Saturday, April 19, 2008
Robert Spencer: Toss out your Great Expectations.
. . . Ali Eteraz. . . is the Muslim reformist with whom I have had several exchanges in the past -- during which he several times manifested a disheartening disingenuousness rather than the honesty we have a right to expect from reformist Muslims.
So wrote Spencer introducing a Jihad Watch piece on Eteraz’s criticism of Geert Wilders’s film Fitna—a bogus criticism that Spencer ably shreds to pieces.
Spencer concludes the piece by writing:
. . .it isn't just Eteraz, of course. I wish it were just one guy. But constantly, day after day, month after month, year after year, we have seen Muslim spokesmen denying that the Qur'an contains any violent verses, and charging that those who claim otherwise are "Islamophobic" -- while the jihadists continue to use those verses to make inroads within the larger Muslim community.
If this is the case—and Spencer has been showing this to be the case incessantly and copiously over the years—then why have any “expectations” at all for Muslims to be “honest reformers”?
A sincere reformer will, as a basic and obvious first step, acknowledge that there are elements of Islam that need reforming, not charge with "hate" those who point out those elements. But as we have seen, such sincere reformers are exceedingly thin on the ground.
By Spencer’s own experience which he has documented mountainously on Jihad Watch, the “sincere reformers” are not merely “thin on the ground”—they are virtually, effectively non-existent. So why continue to structure the whole issue in the terms of this “expectation”? What is the pragmatic point? Is it merely rhetorical? Does Spencer know that there are no honest, sincere reformers, but merely continues to issue his challenge in a slyly ingenious and clever fashion to highlight that dearth?
As I have argued in my preceding 4-part series on Spencer’s “soft” stance on Islam, his own statements, in addition to the persistent leitmotif of that “expectation”, indicate otherwise. Spencer is on record refusing to condemn Islam, and refusing to be “anti-Muslim”. What pragmatic effects would such refusals have upon the necessary measures we need to take in our proactive self-defense as the stakes of our safety continue to escalate, with innumerable Muslims dispersed all over the globe fanatically determined to mass-murder as many of us as they can?
Such Great Expectations and the refusal to condemn that seems to underpin them will more likely than not hamper our self-defense needs, not help them. That’s the bottom line.
We should stop expecting Muslims to do anything reasonable or sincere with regard to our self-defense needs.
Spencer needs to stop framing this aspect of the issue as an expectation. This does not mean he cannot continue to do his otherwise admirable work: All that is being asked of him is to stop nauseating us with the rhetorical device of a challenge to Muslims based upon a viable possibility that we in fact know will never happen, and which we need therefore to abandon utterly.
Thus, Spencer could easily have editorialized his piece today which we linked above by saying the following:
. . . Ali Eteraz. . . is the Muslim reformist with whom I have had several exchanges in the past -- during which he several times manifested a disheartening disingenuousness that seems to be the universal norm among putative reformists and moderates who are Muslims or pro-Islamic apologists. While of course we have a right to expect honesty -- not to mention concrete proposals for sincere and viable reform -- from so-called Muslim reformers, it has become clear by now that it is only a theoretical principle, not a realistic expectation. We should in fact stop expecting it, and devote 100% of our time to educating our own Infidels to the menace of Islam so that we may optimally maximize our proactive self-defense. Should Muslims in sufficiently large numbers pleasantly flabbergast us with a viably growing movement of actual reform, we may be able to turn the dreadful ship of our rational self-defense around. The sooner they pleasantly surprise us, the more likely it will have a favorable outcome for all concerned. But again, this should be framed entirely as their problem, not ours. Our main and only problem is how best to defend ourselves.
This is the kind of leitmotif I would like to see Spencer repeat in the little editorial remarks with which he salts and peppers his various posts over the years—not the one of Great Expectations that has come to nauseate the more it has been lathered on.
And it is not merely the mountain of evidence Spencer himself provides that makes his Great Expectations odd and annoying (not to mention helping to hinder our self-defense)—the oddity is compounded when Spencer himself writes things that seem to contradict those Great Expectations:
Many strange things have happened in history and I would never say that Islamic reform is absolutely impossible, but Westerners are extraordinarily foolish when they harbor any hopes of it actually happening on a large scale. We need instead to focus on efforts to defend ourselves both militarily and culturally from the jihadist challenge, and to continue to call the bluffs of pseudo-reformers who intend ultimately only to deceive Western non-Muslims – many of whom are quite anxious to be deceived.
If this is so, why does Spencer keep framing the issue, over and over and over again, as a challenge to “honest” and “sincere” Muslims to produce a viable and effective reform? The line separating “I would never say that Islamic reform is absolutely impossible” from “look, folks, it ain’t gonna happen” is exceedingly fine. That line, nevertheless, is significant, and it needs to be crossed. To continue to maintain that slender line as Spencer does, and stand hypercautiously on the wrong side of it, in fact crosses another line—the one separating the subtle analyst from the weaselly lawyer. Spencer needs to stop talking out of both sides of his hat and take a stand for crying out loud.
Another Jihad Watch reader put it superbly in the comments field of a Jihad Watch article a couple of years ago in his response to one of Spencer’s adulators who wrote gushingly of his idol:
Robert’s refusal to universalize is such a deeply integrated part of his argumentative technique and strategy. It is part of how he almost never loses an argument.
And the reader’s superb response:
Of course, if you never take an absolute stand, then you never have to defend one either. Kind of like a politician. Hard to lose an argument if all one does is make observations or cite quotations. Good strategy for getting elected, or appearing in public.
We cannot afford to err on the side of a gingerly disinclination to condemn, or of a sentimentalist hope that Islamic reform is possible, or of some fastidiously subtle tactic of rhetorics worthy of a weaselly lawyer or politician. We need to wrap our minds around the fact that Islamic reform is impossible, and proceed accordingly. The stakes are too high to do otherwise. I will be damned if I wait until after one of our cities gets nuked, before I expect this of our influential, supposedly anti-Islam analysts. That is my Great Expectation.