Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Gypsy Scholar: "the same mindset as bin-Ladin"

Osama Bin Laden (1957-?)
"the same mindset as Gypsy Scholar?"
(Image from Wikipedia)

In a response to my blog entry yesterday on John Milton, the moderate Muslim Irfan Yusuf has informed me that I "have the same mindset as bin-Ladin."

That wasn't a very moderate thing for Mr. Yusuf to say, but one can't always maintain one's moderation. Here's the entire comment:
horace, do you know what proportion of European Muslims use Arabic as their first language? Or what proportion of Muslims live in Arab League states? And have you ever set foot in a mosque? Or are you afraid that you might get bitten by a scorpion?

Bin-Ladin makes some absurd and silly generalisations about Europeans, Westerners, Jews, Hindus and other groups. You are doing the same thing to 1.2 billion Muslims.

Will you permit me to exercise my freedom of speech and suggest that you have the same mindset as bin-Ladin?
So many questions! Who knew that Milton, 400 years after his birth, could inspire such an impassioned response?

Yet . . . when I re-read my words on Milton to discover what I supposedly did to 1.2 billion Muslims, I found myself baffled -- and, naturally, a bit insulted -- so I replied to Mr. Yusuf (taking care to respectfully capitalize his name):
Irfan Yusuf, you seem to have forgotten that I go by "Jeffery."

You are free to comment here so long as you don't abuse the privilege with ad hominem attacks -- though you are really pushing that line with your insulting comparison of me to mass murderer and Islamist terrorist Osama Bin Laden. I suggest that you restrain yourself in future comments.

Now if I recall correctly, you previously objected to my having made a distinction between moderate and radical Muslims. Now, you accuse me of not distinguishing. I plead not guilty anyway, for if you look closely, you'll see in my post [on Milton] that I used the term "Islamism," by which I mean the use of Islam for political purposes, the ultimate aim being a shariah state.

I don't consider the majority of Muslims to be particularly interested in Islamism.
In a subsequent response to another interlocutor, Otto Silver, whom Mr. Yusuf had also engaged in conversation, I added the following remarks about Mr. Yusuf:
Otto, I appreciate your cordial response to Irfan Yusuf and your temperate remarks. I try to keep my blog free of insults.

Irfan is a 'moderate' Muslim (though he doesn't like my saying so), a lawyer, a journalist, and quite intelligent, but is also, it seems, too easily riled.

He is, in short, better than his recent comments.
I give Mr. Yusuf, anyway, the benefit of the doubt since he obviously doesn't like Osama Bin Laden.

He does not, however, extend me the same courtesy, for in a comment to Sonagi concerning my "'Dhimmification' of Europe?" blog post, Mr. Yusuf remarked: "I hope that the academic who writes this blog doesn't pollute young Korean minds with such sectarian bigotry."

To those words, I can only repeat my initial, lapidary response: "Islamism is a problem in Europe, and it cannot be ignored."

I anticipate more lapidation from Mr. Yusuf, but perhaps he'll call for a moratorium.

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At 8:56 AM, Blogger jeanie oliver said...

Well, sir,
I for one am extremely glad to have your links to the free dictionary. Is this guy someone you know personally or just a blog stalker?

At 10:16 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I don't know him personally, nor is he a blog stalker, for this is only the second time that I've had any comments by him in over a year.

I first referred to Mr. Irfan Yusuf about a year ago because of a remark that he made about Tariq Ramadan. In my post at that time, I called Mr. Yusuf a "moderate Muslim" -- but he took issue with my blog entry and with being called a moderate. He said that by calling some Muslims "moderate," I was implying that the remaining Muslims were radical.

That's a fallacy, of course, for I also call some Muslims "radical," which by the logic of Mr. Yusuf would mean that all the remaining Muslims are moderate.

That would make all of the Muslims that I don't explicitly refer to as either "moderate" or "radical" both moderate and radical simultaneously.

But I don't accept his 'logic', of course.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lots of Muslims who are labelled "moderate" (myself included) dislike the tag because, well, it sounds wussy. Tepid. As though we are less commited to our faith than are the "radicals", and as though we lack passion in our religious and our political lives. Muslim, but not VERY Muslim. Yawn. Not exactly going to draw in a restless 18 year old, is it? "Moderate Muslims" are dying for their beliefs in many places so I think they could do with a label that doesn't make them sound like a curry with the chilli left out.

At 12:52 PM, Blogger Irf said...

Political Islam may be a problem in Europe. But political Christianity has inspired US Presidents to kill hundreds of thousands in Afghanistan and Iraq. Political Christianity's Armageddon theology has ensured the United States has blindly supported the most extreme (far-Right) end of the Israeli political spectrum.

Muslims don't have a monopoly over political extremism. When you have the likes of Francis Schaffer, Christianity's Syed Qutb, being taught in established Christian secondary schools across the Western world, what else can one expect?

But some roving scholars love to plonk their heads in the sand and pretend the wave hitting their backside is a Muslim one.

Before you next feel tempted to treat extremism as the domain solely of Islam, ask yourself how many Muslims were involved in the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Ask yourself also which Muslim orchestrated the Holocaust.

At 2:26 PM, Blogger John B said...

It's not quite right to say that the US supported Israel's far right. Radical Jewish factions have equalled and possibly surpassed radical Muslims at acting crazy. There's a Frontline documentary about it in their online archives that s pretty interesting.

Generally, the US has supported the continuation of Israeli policy rather than reform movements sponsored by Israeli progressives -- which is a simplification of complex politics.

Western commentators are pretty vague in their definitions of "moderate". Some writers use "moderate" as a tag for "people I like", even though it is questionable whether or not they represent majority Muslim opinion. I've run across Hirsi Ali being described as "moderate" -- she's an ex-Muslim atheist. It would be better if Western writers were more specific in their descriptions of "not-radicals".

At 2:34 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Muslimgirlpower, if you don't wish to use the term "moderate" to describe yourself, then more power to you, but my task is to use language descriptively, objectively, analytically.

Thanks for the comment.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 2:45 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Irfan Yusuf, you make a lot of assumptions about my motives and interests. I write on a lot of topics, so I'd ask you to stick to the point of the specific blog post.

If you think that I've erred in my analysis of Islamism in Europe, then explain without tu quoque arguments, without condescension, and without dragging red herrings across the trail.

At least you've acknowledged that Islamism is a problem in Europe.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 2:47 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

John B, thanks for the comment. I agree that we need to use terms with as much precision as we can.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:29 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

President Bush is not exactly the poster child for most Christians in the world. We should not confuse true political and economic reasons with religious excuses. How many Christian countries were opposed to the invasion of Iraq and how many people honestly believe that the invasion had anything to do with protecting Christianity. Just because a Christian does something does not make it that religions, or all of it's followers' fault. The same will go for Islam. One bad Moslem does not a bad Islam make.

Extreme vs Moderate, in my opinion, has more to do with the actions rather that the believes. I would most certainly call someone who murders someone else for slandering a religion an extremists, no matter what the religion. A moderate will either except that person is ill informed, just plain stupid or will try to reason with them.

Would you say that reasoning with someone rather then murdering them is an act of cowardice before Allah? Would this make you any less of a committed Muslim? Would not your reward be more for leading someone to the right path rather than alienating large numbers of people from the faith?

While living in Dubai I gained huge respect for parts of the Muslim community there. They went out of their way the build relationships and help people understand the truth about Islam. They were moderate, sometimes even liberal, but I have not met more committed Muslims than them. While others were screaming about injustice and pointing fingers, they were teaching me what the faith is really about.

At 4:48 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Good points, Otto. Speaking reasonably and without anger does much for dialogue.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 5:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking of Milton must we take his word on it about the Piedmont Massacre? He was a renowned pamphleteer and master of polemics in an age of black propaganda. Must we also accept the Irish Papist view of Cromwell as certainly in hell along with Judas and Hitler after his massacres at Drogheda and Wexford? Or is that also propaganda in that Cromwell was merely following the standard rules of engagement of the era which was 'lay down your arms and you will be spared, fail to do so and there will be a chaste and general slaughter'.

Similarily and likewise the tenets of good scholarship bid one from offering for consumption holus bolus the words of M.E.M.R.I. or Dr.Shmuel Bar or Dr. Bernard Lewis or Dr.Daniel Pipes. These guys are players in the Great Game so caveats apply. I presume that is what you do in your classes.

At 6:39 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Michael, that's part of the critical thinking that I try to inculcate. Everyone is writing from somewhere and is expressing some self-interest. That's why, in my previous blog entry, I noted the limits to Milton's defense of free expression.

Well, I noted, anyway, that he does impose some limits. I didn't specify what they were.

Somewhat off-topic: I recall that Cromwell was damned to hell by none other than The Pogues -- and they were inspired by the muses, so it must be true!

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is somewhat off-topic, but I thought you might be interested in this story, Jeffery:

At 10:01 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Sonagi. I'd seen it before but paid little attention.

The reaction seems like an overreaction to me.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 1:21 PM, Blogger Irf said...

"At least you've acknowledged that Islamism is a problem in Europe."

I'd be interested to hear your definition of Islamism.

At 2:26 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

More than what I've already stated, you mean? I've already said this to you twice:

". . . you'll see in my post [on Milton] that I used the term 'Islamism,' by which I mean the use of Islam for political purposes, the ultimate aim being a shariah state."

But if you want more, click on this:

Sadik Al-Azm on Islamism

Or simply search my blog for posts on "Islamism."

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:01 PM, Blogger Hathor said...

That link didn't publish well.

At 8:38 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Here it is, Hathor:

Dunkin' Donuts Yanks Rachael Ray Ad

Jeffery Hodges

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At 6:59 AM, Blogger A.H. said...

Isn't it worrying that the word "moderate" causes so much offence these days? Everyone wants to be a revolutionary. But then, was it different in Milton's "liberal" days?...I ask this since your innocent observations on Liberty started all of this rolling. Did anyone want to be a middle-of-the-road seeker on the wayfaring path? Not really. The Elect wasn't for the average.

At 7:02 AM, Blogger A.H. said...

Perhaps, that is the root of the issue. To be moderate is to be average. To be a terrorist is to be above average, though such requires (according to recent statements in the UK) below average intelligence.

At 7:26 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Yes, I see your point. I wouldn't want to be thought of as only moderately intelligent or just moderately interesting.

On the other hand, I do prefer to be known as moderate in my politics.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:02 PM, Blogger Irf said...

The definition of "Islamism" you have used would, in my opinion, rule out the Muslim Brotherhood and the Jamaat-i-Islami in Pakistan as being Islamist. The criteria used in Sadiq al-Azm's defintion would only include the most violent messianic groups such as al-Qaida.

That being the case, Tariq Ramadan would not be regarded as an Islamist.

I'd be interested to hear people talk about a "Judaist" or a "Christianitist". Certainly there are some rather wacky Jews and Christians out there. The difference is that the Islamists are on the run while the Judaists and Christianitists are in the Knesset or running for the Presidency of the United States.

At 12:36 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Irfan Yusuf, that's a good point. Not all Islamists are jihadis. Thanks for getting me to focus better on that aspect of Sadiq al-Azm's defintion.

Quintan Wiktorowicz has an interesting article, "Anatomy of the Salafi Movement" (Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, Volume 29, Issue 3, May 2006, pp. 207-239), in which he distinguishes among three categories of Salafi Muslims: 1. Purist, 2. Politicos, and 3. Jihadis.

Perhaps a similar tripartite division of Islamists would be useful. I'll have to think about this.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:12 AM, Blogger Hathor said...

I just read that link. Thanks.
I had heard about the commercial but not Dunkin' Donuts side.

At 4:37 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Hathor, you're welcome.

Jeffery Hodges

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