http://www.thecrowleycollection.com/photos/people/art/triumvirate01sm.jpg 

Back in April of 2006, in a comments thread of a Jihad Watch article, I had a brief (but, as it turned out, fairly voluminous) argument with Hugh Fitzgerald about the great Dutch scholar of Islam, Snouck Hurgronje (1857-1936).  The argument revolved around my impression that Hurgronje -- oft lauded in the Counter-Jihad as being one of the exemplary intellectuals of yore who "got it" about the problem of Islam -- was flawed by an outlook that rather uncomfortably resembled some of the axioms and assumptions we find in the PC MC paradigm.

Hugh strongly objected to this impression; and we were off to the races.  While at the time I closed the discussion unilaterally with a polite acknowledgement that Hugh was at least correct in his suggestion that I read more of Snouck before I solidify my objections to him; nevertheless, in retrospect I think my arguments were sound.  And sometimes, certain statements, turns of phrase, or incipient arguments published by thinkers are in and of themselves sufficiently damning that no amount of supplementary material by them (other than an outright volte-face) could suffice to dispel the impression and the implication they present.  This is not to say, for all that, that I do not want to read more of Hurgronje.

So, here we go.  I start the first salvo, in three separate bursts (the third a brief postscript).  Hugh responds; I respond in turn; Hugh responds yet again; then I bow out, prematurely perhaps, and a tad too gracefully for my own good, merethinks.

(Note:  In my responses, text in square brackets represents my editorial remarks.)

Me:

I've been reading that Snouck Hurgronje book -- Mohammedanism: Lectures on Its Origin, Its Religious and Political Growth,and Its Present State -- which the poster Drummond linked for us on another thread, and it seems to me that Hurgronje illustrates a kind of scholar of Islam who occupies an early middle stage in the evolution of PC MC poppycock: in the first 20 pages or so, he repeatedly lays down the rule that Truth must be Balanced, and any judgement that seems imbalanced must be prejudiced or biased and hence, must be a deviation from the Truth of the matter. In this spirit, Hurgronje seems to take care to construct a Balanced Mohammed who is neither too good, nor too bad, because -- well, because that must be the Truth of the matter, since that's how the Truth of any matter is; right? And anyway, all those medieval observers of Islam before him were still benighted by the skotosis of the Dark Ages and can't be counted on to deliver what only the light of the Enlightenment can...

Perhaps as the book progresses, Hurgronje mollifies this hypervigilantly biased inoculation of his against bias; I'll see.


Snouck Hurgronje, from the aforementioned book:

"The fact that the number of Mohammedans subject to foreign rule increased enormously, and by far surpassed those of the citizens of independent Mohammedan states, made the problem [of the decline of Islam in the world in modern times] almost as interesting to Western nations as to the Mohammedans themselves. Both parties are almost equally concerned in the question, whether a way will be found to associate the Moslim world to modern civilization, without obliging it to empty its spiritual treasury altogether. Nobody can in earnest advocate the idea of leaving the solution of the problem to rude force. The Moslim of yore, going through the world with the Qorân in one hand, the sword in the other, giving unbelievers the choice between conversion or death, is a creation of legendary fancy. We can but hope that modern civilization will not be so fanatical against Moslims, as the latter were unjustly said to have been during the period of their power. If the modern world were only to offer the Mohammedans the choice between giving up at once the traditions of their ancestors or being treated as barbarians, there would be sure to ensue a struggle as bloody as has ever been witnessed in the world. It is worth while indeed to examine the system of Islâm from this special point of view, and to try to find the terms on which a durable modus vivendi might be established between Islâm and modern thought."

I advise reading Hurgronje with a shaker of salt handy.

P.S.: Reading passages like the above, one cannot help but feel that the rot had already begun to set in, in the early 20th century (the book was published in 1916).

Hugh:

"The Moslim of yore, going through the world with the Qorân in one hand, the sword in the other, giving unbelievers the choice between conversion or death, is a creation of legendary fancy. We can but hope that modern civilization will not be so fanatical against Moslims, as the latter were unjustly said to have been during the period of their power."
-- from a posting above, quoting Snouck Hurgronje

Before Bat Ye'or made systematic scholarly use of the accounts of the treatment of non-Muslims, including memoirs and chroniclas left by non-Muslims (such as the chronicle of Arakel of Tabriz, so important in telling about the forced conversion of Christians and Jews under Shah Abbas), as well as the accounts left by non-Muslim travellers and envoys, and even until such a treasure trove as the Cairo Geniza was discovered -- the study of which, by S. E. Goitein, led him to change his mind, as he says in "A Mediterranean Society," about nothing so much as the effect of the Jizyah.

Hurgronje is not wrong in saying that the account of Arabs conquering sword in hand, Qur'an in the other, is ahistorical. In fact, students of the early Qur'an now suggest that the whole thing started outside the Hejaz, that Arabs had been filtering out of Arabia into Mesopotamia and what is modern Jordan and Syria before the composition of the Qur'an (which may have started life as an Aramaic lectionary). There is little, if anything, in the passage above that, if one reads it carefully, can be objected to. What is he saying, after all?

One, that the picture is more complicated than that of the Arabs emerging from the Jazirat al-Arab with Qur'an in one hand -- in fact, Hurgronje is possibly expressing doubts about the geographical origin of Qur'an (and Islam) that might be considered subversive of the official story, though not of course anything like as disturbing as what has come later, with Wansbrough, Cook and Crone, Hawting, and others -- those whose work can be sampled in the anthologies on the Qur'an edited by Ibn Warraq.

When Snouck Hurgronje writes that "[t]he Moslim of yore, going through the world with the Qorân in one hand, the sword in the other, giving unbelievers the choice between conversion or death, is a creation of legendary fancy" he is not wrong. The choice was threefold: conversion or death, or that condition of permanent humiliation and degradation and physical insecurity that, in some times and places, could be rendered less onerous by a mild ruler (e.g., Akbar) or local conditions, including the presence of large numbers of non-Muslims, encouraged a kind of syncretistic tolerance (i.e., in the islands of the East Indies, and in West Africa) that could, of course, also change, and become a more classic situation of Jihad-conquest and subjugation, as happed in 1804 in West Africa during the Jihad of Dan Fodio.

When Snouck Hurgronje writes elsewhere in the excerpt above that "Nobody can in earnest advocate the idea of leaving the solution of the problem [of Islam] to rude force" is this an example of modern appeasement? Or is it rather, an awareness of the problem of Islam, not a denial of it, but at a same time a sensible recognition that "rude force" is not the only, or even the best, way to deal with Islam. Containment, the encouragement of division and demoralization, of all kinds -- surely that is more important than the thump-thump-thump of "boots on the ground" that cannot conceivable win Muslim hearts and minds (though Muslims will be quite content, or some of them will, to accept whatever they can wangle out of Infidels by way of aid, without in the least having their essential hostility modified). Writing in 1916 (or earlier), Snouck Hurgronje could not have foresee the military threat that Muslims would pose from the oil trillions, for he could hardly have been expected to foresee that an accident of geology would supply fantastic wealth; he could not possibly have foreseen that the advanced states of Europe (and he must have written the pages published in 1916 either before World War I broke out, or in the first year, and could not have foreseen either the self-inflicted damage wrought by Europe) would someday allow millions of Muslims to settle behind enemy lines (as the Muslims themselves regard the Bilad al-kufr, the Lands of the Infidels). Was he wrong to write that "rude force" alone will not solve the problem? Surely he was right in 1916, and even more right today. 

That doesn't mean that force should not be used, and repeatedly, to make sure that no Muslim state or group can acquire major weaponry. But that is a separate problem from dealing with the much larger and permanent threat that the belief-system of Islam poses to all Infidels.
There is this further passage in the excerpt quoted above:

"If the modern world were only to offer the Mohammedans the choice between giving up at once the traditions of their ancestors or being treated as barbarians, there would be sure to ensue a struggle as bloody as has ever been witnessed in the world. It is worth while indeed to examine the system of Islâm from this special point of view, and to try to find the terms on which a durable modus vivendi might be established between Islâm and modern thought."

Is this appeasement? Does this sound in any way like all the nonsense we are force-fed today? Isn't it true that if we were, in the spirit of Ann Coulter, to just "go over and convert them" that a world war would ensue? Isn't it far better to permit the creation of those conditions that will force Muslims themselves -- or at least the thinking portion of their population, such as it is, such as it may become -- to make the connection between the Muslim tendency toward despotism, the inshallah-fatalism that prevents economic activity and the taking of initiative (just look at how the Iraqis, showered with tens of billions, have watched the Americans do the rebuilding, and have mostly, not entirley but mostly, taken a "wake-me-when-it's-over" attitude and started to whine and complain quite early when it became clear that Baghdad was not going to receive an instant makeover and be turned into New York, nor Iraq into the United States), the social failures (the treatment of women and non-Muslims), the moral failures (ditto), the intellectual failures. The latter can in turn be divided into what happens to Art and Science under Islam. The limits on the modes of artistic expression, have left Muslims a very small artistic legacy (far smaller than that of the West, of China, Japan, Korea, of India, of pre-Columbian America), and little to be encouraged (products of other kinds of artistic expression cexist, but despite Islam, not in the spirit of Islam) outside of architecture (mostly of mosques) and calligraphy, mostly Qur'anic. Not much to write home about. As for science, even if one were to accept the exaggerated claims made for "Islamic" or "Arabic" (George Saliba's inaccurate adjective) science, and even if one were to ignore the very small achievements made within Islamic civilization by Muslims (rather than by Christians, Jews, and others whose lands had been conquered, but who had not yet succumbed to conversion, or who possibly had converted but were only a generaton or two away from Islam, and had retained the mental makeup of a non-Muslim world), surely the habit of mental submission within Islam, and the discouragement of free and skeptical inquiry that one finds everywhere in Islam (beginning with any inquiry into the historical origis of Islam, or any real curiosity about non-Islamic or pre-Islamic civilizations, except to the extent that, for example, those civlizations can provide the technology of war, which is what Muslim leaders mean when they talk about encouraging "science" in the Islamic world -- they mean, always, advanced weaponry to match that of the West).

Surely the seeds of this attitude -- that Islam may be constrained, so that its own weaknesses will become obvious to Muslims themselves (but first, the real nature of Islam must be known to a sufficient number of Infidels, so that they will be aware, in the first place, of the need to constrain Islam, its power in Dar al-Islam and within their own, Infidel lands) -- can be seen in the excerpt above.

If one reads other books by Snouck Hurgronje, or studies his role as an advisor to the Dutch government on how to deal with Islam in the East Indies, one may find oneself far less critical, and more appreciative, of what Snouck Hurgonje, nearly a century before Muslims acquired, first by an accident of geology, and then by an accident of Western criminal negligence, and finally not by an accident, but by the clever exploitation both of Western technology (to spread the message of Islam, not only Da'wa but also propaganda on behalf of naked geopolitical claims), and of Western self-doubt and intellectual confusion.

Read, for example, Snouck Hurgronje's book on the Muslims of Aceh, and ask if this is someone who is taken in, in any way, by Islam, and whether, had someone with his knowledge and his take on things, had died not in 1937 but was alive today, what kinds of things such a person would suggest, as a way of dealing with the menace of Islam to Infidels, in the spirit of what Snouck Hurgronje wrote in 1905, or 1916, or 1926.

Me:

So far in my reading, I see no evidence for Hurgronje advocating "Containment, the encouragement of division and demoralization, of all kinds..." nor even (though this is a matter of interpretation) the "seeds of this attitude -- that Islam may be constrained, so that its own weaknesses will become obvious to Muslims themselves."

What seeds I do see are those that would bear the fruit of the Bush Doctrine and the Friedman/Fukuyama Theory -- that the inexorable march of modernity will percolate through Islam and mollify its rougher edges (without, pace Friedman, having to destroy the wonderfully quaint "olive trees" of yore).

Besides that, Hurgronje is at times thoroughly ambivalent and his thought process irresolvably ambiguous (perhaps due to that wonderfully diverse diversity of an Islam that obviously on certain levels -- see his account of his time in Mecca -- seems to have charmed him; and perhaps also due to his apparent axiom that nothing is thoroughly condemnable):

Hurgronje writes:

"All those antiquated institutions [polygamy, slavery, etc.], if considered from the point of view of modern international intercourse, are only a trifle in comparison with the legal prescriptions of Islâm concerning the attitude of the Mohammedan community against the parts of the world not yet subject to its authority, "the Abode of War" as they are technically called. It is a principal duty of the Khalif, or of the chiefs considered as his substitutes in different countries, to avail themselves of every opportunity to extend by force the dominion of Allah and His Messenger. With unsubdued unbelievers _peace_ is not _allowed_; a _truce_ for a period not exceeding ten years may be concluded if the interest of Islâm requires it. [So far, so good...]

"The chapters of the Mohammedan law on holy war and on the conditions on which the submission of the adherents of tolerated religions is to be accepted seem to be a foolish pretension if we consider them by the light of the actual division of political power in the world. [Okay, we'll let Snouck off the hook since he wrote this, as you say, before later events gave the moribund Islam of his day more leverage]

"But here, too, to understand is better than to ridicule. In the centuries in which the system of Islâm acquired its maturity, such an aspiration after universal dominion was not at all ridiculous; [ah, here it comes, the Moral Equivalency Argument] and many Christian states of the time were far from reaching the Mohammedan standard of tolerance against heterodox creeds.[-- and moving past equivalence to admiration of that "golden age" of Islam?]

[Note: I have noticed Hurgronje peppers his study with frequent allusions to the MEA (Moral Equivalency Argument), feeling the need to remind the reader of how equally bad were the Christians
of yore.]

"The delicate point is this, that the petrification or at least the process of stiffening that has attacked the whole spiritual life of Islâm since about 1000 A.D. makes its accommodation to the requirements of modern intercourse a most difficult problem.[Does this imply that the "whole spiritual life of Islam" before 1000 A.D. was less objectionable...perhaps because of Hurgronje's aversion to criticizing the roots of anything?]

"But it is not only the Mohammedan community that needed misfortune and humiliation before it was able to appreciate liberty of conscience [oh no, the MEA again...]; or that took a long time to digest those painful lessons of history. There are still Christian Churches which accept religious liberty only in circumstances that make supreme authority unattainable to them; and which, elsewhere, would not disdain the use of material means to subdue spirits to what they consider the absolute truth.

"To judge such things with equity [there's Hurgronje's obsession with balance again], we must remember that every man possessed of a firm conviction of any kind is more or less a missionary; and the belief in the possibility of winning souls by violence has many adherents everywhere [would he still make this MEA in 2006, or would he have wised up, as you imply?]. One of my friends among the young-Turkish state officials, who wished to persuade me of the perfect religious tolerance of Turkey of today, concluded his argument by the following reflection: "Formerly men used to behead each other for difference of opinion about the Hereafter. Nowadays, praise be to Allah, we are permitted to believe what we like; but people continue to kill each other for political or social dissension. That is most pitiful indeed; for the weapons in use being more terrible and more costly than before, mankind lacks the peace necessary to enjoy the liberty of conscience it has acquired." 

[Hurgronje seems to be quoting his Turkish friend approvingly here, implying that he agrees that nowadays religion is less of a motive for Muslim violence than in the days of yore, and that now "political or social dissension" are more important.]

"The truthful irony of these words need not prevent us from considering the independence of spiritual life and the liberation of its development from material compulsion as one of the greatest blessings of our civilization. We feel urged by missionary zeal of the better kind [Shades of Bush!] to make the Mohammedan world partake in its enjoyment [and economic prosperity and democracy will mollify Islam's rougher edges?**].

"In the Turkish Empire, in Egypt, in many Mohammedan countries under Western control, the progressive elements of Moslim society spontaneously meet us half-way. But behind them are the millions who firmly adhere to the old superstition and are supported by the canonists, those faithful guardians of what the infallible Community declared almost one thousand years ago [there's that historical dividing line again, 1000 A.D., when apparently a nobler, kinder, gentler, more open former Islam was lost to subsequent "petrification"] to be the doctrine and rule of life for all centuries to come. Will it ever prove possible to move in one direction a body composed of such different elements, or will this body be torn in pieces when the movement has become irresistible?"

**[For Hurgronje advocating economic prosperity as a mollifying agent to Islam's rougher edges:

"The faith in a Mahdî, who will come to regenerate the world, is apt to give rise to revolutionary movements led by skilful demagogues pretending to act as the "Guided One," or, at least, to prepare the way for his coming. Most of the European powers having Mohammedan subjects have had their disagreeable experiences in this respect. But Moslim chiefs of states have their obvious good reasons for not liking such movements either; and even the majority of ordinary Moslims look upon candidates for Mahdi-ship with suspicion. A contented prosperous population offers such candidates little chance of success."

Hugh:

On Hurgronje:

1. "I have noticed Hurgronje peppers his study with frequent allusions to the MEA (Moral Equivalency Argument), feeling the need to remind the reader of how equally bad were the Christians of yore..."

This is not a moral equivalency arguement but a reasonable attempt to recognize what we all know: that it always preferable to stay alive than not to stay alive, and the condition of dhimmi permitted the staying alive, and even practicing one's non-Muslim religion, albeit in conditions of humiliation, degradaton, and physical insecurity -- the severity depending on place, time, and ruler. In Western Christendom, the only important group of non-Christians, the Jews, sometimes suffered from repeated massacres, encouraged by the charge of deicide --see Gavin Langmuir on "Antisemitism" or Malcolm Hay on "Europe and the Jews." Hurgronje is not about to make the mistake of pretending there is nothing in the history of the non-Muslim world, or that part of it whose history he knew best, that of Europe, that was not susceptible of withering criticism. But he does not ever let the admission of one historical unpleasantness be taken as somehow justifying what has been done by Muslims, acting according to the tenets of Islam as set out in Qur'an and Hadith, and following the example of Muhammad, the Perfect Man.

2. "The delicate point is this, that the petrification or at least the process of stiffening that has attacked the whole spiritual life of Islâm since about 1000 A.D. makes its accommodation to the requirements of modern intercourse a most difficult problem.[Does this imply that the "whole spiritual life of Islam" before 1000 A.D. was less objectionable...perhaps because of Hurgronje's aversion to criticizing the roots of anything?"

But it was at some point early on -- and 1000 A.D. is a reasonable date for Snouck Hurgronje, writing in about 1915, to set as the end date, the date by which two things had happened:

a) the Gates of Ijtihad had swung shut and there was to be no more interpretive freedom in seeking the meaning of the Qur'an or in re-arranging with a new assignment of "authenticity" the Hadith as collected by the muhaddithin deemed most authoritative.

b) after the first few centuries of Muslim conquest of the Middle East and North Africa, the numbers of Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians who had converted went up, and the fructifying influence of non-Muslims in the societies went down. These conversions took place both immediately upon conquest for some, and also over time, no doubt an understandable response to Muslim rule, and a way of escaping the conditions imposed on non-dhimmmis. Think of how onerous those conditions were. Imagine if, today, if similar conditions were imposed, how many non-Muslims would convert to Islam. For example, if every non-Muslim were prevented from driving a car, the way under Islam horses could not be ridden, and had to pay, say, $50,000 a year, per family member, for the privilege of not being subject to Muslim attack, how many Americans do you think would resist, over the first fifty years, and continue to pay that $50,000 per head, and do without a car?

This has nothing to do with "Hurgronje's aversion to criticizing the roots of anything" -- a charge which amazes me. On what evidence do you make it? On a reading of how much of his vast output?

3. "Hurgronje seems to be quoting his Turkish friend approvingly here, implying that he agrees that nowadays religion is less of a motive for Muslim violence than in the days of yore, and that now "political or social dissension" are more important."

Quoting is for Hurgronje, as for V. S. Naipaul in "Among the Believers" and "Beyond Belief," , a way of conveying an entirely different view of the universe -- the Muslim view. This does not imply approval at all. He is allowing someone, someone not completely fanatical, to express his view of things. This does not imply approval or endorsement of any kind. It is a Muslim view -- recorded for our benefit by a subtle human recorder.

4. "those faithful guardians of what the infallible Community declared almost one thousand years ago [there's that historical dividing line again, 1000 A.D., when apparently a nobler, kinder, gentler, more open former Islam was lost to subsequent "petrification"]"

You attempt to make him say what he does not say. He was simply saying that roughly a millennium before, Islam became petrified -- permanently. And in the same paragraph, it is clear that despite the fact that he was living at the time of the greatest "reform" ferment by those Muslims who recognized how advanced the West was, how backward Islam, and wanted somehow to change things -- he describes them as "the progressive elements of Moslim society spontaneously meet us half-way" (remember: he is taking them into account, but not being taken in by them -- a different thing) nonetheless he doubts their chance of success because they are gratly outnumbered:

"But behind them [those would-be and hopeless reformers] are the millions who firmly adhere to the old superstition and are supported by the canonists, those faithful guardians of what the infallible Community declared almost one thousand years ago to be the doctrine and rule of life for all centuries to come. Will it ever prove possible to move in one direction a body composed of such different elements, or will this body be torn in pieces when the movement has become irresistible?"
Does this sound like someone who in the slightest degree is an apologist for Islam? Referring to those who "firmly adhere to the old superstition and are supported by the canonists" and so on? It does not.

Finally, there is his discussion of those Muslims who wait for their Messiah -- the return of the Mahdi:
"But Moslim chiefs of states have their obvious good reasons for not liking such movements either; and even the majority of ordinary Moslims look upon candidates for Mahdi-ship with suspicion. A contented prosperous population offers such candidates little chance of success."

This is not the same thing as being the Little Engine That Could and dropping tens of billions of dollars in aid on Muslims by Infidels. I have no doubt Snouck Hurgronje would be appalled by that idiotic practice of Europe and the United States, a new kind of Jizyah. But when it came specifically to the Mahdi, it was always the hope of the poorest Muslims -- like those who follow Moqtada al-Sadr, and who, it has been reported, have been heard chanting for the return of the Mahdi. That last sentence means that the return-of-the-Mahdi impulse is one opposed by "Moslem chiefs of state" Iincluding local rulers in the Dutch East Indies) who of course regard the Mahdi, the idea of a Mahdi, as one potentially threatening to their hold on allegiances and therefore on power. The last sentence is largely unremarkable and does not mean "let's keep giving Muslims support so that they won't be a threat." It merely says: if there is relative "prosperousness" -- by the standards of 1915 -- then Muslims are less likely to be followers of the Mahdi, a consolation prize for those unhappy with things as they are. It is a statement directed as much at "Moslem chiefs of state" who have an interest in preventing those they rule from putting their hopes into waiting for the Mahdi, as it is advice to European colonial rulers that, in order to head off that particular threat, a certain "prosperousness" will likely help. That does not mean that the threat from Islam -- forget about the specific business of the Mahdi -- does not remain. But in 1915, how could or should, when Russia might have seized Constantinople, when the Ottoman Empire was collapsing, when Muslims in India were ruled by the British and in the East Indies by the Dutch, when there seemed to be no posssibility ever for the world's Muslims to acquire the wherewithal to be a threat, as they so obviously have -- to attribute to Snouck Hurgronje the crazy messianism of the Bush Adminstration is unfair.

Why not read that book all the way through, without looking for things to bring up which either will be discussed, which then takes time, or not discussed, which may be misinterpreted as an acceptance of your view of Snouck Hurgronje. Read three or four of his books. Then decide whate you think of him. Read as well whatever has recently been reprinted (see "The Legacy of Jihad."). Then decide. If you still don't like him, write an article about him as a precursor of today's misguided appeasers and dreamers. But I think you will see him in a different light, if you do not, for some reason, try to force meanings that are not there, in an attempt to attribute to him attitudes he does not possess.

Me:

"Why not read that book all the way through, without looking for things to bring up which either will be discussed, which then takes time, or not discussed, which may be misinterpreted as an acceptance of your view of Snouck Hurgronje. Read three or four of his books. Then decide whate you think of him. Read as well whatever has recently been reprinted (see "The Legacy of Jihad."). Then decide."

That's fair and good counsel.