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.