field, then you must think I am an idiot, or someone who will trim what he says to suit his audience, or both. However, as far as I can see, that statement does not contradict the many others I have made, as it is not on the same topic, and only—once again—someone hunting for rope to hang me with would see it otherwise. Which brings me to something I've been meaning to ask you for some time: why does it all depend on me in your mind? If you think what I am doing is so wrongheaded and ill-advised and misdirected, why not just do it properly yourself, instead of spending all your time skulking around sniping at my efforts?
I then responded to Spencer, particularly with regard to his weaselly “one particular”:
"Anyway, my friend, Islam is no different from Christianity or any other belief system IN THIS ONE PARTICULAR: there is a spectrum of belief, knowledge, and fervor among its adherents. . ."
Yes, each has a spectrum as you say, of belief, knowledge, and fervor among their respective adherents. But are the two spectrums the same? And if not, why are they different? I maintain that the two spectrums are vastly different, because of complex cultural processes—most especially secularism, which is itself a Western organic growth out of Christendom and has little if anything to do with the growth of anything internal to Islam.
So yes: both are the same in that they both share the same class of spectrum. But they are so importantly different in the manifestation, concretization and development—quantitatively and qualitatively—of that class of spectrum, that to leave the differences unmentioned, and to stress the absence of differences in the framework of an abstract "particular", seems extremely odd in the context of JW (but of course not odd at all out in the mainstream).
Why Spencer could not see this—that the “spectrum” of Islam is significantly and singularly different from the “spectrum” of other cultures—is baffling. He evidently has a serious deficiency in the understanding of sociology, and it seriously impairs the way he frames the Problem of Islam—and that, in turn, results in his incessantly repeated adumbration of an overall framework that tends, in my view, to soften our view of Islam and, by extension, to soften both our ruthlessness in the face of this enemy, and the concrete actions we would take on the basis of that ruthlessness.
Incidentally, Spencer never responded after my last response above. I suppose he thought his irrelevant ad hominems, rising from irrational pique to hover close to outright paranoia about me, sufficed to counter my arguments. Or perhaps he grew tired of mustering elaborate quibbles rather than face those arguments head-on, which might have necessitated—God forbid—actually changing his mind, or at least conceding a point or two.
Continue reading Part 4.