Category Archives: Islam

Landes on Islamism, Honor-Shame, and the Media

This is from a talk I gave in Berlin, Germany in 2011 (before Merkel’s Folly).

Apocalyptic Dimensions of Global Jihad


Apocalyptic Hopes, Millennial Dreams and Global Jihad

May 3-4, 2015, Boston University

While the conference took place three months ago, none of the discussion is outdated.

Richard Landes – 1

Introductory Remarks, 23:44

Nuggets from the Pessin Affair: For Inclusiveness against Essentializing

As those following this blog know, I’ve been uploading documents on the Pessin Affair, a remarkable and terrifying moment when Connecticut College became Salem on the Thames.

As I sift through the evidence, the arguments employed by faculty when discussing the issue offer interesting insights into the kind of discourses that allowed the public sphere in the college be seized by cognitive Jihadis, driving an entire university community, with only the dimmest awareness of what they were doing, to conduct a human sacrifice in the name of inclusivity. Post modern shades of Rene Girard’s theory of sacrifice.

One of the memes much in use is that of the “equality of all cultures.” What this allegedly multi-cultural sentiment actually means in practice, however, is a dogmatic projection of a Western culture which has, by and large, renounced violence, encouraged individuality and diversity, and chosen to resolve disputes through public discussion. Combined with “moral equivalence,” this notion of cultural equality permits critics to equate acts that have vastly different moral and cultural settings and meanings.

This projection, which had something of a dogmatic sanctity to it, operated on two critical planes during the Pessin episode, granting to the “hurt students” all respect and concern for their feelings, despite the fact that they tendentiously interpreted Pessin’s remarks, and were “coming from a place” of war and not peace.

On a second plane, it operated to equate Israeli/Jewish culture and Palestinian/Muslim. Following up on comments outlining the wide range of beliefs and attitudes within the variegated Jewish community (i.e., opening up a place for Jewish colleagues to dissent from Pessin’s tone and opinions), a colleague insisted that everyone also should acknowledge the same for

… the much larger populations of Arab and non-Arab Muslims and Arab Christians worldwide who are nearly as diverse in their political and religious affiliations as culture itself. We must take care not to conflate these groups or essentialize them in our social / political / religious discourse.

Would this were true. On the contrary, the near-total homogeneity of the 1.6 billion Muslims on the planet when it comes to the political issue of Israel is nothing short of astonishing. There is vastly more variety of political opinion about the Arab-Israeli conflict, openly expressed, in .2% of the global population (12 million Jews), than there is in almost 20% of the global population (1.6 billion Muslims) about Israel. If this astonishing uniformity of opinion is a form of “essentializing,” then Muslims essentialize themselves by peer pressure and policing the narrow borders of dissent with violence, both state- and sect- driven.

Ironically, this professor’s advice not to conflate or essentialize contradicts his empirical assertions: he conflates Muslim and Jewish culture as “equally diverse in political matters,” and thus fails to understand the very dynamics that make this  conflict so adamantine.

Pessin Archive: Announcement of Establishment of Global Islamic Studies, March 4

At a key moment in the Pessin Affair (two days after the school newspaper attack), the college announced the launching of a new major in “Global Islamic Studies.” Since the chair of this new program was perhaps the most prominent actor in the attack on Pessin, the launching of the program and the remarks of all involved, including Dean Van Slyck, about the “activist” nature of the research involved bears close attention. [Bold mine]

March 4 Press Release Announcing the New Major In Global Islamic Studies

College announces new global Islamic studies major

Bo Martin ’15 is interested in the impact of Islam on the fight for racial equality in the United States. It’s the subject of a senior honors thesis he is currently writing as one of the College’s first global Islamic studies majors.

“It’s is a great mix of government, religion, linguistics, sociology and nearly every other humanities and social science,” says Martin of global Islamic studies.

Area studies

The multidisciplinary new major was approved by Connecticut College faculty in November, and already 10 students have declared their intentions to major or minor in the subject. That’s a testament to students’ interest in the role of Islam and the influence of Muslims throughout the world, says Associate Professor of Religious Studies Sufia Uddin.

“Islam is one of the fastest growing religions, and less than 15 percent of Muslims are in the Middle East,” says Uddin. “We are challenging preconceived notions and rethinking how we understand Muslims and the role of Islam in the world.” 

Citing the Quran to Infidels: The Dangers of Liberal Cognitive Egocentrism

[A Polish translation of this essay, “Liberalny egocentryzm poznawczy” is available at Listy z nas zego sadu].

The highly controversial White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism ventured into still more risky territory with a prayer (apparently the only one) offered at the proceedings. It was from an Imam and, at least the way it was interpreted by yet another, supported the principle contention of the Summit and more broadly the Obama administration, that Islam is a religion of peace.

Imam Sheikh Sa’ad Musse Roble, president of the World Peace Organization in Minneapolis, Minn., recited a “verse from the Quran” [Surah 5:32] following remarks by Obama administration officials and Democratic members of Congress.

Imam Abdisalam Adam, of the Islamic Civil Society of America, explained the verse.

In translation those verses of the Quran mean “Whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption in the land, it’s as if he has slain mankind entirely, and whoever saves one life, it’s as if he has saved mankind entirely.”

Note that President Obama used this passage in his Cairo Speech with precisely this meaning of peacefulness and prohibition on killing, as do many apologists for Islam. And we Westerners, born and bred in a civil society where such pacific sentiments are honored, are only too eager to believe what we are told. Indeed, here is a Muslim student, Sarah Aly, using this passage to attack quite forcefully people who quote the Quran out of context to promote hate.

sarah aly quran quote

Despite Sarah’s demand that we not take the Quran out of context, she not only misquotes the passage (“self-defense” is not in the passage), but precisely takes it out of context. Of course it’s in the service, allegedly, of stopping the spread of hatred, even as the context she eliminates gives sanction to both hatred and violence.

This passage is actually deeply troubling on multiple levels.

Arab Moral Madness and Hamas’ Assault on Israel

If you want to glimpse an understanding of the gap between Western and Arab cultures, and why Hamas continues to bomb Israel even though its people are suffering so, consider the following.

In 2009, during Operation Cast Lead, a BBC reporter asked the Arab League’s ambassador to the UN (probably didn’t know there was such a thing), why, if Israel says it will stop if Hamas does, and you are so concerned for the casualties among Gazans, Hamas doesn’t just stop firing:

Sort of the opposite of what one might expect. To understand why, a recent speech by a Kuwaiti cleric. In the words of Elihu Stone (H/T), a one stop shopping site for everything from suicidal Arab honor-shame to the moral gulf that divides us.

Annals of Cognitive War blunders: George Bush, “Islam is a religion of peace.”


In the immediate aftermath of 9-11, President Bush appeared with members of the American Muslim community on September 17, 2001, at Islamic Center in DC to declare that Islam is a religion of peace. His comments:

Like the good folks standing with me, the American people were appalled and outraged at last Tuesday’s attacks.  And so were Muslims all across the world.  Both Americans and Muslim friends and citizens, tax-paying citizens, and Muslims in nations were just appalled and could not believe what we saw on our TV screens. These acts of violence against innocents violate the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith.  And it’s important for my fellow Americans to understand that. The English translation is not as eloquent as the original Arabic, but let me quote from the Koran, itself:  ‘In the long run, evil in the extreme will be the end of those who do evil. For that they rejected the signs of Allah and held them up to ridicule.’ The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That’s not what Islam is all about.  Islam is peace.  These terrorists don’t represent peace. They represent evil and war.”

Now were we a “reality-based” community with a sophisticated sense of both the narratives and the exegetical principles of the “other,” such a statement would have been met with howls of derision, especially from academics whose knowledge of the history of Islam would make such a characterization as “religion of peace” risible, and who knew alas only too well what shouts of joy 9-11 provoked in Muslim, Arab and even other audiences the world over.

Moreover, more than one person should have been equipped to explain to the President that the man standing by his side, Nihad Awad of CAIR, who may well have supplied the president with the oh-so eloquent Qur’anic quote, heard those words to mean precisely the opposite of what Bush thought: “In the long run [i.e., finally, now], evil in the extreme will be the end of those who do evil [i.e., America]. For that they [Americans] rejected the signs of Allah and held them up to ridicule.”

And rather than slowly learn from this, American scholars and journalists by and large continue to widely mouth the delusional pieties of the president. Despite extensive critiques from Daniel Pipes, in 2012, Samuel Freedman wrote in the NYT:

The other anniversary is of the visit President George W. Bush made to a Washington mosque just six days after the attack, where he spoke eloquently against the harassment of Arabs and Muslims living in the United States and about the need to respect Islam. This act of leadership and statesmanship, however, has all but vanished from the national collective memory. It deserves, instead, to be noted and heeded and esteemed. (NYT, Sept. 7, 2012)

Apparently there’s a place in Muslim heaven for Useful Infidels

Ahmadinejad on Hugo Chavez:

In a condolence letter published by Ahmadinejad, he referred to Chavez as a “martyr” (shaheed), and said that Chavez will return on the day of salvation, along with the Mahdi (“the Vanished Imam”) and Jesus.

It’s nice to know that he got flak for this statement (which you don’t have to be Muslim to find grotesquely brown-nosing). Apparently, Ahmadinejad is so desperate for friends in the international community that he considers enthusiastic useful infidels honorary Muslims. Shades of the Mormons doing post-mortem baptisms.

One website made a particularly damning contrast between Ahmadinejad and his BFF, Chavez:

I wish Ahmadinejad was at least like Chavez. President Chavez won the support of the underprivileged masses in his country since he was able to use Venezuela’s oil revenues for the good of the people. He improved their welfare and increased their income, which won him the support of public opinion and propelled him to a third presidential term in a free election in spite of his illness. Ahmadinejad, on the other hand, has not improved the situation of his country’s citizens. Even though Iran’s oil revenues have increased by a similar extent to Venezuela’s, these revenues flowed into the pockets of just a few individuals, which is why Ahmadinejad does not enjoy the same level of popular support that Chavez did. Those Iranians who were hungry before have become hungrier, and those who were poor have become poorer (Baztab, March 6).


The Painful Paradoxes of the Left: Stupefaction, Round 242,469 (Updated)

I just recently attended a conference in London on Anti-Semitism (see here for the talk I gave). I spoke on a panel with Bat Ye’or, and we both talked about the role of anti-Semitism in global Jihad, she in terms of its place in the Jihadi discourse, me in terms of the way that European/Western tolerance if not encouragement of it among Muslims (they drink wine while keeping an open bar of high grain alcohol for the Islamists), is actually one of the West’s greatest vulnerabilities in the Jihad against them (Anti-Zionism as the soft underbelly of the West in Jihadi cognitive warfare).

The first question was posed by a young man from the CST (who later spoke), pointing out that in Henden there are dozens (he actually ticked off specific numbers suggesting this was something of a shtick) of kosher butchers, Jewish stores, synagogues, etc., and no one is talking about Halacha zones and the Jewish take-over of London, so why talk about Sharia zones and the Muslim take-over. He more or less repeated verbatim the classic trope: “we didn’t like it when they said it about us (Protocols), so we shouldn’t say it about them,” as if it didn’t matter that we Jews had no intention of enslaving mankind, and the Islamists openly declare their desire. He also chided me and Bat-Ye’or for our “essentialising” Muslims.

I admit to a certain surprise. I didn’t expect to deal with people in such denial at such an event. But when a number of people murmured their assent to his challenge, I realized it was important to respond.

My answer to him was necessarily short, an abbreviation of the discussion here. But I’ll take advantage of this post to go farther. This is a really good example of how political correctness lands us on rekaB street. Numbers don’t matter; intent doesn’t matter; the impact on the sociability of the neighborhood (e.g., what happens to women who don’t cover their hair in Henden vs. Tower Hamlets) doesn’t matter. I’ve got my parallels, no matter how superficial, to hell with the rest of the evidence. Any undergraduate in history making such an analogy about a (non-charged topic) would fail.

But because making this point feels good, because it makes it possible to dismiss uncomfortable warnings about nefarious doings, because it permits us to close the fairy tale book with the comforting thought that the monsters in the closet are just our imagination, it satisfies its speaker and (apparently) many of his listeners.

But this exchange was only warm-up for what happened subsequently. In the second panel, Manfred Gerstenfeld, a man who has no patience for what he terms “verbal vegetarians” spoke rather bluntly about the problem of Muslims in Europe. (Apparently one of the cardinal sins that Gerstenfeld, Bat-Ye’or and I committed was referring too often to Muslims, not Islamists. This is crucial, and as one of the group objecting made clear later on, the Islamists are a “tiny minority” and “the vast majority are moderate.” So even considering the two as part of the same population — as in “anti-Semitism among Muslims” — is an insult to Muslims despite polls indicating a majority of European Muslims share these prejudices against Jews.)

In any case, while having a PPP slide up that referred to Muslim criminality (i.e. the high percentage of violent crimes and rape among Muslims in European countries), Gerstenfeld stated that, around the world today, Islamic culture is “inferior” to Western culture. At this point, about six people got up and walked out, and one of them stated loudly that they were walking out as a protest. I went outside to find out what they were thinking, and heard the following remarks: “You can’t say that!” (referring to the inferiority of Muslim culture today around the world). And, of course, “essentialising” (British spelling) came up repeatedly.

“But,” I responded, “what if the generalizations that Gerstenfeld made are true?”

“No,” I was informed, ” they’re not true, and he repeatedly said he had no evidence.” (Actually he said, “I have no time to give the evidence.” I know Gerstenfeld too well to think he’d say anything without empirical evidence.) Again: “YOU CAN’T SAY THAT!”

Now there is a depressing and pungent irony here that completely escaped those who walked out. In so doing, they illustrated Manfred’s point. As Manfred explained: by our standards, Islam is an inferior culture; were we to treat Muslims the way they treat infidels the world over, we would consider that our culture had failed to live up to its standards. Specifically on the issue of speech, these people were insisting that (even if it’s true) it’s just unacceptable to make negative generalizations about another group.

Now by that standard, the Muslim “public sphere” – newspapers, books, radio, TV, sermons in Mosques – resounds with the most horrendous demonization, not just of Jews (the subject of our symposium), but Christians, other infidels, heretics, apostates, even other Muslims. This isn’t to say that every Muslim, or even most Muslims are like this, but Gerstenfeld’s point was about culture, about the tone that’s set in a society. And while I tend to focus on the elites, the sad truth is that in matters of honor-killing and various other forms of violence designed to preserve or restore honor, current Arab culture is, by modern civic standards – a fortiori by progressive standards — woefully base.

So when the delegation of indignant liberals stormed out of the room and audibly sought to humiliate the speaker, they illustrated the speaker’s point. They have a very high standard. And it’s not something with much of a footprint in the culture whose honor they were protecting from the speaker’s blunt assessment of reality.

What’s interesting here is a further issue. Surely these folks have been to meetings with Muslim, even Islamists. Did they storm out when they heard others being maligned, as did Tony Avella from the podium of the Muslim Day parade in NYC? Or do they only speak truth to power when it’s fellow Jews? Do they tell Muslims (or Islamists), “YOU CAN’T SAY THAT! You can’t essentialise Jews, or even Zionists? Are Islamic activists exposed to (much less dominated by) the “variegated” argument, in which (actually true) Jews are a very complex population with widely divergent views? Or are they another version of the Human Rights Complex, loudly indignant when white people behave badly, but when people of color do so, they are embarrassed into silence?

In any case, they’re very aggressive about their beliefs with Jews. My guess is they’re considerably less so with “Others.”

When one of the protestors summed up his objections with the comment, “A minority of speakers said things about Britain, Europe and Muslims that we found to be incorrect, unacceptable and self-defeating,” he was confusing political correctness (“unacceptable”) and therapeutic truth (“self-defeating”) with empirical truth (“incorrect”).

Welcome to rekaB street, the place where you check your critical intelligence at the road block.

UPDATE: Manfred Gerstenfeld sends the following comments:

As I pointed out in my lecture in London, Western media largely avoid investigating the issue of the disproportionately high anti-Semitism among Muslim immigrants and their descendants. I also said that it is not politically correct to tell the truth. Furthermore, I said, “So we have only a few data on hatred of Jews of among European Muslims. They all point in the same direction. Anti-Semitism is more widely spread among Muslim immigrants than among the authochtonous population.”

I also said, “Shouts of ‘Death to the Jews’ have returned to European streets. They are often complemented by shouts of ‘Hamas Hamas, Jews to the Gas.’ Those who shout it during demonstrations are mainly Muslims. Anecdotal evidence of the disproportionate importance of Muslim anti-Semitism is huge.”

Still, there are some studies – one example is here:

In 2011, a detailed study on youth in Brussels edited by Nicole Vettenburg, Mark Elchardus, and Johan Put was published: Nicole Vettenburg, Mark Elchardus, and Johan Put, eds., Jong in Brussel (Leuven, The Hague: Acco, 2011) [Dutch]. It devotes a chapter by Elchardus to anti-Semitism in Dutch-language schools in Brussels. It was based on the attitudes of second- and third-grade students. (Note a similar study by Emmanuel Brenner (pseudonym) for French schools with high Arab immigrant populations: Les territoires perdus de la République (Paris: Mille et une nuits, 2003 – rl.)

The author concluded that about 50% of the Muslim pupils could be considered anti-Semites, and about 10% of the others. He also concluded that practicing and believing Christians are more anti-Semitic than nonbelievers (Jong in Brussel, p. 278).

Among non-Muslims, the main stereotype of the Jew is an arrogant, clever, and not very honest businessman. Among Muslims, the main stereotype is that of the warmongering, dominating Jew. Elchardus concluded that this was secondary, however, compared to the large difference in anti-Semitism between Muslims and non-Muslims (ibid.)

On another matter, I referred to Muslim ideological criminality. I said that Jewish communities should decide “to what extent they wish to expose the widespread anti-Semitic ideological criminality of Muslims in the Islamic world? There is no other religion out of part of which so much crime and violence comes, as from segments of Islamic society. Their main victims are other Muslims.”

As I mentioned, I was only giving headlines, having not more than 20 minutes. The issues touched upon will have to be elaborated in much more detail.

Finally, for one reason or the other, some seem to think that I was embarrassed or humiliated by the walk-out of some people. I just went on with my lecture and was gratified by the major applause and the tens of people who came over who said it was finally time that these things were said in the U.K. Some of them expressed regret that it had to be done by a foreigner.

The next issue will probably have to be the exposure of the racists in the Anti-Racism community. These are racists of a little-known type – humanitarian racists. They deny the responsibility for their crimes of the weak and people of color. By that they de-humanize them (who else is not responsible for his own acts besides children: retarded people and animals.) Once the notion “humanitarian racism” becomes more popular, the mask of these racists in the Anti-Racism community, will eventually slip off.


Salim Mansour on Islam vs. Islamism

There is a major distinction that people like to make between Islam and Islamism, one which protects people from the accusation of Islamophobia. It’s alright to denounce Islamists since they espouse so many values and causes that are antithetical to everything that modern civil polities stand for. It’s not okay to “essentialise” all Muslims in the same way. It generally comes with the generalization – completely unsupported but nonetheless asserted as a “truth” – that the “vast majority of Muslims” are moderate and only a “tiny minority” are extremist/Islamists.

In his remarkable book, Delectable Lie: a liberal repudiation of multiculturalism, Salim Mansour addresses the point directly:

The Islamist zealots are a minority within the world of Islam, but the politics of Islamism resonate widely among Muslims and it can be said that most of the Muslim majority countries accept in principle the fundamental Islamist demand of adopting shari’ah as the basis of legislation. This “unofficial” or tacit acceptance of the Islamist demand was illustrated at the Cairo conference in August 1990 of the Organization of Islamic Conference where member states issued the “Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam.” The Cairo Declaration spelled out the OIC view on human rights as a parallel and complementary “official” statement to stand alongside the 1948 UN Declaration of Human Rights. But for OIC members, hence the world of Islam, the Cairo Declaration─ article 25 of the Declaration stated the “Islamic Shari’ah is the only source of reference for the explanation or clarification to any of the articles of this Declaration” ─ takes precedence. This meant Muslim immigrants in the West were under advice by their religious leaders that in situations of conflict between the principles enunciated in the UN Declaration of Human Rights and the Cairo Declaration they adhere to the latter; and from this it followed that Muslims engage politically to bring their host Western governments recognize shari’ah and make allowance for them to live in accordance with its provisions. The push for shari’ah recognition in family law as part of the multicultural arrangement in the West has become one of the key objectives of immigrant Muslim activists, and as the Muslim immigrant population grows in numbers the mainstream political parties have also become increasingly receptive to the idea.

My guess is that if we were to map Islamic opinion not according to some (wishful) distinction between “moderates” and “extremists”, that if we were to consider it as a series of concentric circles, emanating from a pre-modern consensus that Islam should dominate, that Sharia should be the law of the land, that infidels should be subjected dhimmis, and moved outwards towards Muslims who, even if they don’t approve and wouldn’t become involved in terror attacks on civilian infidels, nevertheless swelled with pride at the blow that Bin Laden struck at the American hegemon (heck even infidels felt that way), that the picture one had of the map of Islam would be quite a bit more disturbing. (I remember going to a Muslim-Jewish dialogue, replete with all the kinds of remarks that would lead us non-Muslims to feel that we were talking with moderates. After the speeches, in the socializing time, my friend Steve spoke with one of the people there, and mentioned the Rushdie Affair, assuming that this moderate would denounce the fatwa against Rushdie’s life. “Oh,” responded his interlocutor, “you have to understand, we Muslims feel very strongly about blasphemy. You can’t disrespect the Prophet with impunity.”

What we mean by “moderate,” and what Muslims mean by “moderate” are not necessarily the same thing. Indeed, there’s a whole lexicon of words that have different meanings to us and to them: respect, occupation, moderation, human rights, freedom… Only someone on rekaB street could miss the differences.


Western Appetite for Lethal Narratives about Israel: Moral Schadenfreude and Replacement Theology

I just gave a talk at a “Consultation” between Jews and Christians here in Jerusalem, sponsored by the B’nai Brit International and the Ecumenical Theological Research Fraternity in Israel. Here is the written version.

Why Do (Some) Westerners Have So Great an Appetite for Palestinian Lethal Narratives About Israel?

Reflections on Moral Schadenfreude and Replacement Theology

Since the outbreak of the Oslo Intifada (October 2000), the world has been flooded with horrifying images and stories about Israel that have entered the information system largely as news, despite the extensive evidence that many of these accusations are manipulated if not actually staged.  Nidra Poller has dubbed these stories “lethal narratives“; David Hirsh has called them the “Livingstone Formulation.” They emphasize Israel’s malicious, malevolent intent, its deliberate desire to kill innocent civilians, especially children. As such, I and others consider them the 21st century avatar of blood libels.

Obviously, after the terrifying disasters brought upon mankind the last time such blood libels took hold in a culture – 6 million Jews murdered, but over 60 million people dead! – one would imagine that responsible people (journalists, academics, progressive thinkers) would react strongly to such a wave of hatred. And yet, rather than oppose it, in general liberals tended to fall silent, while the more radical progressives both secular and Christian, actually stood at the forefront of the circulation of these lethal narratives. I would like to explore why this has been the case, by examining why Western progressives, Christian and post-Christian (and even Jewish) would have so powerful an appetite for these tales of Jews behaving badly that they show virtually no interest in the possibility that these stories, like the earlier blood libels, are not true, but rather the product of people who themselves have the malevolent intentions that they project onto the Jews.

In 1892, in an essay discussing the wide circulation of blood libels, Ehad Ha-am wrote that one of the common responses to Jewish denial was an incredulous: “Do you want me to believe that the whole world is wrong and the Jews are right?” In 2002, in response to Israelis denying that they had massacred 500 Palestinians in Jenin, Kofi Anan, then Secretary General of the UN said, “Are you trying to tell me that the whole world is wrong, and the Israelis are right?” What an impoverished world when the answer to those questions is, “no.”

But my intent here is not to explore why it might be true that the world would be so impoverished if its consensus were wrong and the Jews were right, but why we Jews are in the position of so absurd a dichotomy in the first place. How did we get to where we even have to respond to such outrageous accusations, and do so to an “audience” of gentiles who, even as they proclaim themselves masters of the highest moral standards – who are we to judge? war is not the answer! — have no problem heaping opprobrium on the Israelis and urging on the most heinous violence among the Palestinians. As the allegedly pacifist ISM slogan that came out in response to criticism of suicide bombers blowing themselves up along with children and old people, goes: Resistance is not Terrorism.

Muhammad al Durah, Lethal Narratives, and the Lust to Demean

Oxymoronic Islamic Logic: Call me Violent and I’ll cut out your tongue

One of the things anyone with a reasonably logical mind may find darkly amusing is the way that Muslims these days (I’m guessing in earlier ages they were less transparently silly) make statements that directly contradict each other without seeming to be aware of what they’re up to.

Take, for example, the following: 1) Israelis are like Nazis, and 2) The Holocaust didn’t happen. So the Nazis aren’t bad, but the Israelis are like them.

The resolution to the logical contradiction has to do with the emotional pleasure making the statements provides:

  • Saying the Israelis are like Nazis is a form of moral sadism that not only attacks Jews, but demeans them in the eyes of anyone who believes the Nazis did commit genocide.
  • Saying the Holocaust didn’t happen is another form of sadism which any Palestinian who wanted to extend the most elementary empathy to Jews might appreciate since they are immensely indignant at any effort to question just how bad they have suffered, or the role of Israel in that suffering.

There was a similar moment, oft repeated, when the Pope quoted a 14th century Byzantine emperor (who had good experiential evidence for the remark) saying that Islam was inherently violent. The Muslim response? Riot, kill, maim: “How dare you call me violent!”

Now, in Israel, where Member of Knesset Taleb a-Sanaa (United Arab List- Ta’al) and others have petitioned the court for a temporary injunction blocking an anti-Islam video ridiculing the prophet Muhammad on Google and YouTube, we have the following from a supporter (H/T: DC):

Islam is a religion of love, living together like brothers, and good livelihood. It’s lies what they said, and anyone who said anything bad about Muhammad needs to have their tongue cut out,” said Zatmi Ali, one of the supporters of the ban.

Again, content doesn’t matter. It’s all about what feels good: to praise Islam and to assail anyone who contradicts that praise.

Don’t you dare diss me. I’ll diss you right back.

No wonder that, although they are in principle dedicated to brotherly love (at least among Muslims) and good livelihood, in practice Muslims are so often at each other’s throats, and by a vast majority, are poor and wretched in their livelihood.

Some readers may feel that I’m being hostile to Muslims, even Islamophobic. But I challenge you to come up with a non-Muslim example of this kind of emotional “logic.” And while you can probably find some (especially in psychotherapeutic discussions), I’ll bet that the other people(s) who express this kind of utterly self-indulgent thinking don’t think that it’s a good idea to say such things too loudly.

For an honor-shame culture, Muslims these days sure are shameless. Maybe it has to do with the success of the intimidation of the rest of us. After all, instead of Muslims being the laughing stock of the global community, the Pope was assailed by good people for provoking the Muslim reaction.

Who would have thought that for lack of a sense of humor, the Western world might commit suicide?

9-11 and the dysfunctional “aughts”

This is the longer version of a blogpost at the Telegraph.

9-11 and the dysfunctional “aughts”

In the years before 2000, as the director of the ephemeral Center for Millennial Studies, I scanned the global horizon for signs of apocalyptic activity, that is, for movements of people who believed that now was the time of a total global transformation. As I did so, I became aware of such currents of belief among Muslims, some specifically linked to the year 2000, all predominantly expressing the most dangerous of all apocalyptic beliefs – active cataclysmic that is the belief that this transition from evil to good demands massive destruction, and that we true believers are the agents of that destruction, warriors of God, Mujahidin. Death cults, cults of martyrdom and mass murder… destroying the world to save it.

Nor were these beliefs magical, like the far better known Christian, but largely passive-cataclysmic, Rapture scenarios where one must await God’s intervention. They had practical means and goals. In the same year 1989, that Bin Laden drove the Russians from Afghanistan, Khoumeini issued a global fatwah against Rushdie, and the West trembled. Iran and Afghanistan, however, like so many utopias born of such death cults, proved terrifyingly dystopic – acid in the faces of unveiled women. But these bitter new heavens on earth also showed remarkable staying power… and spreading power. So when Bin Laden struck with such spectacular force on 9-11, he took his Jihad, already declared in 1998 against America (the “Second ‘Ad”), to the next level. He put deeds to words.

We, in the West, were taken totally by surprise. Who are these people? Why haven’t we heard about them before? (NB: the blogosphere, which first “took off” in the early “aughts” is largely the product of a vast number of people turning to cyberspace for information that their mainstream news media had conspicuously failed to deliver.)

What was the logic of such a monstrously cruel attack that targeted civilians? A warning shot to pay attention and address grievances? Or the opening shot in a battle for world domination? Was this primarily an act of retribution for wrongs suffered, i.e., somewhat rational? Or global revenge at global humiliation, i.e., a bottomless pit of grievance?

Some of us said, “What can they possibly believe to make them hate so?” Others, “What did we do to make them hate us so?” And while both are legitimate questions, over the last decade, the “aughts” (‘00s), we have split into two camps, each of which will not allow the other question’s consideration.

The Supernova of 1006: Chinese vs. Monotheist responses

I just gave a lecture here at the Internationale Kolleg für Geisteswissenschaftliche Forschungen (IKGF) in Erlangen. The scholars here are a wonderful combination of Sinologist (primarily Chinese religion) and Western medievalists.

In preparing my talk on the year 1000, I went back to an astronomical incident seen round the world, which had an enormous impact on Arab Islam and Christendom, and, with the help of my Sinologist colleagues here, found the contrast with how it affected China quite instructive — the Supernova of May 1006.

Put briefly, the spectacular celestial phenomenon triggered feverish apocalyptic expectation – what, in my book, I call an “apocalyptic moment” – both among Muslims and Christians, while in China, a wisely advised emperor managed to calm his people.

Let’s begin with the incident, starting with a definition of a supernova.

A supernova (plural supernovae) is a stellar explosion that is more energetic than a nova. Supernovae are extremely luminous and cause a burst of radiation that often briefly outshines an entire galaxy, before fading from view over several weeks or months. During this short interval a supernova can radiate as much energy as the Sun is expected to emit over its entire life span. The explosion expels much or all of a star’s material at a velocity of up to 30,000 km/s (10% of the speed of light), driving a shock wave into the surrounding interstellar medium. This shock wave sweeps up an expanding shell of gas and dust called a supernova remnant.

In May of 1006, the most spectacular Supernova ever to be visible from earth occurred 2,700 light years away from earth. It was the brightest apparent magnitude stellar event in recorded history, reaching an estimated -7.5 visual magnitude. A thousand years later, the Hubble Telescope photographed the still-expanding shock-wave created by this explosion.

This picture represents the shock-wave of gases emanating from the explosion in all directions, 1000 years after the explosion.

Solidarity: Integrity vs. Honor Styles

I recently had an exchange with a Muslim Dartmouth student who came to a talk I gave. I had made the point that American Muslims, rather than complain that Americans were treating them with suspicion after 9-11, should rather have explored what is wrong with Islam that it could produce people who, in its name, and believing themselves to be (the only) “true” Muslims, would do such a deed.

He responded by commenting that, as a Muslim, he feels no obligation to do anything of the sort. For him, these men had not behaved as Muslims should and that was the end of it. I found this attitude remarkable, especially given the sense of solidarity (asabiyya) that Muslims are enjoined to feel towards each other.

In thinking about this, I’m struck by what one might call the difference between integrity and honor in the matter of solidarity. A person driven by integrity feels solidarity with his group in matters of morality, and breaches of that morality concern him or her. In some senses, the behavior of self-degrading Jews exemplifies an extreme version of this, in which the immoral behavior of other Jews so dishonors them that they must denounce it in the most ferocious terms.

A person driven by honor (in the tribal sense), feels solidarity with his group in matters of survival, self-defense, power. In the doctrine of Walla wa bara, love [for fellow Muslims], hate [for the enemies of Islam], we find a large array of attitudes that enjoin such solidarity – my side right or wrong – that a Muslim is not to help an infidel against a fellow Muslim, even if that Muslim is a criminal.

Thus, for helping convict five Muslims who were plotting to kill American soldiers in the Fort Dix terrorism trial, Mahmoud Omar has been ostracized by the Muslim community. Why? Because “in a twisted way…their [the terrorists’] actions are understandable in the Muslim community.” Omar adds, “For Muslims, we are all brothers, and I betrayed a brother”— echoing Muhammad’s injunction: “A Muslim is the brother of a Muslim.”

I’m not sure my interlocutor at Dartmouth has thought these matters through. I did not get the sense he was a demopath so much as genuinely unreflective. But I do think that, unconsciously, he reflected an attitude which needs to concern Muslims and infidels alike. In this sense, the Obama administration’s attitude – that to even speak of radical Islam is an insult to Muslims – enables and empowers this attitude. Rather than worry about “insulting” Muslims who insist that their religion is one of peace and thus zealots who use violence in the name of Islam are not “true Muslims,” we should be worrying about why Muslims don’t agonize over these men who – if we had the moral courage to assert the proper response – actually shame Islam.

It’s as if we were embarrassed about shaming Islam even when it deserves to be shamed.

I remember a dialogue session during the height of suicide bombing in 2002. I stated that suicide terrorism was morally repugnant. A Palestinian, a very nice and sincere man, objected that I was “dehumanizing” his people. It never occurred to him that his own people were dehumanizing themselves. And all the Jews in the group told me to shut up and stop provoking the Arabs in the group.

Taqiyya, Territorial Expansion, and the Western European Future

On my class list-serv (class of ’71), we’ve had a discussion of the relationship of Muslim demographics to aggressive behavior. I posted these remarks based on two remarkable pieces, one by Raymond Ibrahim on Taqiyya and Islam, and one a video made by a exceptionally courageous Parisian of the take-over of some public streets in Paris every Friday for 2 and a half hours.

As everyone who’s spent some time with the Quran knows, it’s full of contradictions, especially on the subject of the use of violence. “No coercion in matters of religion” (sura 2) vs “Fight against the infidel till they either convert or submit” (suras 8, 9). The Muslim commentators came up with the principle of abrogation, in which the later passages (the suras are not listed chronologically, but the later Medina suras are the more coercive) abrogated the earlier ones.

In a very important article Raymond Ibrahim lays out the implications of this for Islam:

However interpreted, the standard view [among Muslim scholars] on Qur’anic abrogation concerning war and peace verses is that when Muslims are weak and in a minority position, they should preach and behave according to the ethos of the Meccan verses (peace and tolerance); when strong, however, they should go on the offensive on the basis of what is commanded in the Medinan verses (war and conquest). The vicissitudes of Islamic history are a testimony to this dichotomy, best captured by the popular Muslim notion, based on a hadith, that, if possible, jihad should be performed by the hand (force), if not, then by the tongue (through preaching); and, if that is not possible, then with the heart or one’s intentions.[23]

In a study of tolerance in the Protestant Reformation, Andrew Pettegree came to the conclusion that “tolerance was a loser’s creed” (p. 198), that when they began, Protestant movements were in favor of free speech and dissent (protest), but as soon as they were in a position to take power, then they argue that God gave them their strength because they are right, and imposing their belief is what God wants. Thus, the US constitution is the first time in the history of Christianity that tolerance is a winner’s creed.

Now how that happened, and how it can happen in Islam is not something we will figure out by making arguments about moral equivalence (we were just as bad) or moral inversion (we’re worse).

I strongly recommend the Ibrahim article for many reasons, not the least being the problem it sets before us on this issue: while in Christianity there is no hint of the principle that drove so many Christians to seek power to impose their beliefs on others — on the contrary, everything “argues” against it — the Quran has actually embedded in its collection of suras that very argument, formalized by later commentators across the board (all four schools of jurisprudence). If libido dominandi (the lust to dominate) can have that affect on Christians whose texts are against these principles, a fortiori, will it be difficult for Muslims to confront them… especially if we don’t confront them about these matters.

Before 2000, virtually every book on Islam argued that it was overwhelming a fatalistic religion (inshallah — if God wills it), an attitude that permits many today to argue that the “vast majority of Muslims are moderate.” In the 1960s and 70s sociologists, working on the “secularization model” were depicting its imminent demise.

1979 marks the beginning and 2000 marks a key turning point in Muslim attitudes globally (aided by both media and the second intifada/9-11), in which allahu akhbar as a war cry became more and more widespread. This “awakening” has changed many Muslim attitudes towards both themselves and their neighbors.

There is a territorial battle going on that we are losing because we don’t/won’t even recognize it.

I recommend watching the video full screen in order to read the English subtitles.

How not to analyze the Fort Hood Massacre: Robert Wright gets it wrong

Robert Wright is an interesting case study the mixture of LCE (liberal cognitive egocentrism) combined with MOS (masochistic omnipotence syndrome). After the collapse of Camp David, when the progressive left should have been begging the pardon of the Israelis for having urged them to take enormous risks with Arafat for the sake of a peace they were sure would come, Wright came out with a ringing defense of Arafat (elaborating on the work of Malley and Falk[!]), that embodies for me the moral failure of the left in the period after 2000.

Now this is perhaps related to his error-ridden work on the important issues of game theory and morality — The Logic of Non-Zero — in which he reads the record backwards and comes up with a model of inevitablility for the victory of positive-sum relations. It’s as if LCE were a part of our genetic make-up, and therefore, we begin assuming everyone’s on that page.

Let’s look at how he handles the case of Major Hasan and the Fort Hood massacre.

November 22, 2009
Who Created Major Hasan?By ROBERT WRIGHT
Princeton, N.J.

IN the case of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan and the Fort Hood massacre, the verdict has come in. The liberal news media have been found guilty — by the conservative news media — of coddling Major Hasan’s religion, Islam.

Liberals, according to the columnist Charles Krauthammer, wanted to medicalize Major Hasan’s crime — call it an act of insanity rather than of terrorism. They worked overtime, Mr. Krauthammer said on Fox News, to “avoid any implication that there was any connection between his Islamist beliefs … and his actions.” The columnist Jonah Goldberg agrees. Admit it, he wrote in The Los Angeles Times, Major Hasan is “a Muslim fanatic, motivated by other Muslim fanatics.”

The good news for Mr. Krauthammer and Mr. Goldberg is that there is truth in their indictment. The bad news is that their case against the left-wing news media is the case against right-wing foreign policy. Seeing the Fort Hood shooting as an act of Islamist terrorism is the first step toward seeing how misguided a hawkish approach to fighting terrorism has been.

The American right and left reacted to 9/11 differently. Their respective responses were, to oversimplify a bit: “kill the terrorists” and “kill the terrorism meme.”

I would have put it very differently. Some people (I won’t call them the “right”) said, “What’s wrong with these people that they hate us so?” The others (I won’t call them “left”) said, “What’s wrong with us that they hate us so?”

Conservatives backed war in Iraq, and they’re now backing an escalation of the war in Afghanistan. Liberals (at least, dovish liberals) have warned in both cases that killing terrorists is counterproductive if in the process you create even more terrorists; the object of the game isn’t to wipe out every last Islamist radical but rather to contain the virus of Islamist radicalism.

Interesting. Would be nice to have some references to how this is an active campaign to strike at the terrorist meme (the closest I could find was this from 2004), rather than mere appeasement, which is what the argument that you can’t fight back lest you anger them produces most often.

Anatomy of “Progressive” Double Speak: Fisking Frank Rich on Fort Hood

I have yet to fisk Frank Rich, partly because he rarely deals with an issue in which I have some expertise, partly because, like Daniel Pipes, he so thoroughly links his comments to other literature, that I have not had the time or the energy to look them all up. But Rich is a former classmate (Harvard ’71), and I’m on a class listserv where I posted David Brooks’ criticism of the psychological school’s approach to Major Hasan’s killing spree, and several classmates answered. So when Rich weighed in on the subject, I decided to call up all his links, read the material, and respond.

The result is long and sometimes circuitous. At times, following his logic is like trying to deal with a bucking bronco: easier to watch than to ride. But in the end, I think what a close look at how Rich dealt with problem reveals, is how bereft of serious thinking even the most intelligent and apparently well-read among the self-styled “liberal left” are on the subject of Islam and its extremist manifestations, and to what lengths they will go to belittle people who try to think clearly on the matter.

Nietzsche once likened serious thinking to diving into an icy river and grasping a stone lying at the bottom. Rich won’t get his feet wet, but he mocks those of us who are soaking from head to toe.

The Missing Link From Killeen to Kabul
Published: November 14, 2009

THE dead at Fort Hood had not even been laid to rest when their massacre became yet another political battle cry for the self-proclaimed patriots of the American right.

It also became a non-battle cry for the self-proclaimed progressives of the left, who far preferred the psychologization of the event — “pre-proxy-post-traumatic stress syndrome” — to any discussion of the problem with Islam. Will Rich have the courage to address the problem? Or will he just bash the “right”?

Their verdict was unambiguous: Maj. Nidal Malikan, an American-born psychiatrist of Palestinian parentage who sent e-mail to a radical imam, was a terrorist. And he did not act alone.

“Terrorist,” I think it’s hard to argue against. Did not act alone? That’s another matter. As for “unambiguous,” does Rich mean “unanimous”? I don’t know too many people who thought he acted in concert with anyone.

Indeed, the near-unanimous verdict was that he was a loner. If there’s any support group here, it’s some of the more radical members of his mosque, like Duane. So what does Rich mean here, other than suggesting that the “self-proclaimed patriots of the right” are conspiracy theorists? (Unlike the truthers who have come up with the scenario whereby Hasan’s been framed.)

His co-conspirators included our military brass, the Defense Department, the F.B.I., the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the Joint Terrorism Task Force and, of course, the liberal media and the Obama administration. All these institutions had failed to heed the warning signs raised by Hasan’s behavior and activities because they are blinded by political correctness toward Muslims, too eager to portray criminals as sympathetic victims of social injustice, and too cowardly to call out evil when it strikes 42 innocents in cold blood.

Oh, now I get it. Rich means that the vast range of responsible figures, hands tied by a political correctness that he, among others, plays a major role in enforcing, are, in the minds of the “right,” collaborators. Is this what, “didn’t act alone,” means? I thought it meant, “had co-conspirators.” Rich takes it to mean “enablers.” Intellectual integrity is not the first word that comes to mind here.

Is this clearly sarcastic summary of the “self-proclaimed patriots of the American right” suggesting that there’s no problem here with political correctness? Does it not matter that our intelligence services can’t talk about “honor-shame” culture because some people — Rich? — think it’s racist as Edward Said so urgently insisted? Does it matter that Hasan’s multiple flags never quite tripped a switch somewhere? Does it matter that all those doctors who heard his alarming presentation were too embarrassed to say, “something’s wrong?”

Pour les francophones: Interview avec moi sur Guysen TV

You can see it here for the rest of the day. Click on Le grand journal – 26/10/2009.

The Reality-Challenged Community: Feminism and Moral Inversion

In my own research I have run across a feminist claim that we should see honor-killings as part of continuum of domestic violence, little different from the assaults on women that take place in western countries (and most especially in the USA). Phyllis Chesler has done yeoman work in this area, making it clear how vast a gulf separates the culture of the US, and those in which parents feel driven by community pressures to kill their daughters for the sake of family honor.

David Thompson, whose critique of post-modernism I have highlighted and commented on here has a new post on the strange world of feminist discourse that sheds light on this effort at moral equivalence. It chronicles the astonishing misrepresentations that come from a radical political agenda disguised as human rights talk.

Every Bit as Hobbled

I’ve previously noted the tendency of some academic activists to indulge in wild overstatement, not least those entranced by the Holy Trinity of race, class and gender. As, for instance, when Barbara Barnett, a product of Duke’s infamous English department, claimed that, “20%–25% of college students report that they have experienced a rape or attempted rape.” Barnett’s assertions were subsequently debunked by KC Johnson:

Barnett… thereby [suggests] that college campuses have a rate of sexual assault around 2.5 times higher than the rate of sexual assault, murder, armed robbery and assault combined in Detroit, the U.S. city with the highest murder rate. For those in the reality-based community, FBI figures provide a counterweight to Barnett’s theories: not 20%-25% but instead around .03% of students are victims of rape while in college. Duke’s 2000-2006 figures, which use a much broader reporting standard than the FBI database, indicate that 0.2% of Duke students “report that they have experienced a rape or attempted rape.”