Tuesday, May 26, 2015
Noah Webster (Peace Be Upon Him), and these "defining days"...
“These are defining days,” says Robert Spencer, with regard to how Charlie Hebdo recently supposedly punished a staff-member with suspension because of her criticism of Islam (even though it turns out that her peccadillo may have been more a financial disagreement than a matter of ideological conscience).
Spencer is right, of course, with regard to the broader issue. But it's more complicated.
For instance, Spencer in the same breath writes:
I didn’t co-sponsor the show to insult Islam and embarrass the Church by being uncharitable.
Which leads a healthy Islamophobe to ask: Why not insult Islam?
Let's consult Noah Webster about that word, just to be sure what we may be so fastidiously eschewing:
Speaking of the Andrew Bostom radio interview, he also mentioned how certain conservative pundits, including Bill O'Reilly and Jeanine Pirro of FOX News, disparaged the Garland event as a "dumb move". Bostom rightly added that this is precisely missing the point of this most important exercise in freedom of speech.
Then I remembered something Robert Spencer had argued, way back when. In a report on Jihad Watch in 2008, consequent upon an incident in Afghanistan where an American soldier allegedly used a Koran for target practice (apparently the soldier claimed he didn't know it was a Koran); then naturally the U.S. Military (and by extension the U.S. Government and America itself) apologized to any and all Muslims who may have felt "insulted" (a local Sheikh called the incident "aggression against the entire Islamic world") -- then, to add insult to insult, the U.S. Military groveled in a most pitifully abject manner:
“I come before you here seeking your forgiveness,” [Maj. Gen. Jeffery] Hammond said to tribal leaders and others at the apology ceremony. “In the most humble manner I look in your eyes today and I say please forgive me and my soldiers.”
Another military official kissed a Quran and presented is as “a humble gift” to the tribal leaders...
In the comments section, an interesting conversation came up, when an astute reader named “anonymous” took issue with Spencer's editorial remarks. First “anonymous” quoted Spencer:
If he knew what the book was, the soldier was stupid, because even if it is true that the Qur'an contains mandates for violence against unbelievers, and it is true, doing something like this will only turn into enemies some people who might otherwise not be your enemies.
Hm. This sounds virtually identical in substance and spirit to the complaints voiced by Spencer's (and Geller's) detractors...
Now, after quoting Spencer, “anonymous” writes:
“Anyone who shows himself as our enemy as a result of someone shooting at the Qur'an is already our enemy, as that person in effect has demanded of us to respect the scriptures of his so-called religion, or else. Our failure to comply merely makes the person reveal himself as our enemy. Thus, the Qur'an shooting should be a good thing, as it will provoke our enemies to reveal themselves. I'm surprised that Spencer considers this Qur'an shooting incident an "unnecessary provocation", since it is no more an "unnecessary provocation" than the Danish Mohammad cartoons were, and Spencer apparently has no problems with posting these on his site.”
At that point, he quoted Spencer again:
[Dinesh] D'Souza in that is asking us to ignore and deny the truth, which is never an effective strategy in wartime or peacetime.
Then he commented:
“I'm glad to hear that Spencer has now realized that ignoring and denying the truth is never an effective strategy. Since Spencer's repeated challenges to Muslims to work for Islamic reform have in fact been expressions of Spencer himself outwardly ignoring and denying the truth, as they have suggested that Islamic reform is possible when in reality this is not the case (something Spencer himself undoubtedly realizes), his recent epiphany suggests that the nonsensical challenge is now a thing of the past, at least if Spencer will practice what he preaches and not merely continue to ignore and deny the truth against his own better judgement.”
At this point, the conversation gets sidetracked by some quasi-personal history between Spencer and anonymous, as the two evidently knew each other and had a way of getting under each other's skin. Nevertheless, this “anonymous” essentially had the upper hand, in my estimation. To the charge “anonymous” brought up about the seemingly self-contradictory incoherence of Spencer's stand on Islamic reformation, Spencer referred him to a link from a former essay.
We pick up where “anonymous” responds after having read that essay:
“Spencer provides me with a link in which he quotes himself saying the following:
“ "Many strange things have happened in history and I would never say that Islamic reform is absolutely impossible" (my emphasis).
“Here, Spencer explicitly admits that he would never say that Islamic reform is impossible, meaning that he does claim it could be possible, even as he admits that it is not likely. For the record, I don't actually believe that Spencer himself personally has any hopes for Islamic reform to occur - on the contrary, someone with as much knowledge of Islam as Spencer necessarily has to know that Islamic reform is impossible. Which begs the question why Spencer is so reluctant to actually admit that this is true. Instead, rather than stating in unambiguous language that Islamic reform is impossible, and that no matter what they say or do, so-called Islamic reformers will necessarily leave us disappointed since as Spencer undoubtedly know there is no potential for reform in Islam, Spencer first informs us of the unlikelihood of Islamic reform, but then all of a sudden challenges Muslims to work for Islamic reform, thereby suggesting that however unlikely it may be, Islamic reform is possible! Ultimately, the issue is not about whether or not Spencer believes that Islamic reform is possible, but about why Spencer insists on challenging Muslims to work for Islamic reform when the challenge itself implies that Islamic reform is possible or else would be meaningless, and why Spencer persists in doing so even after he has been made aware of these implications.”
More directly pertinent to our main topic, “anonymous” then quotes another commenter, a regular Jihad Watch reader named “Darcy”, who had piped up to help Spencer out:
Hey al-"anonymous." I've bought a little paperback Koran. And I can do ANYTHING I want with it! So, I'm your enemy! Good! COME AND GET ME!
And then “anonymous” continues:
“Darcy seems to have misunderstood my message completely. What I was trying to convey was that I believe that Spencer is wrong when he claims that the Qur'an shooting will "turn into enemies some people who might otherwise not be your enemies". The way I see it, anyone who starts behaving as our enemy as a result of our failure to show respect for the Qur'an was already our enemy, and only revealed himself as an enemy when we faildc [sic] to act in accordance with his implicit demands. Bravo Mohammed cartoons! MORE Mohammed cartoons! Because: They tell the Truth about evil Islam. I agree.
At this juncture, Spencer begins getting rather subtle, addressing “anonymous” for the latest round:
Evidently, you, like your friends, do not know the meaning of the phrase "calling a bluff." ...
Then “anonymous” responded, quoting Spencer:
“Evidently, you, like your friends, do not know the meaning of the phrase "calling a bluff."
“And I have tried to explain to Spencer that whatever the intent of his challenges, they have the unfortunate effect of suggesting that Islamic reform is possible. If Spencer does not in fact intend to suggest such a thing, he should consider rephrasing his frequent challenges so that they no longer contain this suggestion...
“... if we are to take Spencer at his word that he "would never say that Islamic reform is absolutely impossible", then it would be immensely interesting to hear from Spencer himself exactly what it is about Islam that makes him unwilling to rule out the possibility of Islamic reform altogether. (Since the weekend is over and I don't really have much time to participate in this discussion, I think this'll have to be it for me for now.) ”
Perhaps it is because Spencer hedges his bets about Islam, and about Islamic reform, that he is so chary of "insulting" Islam.