"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Orwellian Word Games In The Middle East

In the Orwellian media world we now live in, words are whatever you want them to mean. Since the war between Israel and Hezbollah started Sheikh Nasrallah has used the word “resistance” repeatedly in all his public comments. As might be expected, the press has followed suit.

Yet it is interesting to explore what Hezbollah is resisting. Israel voluntarily and unilaterally left southern Lebanon in conjunction with a U.N. accord. Israel did not respond in force to literally hundreds of rocket attacks against its northern territory until its soldiers were wantonly killed and three were kidnapped. And Israel did not challenge the U.N. when it didn’t enforce Resolution 1559 which specifically called for the diarmament of Hezbollah.

What Hezbollah appears to be resisting is the very existence of Israel. There are two theoretical observations that make this case. If tomorrow Hezbollah gave up its weapons, peace in Lebanon would follow. Even detractors of Israel would admit this result. If tomorrow Israel gave up its weapons, Israel would cease to exist. That too is indisputable. Therefore who is resisting whom?
When Sakarov and Scharansky were dissidents opposed to the tyranny of the Soviet leadership, it was clear who they were resisting. When Jews fought Nazis in the Warsaw ghetto, it was clear who they were resisting. Who precisely is Hezbollah resisting?

If I were to ask, who is Lebanon resisting, the answer is apparent – Hezbollah, Iran and Syria. Lebanon is an occupied country that no longer represents the will of its five million residents. It is and has been a client state of Syria for years and the Cedar revolution notwithstanding, either Syrian secret police, Hezbollah forces or Iranian Revolutionary Guard pull the political strings. To argue, as our State Department does, that the Lebanese government must be propped up is an exercise in self delusion.

In the media universe where ignorance prevails, the word “resistance” has meaning as a cause. It reverberates with the echo of freedom fighters and nation builders. Now, of course, the word has been preempted, a casualty of double-speak.

“Resistance” is not alone in this preemption category; it is merely the latest example. In the last few years the word “occupation” was the Orwellian word of choice; it too was used by the PLO and Hamas to argue for their resistance against Israel. In this case the world seemed to buy the line since an entity called Palestine and a people called Palestinians were invented and given legitimacy.

What the West doesn’t understand is that the Koran and the Islamic faith countenances “teqiya,” or lying, that promotes the religion and is consistent with Allah’s will. Since Allah’s will cannot be determined and designs on caliphates can be contemplated, teqiya is a useful method for promoting Islamic expansion.

The part that is infuriating about this state of affairs is that American journalists are often persuaded lies are true and truth is lies. How does one know? If you start with the Chomskyan supposition that the American government always lies, you may be inclined to give the benefit of the doubt to the Islamists.

However, there is a simple test for truth detection. Whenever Hezbollah spokesmen use the word “resistance,” and whenever Hamas uses the word “occupation,” you can be sure lies are forthcoming. Now, if only the American press corps would adopt this simple litmus test.

Herbert London is president of Hudson Institute and professor emeritus of New York University. He is the author of Decade of Denial (Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2001). London maintains a website, www.herblondon.org.

28 comments:

Tom Van Dyke said...

If tomorrow Hezbollah gave up its weapons, peace in Lebanon would follow...

If tomorrow Israel gave up its weapons, Israel would cease to exist.


That's a little disproportionate, don't you think, Herb? Pretty soon, you'll be claiming that's "true."

James Elliott said...

"What the West doesn’t understand is that the Koran and the Islamic
faith countenances “teqiya,” or lying, that promotes the religion and
is consistent with Allah’s will."

This is a false statement. Your entire piece is premised on a falsehood. I respectfully ask that you retract your statements. Otherwise, you risk being revealed as an ideologue and a liar.

Matt Huisman said...

From the Wiki:

Although Taqiyya is generally thought of as a Shi'a term, according to principles defined by Shafi`i theologian al-Ghazali, lying, including protection of oneself or others, is permissible under certain circumstances:

“Speaking is a means to achieve objectives. If a praiseworthy aim is attainable through both telling the truth and lying, it is unlawful to accomplish it through lying because there is no need for it. When it is possible to achieve such an aim by lying but not by telling the truth, it is permissible to lie if attaining the goal is permissible..., and obligatory to lie if the goal is obligatory. ...One should compare the bad consequences entailed by lying to those entailed by telling the truth, and if the consequences of telling the truth are more damaging, one is entitled to lie…”

This appears to be a point of contention among Muslim scholars, but I'm going to guess that today's troublemakers find themselves on the same side of this dispute.

tbmbuzz said...

This is a false statement. Your entire piece is premised on a falsehood. I respectfully ask that you retract your statements. Otherwise, you risk being revealed as an ideologue and a liar.


No it is not. At worst, Dr. London's statement is not clear. Al-Taqqiya is an integral part of Islam, particularly Shi'ism. From The Shi'ite Encylopedia:

"...The word "al-Taqiyya" literally means: "Concealing or disguising one's
beliefs, convictions, ideas, feelings, opinions, and/or strategies at a
time of eminent danger, whether now or later in time, to save oneself from
physical and/or mental injury." A one-word translation would be
"Dissimulation."

The above definition must be elaborated upon before any undertaking of this
topic is to ensue. Although correct, the definition suffers from an
apparent generalization, and lacks some fundamental details that should be
construed:

First, the CONCEALMENT of one's beliefs does NOT necessitate an ABANDONMENT
of these beliefs. The distinction between "concealment" and "abandonment"
MUST be noted here.

Second, there are numerous exceptions to the above definition, and they
MUST be judged according to the situation that one is placed in. As such,
one should NOT make a narrow-minded generalization that encompasses all
situations, thereby failing to fully absorb the spirit of the definition.

Third, the word "beliefs" and/or "convictions" does NOT necessarily mean
"religious" beliefs and/or convictions.

With the above in mind, it becomes evident that a better, and more accurate
definition of "al-Taqiyya" is "diplomacy." The true spirit of "al-
Taqiyya" is better embodied in the single word "diplomacy" because it
encompasses a comprehensive spectrum of behaviors that serve to further the
vested interests of all parties involved..."

What Dr. London is essentially saying is that Hezbollah, Iran, the Palestinians, and all the other Islamic extremist ilk have coerced the concept of al-Taqqiya for their own purposes, cloaked in Islamic drag.

James Elliott said...

"What Dr. London is essentially saying is that Hezbollah, Iran, the Palestinians, and all the other Islamic extremist ilk have coerced the concept of al-Taqqiya for their own purposes, cloaked in Islamic drag."

My understanding is that Buzz is correct in his definition. However, that is most emphatically not what Dr. London is saying. Teqiya is a permission to lie about one’s religion in order to avoid persecution. Dr. London is twisting and perverting this to cast it in a dark and ominous light, one that shines a sinister glare on all Muslims and not just extremists. It is, at best, dishonest.

tbmbuzz said...

James, I think that Dr. London is focusing his argument on the Islamic extremists themselves:

...teqiya is a useful method for promoting Islamic expansion.


Whenever Hezbollah spokesmen use the word “resistance,” and whenever Hamas uses the word “occupation,” you can be sure lies are forthcoming.



The Middle East simply does not play by the rules of, say, Anglo-Saxon fair play. Lying, doublespeak, backstabbing in the interests of one's own tribe are honorable activities in the political, social, diplomatic discourse of these tribal societies.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Don't translate hudna as "peace treaty," either.

A very incisive article worth one's time, I think.

James Elliott said...

"The Middle East simply does not play by the rules of, say, Anglo-Saxon fair play. Lying, doublespeak, backstabbing in the interests of one's own tribe are honorable activities in the political, social, diplomatic discourse of these tribal societies."

And one wonders why the world thinks Americans are racists.

I don't.

Francis W. Porretto said...

James, to you, everyone who dares to note a correlation between an identifiable group and a behavioral characteristic is a "racist." It's why you don't score any points with that accusation.

If I may be mildly ironic, you should learn to be more discriminating.

James Elliott said...

"James, to you, everyone who dares to note a correlation between an identifiable group and a behavioral characteristic is a 'racist.'"

That's a ridiculous statement on its face, with the added flavor of being spectacularly untrue. Generalizing a negative stereotype to an ethnic group and then rationalizing it is a hallmark of racism. The only thing that's worse is the delusion that such an act is merely the work of a level-headed foreign affairs analyst. There's no substantive difference between Buzz's statement and "Nig- uh... black people are lazy."

"It's why you don't score any points with that accusation."

The day I care whether you award me points is the day Satan takes up ice skating.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Now that was a good one, James.

But we are speaking culturally here, of an underlying world view. It would be a common confusion to equate a disagreement (or even a distaste) for another culture with "racism."

Akaky said...

Mr. Elliott, I think that you will find that the charge of racism has little or no traction here, since you seem to be using the word in the way liberals usually use the word: as a way of ending the conversation on your terms and shutting the other party up. That's not going to happen here. Furthermore, what you seem to be suggesting is that culture plays no part in how people deal with others. This, to put it mildly, is a bit ridiculous. Taqiyya is a recognized theological concept in Islam, and especially in Shi'a Islam, where it has been used to protect Shi'a minorities from persecution from the more numerous Sunnis for generations. Nor is the concept specific to Islam; Catholicism, for example, has a doctrine of wide mental reservation, which permits a believer to tell an untruth if this will prevent a greater sin from occurring, as when a lynch mob comes looking for a man hiding in a neighbor's cellar and the neighbor says the man is not at home. In almost any culture where there are significant discrepancies between the socioeconomic and political power of the dominant group and others within that society, you will find the widespread use of this concept. To use two well known examples, people once believed that Southern blacks and the Irish were almost incapable of telling the truth about anything, and why was that? Blacks were property pre-1865, and afterwards had little or no protection from the law; the Irish had no rights to the land they farmed for absentee landlords. To use a phrase from Thomas Flanagan's novel, The Year of the French, that could apply to both groups "...we ask them to be sober, when the only comfort lies drowned in a bottle, we ask them to tell the truth, when only a lie will protect them from a rapacious landlord..."

What has happened in the Middle East is that the concepts of taqiyya and hudna are now being used to dupe the West. Remember, Mr. Elliott, that to these people you are an infidel, a kaffir, a nonbeliever whose only purpose in life is to be a dhimmi and to pay tribute to Islam until you finally get the point and convert. There is no question of legal or religious equality between a Muslim and a non-Muslim, none whatsoever. Islam does not mean peace, as President Bush, who should know better, and others keep reassuring the American public; Islam means submission, submission to the will of God, and Muslims divide the world into those who submit to the will of God and those who do not, and those who do not have few rights that any believer is obliged to recognize. As for Dr. London's twisting the theological sense of the word, I must disagree; while you are correct in pointing out that taqiyya is emphatically not permission to lie to obtain a personal advantage, there is no sin in lying to infidels, especially infidels you are waging jihad against, as witnessed by the Prophet's own broken treaty with the Meccans. And as I am sure you will agree, even if Muslim groups are misusing the concept of taqiyya, it is hardly the first nor will it be the last time that a government or a group has subverted a religious concept to further their own political ambitions. It is hardly racism for anyone to point out that this is what is happening. To say otherwise is to agree with the Marxist theory of optometry, "who you going to believe, me or your own eyes?"

James Elliott said...

"But we are speaking culturally here, of an underlying world view. It would be a common confusion to equate a disagreement (or even a distaste) for another culture with "racism.""

But instead, we are discussing a statement which can be, flowery language aside, summed up as "All Arabs are liars."

Quite frankly, case closed.

James Elliott said...

"Mr. Elliott, I think that you will find that the charge of racism has little or no traction here, since you seem to be using the word in the way liberals usually use the word: as a way of ending the conversation on your terms and shutting the other party up."

If you'd spent any real amount of time here, Mr. Akaky, you'd know that I don't use such terms lightly. But if such dismissal makes you feel any better, feel free to indulge in it. I hardly expect to sway "true believers" - I just feel they should be resisted, no matter where they come from.

Akaky said...

Case closed? Really? It must be wonderful, being able to end arguments in your favor on the power of your own say so, as opposed to actually defending your conclusions.

"What the West doesn’t understand is that the Koran and the Islamic faith countenances “teqiya,” or lying, that promotes the religion and is consistent with Allah’s will."

"But instead, we are discussing a statement which can be, flowery language aside, summed up as "All Arabs are liars."

I trust you will pardon me, Mr. Elliott, if I point out that Dr. London says nothing about Arabs in the quoted statement. The word he uses is Islamic, which is a religious belief, not a race, and what he is pointing out is a theological concept that, in some interpretations, permits Muslims to be less than forthcoming in their dealings with nonbelievers, not some genetic trait passed along in the chromosones. Since the meanings of taqiyya and hudna are readily available to anyone who takes the trouble to look for them, your assertions of falsehood and racism are not credible and your declaration that the case is closed seems to me arrogance of the highest order.

James Elliott said...

Straw man, Mr. Akaky. Buzz's statement,

"The Middle East simply does not play by the rules of, say, Anglo-Saxon fair play. Lying, doublespeak, backstabbing in the interests of one's own tribe are honorable activities in the political, social, diplomatic discourse of these tribal societies[,]"

is the comment in question. Come back and play when you're prepared to pay attention. Until then, try not embarass yourself. Thanks.

Akaky said...

My apologies for the straw, Mr. Elliott, I didnt realize you were so allergic to it, but I will, however, refer you to Fouad Ajami's The Dream Palace of the Arabs and David Pryce-Jones' The Closed Circle: an interpretation of the Arabs, both of which point out the very characteristics of Arab society and culture you deem racist as major reasons why there are no liberal Arab democracies in the Middle East. Come back when you know what you're talking about.

James Elliott said...

This would be the same Fouad Adjami who's advice led to Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld's statements that the U.S. would be greeted in Iraq like the Dutch greeted the 101st Airborne, with kisses, chocolates, and flowers? The same Adjami who has espoused, frankly, the cause of whoever's footing the bills (leading to some very interesting contradictions)? Though I did appreciate his rebuttal to Huntington's ridiculous "Clash of Civilizations"; he must be given credit for that, as well as for writing far better than most academics. I remember The Dream Palace from school.

Pryce-Jones writes about the above issue in a far more nuanced fashion than you present it here - without the complex cultural context in which he places his systemic analysis, you run the risk of completely bastardizing it. Oh, wait. You do.

Talk about cherry-picking.

Akaky said...

Complexity, complexity, complexity, where would we be without complexity? Yes, it is true, I am leaving out Pryce-Jones' analysis of the complex social and historical background of Arab culture and going directly to the conclusions, unlike yourself, Mr. Elliott, who, I will admit, is not cherry picking at all here, as it is difficult to cherry pick a conclusion when you deny both the premises of the argument and the conclusions drawn from them. As for Mr. Ajami, well, he was wrong about our reception in Iraq, and had you left the matter there, sir, I would have had to agree with you, but you didnt. Ah well. He was wrong about Iraq, so by using your logic it therefore follows that he is wrong about everything else about Arab culture, a culture that he was born and bred in and, I will assume, you were not. In short, you know more about Arab culture than an actual Arab by virtue of your being an American liberal. Tut tut, Mr. Elliott, who's being a racist now?

James Elliott said...

For suggesting that generalizing a characteristic to all people within an ethnic group is racist, I am labeled a racist?

I knew modern conservatives engaged in projection but, Jeebus H. Crisco, that doesn't just take the cake - it burns down the bakery.

I can only hope that you are a performance artist creating a parody of Right Wing thought. Otherwise, I'm scared. Because even a spastic half-wit in the fit of an epilectic seizure could see that - instead of saying I knew more about Arab culture than Ajami - I was accusing him of inconsistently advocating whatever ideological line of thinking was de rigeur among his allies at the time. Not the same thing at all. But then, that would require a grasp of nuance and complexity - and of the obvious - unheard of among modern conservatives.

Akaky said...

The fundamental issue here, Mr. Elliott, is neither race nor ethnicity; it is culture, a fact you seem desperate to avoid. You called Dr. London a liar and an ideologue for making false statements about the Muslim theological concepts of taqiyya and hudna, and when the other commenters pointed out just far off the mark your charge was, you immediately brought up racism and declared the case closed. When I pointed out that David Pryce-Jones and Fouad Ajami had reached the same conclusions as tmbuzz, you chided me for not being sophisticated enough to understand Mr. Pryce-Jones’ analysis and engaged in an ad hominem attack on Mr. Ajami. So be it; if it makes you happy, I am an unsophisticated knuckle-dragger and Mr. Ajami knows what side of the bread his butter is on, but I think you will find, Mr. Elliott, that an increasing number of conservatives recognize your race gambit for what it is: a crude attempt to shut down any critical discussion of liberal shibboleths, and you should not be surprised if the charge does not carry the same punch it used to; overuse blunts even the sharpest of knives. I liked the bit about the burning bakery, though.

James Elliott said...

"The fundamental issue here, Mr. Elliott, is neither race nor ethnicity; it is culture, a fact you seem desperate to avoid."

Mr. Akaky, I really don't understand how this basic point escapes you (I suspect an act of sheer, and impressive, willpower). Any such discussion about, say, Latinos, would make no such artificial distinction between their culture and their race. After all, discussions about immigration do not delineate between El Salvadoran and Mexican immigrants, for example. Yet you insist on doing so about a statement made about Arabs - unless you are going to magically begin applying it to Chechens, Albanians, Americans, Indians, and Southeast Asians.

In order to actually support what you are saying, you have to split the hairs not only between culture and ethnicity but also the definition of racism so fine that such definitions become meaningless.

You are so wooden-headed it makes me want to scream. Fine. I give up. You win. All Arabs are liars and I am a racist for denying it. I am blinded by my hatred of George W. Bush and my fanatical socialist, leftist, communist, anti-Jew, self-hating liberalness. I want the terrorists to win. I hate America and can't wait for my Muslim overlords to bugger me to death.

Akaky said...

Yes, Mr. Elliott, but the point tmbuzz made was about the Middle East, specifically the Muslim Middle East, an area that includes, besides Arabs, large numbers of Berbers, Turks, Kurds, and Persians, amongst others, and that does not include such minority groups as Chaldeans, Jews, Yazidis, Copts, and Arab Christians. You were the one who singled out the Arabs.

The next time around, I suggest you stay and actually defend your argument and when you can't, admit it. You said that Dr. Elliott;s statement about taqiyya was false; it wasnt, but rather than admit it, you hollered racism and then proclaimed the case closed. You could have made an argument that what we see in Arab culture today is a perversion of the concept, but you didnt. You could have argued any number of different ways that tmbuzz was being overly broad in his statement; you didnt. That would have meant expending some intellectual capital and why bother doing that when you can just pronounce the dreaded R word and end the argument on your own terms? I apologize for the woodenheadedness, Mr. Elliott, but I've seen that before and it tends to irritate me no end.

James Elliott said...

Yes, oh mighty and wise conservative overlord.

Snark aside, had I been continuing on teqiya proper, you are correct, and I should have taken taken a different tack.

However - and please avoid engaging in projection and accusing me of trying to "shut up" an ideological opponent for a moment; that's your interpretation - my concern really is when I perceive generalization about a people; latent racism is a real and unperceived problem among a lot of people, ideology aside. Words - especially inaccurate and generalized words - are powerful and linger. Inaccuracy and sloppy thought, especially in an emotionally charged subject area, need to be identified and brought to the awareness of those using them. And sometimes you have to do it with a blunt instrument.

James Elliott said...

However, since I'm feeling both magnanimous and stubborn, I'll address the larger issue of taqiyya, Dr. London's lying, and inaccurate generalizations leading to latent racism.

"What the West doesn’t understand is that the Koran and the Islamic faith countenances “teqiya,” or lying, that promotes the religion and is consistent with Allah’s will."

Taqiyya originated not within Bedouin (upon which many Muslim traditions are based) culture but rather with the Druze. The Shi'a appropriated it. There's Dr. London's lie number one: He states that it originates in the Koran. This is at best a half-truth; Shi'a scholars have found justification for it in passages in the Koran (3:28 and 16:106).

Dr. London states that it is a Muslim belief; also, at best, a half-truth. Taqiyya is a Shi'a belief (not even universally held among Shi'a). Sunni believe taqiyya is blasphemous, that it denies trust in Allah.

Dr. London then states that taqiyya is "lying in order to advance Islam." This is, ironically, an outright lie. Taqiyya literally translates to "guard against fear," not "lying." Shi'a who accept taqiyya believe that it is a dispensation to conceal their faith when under threat of persecution or compulsion. In any other situation, its use is considered a debauched act.

Dr. London - and others - then try to broaden the scope of their lies by conflating acts of Hamas - a Sunni Palestinian terrorist group - with those of Hezbollah - a Lebanese Shi'ite terrorist group. Buzz even goes further to generalize a "lying and a lack of a sense of fair play" (to paraphrase) to Arab culture.

Interestingly - and ironically - enough, viewing an inherent deceitfulness within Arab culture directly mirrors the Arab perception of Jews. Tragically deepening the irony, it's intellectually like taking a page out of "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" and changing the nouns around. Historically, such argumentation - ascribing deceitfulness and other negative characteristics to ethnic groups - is institutionally justified as a legitimate intellectual analysis of that group's culture. From fin-de-siecle Austria to Nazi Germany to Iran under the mullahs, it is a pattern that repeats again and again. It's an "academically" justified institutional racism.

Do you understand now?

Akaky said...

Mr. Elliott, you pose a serious question here, one that deserves a serious answer. I will respond to this either tonight or tomorrow.

Akaky said...

Mr. Elliott, I agree with you on the need for clarity, especially in times, as you say, as emotionally charged as these are. It is all too easy to go from specific criticism of individuals and their actions to blanket condemnations of whole groups and thereby justify their persecution, which is both unjustifiable and un-American, in my opinion. You are correct to point out what you see as inaccuracy and sloppy thinking, although I would disagree with you as to the efficacy of blunt instruments. The idea strikes me as a bit contradictory, in much the same way as the phrase surgical bombing does. You do not, after all, perform surgery with high explosives—the AMA will object to having patients blown up before they’ve paid their bill, for no other reason—and whacking people over the head with a rhetorical baseball bat does not seem to me a particularly good way of convincing someone of the validity of your arguments. But that is matter of personal taste, I suppose.

Your arguments about taqiyya as a theological concept seem correct to me, or rather, what you’ve pointed out corresponds with what I have been reading on the subject. Where I would disagree with you is that there can be, and often is, a world of difference between an idea’s as pure philosophy and that same idea’s practical application. This is evident, for example, in Christian religious history, when the Renaissance Popes perverted the Catholic doctrine of indulgences and began selling salvation to the highest bidder, thereby provoking the Protestant Reformation. Taqiyya, along with the related concepts of hudna and kithman, are useful doctrines for a Shi’a facing persecution; they are also singularly useful doctrines for any Muslim group or government wishing to keep their true intentions to themselves, particularly a Muslim group or government facing a more powerful infidel nation. Obviously, all governments play fast and loose with the truth when they feel the need, an idea I am almost metaphysically certain you agree with; it’s just that the representatives of non-Muslim governments do not have a convenient, albeit somewhat theologically compromised, do not go to hell pass to justify their untruths and so must come up with other, more creative ways of easing a burdened conscience.

To a certain extent, this gap between the theory and the reality is at the heart of our disagreement here. You argue that Dr. London’s use of the concept is theologically incorrect, if not actually false, and that by using the concept in this way he is providing an intellectual cover for bigots. Dr. London does conflate Hamas and Hezbollah, who are, as you say, theologically different entities, and therefore his argument is overly broad, especially when he attacks Arab culture as a whole. In my reading of his article, however, it seems to me that Dr. London is not responding to the concept of taqiyya as theology, but rather the concept in its debauched popular version, although if this is what he means then this is what he ought to say and avoid the broad brush bashing. To me, however, to say that many Muslims do not use taqiyya in the manner that Dr. London describes strains credulity.

You are right in pointing out that in the late and wholly unlamented 20th century, half-baked academic theories have provided the bigots among us with high-sounding justifications for their hatreds; I disagree with your analogy. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion are a Tsarist fake, much of it cribbed from a French novel of the 1860’s, whose slimy provenance has been known for at least the past 75 years or so, if my memory is correct. Anyone, therefore, who believes in the book’s premises is simply looking for an excuse to justify a pre-existing bias against Jews. The book is a lie that does not and has never reflected what Jews actually think or want for themselves or the countries they live in.

If you will go, Mr. Elliott, to such Websites as www.memri.org or www.islamqa.com, you will see for yourself what real Muslims say and think about the West. It is difficult for me to read these sites, the first offering translations of Arabic and Farsi newspapers and other media, the other offering Muslims instruction in their faith and practical advice on everyday life, without coming away with the sense that there is little room for someone who believes in liberty as that concept is understood in the West in an Islamic world. In an Islamic world, my choices would essentially be to convert or pay the required tax and endure a life of perpetual submission and humiliation. The overwhelming sense I get from reading Islamic newspapers and Islamic spiritual instruction is that infidels have few rights a believing Muslim has to respect. You can point out that such sites only represent the most extreme elements of the Muslim world, and what you say may well be true, but since I do not see any broad movement on the part of Muslims worldwide to repudiate them, I have to conclude that the broad mass of Muslims either agree with the extremists, but find saying so unwise at this time, or that the extremists frighten them so much that the silent majority will say nothing. In the silence of the good, the evil flourish, and whether the good concur or scared, the effect is the same: the extremists and their voices win.

I was not projecting, Mr. Elliott; from where I sat it looked as though you were telling someone who disagreed with you to shut up. I distrust people who will not debate the premises of their arguments and then pronounce that they have decided the issue and would the rest of us please go away and stop asking inconvenient questions. Such pronouncements invariably raise my hackles and make me want to throw something at the person making the pronouncement. While I do not agree with your basic arguments, I can see that you were not trying to stifle the debate, and for imputing that motive to you, I apologize.

As for the snark, I can live with snark; I wouldn’t be here otherwise; and I suspect that we will be snarking at each other again in the near future. Until then, enjoy your weekend.

James Elliott said...

"Anyone, therefore, who believes in the book’s premises is simply looking for an excuse to justify a pre-existing bias against Jews. The book is a lie that does not and has never reflected what Jews actually think or want for themselves or the countries they live in."

Whether you realize it or not, you're making my point for me.

I think, in the end, we're just going to end up disagreeing. Having read everything I could find by Dr. London on his website and here, I find a disturbing pattern, one I see emulated by commenters here, other websites, and politicians. If it's any consolation to Dr. London at all, the editor in chief of the liberal The New Republic, Martin Peretz, makes his remarks seem like amateur hour at the Laff Club when it comes to baseless vitriol.

But thank you for the response. Enjoy the long weekend.