Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Buckley and Islam
Right up until his death in 2008, at the age of 82, William F. Buckley was still active as a sociopolitical intellectual and man of letters. As a solid conservative, one would have hoped that he'd have advanced on the learning curve out of the Islamnesia that has held most of the West in its thrall for a good couple of centuries, into the Islamorealism to which an open mind and the application of elementary reason will lead any Westerner who has not been markedly deformed by Leftism (a small minority, I say optimistically).
Regretfully, this is not the case. Buckley seemed to have been advancing along that curve at a tardigrade pace, numbed by the persisting effects of asymptotic caution. It is with dismay that one reads Buckley not merely defending the asymptotic Maginot line, but standing on a blatant factual error to do so.
Thus, for example, we see in this column of his on his National Review Online penned in 2006, concerning the Afghani Muslim convert to Christianity, Abdul Rahman, and the pernicious Islamic law that hung over him like a Damocles sword, capital punishment (usually beheading) for apostasy.
Yes, Buckley strikes a few acutely apposite notes, and they certainly ring better than those which one finds all too often in the mainstream. However, ultimately, when one takes in the entire, and relatively brief, article, we see to our dismay that Buckley frames his restrained outrage at this law in terms that divide Muslims into putative extremists and non-extremists. Thus, the former are the ones pushing for this apostasy law, and the latter are supposedly resisting it. And, of course, these two types of Muslim are unquestioningly and axiomatically defined according to the prevailing taxonomy of our time: at best, both are representative of Islam, since apparently we cannot pin Islam down as pernicious qua Islam -- and so, the benign Islam may also be true Islam. And a benign Islam is assumed to exist, massively, as a vaunted "world religion" in the form of a respectable religious culture followed by hundreds of millions of moderate, or at least harmless, Muslims around the world.
This axiom is bad enough as a reflexive hypothesis that is assumed de rigueur. It passes over into egregious witlessness (not to mention a sloppy journalism that astounds, coming from the pen of a journalist and thinker of Buckley's caliber) when it is fortified by a blatant error.
...the State Department could publicize dissenting Islamic views on the subject of apostasy. Interventionists have pointed out that the Koran does not require the execution of apostates, and it is not recorded that Muhammad himself ever exacted such punishment.
There it is, Buckley assuring us in the apodictic terms of an assertion, that "it is not recorded that Muhammad himself ever exacted such punishment" -- viz., the punishment of death for apostasy. If only Buckley were alive, so that one could rejoin with the riposte, Oh...? -- and then swiftly follow that with this excruciatingly relevant recorded fact. Mr. Buckley, meet Mr. Bukhari:
In Sahih Bukhari, the most canonical of hadith collections of the sayings of Muhammad, it is recorded that Muhammad said:"Whoever changes his Islamic religion, then kill him."
The source is a perfectly Islamic source -- the Center for Muslim Jewish Engagement based in the University of Southern California (a disingenuous name change -- as Robert Spencer perceptively noted back in 2008 -- from its former name, the USC-MSA (Muslim Student Association) Compendium of Muslim Texts, which provides translations of several hadith collections among other resources for Muslim texts).
Buckley in 2006 had no excuse not to know this. Nor did he have any excuse for not knowing the unique esteem in which Mohammed is held among all Muslims as the very epicenter of their religion, such that all Islamic law is centered on the Do's and Don't's which Mohammed is believed to have said, as recorded most authoritatively for Muslims by... Sahih Bukhari.
Buckley also had no excuse not to know that the four major schools of Islamic law support the punishment of death for apostasy. That source is recorded here -- a page which includes citations of Islamic sources. To the injury of specious analysis resting on the weak timber of erroneous reportage, Buckley added the insult to our (and his own) intelligence of publishing an assertion that is plainly, and disastrously, incorrect.
The moral of this story is that when we see even a pillar of intellectual conservatism like William F. Buckley (not to mention President Dwight Eisenhower himself, among innumerable other conservatives over the years) demonstrate an unacceptably low I.Q. (Islamic Quotient), then obviously the problem of the West's nescience cannot be reduced to "Leftism" or those dastardly "liberals". As I have analyzed time and time again in great detail on this blog over the years, our problem is subtler and more complex than the simplifications that seem to be fashionable among most in the (still inchoate) Anti-Islam Movement.