Saturday, April 26, 2008

Reform! Reform! Reform! Reform Islam!

If 99.99 per cent of Muslims claim a tiny group of Muslim heretics are not Muslim, who is right?

Bully pulpit

Apr 24th 2008 | BANGKOK
From The Economist print edition
Religious freedom is put at risk by political expediency

SEVERAL thousand hardline Muslims protested outside President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's palace in Jakarta on April 20th demanding that he ban Ahmadiyah, an unorthodox but moderate Muslim sect founded in 19th-century India that claims around 200,000 members across Indonesia. At an earlier meeting of one of the groups involved, a leader was filmed chanting, "Kill! Kill! Kill! Kill Ahmadiyah!"

[A] modern Islamic sect and the generic name for various Sufi (Muslim mystic) orders. The sect was founded in Qadian, the Punjab, India, in 1889 by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (c. 1839–1908), who claimed to be the mahdi (a figure expected by some Muslims at the end of the world), the Christian Messiah, an incarnation of the Hindu god Krishna, and a reappearance (buruz) of Muhammad. The sect's doctrine, in some aspects, is unorthodox.

What's it all about?

The Ähmadiyah Sect are Islamic by nature, they are just over a hundred years old, and hold the Prophet Muhammad as the figurehead.

And, if nobody minds too much, the founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad and his son would also like to be considered amongst the prophets.

The Ähmadiyah started life in the Punjab, India and now they are alive and fairly well in Pakistan, Northern India, Egypt, Europe and some of the Americas.

They are in the missionary and conversion business, and although they do not have a great deal of political influence, they do have a bit of money tucked away and their main aim is to try to persuade the impressionable to take up their particular brand of Islamic Faith.
Mostly without success.

I don't care, and I'm sure most readers here don't care what Muslims think about Islam and each other. But let's face it, Muslims care about Islam and about other Muslims' fiddling with it, reforming it, as it were. And what's the usual outcome of that? Well, I don't know. Let's see.

"Kill! Kill! KIll! Kill Ahmadiyah!"

Graphic from Blazing Catfur.

Friday, April 25, 2008

He's a (tremble, sneer, slap forehead) Populist!

Leiden is the epicentre of serious scholarship in the field of Islam. Forget Al Azhar or Qom, a couple of rat nests for fanatics and terrorists; Leiden is it. So when a scholar writes from there, a legitimate and serious thinker and scholar, we pay attention. But of course no two scholars agree on much or scholarship would be boring, against the nature of Humanness, and not likely to occur in this life in this lifetime. We must admit, though, that not all the comes from a centre of high quality is of high quality: much of what we get is dhimmi dross and unreadable myopia, the lexical drool of the senile. And we also get down-right bought-off hacks posing as scholars, some of whom are scholars, all the worse for us. Speaking of which, where's John Esposito?

Arabist Hans Jansen new book "Islam for pigs, monkeys, donkeys and other animals"
Thursday, April 24, 2008

In his recent book Islam for pigs, monkeys, donkeys and other animals, Dutch Arabist Hans Jansen has put a cat in among the scientific pigeons. However, it looks like the media are taking him more seriously than his fellow Islam experts are. "Jansen has completely set aside his scientific scruples."

Hans Jansen has always been critical of his colleagues, but in his last but one publication Islam for pigs he attacks them in no uncertain terms. He writes:

"Most western professors with Islam in their portfolio like to talk with Muslims. It often has nothing to do with science. It is pure deception, in which malice cannot always be ruled out, although ignorance is of course increasingly common as it is everywhere else."

Fellow Arabist Professor Martin van Bruinessen from the Institute for Studies in Islam in the Modern World (ISIM) in Leiden is surprised by Dr Jansen's arrogant tone.

"I don't really know what he is referring to, but what he accuses his colleagues of can easily just as well apply to him."

Mr Van Bruinessen thinks that it's Mr Jansen's book, which is lying in front of him on the table, that is unscientific and misleading.

"It creates an image of Islam and Muslims which is much more dangerous that can be justified by the facts. Dr Jansen is not stupid, so the question is why does he write these kind of things."

An inconvenient truth

Professor Van Bruinessen expresses the growing irritation with Hans Jansen among his colleagues. He remembers when in the 1990s, Dr Jansen wrote facetious pieces about Islam. But since the Netherlands became obsessed by fear of Islam after 9/11, the professor from Utrecht has grown into a real phenomenon in the media, in which he presents himself as the only Dutch expert who dares to talk about the inconvenient truth of Islam without political correctness getting in the way. Dr Jansen's work is an important source of inspiration for anti-Islamic MP Geert Wilders. In the days after his film Fitna was put on the web, Dr Jansen appeared in several television programmes to explain its content.

In Islam for pigs, he sets out his vision by answering 250 questions about Islam. In the book, Islam is portrayed as a dangerous and violent religion. The Qur'an preaches peace, Dr Jansen admits, but only once everyone has submitted to the religion. Up to that time, evil and unbelievers have to be conquered, using violence if necessary.

The number of Dutch Muslims that reject al-Qaeda's brand of terrorism could be "lower than we think", according to the professor. Most Muslims do not see Bin Laden as a madman, but rather as a "super-activist, who is taking the ultimate steps according to Islamic rules in the fight against infidels."

Scruples aside

The title of the book refers to the terms used by the Qur'an for unbelievers and Jews, explains the author in the introduction. Professor Van Bruinessen says:

"If you take the time to look at the passages in question - for example on the site, you will see that this is just not true. The Qur'an tells about a people in the past that disobeyed God and was turned into pigs and monkeys as a punishment."

Professor van Bruinessen thinks this is typical of Mr Jansen's style.

"Since Mr Jansen received the title of professor, but in particular since the murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh, he has set all scientific scruples aside. He has become an anti-Islam polemist who has no reservations about completely misrepresenting the issues on purpose."


Islam expert Dick Douwes, professor at the university of Rotterdam, agrees.

"Dr Jansen takes certain verses from the Qur'an to prove that Islam preaches violence against disbelievers. But he completely ignores the fact that most Muslims have a different reading of the text. He is not acting like a scientist but more like an ayatollah who studies the scriptures and thinks it is up to him to tell others what the Qur'an says."

But if Dutch Islam experts have so many objections to Dr Jansen's statements, why is there so little opposition to what he says? Professor van Bruinessen says most Arabists are just too busy with their own research and with writing scientific papers. Dr Jansen, who for several years now has only written populist pieces, is never actually taken seriously by his peers. "They have failed to realise for too long now that the media do take him seriously."

I was walking through the alley last night around midnight when I was set upon by a couple of scholars who pounced on me from behind. I immediately dropped my knife and brass knuckles and hit them with "Populists!"

I'm hiding out from the cops till this thing blows over. I mean, I don't know if those guys are going to survive. I didn't mean to hit them that hard, but in my terror at being attacked I just let loose with my best weapon at hand. Wow.

Esther at Islam in Europe provides this:

In the book 'Strijdsters van Allah' (about radical Muslim women and the Hofstad group), journalists Janny Groen and Annieke Kranenberg tell of a incendiary sermon by radical imam Fawaz Jneid, where he cursed Hirsi Ali and Van Gogh (see here). They did not know what to make of the sermon, which also urged Muslims to work against political enemies through legal channels, and so they gave the sermon tape to six Islam experts. Three Moroccans, who wanted to remain anonymous, all agreed - this was an inciting sermon, and all mention of staying rational were there just for the benefit of the Dutch authorities. This was clearly a political, mobilizing, activist discourse. If Fawaz would have wanted to calm the youth, as he claimed, instead of inciting them, he would have spoken completely differently.

Three Dutch experts were also consulted. Maurits Berger agreed that the sermon was filled with hate and calls to protect Islam from its attackers, but did not think this was inciting in the judicial sense. Ruud Peters said it was clear that Fawaz did not call for violence. Hans Jansen, on the other, just read the sermon, without knowing who the speaker was, and completely agreed with the Moroccan researchers. Amazingly, so did Muslims who often listened to Fawaz's sermons.

There you have it. If Jensen agrees with three Muslims and the average Muslim on the street rather than with a couple of fellow scholars, Jensen must be a populist.

Speaking of John Esposito, here he is today at Jihad Watch.

Cosmic, huh?

And now, to continue this even further:

Vancouver Visitor brings this story to our attention, and the ever lovely and smart Abigail Esman writes it up, abridged below.

Deathwah on Dutch Comedian/Son of Islamic Scholar (and Populist!)

Above we've looked briefly at Hans Jensen as he's maligned for writing the objective reality of Islam while his cloud-cuckoo-land colleagues are more determined to justify their lives' work by passing off Islam as a worthy religion, worthy not merely of scholarship but of-- OK, I'm stumped. Maybe these so-called scholars are determined to convince themselves that there is something good in Islam itself that justifies their life effort. One can study Nazis, for example and find grandness in the German culture to seeming no end in spite of it; but Islam? Naw, it's crap to the ground and back. But just as some people must dredge the sewers to keep society healthy, so too must scholars dredge the annals of Islam so we can live without it clogging up the world and making it over-spill into the rest of our publicities. Dredging sewers might not be glamorous but it is important, and it's not to be despised; nor Islamic study. However, perhaps some scholars feel a need to gloss their work with some fooleries to make us think better of what they do. Hans Jensen doesn't seem to feel that way. He writes and his son speaks, both of them now in deep trouble with Muslims and their dhimmi enablers. Here's on the son. He was last year at this time a law student and comedian, told a few jokes about Islam, and is now under death threat by-- Muslims!

Heavily truncated from Esman's piece. Link at bottom:

Abigail R. Esman, "Who's Afraid of the Muslim Joke?" World Defense Review. 06 Mar 07

[E]wout Jansen, a 24-year-old law student, and his comic partner, Etienne Kemerink... perform regularly throughout the country, basing their act largely – as many comedians do – on current news and trends. [S]o for five minutes of his 100-minute act, he addresses [Islam]. Among his jokes is a reference to the killing of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh.... In the past, Jansen acknowledges, occasional performances at schools produced tense moments – but nothing he ever found particularly threatening. ...

Reporters at Folia, however, wanted to know more. They arranged to interview the imam at Assoenna, with Kabli acting as interpreter, to understand exactly why: was it Ewout's jokes that were the problem, or was joking in itself forbidden? But the imam barely had a chance to speak, other than to quote a passage from the Koran

The hypocrites are afraid
lest a sura should be sent down against them
telling thee what is in their hearts
Say: Mock on
God will bring forth what you fear
And if thou questionest them
then assuredly they will say
*We were only plunging and playing*
Say: What, then, were you mocking God
and His Signs and His Messenger
Make no excuses
(Verse 9:64, translation A.J. Arberry)

Okay, the reporter pressed, so what exactly should happen when someone jokes about Islam?

But it was Kabli, not the imam, who answered him. "First he should be warned," declared Kabli. "But if he continues and he goes too far with Islam, then, according to Islam, he must die." Well. Good we got that cleared up.


"But what he means," says Ewout Jansen, whose father is an Islam scholar, "is that I should die, but he'll let the radicals do it."

For Jansen, the entire incident came as a rude and unanticipated surprise – he found out about the threat on his own life while reading "Geen Stijl," a popular blog. Within days, the news had spread. Members of an online Dutch-Muslim community held a poll: should Ewout be killed? Without having read or heard a single one of Ewout and Etienne's jokes, 60 voters said yes: 30 percent. Although another 19 percent said they didn't know, Jansen told the newspaper, de Volkskrant, "Fortunately, a small majority – 51 percent – did feel that I may go on living."

Nonetheless, that 30-percent figure is alarming. It suggests, indeed, that these were not the words of a single, "marginal" Muslim radical; and, in fact, Kabli is not radical at all. After all, he didn't offer to kill the two comedians – he only felt that "someone" should. But at the same time, rather than distance himself from Muslim radicals, Kabli instead seemed to be saying, "thank goodness we've got them."


"If you talk about the news, how can you not talk about Islam and Muslims? They all are constantly bashing Christianity, but they never say anything about Islam. If the purpose of Theo van Gogh's murder was to get people to watch what they say, " he adds....

— Abigail R. Esman is an award-winning author-journalist who divides her time between New York and The Netherlands. In addition to her column in World Defense Review, her work has appeared in Foreign Policy,, Esquire, Vogue, Glamour, Town & Country, The Christian Science Monitor, The New Republic and many others. She is currently working on a book about Muslim extremism and democracy in the West.

Abigail R. Esman can be reached at

Visit Esman on the web at

© 2007 Abigail R. Esman

Abigail R. Esman story archive

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Our regularly scheduled meeting....

I know, I know, you all wish you could be like me and sit down to reread Lenin's What is to be Done for the past, oh, I don't know, two months? A year? Well, let me tell you, a 100 year old polemic by a crazy fanatical Communist going on about internecine quarrels with obscure Russian political theorists is my idea of a good time but sometimes I do need to take a break to have a meeting with living people who come up for air once in a while. Thus:

It's becoming increasingly difficult to speak freely and openly in pubic in the free and democratic Western world in these past years, and oddly, especially since 9/11.

One might have thought that after such a vicious attack on the modern world the ideologists who perpetrated such an attack would be sought out and dealt with harshly and permanently. Not so. On the contrary, it is people who speak out against the savagery of the ideologies of contemporary fascism who find themselves hounded, threatened, even murdered in the streets of Europe or America and beyond. Nor is this outrageous behaviour restricted to Muslims on a rampage against the world. Far from it. Many of the worst offenders against the right of free speech are our political leaders, such as the Dutch prime minister, for example, and many of our intelligentsia generally, media, university professors, penny-a-pick pundits, and so on. Yes, many of the churches are in on the act of preventing free and open discourse regarding Islam and the nature of our Western Modernities under attack. Muslim jihadis and Left dhimmi fascists. There seems to be no end.

Ah, but there is. Daily there are converts and the courageous who stand up and count themselves as democrats and free men and women who will sit in fear no longer. If you are one such and if you're not working over-time to pay for an impossible defense against a frivolous lawsuit brought against you by Richard Warman, Warren Kinsella et al, you might wish to sit with us as you take a stand for freedom and the preservation of democracy.

We'll be waiting for you at the Vancouver Public Library in the atrium outside Blenz coffee bar from 7-9:00 p.m this Thursday, like every Thursday. Come talk with us while it's still legal, more or less.

Then it's back to Lenin. Yes, this book does end. I know it does. I cheated and read the ending. (Lenin dies in a fiery car-crash trying to escape with the money-- but there's a bomb in the brief case!)

Monday, April 21, 2008

Spring Path

I'm involved in these past few days rereading a couple of books, one reviewed below, Benda, Treason of the Intellectuals; the other, V.I. Lenin, What is to be Done.

I read slowly. Until I finish, and until I think, and until I write on these works, I wish for the interim to turn the mind to what we have because of what our culture is, the thing we stand to lose by igonoring our past in favor of the phantasies of fascist Utopianisms and genuine personal hatreds played out by philobarbarist intellectuals and ecologist anti-humanists. There are, as we speak and live, wreckers among us whose only reason for living is to destroy the world as it is so people die in a massive holocaust, a theater of nihilist exhileration. A photo, a review, a bit of time to read, think, and to write. We have and they will destroy.
Photo credit Cambridge Path.

In 1927, the French essayist Julien Benda published his famous attack on the intellectual corruption of the age, La Trahison des clercs. I said "famous," but perhaps "once famous" would have been more accurate. Today, only the title of the book, not its argument, enjoys currency. "La trahison des clercs": it is one of those phrases that bristles with hints and associations without stating anything definite. Benda tells us that he uses the term "clerc" in "the medieval sense" to mean "scribe"—someone we would now call a member of the intelligentsia. Academics and journalists, pundits, moralists, and pontificators of all varieties are in this sense clercs. The English translation, The Treason of the Intellectuals, sums it up neatly.

The "treason" in question was the betrayal by the "clerks" of their vocation as intellectuals. From the time of the pre-Socratics, intellectuals, considered in their role as intellectuals, had been a breed apart. In Benda's terms, they were understood to be "all those whose activity essentially is not the pursuit of practical aims, all those who seek their joy in the practice of an art or a science or a metaphysical speculation, in short in the possession of non-material advantages." Thanks to such men, Benda wrote, "humanity did evil for two thousand years, but honored good. This contradiction was an honor to the human species, and formed the rift whereby civilization slipped into the world."

According to Benda, however, this situation was changing. More and more, intellectuals were abandoning their attachment to the traditional panoply of philosophical and scholarly ideals. One clear sign of the change was the attack on the Enlightenment ideal of universal humanity and the concomitant glorification of various particularisms. The attack on the universal went forward in social and political life as well as in the refined precincts of epistemology and metaphysics: "Those who for centuries had exhorted men, at least theoretically, to deaden the feeling of their differences … have now come to praise them, according to where the sermon is given, for their 'fidelity to the French soul,' 'the immutability of their German consciousness,' for the 'fervor of their Italian hearts.'" In short, intellectuals began to immerse themselves in the unsettlingly practical and material world of political passions: precisely those passions, Benda observed, "owing to which men rise up against other men, the chief of which are racial passions, class passions and national passions." The "rift" into which civilization had been wont to slip narrowed and threatened to close altogether.

Writing at a moment when ethnic and nationalistic hatreds were again threatening to tear Europe asunder, Benda's diagnosis assumed the lineaments of a prophecy—one that continues to have deep resonance today. "Our age is indeed the age of the intellectual organization of political hatreds," he wrote. "It will be one of its chief claims to notice in the moral history of humanity." There was no need to add that its place in moral history would be as a cautionary tale. In little more than a decade, Benda's prediction that, because of the "great betrayal" of the intellectuals, humanity was "heading for the greatest and most perfect war ever seen in the world," would achieve a terrifying corroboration.

Julien Benda was not so naïve as to believe that intellectuals as a class had ever entirely abstained from political involvement, or, indeed, from involvement in the realm of practical affairs. Nor did he believe that intellectuals, as citizens, necessarily should abstain from political commitment or practical affairs. The "treason" or betrayal he sought to publish concerned the way that intellectuals had lately allowed political commitment to insinuate itself into their understanding of the intellectual vocation as such. Increasingly, Benda claimed, politics was "mingled with their work as artists, as men of learning, as philosophers." The ideal of disinterested judgment and faith in the universality of truth: such traditional guiding principles of intellectual life were more and more contemptuously deployed as masks when they were not jettisoned altogether. Benda castigated this development as the "desire to abase the values of knowledge before the values of action."

In its crassest but perhaps also most powerful form, this desire led to that familiar phenomenon Benda dubbed "the cult of success." It is summed up, he writes, in "the teaching that says that when a will is successful that fact alone gives it a moral value, whereas the will which fails is for that reason alone deserving of contempt." In itself, this idea is hardly novel, as history from the Greek sophists on down reminds us. In Plato's Gorgias, for instance, the sophist Callicles expresses his contempt for Socrates' devotion to philosophy: "I feel toward philosophers very much as I do toward those who lisp and play the child." Callicles taunts Socrates with the idea that "the more powerful, the better, and the stronger" are simply different words for the same thing. Successfully pursued, he insists, "luxury and intemperance … are virtue and happiness, and all the rest is tinsel." How contemporary Callicles sounds!

In Benda's formula, this boils down to the conviction that "politics decides morality." To be sure, the cynicism that Callicles espoused is perennial: like the poor, it will be always with us. What Benda found novel was the accreditation of such cynicism by intellectuals. "It is true indeed that these new 'clerks' declare that they do not know what is meant by justice, truth, and other 'metaphysical fogs,' that for them the true is determined by the useful, the just by circumstances," he noted. "All these things were taught by Callicles, but with this difference; he revolted all the important thinkers of his time."

In other words, the real treason of the intellectuals was not that they countenanced Callicles but that they championed him. To appreciate the force of Benda's thesis one need only think of that most influential modern Callicles, Friedrich Nietzsche. His doctrine of "the will to power," his contempt for the "slave morality" of Christianity, his plea for an ethic "beyond good and evil," his infatuation with violence—all epitomize the disastrous "pragmatism" that marks the intellectual's "treason." The real problem was not the unattainability but the disintegration of ideals: an event that Nietzsche hailed as the "transvaluation of all values." "Formerly," Benda observed, "leaders of States practiced realism, but did not honor it; … With them morality was violated but moral notions remained intact; and that is why, in spite of all their violence, they did not disturb civilization."

Benda understood that the stakes were high: the treason of the intellectuals signaled not simply the corruption of a bunch of scribblers but a fundamental betrayal of culture. By embracing the ethic of Callicles, intellectuals had, Benda reckoned, precipitated "one of the most remarkable turning points in the moral history of the human species. It is impossible," he continued,

to exaggerate the importance of a movement whereby those who for twenty centuries taught Man that the criterion of the morality of an act is its disinterestedness, that good is a decree of his reason insofar as it is universal, that his will is only moral if it seeks its law outside its objects, should begin to teach him that the moral act is the act whereby he secures his existence against an environment which disputes it, that his will is moral insofar as it is a will "to power," that the part of his soul which determines what is good is its "will to live" wherein it is most "hostile to all reason," that the morality of an act is measured by its adaptation to its end, and that the only morality is the morality of circumstances. The educators of the human mind now take sides with Callicles against Socrates, a revolution which I dare to say seems to me more important than all political upheavals.

The Treason of the Intellectuals is an energetic hodgepodge of a book. The philosopher Jean-François Revel recently described it as "one of the fussiest pleas on behalf of the necessary independence of intellectuals." Certainly it is rich, quirky, erudite, digressive, and polemical: more an exclamation than an analysis. Partisan in its claims for disinterestedness, it is ruthless in its defense of intellectual high-mindedness. Yet given the horrific events that unfolded in the decades following its publication, Benda's unremitting attack on the politicization of the intellect and ethnic separatism cannot but strike us as prescient. And given the continuing echo in our own time of the problems he anatomized, the relevance of his observations to our situation can hardly be doubted. From the savage flowering of ethnic hatreds in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union to the mendacious demands for political correctness and multiculturalism on college campuses across America and Europe, the treason of the intellectuals continues to play out its unedifying drama. Benda spoke of "a cataclysm in the moral notions of those who educate the world." That cataclysm is erupting in every corner of cultural life today.

Roger Kimball, New Criterion.