Monday, April 05, 2010

Benno Barnard: "Long live God, Away with Allah"

Photo by Koen Bauters
(Image from De Standaard)

The Dutch poet and essayist Benno Barnard, originally from Amsterdam, but a resident of Belgium for more than thirty years, was recently shouted down at the University of Antwerp, where he was attempting to lecture on the topic "Long live God, Away with Allah," an obviously provocative title that may well have been intended by him to get the reaction that it provoked, for an interview with Nikolas Vanhecke in De Standaard on the incident is titled "The best lecture I could give" (April 2, 2010).

I don't have access to the talk that Barnard didn't give, but here's my translation of the interview from the original Dutch, based on Google Translate and my knowledge of German:
Vanhecke: The title of the lecture that you intended to give at the University of Antwerp reads "Long live God, Away with Allah." The lecture is primarily about the Judeo-Christian tradition. Why did you choose that title?

Barnard: "Obviously, I made use of the rhetorical technique of provocation in the title. A feature of the Judeo-Christian tradition is debate. This interaction goes back to the Old Testament and has led to the Enlightenment, humanism, and democracy. Provocation is the clearest form of disagreement. Our entire culture is based on this."

"Islam does not debate. To clarify the difference, I switched the metaphor to Allah."

Vanhecke: In other words, Islam is an undemocratic religion.

Barnard: "Real Islam doesn't recognize the possibility of democratization. There are sound democratic Muslims, but they do not respect the strict rules of Islam. Sharia (Islamic law, ed.) is described in the Quran, and the laws are what the real Islam preaches."

"There is a quote from Kemal Atatürk (founder of the secular Turkish state, ed.): 'Islam, which is the absurd theology of an immoral Bedouin, is a rotting corpse that poisons our lives.' And I can provide still more from unexpected people who raise criticisms against Islam. Secularization is against Islam, as it was born from Mecca and Medina."

"And as for all that nonsense about the real Islam, you can study that at the University of Antwerp in the context of active pluralism. Some of the members of Sharia4Belgium study at the University of Antwerp. That's where they came upon the trail that led them to the lecture. Or did you think that they came from outside the university?"

Vanhecke: Would you have preferred your lecture to the incident, or do you think that it made your point stronger?

Barnard: "That was the best lecture I could give. I spoke two sentences and got no further because "Allahu akbar" ('God is great,' ed.) begin to roar. Welcome to the future! By their action they have formulated part of my thesis."

Vanhecke: In 2004, along with other writers, you called upon people not to vote for [the separatist party] Vlaams Blok, as the party was then called. Last year you agreed with Filip Dewinter in his criticism of Islam. What changed you?

Barnard: "I studied Islam thoroughly, reading the Quran but also other books. Today, I think Filip Dewinter is a prophet. Previously, I called him a racist, but I had blinders on back then. He very early realized the true nature of Sharia. As a commited Belgian, however, I am no fan of Vlaams Belang (the separatist party that replaced Vlaams Blok)."

Vanhecke: What are you then?

Barnard: "I've often been called a left-wing conservative. I advocate a leftist emancipation. Many leftists are actually rightwing without knowing it. From a misunderstanding of social reality, they support Muslims. You then get to a point where feminists defend the burka. Education is ruined by a wrong equal opportunities policy of the Social Democrats. I am the opposite of a racist."

"This whole story is in principle the worst of all for the moderate Muslims. One of the officers yesterday (Wednesday, ed.) was Muslim, and was called a traitor."

Vanhecke: Were you actually forewarned that protection would be needed?

Barnard: "The police had contacted the university. Police security had noticed messages on the website of Sharia4Belgium and also knew that the 'Youth of Islam' had called for a boycott via SMS (Short Message Service)."

Vanhecke: Were you shocked by the incident anyway?

Barnard: "What do you think? At the moment it seemed so unreal that it was exactly like watching oneself on television. Only in retrospect did the reality begin to dawn on me. Luckily, I had bodyguards; otherwise, I wouldn't be speaking to anyone today."
I don't know very much about Benno Barnard, but he's written a very readable, engaging essay on "Belgium's Culture: A Dutchman's View" in How Can One Not Be Interested in Belgian History (2005), in which he praises Belgium as a nation and thereby shows that his appreciation of Filip Dewinter's views on Islam is not based on political agreement about a need to break Belgium up into its two ethnic parts.

Barnard may believe that he's given the "best lecture" he could give by being shouted down, but I would have liked to hear his argument on how the West's Judeo-Christian tradition is based on provocative debate and in what sense this traces back to the Old Testament. I'm interested because I'd like to know if by "provocative debate," Barnard means a "culture of discussion," for I would have thought this due more to the Graeco-Roman influence.

Do any readers know if Barnard has posted online the lecture that he didn't give?

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At 3:58 PM, Blogger arah said...

Quran, Surah 5:Ayat: 82-83 "And thou wilt find the nearest of them in affection to those who believe (to be) those who say: Lo! We are Christians. That is because there are among them priests and monks, and because they are not proud. When they listen to that which hath been revealed unto the messenger, thou seest their eyes overflow with tears because of their recognition of the Truth. They say: Our Lord, we believe. Inscribe us as among the witnesses"

A Christian Minister's Conversion to Islam

At 5:43 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Arah, your 'comment' has no relevance to my post, and you've cluttered up the comments section with website addresses despite the clear instructions under "Leave your comment" on how to set up links.

But I'll let your 'comment' stand as a memorial to irrelevance and incompetence.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:40 PM, Blogger Sifar Anel said...

Hey Jeffery

Thanks for sharing this info man.
Interesting to know the people's view points.

I wish to add my thoughts...

I think "Distorted Islam" will never be able to give rise to any kind of peace, obviously there will never be any kind of democracy.

There are very few in the world who can read and understand the Qu'ran, the Qu'ran is pretty self evident put only to the one's who can grasp. The Qu'ran itself says that it can only be grasped by those wise ones with sight.

Now to talk about democracy...the Qu'ran clearly says that the best of the people shall inherit the world, and to me this is nothing but Democracy. Since the very target of Democracy is to allow the best to rule and to live as nations.

But Benno Barnard is correct regarding his thoughts regarding the present state of distorted-Islam, in fact Islam has been distorted for many ages and ages, in fact, we all know that "Distorted Islam" has been "used" by many many dictators all over in order to hold on to the power and to hold down tight the minds of their masses.

But I think Benno will fail in his attempts to lead his side of the truth, as he still has not understood what his real target is, it's like shooting a gun in the dark. Poor guy.

Jeffrey please do visit one of my latest posts:

I am sure you will get something out of that post, and perhaps you might have something good to share with me on it.

At 9:42 PM, Blogger Jules Aimé said...

It's pretty hard to separate Judeo-Christian from Greece given that the Bible as we know it was assembled in an Hellenic world.

And God is God; a point the people who created the Bible did not want anyone to forget. Any discussion he enters into is not going to be a conversation between equals.

That said, the Judeo-Christian God is a God who moves through history. Who changes his mind and who is susceptible to the arguments made by humans. Consider, for example, the discussion Abraham and God have concerning the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah.

I've read the Koran but I wouldn't say I know it terribly well but I don't remember it having anything like that sort of interaction. Allah is more of a concept than a personality.

At 4:26 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Sifar Anel, for your comment. I'll take a look at your site.

By the way, links are easy to make if one follows the instructions under "Leave your comment."

Jeffery Hodges

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At 4:30 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Jules. You are right that the Bible came together as a book within a Hellenistic context and shares, especially in the New Testament, some of the same values.

But I would have liked to see Mr. Barnard's arguments.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 5:49 PM, Blogger Sifar Anel said...

Oh thanks for showing me the link info...hehe sorry.

Sifar Anel

At 6:17 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

No problem . . . and I still intend to check your website.

This has been a long day . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:03 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

This is odd. The comments by Sifar Anel and Jules are missing when I try to view comments from my office computer. I did not delete either of these two comments, and neither did the authors of the comments, for the deletion would be recorded.

Are the comments missing on other computers? Sifar Anel? Jules? Are your comments visible?

Jeffery Hodges

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At 1:43 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Now, I'm back home and can see every comment.


Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:55 PM, Blogger Sifar Anel said...

I too could not see the comments earlier, but now I do see it!

Wierd indeed!

At 5:42 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Very odd. But I have since looked at your lengthy article. You discuss many things of which I am relatively ignorant.

I can say that our approaches differ somewhat. I deal with religions mostly on the exoteric level, whereas you do so on the esoteric level, so I am not sure that I have much of interest to say.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 11:16 PM, Blogger arah said...

1400 years ago there are people having the same thinking as the Hoace Jeffery Hodges. There are the Jahiliyah or the ignorant.

Why more more priests and pastors become Muslim? The only reason is because they found PEACE.

At 4:20 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Arah wrote:

"1400 years ago there are people having the same thinking as the Hoace Jeffery Hodges. There are the Jahiliyah or the ignorant."

More irrelevance from Arah (see the very first comment above).

Arah, not only have you still not learned to make a link despite my clear explanation, you are now even careless about my name. Worst of all, however, you refer to my "thinking" without specifying what this thinking is.

My suspicion, Arah, is that you have been an incompetent reader of this post and have mistaken Benno Barnard's statements for mine.

Any 'jahiliyah' would appear to be your own, and if you cannot post relevant comments in the future, you'll find those vain comments deleted.

Jeffery Hodges

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