Tuesday, August 15, 2017
Signs of Intelligent Life on Planet Jihad Watch? Le Part Deux
In part one, I laid out the groundwork of an introduction to this theme. The "intelligent life" to which my title refers is the healthy unwillingness, on the part of most Jihad Watch commenters (the Civilians of the Counter-Jihad Mainstream), to buy the Used Car of Islamic Reform being sold to them by part of the Leadership of that same Counter-Jihad Mainstream -- the team-members of Robert Spencer, that éminence gris of that bastion of that Counter-Jihad Mainstream, Jihad Watch (the team members being Christine Douglass-Williams and Andrew Harrod). I've seen no other Leadership figures shine an appropriately critical light on this book or on Spencer for so generously hosting it on his site.
That intelligence has limits, however. None of those Civilians even uttered a peep of protestation against Christine Douglass-Williams or against her mentor and boss, Robert Spencer, politely but firmly demanding of them why they are pushing this preposterous -- not to mention dangerous -- idea of Islamic Reform. Intelligence without backbone.
One thing I noted in part one, though I may not have made it explicit enough, is that Christine Douglass-Williams seems to fall for the Good Cop/Better Cop maneuver -- whereby she demonstrates a healthy suspicion of Tariq Ramadan (the Good Cop Muslim), who may fool the broader Western Mainstream outside the Counter-Jihad Mainstream; but then without skipping a beat, she swallows the feigned censure of Tariq by another Muslim, Salim Mansur, who is pretending to be on our side (thus in this instance the Better Cop Muslim). And this revealing dynamic is emblematic of all the supposedly Reformist Muslims Christine Douglass-Williams is showcasing in her book, The Challenge of Modernizing Islam: Reformers Speak Out And the Obstacles They Face.
Since Christine Douglass-Williams published her initial notice of her book (the subject of my part one), another Jihad Watch team member (though considerably less utilized by Spencer), Andrew Harrod, published a usefully detailed analytical review of it on Jihad Watch, its title again suggesting a Spencerian neutrality on the question: Islamic Reform: How Firm a Foundation?
At 105 comments, Harrod's review garnered many more comments from the Civilians of the Counter-Jihad Mainstream than did the first notice published by Christine Douglass-Williams -- and these too reflected a majority view of healthy rejection of the whole premise; again reminding us of the apparent rift between the Civilians and the Leadership of the Counter-Jihad Mainstream.
Harrod, like Douglass-Williams, frames the issue as one of remarkable difficulty, not of preposterous impossibility. And, like Douglass-Williams, he does so whilst deferring to the putative Muslim reformers themselves. Thus he introduces his review by quoting one of them, the female Muslim Shireen Qudosi, and concludes with his description of "the daunting obstacles facing any Islamic doctrinal reform". Similarly, Harrod notes that Robert Spencer's own forward to the book "reveals in Quran 5:3 a seemingly insurmountable hurdle for Douglass-Williams et al." Squaring a circle isn't a "daunting obstacle" nor a "seemingly insurmountable hurdle"; it is a practical impossibility. But we won't get that kind of straight talk from Spencer or his team members, apparently.
Harrod goes on to quote Robert Spencer:
Spencer notes that “tension between high hopes and harsh realities runs through these interviews” in Douglass-Williams’ book. Indeed, “not every attentive and informed reader will come away from these pages convinced that every person here interviewed is being in every instance entirely forthright.”
This, as I've said, is typical Spencer fence-riding. It's almost like he's trying to get as close as possible to dismissing these "reformers" without actually doing so. What's the point of such an asymptotic particle physics of Counter-Jihad, one wonders?
Harrod then quotes Spencer as describing the interviews Douglass-Williams conducted with the showcased Reformer Muslims as “unique in their probing honesty.” As I said in part 1, I'll just have to buy the book and read it to see. That one question -- how well (or, rather, how poorly) were these Reformer Muslims vetted by the interrogatories posed by Douglass-Williams -- would be worth the price, since it is the very crux of the whole thing. And somehow, I don't trust Spencer's word on how thoroughly these supposedly moderate Muslims were vetted.
From there, Harrod's analytical review goes on to discuss a tissue of Muslim-Reformer memes, as palpated by various quotes from the book, woven in. Thus:
Analogous to the recent thinking of the Muslim apostate Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Douglass-Williams’ interviewees distinguish between Islam and Islamism. For Salim Mansur, Islam is a “personal faith, just as to Christians” while Zuhdi Jasser, a “Jeffersonian type of Muslim” who believes “society should be run by reason,” equates Islamism as “interchangeable with the term ‘political Islam.’” Islamists, elaborates Islam scholar Daniel Pipes in a book forward, are “advocates of applying Islamic law in its entirety and severity as a means to regain the medieval glory of Islam.”
(One wonders whether that preposterous phrase, describing Jasser as a “Jeffersonian type of Muslim”, is from the pen of Douglass-Williams. If so, it would be telling of her capacity, or abysmal lack thereof, to vet these Muslims.)
The reader will note Harrod bringing up the “Islam/Islamism” distinction (and naturally, all these Muslim Reformers traffic in it). In his next paragraph, he goes on to write (I have transmuted the italicized word ‘is’ into caps since I italicized the entire quote):
Douglass-Williams herself concedes that “normative Islam IS Islamism” and notes the standard objection to any Islam/Islamism dichotomy. “It is often argued that there is no distinction between the words ‘Islamism’ and ‘Islam,’ because Islam is inherently political” as a comprehensive, even totalitarian, belief system encompassing both piety and politics. As Pipes stated to her, an “aggressive Jihadi sentiment, an Islamic supremacist ambition” forms the “hallmark of Muslim life over 1,400 years,” while the Egyptian-American Tawfik Hamid notes that “reformists were killed throughout history.”
So if Douglass-Williams “concedes” this most crucial point, why doesn't she politely rake these supposed Reformers over the coals for indulging in it? And what does Harrod do at this juncture of his analysis, in unfolding this critical node? He underscores that point -- that Islam is Islamism -- by adducing the words and experiences of the various Muslim Reformers (and underlined by a judicious quote from both Robert Spencer and that egregiously soft member of the Counter-Jihad Mainstream Leadership, Daniel Pipes). This is either rather ingenious of Harrod, or simply reflects his own softness on a par approximately with that of Douglass-Williams. For what this does is imply that there are Muslims -- represented by those showcased in this book promoted by the Counter-Jihad Mainstream -- who are on our side in our increasing dismay, as we learn more and more about Islam.
I would say Harrod's move here is ingenious, since he just got through telling us that these same Reformer Muslims tend to apply the “Islam/Islamism” distinction. So the effect he engenders by unfolding this latent paradox is to imply that these Reformer Muslims have an appetite for freedom of conscience and thought -- i.e., that they have an Inner Westerner inside of them trying to come out -- and that they are thus engaged in a valiant struggle. Indeed, their valiant struggle is also ours, and we must join them so that we, together, can solve the problem of Islam by reforming Islam (that's the dismaying conversion Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Sam Harris have undergone). Thus, ingeniously, the words and experiences of these Muslim Reformers, which tend to imply that Islam is Islamism, garner our sympathy and acceptance of their alliance with us against that same Islam; while, at the same time, we forgive them for continuing to cultivate a psychological-cultural attachment to the Islam -- the same Islam we are struggling against -- that remains the meaning of life for them.
This tends to muddy the waters where, rather, the issue should be firmly and assertively clarified, by shining an unforgiving light on these Reformer Muslims and not letting them squirm out of it with anything remotely hinting of sophistry. And we say this only because we have come to know how appallingly evil and dangerous Islam is (or have Douglass-Williams, Andrew Harrod, Robert Spencer, et al., still, after all these years, not come to know this...?).
And one assumes -- without yet having read the book -- that Harrod's confusion on this most exigent point reflects the methodology of Douglass-Williams.