Saturday, November 05, 2016
Sam and Ayaan
I've developed the term "Counter-Jihad Mainstream" to denote not only the Luminaries & Leadership who are famous in the Counter-Jihad circuit, who write books and attend seminars & symposiums, and who generally speaking are out there "getting it done". The term also denotes a level of the Counter-Jihad that tends to play it safe & soft about the problem of Islam (critical of Islam, but "not anti-Muslim", effectively believing in the existence of the Moderate Muslim Under Other Names, and often verging into the nougaty territory of believing that Islamic Reform is viable).
This safe & soft situation is relative to how close a given Counter-Jihad Mainstream individual or group is to the broader PC MC Mainstream. Sam Harris and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, for example have one foot firmly planted in that broader Mainstream. Indeed, Ayaan's résumé is remarkably mainstream: Aside from writing best-selling books, the brief bio on Sam Harris's podcast informs us that she is a "Senior Fellow with the Future of Diplomacy Project at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at The Harvard Kennedy School, a Fellow at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She was named one of TIME Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” of 2005, one of the Glamour Heroes of 2005 and Reader’s Digest‘s European of the Year for 2005." Frankly, no Counter-Jihadist could enjoy such a mainstream career and not be promoting an Islamocriticism severely compromised by PC MC -- whether by external compulsion or by internalized acquiescence. (Even though Ayaan is often chastized by the PC MC Mainstream for her too-close-for-comfort criticisms of Islam -- see my essay Damned if you do, demonized if you don't -- that only reflects the paradoxical irony which epitomizes PC MC.)
Then we have the curious phenomenon of people whose rhetoric against Islam sounds markedly tough, but is riddled in subtle ways with emollients that ensure an underlying softness. Maajid Nawaz is a past master at this; and one reasonably infers that this is out of his stealth jihad design. One then wonders whether Sam and Ayaan have learned this from their recent friendship and alliance with Maajid. or whether they were predisposed to regress from their previously harder stances. I think it's a combination of the two, where Maajid cleverly and ingeniously palpated their semi-conscious anxiety and exploited it to massage them gently and steer them toward his Two Islams model (Islam split into two -- Islam proper, to be protected from our condemnation; and "Islamist extremism" to be subjected to provocatively harsh and frank criticisms).
As long as one neglects or fails to see the original sleight-of-hand Maajid has done -- "Here is Islam, and... nothing up my sleeve... presto! Now we have two Islams!" -- one becomes fooled into thinking that here, we are deep into a soberly harsh examination of the problem of critique of Islam. As I noted in my essay Does not compute: The Sam Harris/Maajid Nawaz "Conversation"), Sam at one point in that conversation held at Harvard, publicizing their book they wrote together, more or less explicitly admits that he has let Maajid set the tone for the terminology of his Islamocriticism:
"...the moment you try to shine a light on the problem of... I think [motioning his hand to his left to refer to Nawaz] appropriately described as 'Islamism'... for this conversation... the full armamentarium of political correctness and... cries of racism just hits you full in the face..."
He also revealed during that conversation that:
"If you read the book you'll see that if anything, my views and my way of speaking about this problem... have been more modified than Maajid's by our... collaboration."
Indeed, near the beginning of the conversation, when the moderator asks him a fundamental question to start things rolling -- "Is Islam a religion of peace or a religion of war?" -- Harris answered that with questions like these, although his instincts are different from those of Maajid, he nevertheless prefers to "defer to Maajid".
I haven't studied Ayaan Hirsi Ali's relationship with Maajid yet. But appearances indicate that she too, like Sam, has joined the Maajid Peace Train. During that same Harvard conversation, for example, Maajid repeatedly refers to his "friends Sam and Ayaan" who agree with him (not without cognitive dissonance on their part sometimes reflected in their rhetoric, but apparently without their conscience supervening over his nonsense) that most Muslims just wanna have a sandwich and that the problem is radical Islamist extremism, not Islam per se.
At any rate, among the activities that seem to constitute Sam Harris's career (aside from writing books and appearing on news and/or talk shows to be interviewed) are regular podcasts with various individuals which he publishes on his website. His latest podcast he introduces thusly:
In this episode of the Waking Up podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Ayaan Hirsi Ali about Islamism, the migrant crisis in Europe, and other topics.
It will be interesting to listen to Sam and Ayaan converse for nearly one hour about this non-existent, fantasy construct, "Islamism". That's the term Sam learned from his friend & partner, the pseudo-"Reformer" snake, Maajid Nawaz. It's just one of many ways in which Expert Counter-Terrorism Analysts & Sundry Pundits throughout the Western Mainstream divide Islam into two -- one to criticize, even sometimes condemn; the other to inoculate and protect, in order to protect innumerable millions of Muslims from our suspicion (and perhaps more importantly to protect our ethical narcissism from our own inclinations to "bigotry" and "racism").
Before I listen to that podcast, I predict the following thing: Along with other luminaries in the upper reaches of the Counter-Jihad Mainstream (where Robert Spencer and Pam Geller and Frank Gaffney and Baron Bodissey and Andrew Bostom, et al., are persona non grata for seeming to have too many Islamophobic cooties), Sam and Ayaan will congratulate each other and their friend Maajid for being oh-so tough on the problem; meanwhile deftly packaging that problem as one of "Islamist extremism" -- or perhaps other variants, including "Salafism" and "radicalization", etc.
Well, I listened to it. Interestingly, in the first five minutes, Ayaan refers to merely "Islam" as the problem. When Sam responds to her, he has deftly (or unconsciously) tweaked that into "Islamism" -- and, of course, nary a peep of protest from Ayaan. A little later on, she alludes to "Islamic extremism" (we fall on our knees in rapturous gratefulness for this "-ic" instead of an "-ist"...).
And yet, she will occasionally revert back to the dreaded I word without any Maajidian cushions:
...Islam as a doctrine, as a civilization, as a culture, subjugates women and is a very intolerant doctrine.
Of course, this is skirting the more pressing point that Islam mandates indefinite warfare against the Other, has been waging this war for 1,400 years, and is now reviving this perennial war against us, only put relatively on a back burner due to temporary historical setbacks in recent centuries. The way Ayaan puts it, it's just a backward culture that needs to be reformed, meanwhile no serious dangers exist while we continue to absorb more and more Muslims into our civilizational body politic & bloodstream in pursuit of this White Man's Burden of helping (even prodding) Muslims to reform.
And yet, she can say a couple of minutes later:
...even though there is a huge taboo in Western countries on the discussion of Islam, you can see for yourself, when verses from the Koran and the practices of the Prophet Mohammed are applied in practice, what that looks like -- you get the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria [i.e., ISIS]
How can Islam be reformed if Islam in its essence, as Ayaan is strongly implying, is ISIS? Some things are so rotten to the core, they need to be scrapped, not fixed with the nails, screws and duct tape of reform.
Speaking of reform, a few minutes later, Ayaan launches into her bête blanche -- namely, her mission to persuade Muslims to reform their own Islam. Wildly unrealistic; not to mention that she, of all people, should know better.
Her mention of this is occasioned by Sam bringing up a common canard -- namely, that when critics of Islam (read: "Islamism") dare to point out, or even imply (and even in the context of gently massaging Islam out of the problem) a continuity between Islam proper and the extremism, fanaticism, intolerance, human rights abuses, and terrorism we see flow wherever Islam holds any sway, those critics are actually parroting the Radical Extremists and ironically enabling their "twisting" and "hijacking" of Benevolent Islam.
As Sam articulates this canard indulged by the PC MCs and Muslims:
You must get the frequent criticism as I do... that you are promulgating the same interpretation of Islam as ISIS does, as the extremists do, by drawing this linkage between ideology and behavior; and therefore you are giving it legitimacy...
Ayaan's response is to point out that this canard entails an implicitly condescending attitude toward Muslims, regarding them as though they were children who cannot be challenged to have the moral responsibility to choose to reject the extremist "interpretation" and who we must assume will have no other choice but to become "radicalized" when we criticize their Islam. What this is expressing, she says:
... is a lack of respect for Muslims as resasonable individuals. The assumption that by pretending that what we see has nothing to do with Islam is an assumption... if you think that a human being who happens to be a Muslim lacks reason; if you think that human being will lash out in violence; if you think of that human being as a child, not mature enough to handle ideas, then you are going to talk to that human being and about that human being in a way... in exactly the same way that our President and many other Western leaders talk to and talk about Muslims. Here's where the world is upside-down. You are doing all of this because you want to stimulate respect from the .... non-Islamic public for Muslims and not to be prejudiced against them. But how can you ever achieve that, when you refuse to allow them onto this platform of reason; because human beings, I believe, change their minds, not because of the gun, not because of violence, but through persuasion. And if you want to persuade most Muslims to reform their religion or to give up at least those parts, such as jihad and sharia, that are violent and opressive, you just have to be explicit about what this doctrine says. Not doing so means you are simply discriminating against them... it's the prejudice of low expectations.
Sam agrees, and takes Ayaan's point and runs with it -- but ironically (and unwittingly) he ends up articulating precisely the condescension she has just finished deploring! Thus Sam:
Yeah, and ironically you're doing absolutely nothing to come to the aid of the most vulnerable people in those communities. You're not empowering reformers and women and everyone else who can't really find their voice because there's no safe context in which to do it.
What Sam is articulating here is essentially the White Man's Burden which was predicated upon precisely that condescension of the Third World peoples the West took it upon itself to manage and try to civilize during the long epoch of Western Colonialism. Sam seems to be saying that it is incumbent upon us, the West, to "empower" all these Muslims who remain "vulnerable" and have no voice because they are caught up in situations where "there's no safe context". His description of the dire straits of all these Muslims we, the West, need to "empower" sounds oddly impersonal and abstract -- almost as though they are prisoners of some ecological circumstance, rather than the fact that it is Muslims who are actively, consciously creating this hostile ideological Gulag wherever in the world they abound in numbers.
And so we see that Sam's unwitting irony was really also implicit in Ayaan's dream of Muslims reforming their own Islam. She is condescendingly assuming that Muslims do not really choose the Islam of ISIS which is what she just got through implying is the essence of the Koran and Sunna. Sam's way of putting it flounders in incoherence, vaguely assuming a dichotomy of 1) an uncertain number of Muslim Victims whom we must "empower", and 2) an uncertain number of Muslim Victimizers (the "Extremist Islamists") keeping the former demographic prisoners of a climate & culture of intimidation and threats.
Now, if we knew with sufficient certitude which Muslims were which -- and if (directly related to this lack of sufficient certitude) there were no problem of Taqiyya and its adjunct problems of Stealth Jihad and the False Moderate -- then Sam and Ayaan's Description-cum-Prescription of the Problem-&-Solution would be coherent, and tenable. However, their Description-cum-Prescription remains incoherent largely because they are semi-consciously aware of, and grappling with, the problem of Taqiyya and its adjunct problems of Stealth Jihad and the False Moderate, while at the same time groping for a solution that does not really, with eyes wide open, factor in the horrible implications of that problem and its adjunct problems.
One almost gets the sense that the likes of Sam and Ayaan are braving the high seas of this formidable problem, but when their focus steers too close to the raging storm of it, and the looming iceberg ahead, they almost willfully avert their eyes in order to continue sailing straight ahead -- their compass and lodestar (not to mention the name of their ship of fools) being: Wishful Thinking.
[See Part Two]