Friday, April 08, 2011

Lawrence Auster's Islamo-illiteracy

All of us more or less within the amorphous boundaries of the still inchoate Anti-Islam Movement have been advancing, at different rates, along the learning curve of Islamoliteracy; and it is thus not necessarily an egregious fault or flaw to demonstrate illiteracy in this, that or the other Islamic thing now and again.

On the other hand, there are limits to this generosity:

a) when the particular issue or fact should be known by now, 2011, well nigh ten years after 9/11;

b) when the particular issue or fact is an important facet demonstrating the cogency of our condemnation of Islam and Muslims (condemnation always centrally focusing on the deadly danger they pose to our societies)

c) and when the particular issue or fact has been on the Blogosphere for years (albeit sometimes not as consistently and as well-publicized as it should be).

In this case, Auster provides us with a fourth reason which is not necessary to add, but becomes frosting on the cake -- to wit:

d) when the Islamo-illiterate in question claims to have been interested in, and concerned by, the problem of Islam for years prior to 9/11.

Well, members of the jury, I now present exhibit A:

"The April 4 New York Times," Auster tells us, "reported a suicide bombing against Sufis at a Sufi shrine in the Punjab region of Pakistan..." and goes on to add that "...the story contains this confusing passage:

...Though no accurate statistics are available, it is estimated that more than 75 percent of Pakistan's population adheres to the Barelvi school of thought, which follows many Sufi practices.

"On the face of it," pronounces Auster knowingly, "that last paragraph is absurd. Three-quarters of the population of Pakistan, the most fanatical Muslim nation on earth, are quasi-Sufis? Perhaps a knowledgeable reader can 'splain this to us."

Where has Auster been during this past Blogospheric decade (not to mention during all those years he was reading about Islam prior to 9/11)? There are many arcane minutiae about Islamic theology and law and culture, but there is a certain number of non-negotiably vital facts to know about Islam: and one of them is that the idea that Sufi Islam is some kind of benignly New Agey and apoliticially peaceful "mystical" sect of Islam is a myth -- pure hogwash. Sufis have always supported the unremarkably normative baseline mainstream doctrine of violent jihad whose Islamic meaning is ensconced solidly in an expansionist supremacism that makes Hitler's Lebensraum pale by comparison.

A good place to start for an illiterate who needs 'splainin' about this particular facet of Islam would be to read the following:

Sufism Without Camouflage

Note: The purpose of this exercise is not merely to chide Auster (for he has many times otherwise demonstrated a knowledge of Islam appropriately leading him to strongly anti-Islamic formulations). It is also and more importantly to illustrate the dire need for a definitive Anti-Islam Manual (which, of course, would be a computer program as well as a hard copy booklet). With such a Manual in existence, when a person who wonders about Sufism (to pluck one example out of 1,001 from a turban) or when a person finds himself engaged with an Islam apologist (whether that apologist be a clever snake of a Muslim or a clueless dupe of a non-Muslim) who claims that Sufism is benign, all that person has to do is punch in "sufism" into the Manual and in seconds he would have all the evidence he needs to know for himself (if he didn't know already), and to refute the apologist.

At a conference or public round-table affair, such a simple digital feat could be relatively instantly translated from one's Blackberry onto a Power Point screen for all to see. At that point, the further squirming tap-dancing of the Islam apologist -- raising this or that point intended to counter-refute or obfuscate -- could similarly be refuted in seconds.

As it stands now, however, we have an unacceptably disorganized and rather casual disarray of autodidactic confusion reigning among the ideological warriors in this most important War of Ideas -- a confusion that is a messy conglomeration of a) insufficiently sourced facts; b) interpetations, theories and opinions bruited about in contexts where solidly evidenced facts are required; c) a jungle of too much information that tends to cloud important particular debate points; d) ignorance of key facts about Islam (such as, for example, the idea that the Koran is more important than the Sunna based on the Hadiths); and e) virtually no prioritization of importance -- i.e., an incoherently indiscriminate glob of more important, and less important, points all mushed together into one vaguely general "Islam is bad" mantra.

More about the nature of, and desperate need for, the aforementioned Anti-Islam Manual in a subsequent post.


Nobody said...

I recall that one of the producers of that video documentary 'Islam: What the West needs to know' - Greg Davis - who was one of the JW hosts for a bit - once was @ one of those radio talk shows, where he was asked, amongst other things, about the Sufis. He pointed out 2 things that set this straight:

1. Sufis are only 2% of the Ummah, and therefore, statistically irrelevant when discussing the problems of dar ul Islam

2. Chechens are Sufis, and the perpetrators of the Beslan school massacre were Sufis as well. It's therefore wrong to think that they are any better than mainstream Sunnis & Shia

This was pretty good for the purposes of the interview. One might add that the Kashmiri Jihad against India is Sufi, and that the 14th century Turkic conqueror Tamerlane was one as well, yet he belongs in the same genre as Mohammed, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot and many others.

If 75% of Pakis are Sufis, that damns the Sufis even more, since Pakis overwhelmingly support their Jihad against India

Hesperado said...

"If 75% of Pakis are Sufis, that damns the Sufis even more, since Pakis overwhelmingly support their Jihad against India."

And don't forget that recent survey that showed (unsurprisingly to us) that over 80% of Pakistani Muslims support death for blasphemy/apostasy.

But the point here is not the obvious conclusion derived from the fact that 75% of Pakis being Sufis damns Sufis -- it is that this fact led Auster to conclude it was "absurd" and that he therefore needed someone to " 'splain" it to him.

As for Greg Davis's presentation, the two facts you adduce for his radio debate, and the additional facts you adduce, are all good and necessary, but more is needed to seal the deal. It's not rocket science: all the necessary data about how normatively Islamic Sufism is is not an infinite, and infinitely complex, galaxy of data -- it is a finite quantity that can be collected, organized, and programmed into a computer program to be accessed in seconds.

The same goes for all the other necessary points about the problem of Islam.

While it's not rocket science, it would require thousands of hours and money to pay people to spend those hours; and this in turn would require some people with influence and money to jump-start and manage. Which, in turn, requires that people become interested in such a project.

Which, in turn, requires that people become aware of how vital such a project is -- probably the single most important thing we could be doing at this juncture of our global problem with Islam.

Greg Davis, by the way, was the author of that "Islam 101" piece that remains part of the rubric of Jihad Watch. While it has much good information, its organization is in places sloppy, it is bad organized, and it commits the common sin in this regard of TMI -- too much information. A civilian in the anti-Islam movement (or even a warrior of ideas who might be invited to a public debate at a college, at a televised event, or on a radio show) who would arm himself with Greg Davis's "Islam 101" would find himself quickly mired in too much information badly organized. Unless he had a photographic memory and was an idiot savant who could instantly organize 1,000 badly organized facts in his head, he would be sorely ill-equipped to think and riposte and refute on his feet in such a debate setting, were he to try to use Greg Davis's "Islam 101".

I wrote about this four years ago, in a piece titled "We Don't Need 1,001 'Islam 101s' "

Clark Coleman said...

Confusion about Sufi Islam is not surprising. In the Wikipedia page for "Islam in Pakistan" we see estimates of 50-60% for the Barelvi sect. In a single paragraph, the Barelvi are referred to as Sunni and later as Sufi from a different source. The Barelvi page describes them as Sunnis who are influenced by Sufism and who defend Sufi practices.

So, do we count those who have some syncretism of Sufism as being Sufis, or not? The first commenter quotes Greg Davis approvingly when he says that only 2% of Muslims are Sufis, so they are irrelevant to the bigger picture. This is the kind of statistic that is often heard about the Sufis. But, if Sufis are only 2% of all Muslims, then they cannot be 75% of a country (Pakistan) that has more than 190 million people, with additional Sufis elsewhere, unless there are more than 7 billion Muslims in the world. Do the math.

When we have all been told for decades that Sufis are only a tiny fraction of all Muslims, e.g. 2%, surely we can see how someone would find the claim that Sufis make up 75% of Pakistan to be incredible.