Saturday, April 18, 2009

Addendum to Primary Sources 101


http://www.computus.org/journal/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/archimedes_palimpsest.jpg

Introduction:

In todays Jihad Watch, Raymond Ibrahim has published an essay that contextualizes the Somalian piracy with the American history of the Barbary Pirates.

Of course, I knew without a doubt that Ibrahim would have recourse to that Blogospherically famous quote about the Muslim ambassadors Islamic justification for piracy related to then ambassador to London Thomas Jefferson in 1789.

I also suspected that, instead of finally alleviating the subtle hornets nest of niggling problems that have attended that famous little gem of a quote, Ibrahims use of it would only tend to perpetuate it.

And so it seems I was correct.


Discussion:

First, we have the amusing situation of remotion from the primary source by three degrees: Ibrahim cites Melvin E. Lee, Melvin E. Lee cites Frank Lambert, and finally Frank Lambert cites Paul L. Ford.

Despite this ridiculous remotion, we do seem to find in Paul L. Ford finally an ostensibly credible secondary sourceto wit, as Melvin E. Lee notes in footnote #11 of his article referenced by Ibrahim:

Thomas Jefferson, ‘The American Commissioners Report to John Jay, in Paul L. Ford, ed., The Works of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 9 (New York and London: G.P. Putnams Sons, 1904-5), p. 358.

A multi-volume collection of the worksone assumes the complete worksof Thomas Jefferson would proffer for us, at last, the motherlode of primary source material in which one could locate the actual gem of the quote itself. However, in the context of the Communications arena of this most exigent endeavor of the still inchoate anti-Islam movement conducted largely, still, in the Blogosphere, this citation at third or more remotion of an ostensibly trustworthy secondary source is simply unacceptableparticularly when the actual original document in question and its appropriately complete reference are entirely possible to provide in any given online article, including both Ibrahims and Melvin E. Lees.

Secondly, I have already run into annoyingly niggling little snags in trying to pin down this ostensibly trustworthy secondary source, the multi-volume edition of Jeffersons works edited by Paul L. Ford. The edition apparently is not available even for a limited preview on Google Books. I then checked the college library of my city, and their citations of this edition contain numerous problemsincluding the lack of any information about volume numbers and more importantly an ambiguity about whether its library system even has it on its shelves or notwhose resolution via email with staff members of the library I am now awaiting. If it turns out that my nearby college library indeed has the editionand, of course, specifically has volume 9, the one cited by Melvin E. Lee as containing the specific primary source in questionI will then have to go physically to the library and look up the reference to check it. It is not so much that this presents any privations or imposition on me: an excursion to the college library is often a pleasant way to spend an hour or two. It is the fact that at this late stage of the game, nearing the second decade of the 21st century, the Blogosphereand particularly that part of it devoted to the still inchoate anti-Islam movementshould not merely be a medium for demagogic rhetoric and rumor-mongering, nor even for the more respectable activity of speculative essays ungrounded in actual references, but should also include appropriately complete references to primary sources that substantiate at least our more important claims.

The problem of this deficiency is acutely augmented by a further flaw in the representation of the quote in question by Ibrahim / Melvin E. Lee / Frank Lambert / Paul L. Ford: its wording varies from other instances of the same quote adduced by various writers in the Blogosphere, as well as in one other instance of it which I have found from a 19th-century secondary source. In my previous essay, I presented both versions to show the discrepancies. Now we have three versions, compounding that original problem. As I argued before, a primary source quote is supposed to be verbatim, and it is supposed to have one form only, not multiple renderings. This is an intolerable situation where three permutations of an original quote are floating around: it undermines the veracity of the quote.

The quote presented by Ibrahim / Melvin E. Lee / Frank Lambert / Paul L. Ford only supplies a partial citationindeed, not even a full sentence; but even that small amount is sufficient to reveal a divergence in wording:

right and duty to make war upon them [i.e., all Christians as Melvin E. Lee puts it in his own words] wherever they could be found, and to enslave as many as they could take as prisoners.

Meanwhile, the quote bandied about the Blogosphereincluding by such luminaries as Pipes, Bostom and Spencerhas these words for that same part:

right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, . . .

Notice the differences: The former version has
and to enslave as many as they could takewhile the latter has and to make slaves of all they could take.

In addition, the latter capitalizes
Prisoners while the former does not (a common orthographical peculiarity of 18th-century writing was the capitalization, seemingly without rhyme or reason, of apparently random words).

Also, the former ends the excerpt on a full stop period (contained within the final quotation mark), whereas the latter ends the excerpt on a comma, with the conclusion to the sentence following.

Finally, the former contains a little problem in the words of Melvin E. Lee
the secondary (or, rather, the quaternary) source: he describes the object of the attack and enslavement by Muslims as all Christians. Where is Lee getting this from? From the original wording of the primary source presented by Paul L. Ford? Or from the representation of that wording by Frank Lambert? This is important because it presents a significant divergence from the quote as bandied about the Blogosphere and as reported by my 19th-century secondary source, where the object in both of those versions is all nations which have not acknowledged Islamthough here, both of those versions also have variances in wording on describing this: 

1) all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority (where their refers back in the sentence to the Laws of their Prophet and the Koran)

2) all nations which had not acknowledged the Prophet.

Some may think a further problem I have noticed constitutes excessive quibbling on my part, but when it comes to adequate referencing of sources, a scrupulous attention to detail is de rigueur. In light of this, Melvin E. Lees citation in his footnote #11 contains an extra single quotation mark. I here reproduce it again:

Thomas Jefferson, "‘The American Commissioners' Report to John Jay," in Paul L. Ford, ed., The Works of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 9 (New York and London: G.P. Putnams Sons, 1904-5), p. 358; quoted in Lambert, The Barbary Wars, p. 116.

The single quote mark comes just before the third word, The, following Thomas Jefferson, and just after the opening double quote mark which the reader logically assumesand can see for himselfis resolved by its closing double quote mark at the end of John Jay. To what, then does the opening single quote mark refer? And where is its closing single quote mark to contain what it is referring to? It cannot be the apostrophe at the end of the word Commissioners since that is, indeed, an apostrophe denoting the possessive form of the word Commissioners, and not a single quote mark. This sort of discrepancy, however minute it may seem to the reader, is important in that it exposes a potential inaccuracy in the citation itself, which poses a problem of accuracy more generally.

Bottom Line:

Today
s article by Raymond Ibrahim only compounds the problem I had noticed and analyzed in my previous essay. Such an exacerbation is to be expected when no one has bothered to pin down the primary source and make it available online. Again, in this case, it would be relatively easy to do so.

When I hear back from my local college library, and I learn that the work in question is at my local college library, I will go there and check it for myself. It is possible that it is not available there, but at some other library further away from me, which will present more inconvenience for me. Others in the still inchoate anti-Islam movement who travel more than I do (such as Robert Spencer who regularly goes to college campuses and could take 30-60 minutes out of his schedule one day to pin down this reference) and/or who have immediate easy access to major library systems (such as Raymond Ibrahim, currently a grad student at a school in the Washington, D.C. areaCatholic University, which surely would have a superb library containing the primary source in questionand who furthermore has worked in the Library of Congress himself and doubtless has access there) have a greater facility and higher responsibility than me to do this basic and important task. Andrew Bostom who has made it his lifes work to collect, edit and present primary sources on the problem of Islam, is another one that could be adduced in this same regard. Many others come to mind as well, such as Daniel Pipes or Hugh Fitzgerald (who often drops hints about his travels and his access to obscure libraries and scholarly bookstores in various parts of the world).

But I suppose it will have to devolve upon mea relatively obscure nobody in the Blogospheric anti-Islam movement in pursuit of his hobbyhorse at which Robert Spencer and Hugh Fitzgerald have arrogantly and snidely turned their sneering nosesto finally pinpoint the proper reference to this important little gem of a quote which has become so often used by so many in the still inchoate anti-Islam movement. Will I get a nod of thanks by any of the aforementioned for my trouble? Let us wait and see, though I wont be holding my breath.

Update:  

For a happy ending to the frustrating convolutions articulated above, see my subsequent essay, I Struck Gold! Second Addendum to Primary Sources 101.

17 comments:

Kab-bin-Ashraf said...

Hesp,

You're right. Islam critics generally are too lax in regards to providing primary sources. (This is less of an issue with the Quran and the main Sunni Hadith collections, which are widely available online). Perceived credibility is a major issue for Islam critics, and providing references to primary sources (wherever possible or feasible) is one out of a list of ingredients for a convincing presentation. It is also a basic requirement of scholarship.

Recently, regarding the issue of the Taliban's denying of girls' and womens' education, which Raymond Ibrahim claimed in an editorial comment was based on sharia, the critic (Ibrahim) failed to provide any reference at all. I believed his claim was suspect, because I don't believe the Quran and Hadith are clear on this issue, and my impression from what I had read was that those texts are more readily interpreted as favouring education of women. Women/girls are not actually forbidden from getting an education, as far as I'm aware, in those sources. The issue then turns to interpretations in Islamic jurisprudence, which again Ibrahim failed to provide when I asked him directly by email (he did not respond). In any case, contra the Taliban, I am not aware of any Islamic jurisprudence that says that women/girls should not be educated. I have investigated this issue a popular sites such as Islam q and a, and others, and have not found anything that would support the Taliban policy. If there's nothing direct in jurisprudence, could there be an indirect justification, reasoning from larger principles, e.g., the Taliban might reason that if women and girls stay home and are not educated, they will be more useful for the demographic jihad. However, I did not find anything like this, and, as I said, Ibrahim did not respond. Moreover, in the realm of Islamic apologetics, there is plenty of evidence cited to suggest that women/girls should be educated.

I also encountered a bizarre situation a couple of months ago when a fellow poster, who has been posting at JihadWatch at least as long as I have (i.e., at least four years), accused me of being a Muslim who had done "reprehensible" things. That accusation was in response to my constructive criticism of how some other Islam critics were dealing with the "Moderate Muslim beheads his wife" story. I pointed out that the Islamic justification for this act, apart from the obvious Islamic symbolism of the beheading itself, had no direct basis in the Islamic texts. I added that at best our prosecution of Islam in this case would be of an indirect kind, dealing with attitudes and atmospherics, rather than one of showing direct scriptural allowance for the ghastly act. The long-time JW poster refused to apologize or retract her wildly false allegations against me, and went on about how Islam is bad for women, as if we didn't already know that.

There seems to be a lack of rigor, and in some cases even an antipathy towards attempts at scholarly rigor, coupled with a widespread anti-intellectualism (or anti-academia generally), among the anti-Islam readership. We can list along with this the failure generally to address all of the various popular claims of the apologists (e.g., such as would be handled in the Handbook), and of course the long-standing unaddressed problem of up-to-date Islamic jurisprudence for "all the schools."

Erich said...

Yes, there are many facets to this problem, and you've identified a few. About the hadiths and tafsirs, I have noted this before: the state of textual citation in Islamic texts outside of the Koran seems to me to be in a state of chaos, or else of some kind of complexity I can't comprehend. Just to take one example, I have seen different references to supposedly the same Bukhari hadith with wildly different numbering systems which I cannot figure out.

Closely related to this, the publication referencing system of Third World books in general suffer from a lack of uniformity, and many books have insufficient publication information stamped on them or on any of the introductory pages. What Western order has been applied to them remains incomplete and often the province of the dusty scholar whose own editing efforts remain difficult for lay persons to access, not to mention are sometimes in a foreign language (German, Italian, Russian, etc.) one doesn't know.

Thus, more often than not it seems, when anti-Islam writers reference their "proofs", they seem to have recourse not to primary sources, but simply to other secondary or tertiary sources that themselves have been passing along the "proofs" -- on a seemingly endless sucession of derivative sources, with no one actually having the primary source nailed down.

Then there is the recurring problem of the current Islamic jurists which Spencer and Ibrahim can't seem to locate, at least beyond a mere handful like Qaradawi and Tantawi. This reflects a broader phenomenon I think of a complexity of Islamic legal society which needs to be analyzed and organized conceptually by us, so that we can better pinpoint what legal opinions are being supported in a relatively representative sense, and what ones are not. (Part of this reflects a peculiar quality of Islamic culture itself, whereby what would be contradictory to Westerners seems workable among Muslims -- to wit, of a simultaneous co-existence of disorganized disagreement and ability to unify.)

This is another facet to the problem of extrapolating from a tiny handful of "extremists" to a broader swath of Muslims. Many persuasive indications can be adduced that would lead a reasonable person to make that extrapolation; but the point is, we need more evidence than that, because sufficient wiggle room of ambiguity and lack of evidence -- in addition to lots of seemingly contra-indicating evidence of Muslims even in various parts of the Muslim world apparently engaged in a vibrant and free exchange of ideas and "reform", etc. -- remains to give an out to those who remain unpersuaded.

As for the Taliban and girls' schools, Thai Muslims have also been burning girls' schools. There must be something Islamic that leads these groups to do this so zealously and so often. A related issue is that most education in the Muslim world is Western, reflecting the imposition/introduction of Western institutions and systems over the past 300 years as the West increasingly "intruded" on the Muslim world through Colonialism up to the middle of the 20th century, and continued after that in the form of "influence" whether charitable or neo-Wilsonian or as part of building alliances in the Cold War. I doubt that there was any kind of purely Islamic education for females in Muslim societies prior to the massive influx of the West into various parts of the Muslim world beginning in the 18th century. If I'm right, then perhaps the concept of female education can be argued by some Muslims to be permitted or even encouraged, but there must have been a reason why there was none before the West introduced it to the Muslim world. Whenever Muslims do, or don't do something on a relatively mass scale, it has Islamic reasons rooted in the Sunna. The Sunna is an ocean of data, and just because you haven't found anything to indicate a formal hostility to female education, doesn't mean it's not there.

On the "moderate beheader" thread, I went into February archives, and both threads pertaining to that issue had zero comments. Have they been wiped clean?

Nobody said...

Erich

If you look at older threads that had comments under the old Typekey system, then the number of comments they have show (0) for one reasons: they have zero Instant-Debate based comments. The number of Typekey comments is NOT what they now show.

So go to whichever thread you like, and just click on the article. You'll see the comments as they were under Typekey.

Erich said...

Nobody,

I know about the "zero comments" problem with InstantDebate. This seems to be a different problem.

"So go to whichever thread you like, and just click on the article."

Problem is:

The only way I can see to get to that "moderate beheader" article from February is to go to February archives.

When I open up February archives, I get all the articles from February.

When I scroll down to the "moderate beheader" article, there are only two ways to open up the article:

1) clicking on the time stamp

2) clicking on "comments".

#1 only gives you the article, without the comments.

#2 should give you both the article and the comments. However, when I do this in this case, I get no comments, but instead only the message --

"You are the first to comment! Leave your comment here".

Kab-bin-Ashraf said...

Hesp,

Re the "moderate beheading" thread in question, if you search my comments stream on Intense Debate (KhaybarOasis_II)--go to about six or seven weeks ago--you'll see the comments that I referred to. Clicking on them should lead you to the thread; it worked for me just before I posted my previous comment here.

You note:
"The Sunna is an ocean of data, and just because you haven't found anything to indicate a formal hostility to female education, doesn't mean it's not there."

Right, but I'm not suggesting I've firmly concluded that. Rather, to be clear, I'm citing a variety of reasons for suspecting that there is not a clear basis for a mainstream-accepted prohibition on females' education. It appears it is only a small number of extremist groups that practice this policy of literally destroying girls' schools. That's partly why, when I asked Ibrahim, I asked whether this was a mainstream-accepted policy in jurisprudence or a minority opinion. (I did not assume that Ibrahim was flatly wrong about this policy being part of sharia; there are all kinds of bizarre crack-pot ideas in sharia, and some of them are mainstream and others are not). For all of the anti-Islam articles I've read over the past several years, I've never seen anyone show that there is a clear and mainstream policy of not educating girls.

Both Saudi Arabia (Sunni) and Iran (Shia) have girls and women in schools, and both of those countries make no apologies about implementing strict Islamic policies based on the Quran and Muhammad's policies. Saudi Arabia, of any country, has arguably the most comprehensive implementation of sharia. What do the Taliban know that the scholars and jurists in Saudi Arabia and Iran do not?

I would suppose that there might be a few ahadith here and there that might be hostile to females' education (I haven't seen them), but I've read enough on the subject to conclude that there is a lot of material there supporting female education. There are also numerous female scholars in Islamic history (overall, they are in the minority of course, which is probably true of non-Islamic societies throughout history also).

That the Taliban and other groups are hostile to Western influences in education does not explain why they seem to focus on destroying not-sufficiently-Islamic girls' schools, rather than destroying all not-sufficiently-Islamic schools.

Erich said...

Kab,

I did as you instructed, but it still didn't work.

I found your comments to that other chatter within your IntenseDebate area, then I clicked on the link the comment was quoted from (the article on Bill O'Reilly talking about the Muslim who beheaded his wife) -- but it took me to the article and a blank comments field, and saying "There are no comments posted yet. Be the first one!"

Erich said...

Kab,

I pieced together the "conversation" between you and that chatter, by searching for her comments separately.

I don't know that chatter very well, but she may not realize that you have different names and may not know you're the same person she knows you as otherwise.

Her comments in that thread were rather emotional and reflected, let us say, a "gestalt" kind of anti-Islam posture. I think on one level, she is right (not about you being "reprehensible" of course): our being anti-Islam cannot be reduced to facts, for the simple reason that we can never have a sufficient quantity and quality of facts to substantiate a holistic condemnation of Islam and all Muslims. And yet, for those of us who have digested a sufficiently disturbing amount of information about Islam, our reason and our apperception connects the many lines where dots of data are missing. To do otherwise in the spirit of obstructing such rational apperception anytime there is insufficient data will tend to reinforce the resistance to the holistic condemnation of Islam. I don't want my civilization to wait until it's too late, and Muslims escalate to the point where mayhem and massacres break out in a general sense, particularly with the added danger of various types of WMDs. We will have to wait, however, if we continue to insist on factual proof that such an escalation might happen.

I think that female chatter has a sound intuitive grasp of one moeity of Islamic ethics which perhaps you, in your insistence on grounding in facts, are missing: while Islam has a complex jungle of do's and don'ts that seem rule-oriented, there is behind that jungle a more basic volitional vortex of elemental hate and lust and fanaticism which is really the soul of that jungle of rules, and can take precedence at any given moment as the true righteousness to be pursued. Whether or not one can find and adduce any number of clerics or fiqhs that in specific circumstances may or may not rule against specific actions, this is only one half of what is going on in Islam. One Muslim follows the rules, and doesn't beheada his wife who is disrespecting him as the Muslim man of the house. Another Muslim does. Both are part of the Family: good cop / bad cop. The larger picture is the reality, not the smaller picture you are focusing on by looking at the rules of the "good cop" Muslims.

If this half which you are focusing on were the whole, we would not be able to explain the mountain of grotesquely ghoulish and powerfully, massively evil behaviors throughout the centuries in a multitude of different lands from the Pacific to the Atlantic which Muslims have committed as Muslims living out their Islam. The evil of Islam, both quantitatively and qualitatively, surpasses the legal-ethical system if we look at it as Westerners regard a system of rules. It is not merely a body of rules: it is the symptom of a mass disease that itself is a paradoxical psycho-socio-cultural welter of egotistical self-hatred, hatred of the world, hatred of God, hatred of humanity, rabid obsessiveness with purity, lust for sex, money and power; pathological indulgence in violence; and so forth.

In sum, our survival depends upon grasping this whole, and preparing for it, and hopefully working to put policies into place to prevent Muslims from escalating.

Kab-bin-Ashraf said...

Hesp,

I think you are making errors of comprehension similar to those made by Isabella, though I am of course relieved that you stop short of calling me a secret Muslim. Part of the problem in persuasion is that there are some Islam critics who think that facts don't matter and that they can say whatever they want. This damages the Islam criticism project more broadly, because those who still need to be convinced will see that the apologists in some instances actually have a stronger case. This is very damaging, because the major episodes in which we have a chance to reach this still-to-be-convinced audience are few and far between, and they should not be squandered with shoddy or non-existent scholarship, wild and baseless claims, claims easily shown by apologists to be false, and so on.

Here is my original post:

START:

O'REILLY: "First of all, these are honor killings. This Buffalo, New York, thing where a Muslim man is insulted by the woman. She commits adultery. She divorces, whatever. He has the right to kill her. Is this widely accepted in the Muslim world? You know, do moderate Muslims believe this?"

PERLMUTTER: "Absolutely. This is ingrained in rights of purity, in ideas about the afterlife. A lot of what has to do when somebody is disrespected or dishonored by her filing for divorce, he has to restore his honor through blood vengeance, and it becomes a symbolic act..."

[KhaybarOasis comments]
I think it's quite an exaggeration to say "moderate Muslims" believe that the husband has the right to kill the wife in such circumstances, though "honour" killing is widely-accepted in the Muslim world. Some Muslims might say, in accordance with sharia, if she (the wife) committed a major sin-crime such as adultery, apostasy, blasphemy, etc., then he (the husband) would be absolved of guilt for killing her. In addition, some Islamic countries allow for reductions in penalties for such "honour" killings. I think Robert and Daniel Pipes have been fairly responsible in their coverage of this case so far in regards to the "honour" killing and Islamic aspects. Perlmutter goes too far and doesn't back up her claims by citing the appropriate texts (e.g., Quran, Hadith, Sira, fiqh, laws in Muslim countries, etc.). We don't yet know enough about the case to determine if the wife was Islamically "guilty" of anything, so it is difficult to know if there was clear and direct Islamic "justification" for this murder.

Perlmutter is undoubtedly correct about the Islamic symbolism of beheading. However, if there is no direct Islamic justification for the killing, the case becomes rather weak and indirect in terms of attributing blame to Islam. It then becomes a matter of prosecuting Islam on the attitudes and "atmospherics" that it fosters among its adherents. One cannot overlook the obvious Islamic influences here, such as the attitudes toward wife-beating and the beheading. I do believe that this was an "honour" killing.

Unless Aayisa was "guilty" of a major sin-crime (such as I listed above), there is strictly no clear and direct Islamic basis for this killing. On the contrary, there is a strong case to be made, from the apologist's side, that Islam forbids this. (It is forbidden to kill a Muslim, Muslim women can seek a divorce if the husband is mistreating them, and in some hadiths and fiqh it is forbidden for a Muslim man to beat his wife severely or to the point of causing bruises and he is not permitted to hit her in the face).

END

That obviously doesn't mean we shouldn't criticize it, nor should we refrain from criticizing the obvious abuses and excesses that such a rule would tend to promote. My point is that we need to be accurate and appropriate in our criticisms. We also need to address the arguments which apologists are likely to raise.

In any case, I stand by everything in the above post. If you can point to a single inaccuracy in the post, please do. If you or Isabella have trouble with these facts, don't blame the messenger. Just find a more competent and credible way to criticize Islam.

You wrote:
"I think on one level, she is right (not about you being "reprehensible" of course): I don't know that chatter very well, but she may not realize that you have different names and may not know you're the same person she knows you as otherwise."

The name KhaybarOasis_II would be familiar to long-time regular readers of the comments section and reference to my most recent previous names (including Kinana and Khaybar Oasis) is shown when you pass the cursor over my avatar. Anyone who's used the Intense Debate system, as long as Isabella had by that point, would probably know that. She had plenty of time after my responses to apologize and retract her unsubstantiated and wild allegations, but she failed to do so in her subsequent posts. The initial allegation may indeed have been a mistake and an overreaction. Her subsequent refusals to apologize are more difficult to justify.

We cannot have posters running around hysterical accusing other Islam critics of being secret Muslims (and having done "reprehensible things" etc) whenever they cite limitations in our arguments or cite strong arguments that are sometimes available for the apologist side. My post was clearly meant in the spirit of constructive criticism.

you wrote:
"our being anti-Islam cannot be reduced to facts, for the simple reason that we can never have a sufficient quantity and quality of facts to substantiate a holistic condemnation of Islam and all Muslims."

If that were the basis for her response, then she would be attacking Robert Spencer and calling him a Muslim who had done "reprehensible things" long before she ever did that to me!

The case against Islam arises from a moral response to facts about Islam. We have a sufficient quantity of facts to support the realization that Islam poses a major problem for non-Muslim civilizations. We need to continue alerting people to those facts and help them connect the dots. However, we are not going to prove that "all Muslims" need to be condemned because this is not adequately supported by the facts and is not adequately justified. Some Muslims are doing far more to oppose sharia than either you or I are, for example. I will of course criticize anyone, Muslim or not, who engages in untrue apologetics about Islam. (I will also criticize Islam critics when they make erroneous or weak claims).

You wrote
"I think that female chatter has a sound intuitive grasp of one moeity of Islamic ethics"

The point is not about what she grasps or doesn't grasp about Islam. It's about what she grasps or doesn't grasp in my post. The point is she doesn't recognize constructive criticism when she sees it. More than the comprehension failure, she goes off on a bizarre and unjustified rant where she accuses me of all manner of things. To top it off, she refuses to apologize for having made vicious and unsupported allegations.

You continued
"...which perhaps you, in your insistence on grounding in facts, are missing: while Islam has a complex jungle of do's and don'ts that seem rule-oriented, there is behind that jungle a more basic volitional vortex of elemental hate and lust and fanaticism which is really the soul of that jungle of rules, and can take precedence at any given moment as the true righteousness to be pursued."

You are missing the fact that I pointed this essential point out in my initial post, e.g., see "attitudes and atmospherics" (a long-term reader of JW should know what that phrase from Hugh Fitzgerald means). Also see what I've written to you previously regarding Islam as a system, and so on. I've discussed this previously in my file on Islam's goal, and I've discussed this previously in terms the role of the hell-fire penalty, the hatred toward non-Muslims (promoted even in the so-called peaceful Meccan phase, as I've shown you) and so on. It seems you did not recall what I've written to you, or at least you did not have that in mind when you wrote what you wrote above.

Erich said...

Kab,

I didn't intend my defense of Isabella's "gestalt apperception" of the problem of Islam to promiscuously include an indiscriminate defense of sloppy scholarship/journalism. For the record, I believe these two can be distinct areas in which anti-Islam people can operate, and I believe both are important, though I recognize some difficulties where the two might collide and/or interfere with one another.

I would thus fault Isabella for not showing sufficient concern for the one (good scholarship/journalism), while also faulting you for not showing sufficient signs of adhering to the other (the gestalt apperception of the organic whole that transcends the particulars). My last comment pretty much only concentrated on the latter, and failed to put in a mention of the former, giving the impression of a lopsided position on my part.

While I am aware of your strong anti-Islam stance as you outlined in your closing paragraph, it seems that you restrict yourself to only condemning what can be ascertained to be a condemnable fact, and only extrapolating from a web of facts to a transcendental phenomenon (using "transcendental" here in the sense of something being "more than the sum of its parts") when you are comfortable the facts warrant it -- with the precise problem here being that your comfort zone in this regard in my estimation has too high of a threshhold. I think I understand your rationale and your respect for proceeding at all points scientifically; however, at some point, after one has been surveying and digesting the mountain of data about Islam, one undergoes a transition from the quantitative to the qualitative, which then makes one more sensitive, attuned to, and perceptive of, the qualitative aspects of the data one has been surveying and digesting. In this qualitative transition, one has an epiphany of the gestalt of Islam: it is more than a mere culture which may be sociologically organized and conceptually understood according to all the data we can gather about it. It is a psycho-social vortex of a paradoxical fusion of puritanical fanaticism (hence, the 1,001 rules that seem obsessed with goodness) and satanic hatred of goodness (the "more than the sum of parts" aspect).

Now, with regard to tactical conduct in the anti-Islam movement, I agree with you that in certain situations, Isabella's attitude can be injurious to our ongoing concerns at rhetorical persuasion. I'm not sure that that particular comments field was one of them, however. You might be missing the somewhat larger picture: an on-the-fence visitor to that field would see both her comments and yours, and they would thus see a typical "bigot" in her post, but then also would see in yours a person who simultaneously shows discriminating intelligence and yet is anti-Islam. The combined spectacle might even enhance the effectiveness of your approach in the semi-conscious assimilation of that reader, as he veers away from Isabella and warms toward you.

And I meant to mention that of course I agree that Isabella owes you an apology; though I think she was not being lucidly vicious, but rather lazy. You may think all readers have all the various commenters and their names and their histories at their fingertips, but most people are either too lazy or have sloppy memories about these things to be cognizant of such fine details.

Secondly, I have this hunch that this "Isabella" may not be the same "Isabella" that was commenting 3 years ago on JW. That is a far more common nickname than, say, "Hesperado" or "Kab-bin-Ashraf"...

On another level, though, I stand by my defense of Isabella's posture in this sense:

1) our still small but growing anti-Islam movement will not be made up of a majority of scholars or journalists, but of mostly ordinary people

2) the measures we need to take against Muslims are more comprehensive and sweeping than any collection of facts can warrant -- even to a mind relatively free of PC MC, let alone to the majority who are to one degree or another influenced by PC MC. Sticking to a case based exclusively on facts, we will remain more or less at a level of treating Islam and Muslims the same as we treat other bouts of ordinary criminality.

3) The intuitive grasp of ordinary people like Isabella is what is needed by the anti-Islam movement on a large scale. Most people in the coming decades who wake up to the problem of Islam will wake up in terms of the intuitive grasp, not in terms of nailing everything down with appropriate references to texts and news stories. Of course, the intuitive grasp depends to a great extent on the assimilation of various horrible facts about Islam. But many PC MC people acknowledge horrible facts about Islam, but refuse to extrapolate from that to a more comprehensive condemnation of Islam itself and all Muslims who by virtue not only of their active participation in Islam but also of their passive enablement of it, are concretizing the danger of Islam. They refuse to extrapolate because the facts don't warrant it; and they are correct.

To take one example of the kind of horror Muslims present, consider this report by Oriana Fallaci of what she and a couple of other European journalists witnessed in Bangladesh. I will enumerate the relevant details first:

1) it took place at an open-air stadium with approximately 20,000 Muslims, many women

2) the spectacle put on for the 20,000 was the public execution of 12 "traitors" to Islam

3) right at the moment the 12 were executed, a little boy ran up to try to save one of them (who was apparently a family relation), and the men who had executed the 12 "smashed his head with their combat boots".

4) Then Fallaci says, this is not the horrible part. What happened next was the horrible part:

"at the conclusion of the slaughter, the twenty thousand faithful (many of whom were women) left the bleachers and went down on the field. Not as a disorganized mob, no. In an orderly manner, with solemnity. They slowly formed a line and, again in the name of God, walked over the cadavers. All the while thundering Allah–akbar, Allah–akbar. They destroyed them like the Twin Towers of New York. They reduced them to a bleeding carpet of smashed bones."

http://italian.about.com/library/fallaci/blfallaci15.htm

Now, this kind of grotesquely ghoulish satanic mass behavior by 20,000 people cannot be explained by recourse to all the texts in the world. There is some hideous reality beyond the mere sum of parts going on here. And there are thousands of similar examples of various flavors of the grotesquely ghoulish and satanically horrific that Muslims have been doing over the past 1400 years right into our present.

It is this "something more" that Isabella and her gut is noticing, digesting, morally recoiling from, and appropriately girding her loins to condemn and stop in any way she possibly can. Without this kind of "rage and passion" of ordinary people, we will not be able to stop Muslims from doing the horrific damage and mayhem they desire to do over the coming decades.

As I said above, I don't deny that these two levels, these two approaches, may in some instances conflict and cause problems, and that the gestalt approach can sometimes interfere with the scientific approach. But that is different from erecting a principle whereby the gestalt approach should never be used on the basis that it will somehow always conflict with the scientific approach, and/or that it has no merit anyway because it is too "emotional" or too "poetic" or "mystical" etc.

Kab-bin-Ashraf said...

Hesp,

I regret that I must address this again, given that it is off-topic for the thread, and dealt initially with an annoyance that I mentioned in passing regarding an aspect of the comments section at JW, namely way-below-adequate attention to accuracy and truth and so on.

It's Isabella's refusal to apologize and retract the false allegations that is the issue, gestalts or not. Someone who is committed to truth and accuracy would have admitted the egregious mistake and would have apologized and retracted the claims.

The issues you are raising are not relevant to the point, and in any case you raise a false dichotomy between accuracy and gestalt, besides the fact that I get the "gestalt" and nothing in my JW post, to which Isabella responded, suggests otherwise. As I said, "attitudes and atmospherics" ought to cover it, though I said more than that.

My point in the initial JW post was that Perlmutter's claim was inaccurate and unsubstantiated (and O'Reilly's muddled and confused question to her didn't help) and could be easily countered by apologists. By making that point, I am not denying that gestalt is important. Accuracy and gestalt are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, inaccuracy can affect gestalt perception, such that readers might get certain other overall impressions (or gestalts) reading the comments section at JW.

Anyways, to return to the source of my annoyance, here is what Isabella wrote in reply to my post (or, apparently, only to the very last part of my post):

START (bolding added)

"...and in some hadiths and fiqh it is forbidden for a Muslim man to beat his wife severely or to the point of causing bruises and he is not permitted to hit her in the face."

Beat
   
1. to strike violently or forcefully and repeatedly.

Its so funny that you guys actually think you can talk your way out of your reprehensible behavior, especially since the evidence becomes more and more glaringly obvious. What a comfort it must be that you have degrees and specific guidelines for beating, but I should think that has more to do with hiding your guilt than elevating you on your spiritual journey. Yeah, don't hit her in the face, unless of course you can threaten her with some religious mandate to not go outside in which case you can wail on her to your heart's content because no one will ever know the difference.

When you feel ashamed, beat your wife. If you can't control yourself sexually and you assault a woman, denounce her to get rid of your shame. If you feel embarrassed because your sister likes a boy, kill her and cleanse your honor. I don't know; it doesn't look like its the women who have the problem but rather their cowardly Muslim male counterparts. How unfortunate for humanity that the ones with the biggest insecurities also have the biggest fists."

END

For someone to accuse me of all these atrocious things, and then ignore my polite request for an apology and retraction, does indicate something rather disturbing about this individual. I place a high value on truth and accuracy. If I make a mistake, I apologize--and I have done so on JW at least a few times that I can recall. It seems that Isabella tried to avoid responsibility for these vicious and fraudulent charges by returning to her railing about how bad Islam is for women, instead of addressing the subsequent post wherein I ask for an apology. As I said above (in this thread at Hesperado) though, we (the majority of people in the comment section at JW) already know that Islam is bad for women, and nothing of what she cited refutes anything in my post.

Yes, Isabella is very probably the same as Isabella the Crusader from the pre-Intense Debate era, because she lists that on her avatar information, along with other information that matches her previous identity. Avatar information is, as I said, easy to find, particularly for someone who has used that feature. Not, of course, that that is a crucial point.

Erich said...

Kab,

I think your last post clarified most of the things about which we seemed to disagree.

There's still a nagging sense about one thing that I get, though, from reading and re-reading your quote from your comment to Isabella.

I think it derives from your first sentence:

"I think it's quite an exaggeration to say "moderate Muslims" believe that the husband has the right to kill the wife in such circumstances..."

While you're right that it is an exaggeration, your corrective -- by adducing only the facts of texts, the laws of some countries, and what some Muslims say -- implies that you have an alternate knowledge of the beliefs of moderate Muslims, that those beliefs are knowable through the textual/legal side of Islam which is only knowable through the relevant data, and that this alternate knowledge is the more correct one.

Thus, I don't think you sufficiently clarified right at the beginning that what Muslims "believe" is not the proper issue here, since no one can know what they believe collectively (or even individually), but rather the issue is their teachings and their behavior. Unless one wants to bring up the "gestalt"/"atmospherics" aspect. However, in thus delimiting the issue as you seemed to do, your implication -- that you were not correcting Perlmutter on the point of knowing what Muslims "believe" but rather that you were saying his characterization of what they "believe" is untenable and that you have a better way to know what they "believe" -- gave me the impression of expanding the area of facts into being able to pronounce upon, or even define, the area of the "gestalt" or "atmospherics".

I suppose I am not now faulting you for adhering to this position as I characterize it, but merely for your wording which conveyed an ambiguity about this -- since in your last comment you seemed to clarify that you do agree with the "gestalt" aspect as well, and with its distinction from the scientific aspect (though I still have the nagging sense that you don't fully agree with it as I have exposited it).

As for Isabella's conduct with regard to a) thinking you were a Muslim and b) ignoring your request for an apology: either she is a sloppy, lazy and irresponsible Internaut, or she is psychotic. I doubt the latter is the case; but I think you underestimate the commonality and relative normalcy of the former among Internauts. She obviously thought you were a Muslim, so all her phrases which you bolded flow from that mistake -- which again seem based in her sloppy, lazy and irresponsible comportment in the forum. Example, maybe she never read your request for an apology; maybe she had decided to ignore your subsequent comments. Maybe she did read it, but felt too sheepish to admit her mistake. Etc. I doubt she was saying you are tantamount to a Muslim while knowing you are not.

Kab-bin-Ashraf said...

Hesp,

"but I think you underestimate the commonality and relative normalcy of the former among Internauts"

On the contrary, I'm well aware of the problem, and I think we can reduce it by not tolerating it. Besides, the fact that something occurs often or normally does not make it less objectionable; indeed, its commonality makes it a bigger concern than it would be if it were rarer.

Since Isabella did not apologize, I basically dropped the issue some time ago. Hence it is tedious to go through this now, but in the interests of clarity I will try to address some minor issues.

A few minor corrections to your previous post:

"his characterization"

Perlmutter is a she (not that that's relevant to what we're discussing).

"your comment to Isabella"

My initial post (i.e., where I comment on O'Reilly and Perlmutter and the case generally) was a response to the main article, not to Isabella. I didn't address Isabella until she made the accusations against me, and there (I used the Reply button in response to her specifically) I only addressed her accusations.

"maybe she never read your request for an apology;"

That's unlikely. She did not use the Reply button for any of her responses to me, but it is clear enough that she was responding to me because she addressed me directly ("Khabar"), and included direct phrasing such as "no evidence" and so on. For whatever reasons, she did not apologize at that point. I therefore made explicit my request for an apology in my next post (again, replying to her directly by name). After that, she added a follow-up post attacking the notion of moderate Muslims, which referenced back to my initial post, i.e., seemingly going out of her way to avoid addressing my request for an apology.

"Maybe she did read it, but felt too sheepish to admit her mistake."

Isabella (the Crusader) in her writings does not come across as someone who would be sheepish. (Not that sheepishness is an excuse for not apologizing to someone after falsely accusing them of serious criminal and immoral actions). Anyone might feel stubbornness or reluctance to apologize, but that is not really an acceptable excuse for not apologizing in this case. Those were every serious allegations, and my only protection was that I used a pseudonym.

"While you're right that it is an exaggeration, your corrective -- by adducing only the facts of texts, the laws of some countries, and what some Muslims say -- implies that you have an alternate knowledge of the beliefs of moderate Muslims, that those beliefs are knowable through the textual/legal side of Islam which is only knowable through the relevant data, and that this alternate knowledge is the more correct one."

I didn't actually provide the basis for a corrective to the notion that "moderate Muslims" think it's okay for Muslim males to behead their ex-wives. That would require (a) poll and survey results, and other results, to determine what Muslims believe about killing ex-wives, and (b) (i) some method to determine who are moderate Muslims and (ii) what percentage of them believe that it's okay to kill ex-wives. I was certainly not going to get into all of that in my post. It was enough to point out, explicitly putting the notion of "moderate Muslims" in scare quotes, that saying that beheading an ex-wife is an okay thing to do in the eyes of (not simply Muslims or radical Muslims) but "moderate Muslims" is quite an exaggeration. However problematic the phrase "moderate Muslim" may be, it is reasonable to conclude that a reasonable definition of "moderate Muslim" would exclude those who think it's okay to behead their ex-wives. If that's a valid assumption, then my calling Perlmutter's response "quite an exaggeration" is an understatement. More importantly, it comes across as incredible when presented to a mainstream audience.

I did not address the complex issue of what constitutes a moderate Muslim (beyond putting scare quotes around it--which is admittedly ambiguous) or how many of them there are, and so on, because I wanted to move on to the issue of whether Islam itself, either in its letter or in its "attitudes and atmospherics," actually supports beheading ex-wives. I judged that in a case of (a) indirect "attitudes and atmospherics" versus (b) direct mainstream textual and legal support or non-support, the latter would be support the stronger and clearer case, and hence we would have to proceed with caution in how we handled this case. Obviously, it would be damaging to the credibility of Islam critics to say that Islam supports beheading ex-wives, when apologists would be able to easily counter that. We would end up looking like a bunch of ignoramuses, and in a game where credibility is crucial, that would be damaging to the public perception of Islam critics more broadly.

My view on the "moderate beheading" case, then, is that it would have been better to for the most part let the headlines speak for themselves and add some points about attitudes and atmospherics, and addressing the apologetic points. It is difficult to overstate the irony, absurdity, and evil of the "moderate beheading" case. It is a case that can communicate the combination of horror and absurdity that is the essence of Islam. Not much in the way of editorial comment is necessary, except to make sure that the apologist claims are addressed. It is the credibility of Muslim apologists that should be under the microscope in this case, not the credibility of Islam critics.

I suspect that when O'Reilly threw in the part about moderate Muslims into his already confused question, he was probably using the usual mainstream media practice of giving the expert the obvious chance to say that moderate Muslims do not believe (or support) the example of atrocious behavior in question. Pelmutter was then put on the spot and had to answer, though it would have been practically impossible for her to untangle and sort out O'Reilly's question (which was really several questions mixed in one).

Erich said...

Just one point for now until later:

"Obviously, it would be damaging to the credibility of Islam critics to say that Islam supports beheading ex-wives, when apologists would be able to easily counter that..."

First, a corrective emendation of your wording in this context:

"Obviously, it would be damaging to the credibility of Islam critics to say that Muslims ("moderate" or otherwise) believe in beheading rebellious ex-wives, when apologists would be able to easily counter that..."

Where I corrected your "Islam" for the contextual "Muslim" and your "support" for the contextual "believe" -- where the context is Perlmutter's wording and implications and then your wording and implications to Perlmutter.

Secondly, apologists would not be able to easily counter that. Both sides are unable to definitively prove their claim about whether, or not, Muslims believe it's okay to kill their wives when those wives in some way "dishonor" them (or even show signs of apostasizing) and thus behead them as a mode of homicide preferred by Muslims. All that apologists can do in this case is appeal to the prevailing PC MC paradigm by which it is prejudicially assumed that

1) Muslims are innocent before proven guilty

and

2) any Muslims who act out atrocities of various kinds are not doing so Islamically but just as part of the general mush of crime statistics that every society has (and/or as a subset of that, the general problem of religious "extremism" that any religion has).

Your contribution to that discussion was to point out that scientifically (I use that term in the classical sense to denote a rational application of casuistic logic to any given problem, not just problems and questions delimited in modern times by the scope of natural sciences), the apologists have sufficient wiggle room for plausible deniability, while "atmospherically" (so to speak), we may be able to make a case but it would be difficult.

However, this only applies to the level of data -- perceived behavior, texts which may or may not motivate behavior, and expressions of opinion/belief garnered from statements and polls. It does not apply to the ability to make a definitive claim about "what Muslims believe". So, in countering the sloppily sweeping claim of Perlmutter -- which, again, pertains to "what Muslims believe" -- the apologists would have not appreciably a better case than she does. An absence of smoking-gun dots does not equal a positive of presence of definitively true exculpatory evidence. All that apologists can do in this circumstance is say, "It sure seems like most Muslims don't believe this -- I mean, look, they aren't going around beheading their wives by the millions!" And since they are not doing their apologetics in a neutral vacuum, but rather in a climate that is overwhelmingly supportive of their propaganda and overwhelmingly hostile to our agenda, this generates and perpetuates a major problem in the field of persuasion for our side.

Erich said...

Kab,

(Cont.)

"On the contrary, I'm well aware of the problem, and I think we can reduce it by not tolerating it."

Perhaps. My attitude is that it's like mosquitos in summer: they will always be there, one can minimize it here and there sometimes, but not much more than that. Certainly, if Spencer took a more aggressive stance (and also was more logical about disciminating between what he would punish and what he would let go unpunished), it would reduce it on JW. Case in point: if Spencer instituted a rule where if one commenter makes an egregious mistake in accusation of another (as Isabella did of you), she would be punished by being temporarily banned for a limited period, like 4 weeks, unless she apologizes to you in a public comment to your satisfaction -- that kind of thing.

"Besides, the fact that something occurs often or normally does not make it less objectionable; indeed, its commonality makes it a bigger concern than it would be if it were rarer."

It can remain objectionable, but realistically on the Internet in general, un-eradicable. One can always try to minimize it, of course, but I wouldn't hold out hope that that would have dramatic results, unless everyone who found that objectionable behaved Draconianly.

"maybe she never read your request for an apology;"

"That's unlikely."

I myself have on occasion ignored a notice that I have received a reply from someone. I don't think it's all that unlikely. And if she replied implicitly to one or more of your explicit replies to her, it doesn't follow that she could not have ignored ONE of your replies to her (i.e., the one in which you asked for an apology).

"Maybe she did read it, but felt too sheepish to admit her mistake."

"Isabella (the Crusader) in her writings does not come across as someone who would be sheepish."

A person can be aggressive about Islam, but be sheepish about admitting a mistake.

"(Not that sheepishness is an excuse for not apologizing to someone after falsely accusing them of serious criminal and immoral actions)."

Of course not, but it is an explanation for not uncommon behavior out there.

"Anyone might feel stubbornness or reluctance to apologize, but that is not really an acceptable excuse for not apologizing in this case. Those were every serious allegations, and my only protection was that I used a pseudonym."

I wasn't excusing her.

"While you're right that it is an exaggeration, your corrective -- by adducing only the facts of texts, the laws of some countries, and what some Muslims say -- implies that you have an alternate knowledge of the beliefs of moderate Muslims, that those beliefs are knowable through the textual/legal side of Islam which is only knowable through the relevant data, and that this alternate knowledge is the more correct one."

"I didn't actually provide the basis for a corrective to the notion that "moderate Muslims" think it's okay for Muslim males to behead their ex-wives."

I know: that's why I wrote "implies".

"It was enough to point out, explicitly putting the notion of "moderate Muslims" in scare quotes, that saying that beheading an ex-wife is an okay thing to do in the eyes of (not simply Muslims or radical Muslims) but "moderate Muslims" is quite an exaggeration."

Who knows what is "in the eyes" of Muslims. Neither side of this claim/counter-claim knows for sure. Again, you were countering his claim of knowing what's in the heads of Muslims with an implication that you know, from data -- which only yields external information (texts, behavior). What you should have said is that:

1) Perlmutter does not, and cannot, know what is in the heads of Muslims

2) all we can know is what the data seems to indicate, and what it seems to indicate is that Perlmutter might well be wrong;

however,

3) a consideration of the "atmospherics" of Islam on the other hand indicates that Perlmutter might be right on some level,

though,

4) that is far more difficult to prove.

(Perhaps to be continued...)

Kab-bin-Ashraf said...

Hesp,

I'm not sure what happened with my previous post...perhaps some problem with my browser...anyways...

You wrote:
"Where I corrected your "Islam""

Huh? I meant Islam.

Anyways, this discussion seems to be getting very overdrawn and over extended, initiated by a paragraph in my initial post which (the paragraph) was only marginally on topic. I find this discussion growing increasingly tedious, unproductive, and unimportant. You may indeed have some valid points in there, were I to read your last two posts over again in more detail, but in the larger perspective I see no net benefit (i.e., in weakening Islam or strengthening the West's defenses) in continuing my side of this discussion.

Erich said...

Kab,


:You wrote:
"Where I corrected your "Islam""

"Huh? I meant Islam."

In your statement --

"Obviously, it would be damaging to the credibility of Islam critics to say that Islam supports beheading ex-wives, when apologists would be able to easily counter that..."

I changed the second "Islam" in your statement to "Muslims". That should have been clear from my reproduction of the entire statement with my changes. My subsequent discussion on this neglected to add the plural "s" to "Muslim" -- that was obviously a typo, since my reproduction with my changes had "Muslims".

I may have explained too tersely why I made that change. I made that change because in your original argument in the comments thread we have been talking about, Perlmutter was not talking about "Islam", but about "Muslims" -- and your comment in response to Perlmutter was also talking about "Muslims". Therefore, that statement I feel should be emended to reflect that, to make it more precisely accurate re: our ongoing discussion here.

Erich said...

Kab,

"I find this discussion growing increasingly tedious, unproductive, and unimportant. You may indeed have some valid points in there, were I to read your last two posts over again in more detail, but in the larger perspective I see no net benefit (i.e., in weakening Islam or strengthening the West's defenses) in continuing my side of this discussion."

Getting one's p's and q's straight is never a waste of time. It is the very marrow of Western Civilization.