"History is philosophy teaching by example." (Lord Bolingbroke)

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Wednesday, September 29, 2004

CAVEAT EMPTOR: Know your sources

Jihad Watch: Rewriting the Qur'an? Not really

Robert Spencer opens this article as follows: "I respect Stephen Schwartz's work exposing the depredations of the Wahhabis, but when I saw this piece in the Weekly Standard, I thought it important to note that the interpretations Schwartz attributes to the Wahhabis by no means originated with them. Why? Because otherwise people will be deceived into thinking that if we can stop the Wahhabis, the problem of radical Islam will disappear. Unfortunately, it isn't so. The problem is older, wider, and deeper than the Wahhabi phenomenon."

Spencer goes on to show that the "badness," as I will call it, of Islam comes not just from Wahhabism, which Mr. Schwartz over-emphasizes.

That brings up the entire topic of evaluating the author(s) of material published about Islam. Some are truly objective -- i.e., give all of the relevant facts regardless of whatever position they hold. Robert Spencer is an excellent example. Ibn Warraq and Craig Winn are other good examples. Some are mostly objective, but favor a viewpoint beyond what the facts permit. Bernard Lewis, the fabulous Islamic and Middle East historian, is a good example. He underplays the viciousness of Islam; other than that, however, his histories are the best. The remainder work an agenda, and they publish nothing more than propaganda, regardless of which fellow travelers laud them. Karen Armstrong, John Esposito, and Edward Said are arch-typical examples. Their material is useful only if studying propaganda as a subject.

It is critically important to evaluate the author and to determine if his or her viewpoint slants the facts, and, if so, does this slant make the author unreadable.

Stephen Schwartz serves as a good illustration of the need to sort things out. I do not know what his philosophical and religious declarations were originally, but he became a Sufi Muslim. That is a minor branch of Islam which may be the most mystical of the Islamic branches. Sufism produces the Whirling Dervishes, and a few mystical writers, but it has little impact on Sunni and Shia Islam which command the spectrum of Islamists.

Nevertheless, Mr. Schwartz developed a bias in favor of Islam, and this is evident in his excellent book, The Two Faces of Islam. In this book, he cones his focus onto Saudi Arabia and its virulent form of Islam known as "Wahhabism." His well-written book exposes Wahhabism beautifully, and the book is well worth the reading and the studying.

Stephen Schwartz, however, wants to blame Wahhabism for most, if not all, of the evils of Islam. It and Saudi Arabia deserve huge blame, indeed. Saudi Arabia is one of the two major Islamic jihadic terrorism sponsors in the world. Saudi Arabia deserves enormous punishment and total reformation, and we have every reason to seize Saudi oil fields to cut off petrodollar funding of Wahhabist terrorism from the likes of Bin Laden and many others.

What Mr. Schwartz has trouble dealing with is that Islam is an evil ideology, and there is no good form of Islam, no matter what it is called. Khomeinism in Iran, i.e., Shiite Islam, is even more virulent, and there are sundry smaller sects ready to feast on blood. The ideology that binds all together is Islam. Just plain Islam, as it was, right from the beginning, as laid out by Muhammad himself. Not all Muslims are bloodthirsty just as the fact is true that all Christians do not want an Inquisition, but Christianity underwent reformation. Islam never did.

Caveat emptor is Latin for, let the buyer beware, i.e., you must learn what you are getting, if you are not to be taken for a ride, so to speak.

The Noble Qur'an, which Mr. Schwartz unloads on, is indeed a Fahd family publication of Dar As Salam publishers in Riyadh. It speaks to the Saudi Arabian version of Islam, and it is valuable because of it. But, no one Koran is good, and no one Koran is bad. Craig Winn, author of Prophet of Doom, recommends that the serious student of Islam get at least five translations because of the enormous variation among them. For example, I bought a modern "revised" version of Pickthall's famous translation. It had been so sanitized to be "politically correct" that the unsuspecting would be unable to conclude anything except that Islam really is a religion of peace. My other versions tell the truth, and The Noble Qur'an tells the truth about Islam: Islam is vile, evil, and should be extinguished permanently from the earth.

With Islam, it must always be caveat emptor.


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