Sunday, February 17, 2008

Ibn Warraq's new book

Ibn Warraq is the highly acclaimed author of Why I Am Not a Muslim and the editor of The Origins of the Koran, The Quest for the Historical Muhammad, What the Koran Really Says, and Leaving Islam. His new book, "Defending the West: A Critique of Edward Said's Orientalism" debunks the greatest victim-mentality producer of the muslim world, Edward Said.

The book is the first systematic critique of Edward Said's influential work, Orientalism, a book that for almost three decades has received wide acclaim, voluminous commentary, and translation into more than fifteen languages. Said’s main thesis was that the Western image of the East was heavily biased by colonialist attitudes, racism, and more than two centuries of political exploitation. Although Said’s critique was controversial, the impact of his ideas has been a pervasive rethinking of Western perceptions of Eastern cultures, plus a tendency to view all scholarship in Oriental Studies as tainted by considerations of power and prejudice.
In this thorough reconsideration of Said’s famous work, Ibn Warraq argues that Said’s case against the West is seriously flawed. Warraq accuses Said of not only willfully misinterpreting the work of many scholars, but also of systematically misrepresenting Western civilization as a whole. With example after example, he shows that ever since the Greeks Western civilization has always had a strand in its very makeup that has accepted non-Westerners with open arms and has ever been open to foreign ideas. The author also criticizes Said for inadequate methodology, incoherent arguments, and a faulty historical understanding. He points out, not only Said’s tendentious interpretations, but historical howlers that would make a sophomore blush.
Warraq further looks at the destructive influence of Said's study on the history of Western painting, especially of the 19th century, and shows how, once again, the epigones of Said have succeeded in relegating thousands of first-class paintings to the lofts and storage rooms of major museums.
An extended appendix reconsiders the value of 18th- and 19th-century Orientalist scholars and artists, whose work fell into disrepute as a result of Said’s work.

Defending the West [interview with Ibn Warraq]by Jamie GlazovFrontPage MagazineJanuary 8, 2008
Frontpage Interview's guest today is Ibn Warraq, an independent researcher based at a humanist think tank in the USA. He is the author of Why I am Not a Muslim (1995), and editor of anthologies of Koranic criticism, The Origins of the Koran (1998), What the Koran Really Says (2002), and the forthcoming Which Koran? (2008) -- all Prometheus Books. He also edited an anthology of testimonies of ex-Muslims, Leaving Islam (2003). Warraq's op-ed pieces have appeared in the Wall Street Journal in America and The Guardian in London, and he has addressed distinguished governing bodies round the world, including the United Nations in Geneva on the subject of apostasy. His latest book, entitled Defending the West is a critical study of the thought of Edward Said. FP: Ibn Warraq, welcome to Frontpage Interview. It is an honor and privilege to speak with you.
Warraq: Thank you for having me. It has been a long time since we last talked.
FP: What inspired you to write this book?
Warraq: My new book, Defending the West is an extension, and a logical consequence, of my earlier work and concerns. In my first book, Why I am Not a Muslim, (1995), I attempted to warn the West about the Rise of Militant Islam. I saw, and described the book, as "my war effort". It was a very ambitious book since I was striving to show the true totalitarian nature of Islam, to submit Islam to critical examination, and at the same time trying to bring out the strengths of Western civilization, and show why the West was truly preferable to the mind-numbing certainties of a religion that was the result of a mediaeval mindset.
What made both tasks - a critique of Islam and a Defence of the West- so much more difficult was the pernicious influence of Edward Said's Orientalism, and Culture and Imperialism. What made any criticism of Islam in particular and the non-Western world in general almost impossible was the fear among Western scholars of being called "orientalist", leading to self-censorship, and an exaggerated respect for the tender sensibilities of Muslims. In a similar manner, today, charges of "Islamophobia" are hurled at those who dare to criticize that most criticizable of all religions, in order to silence and rule out of court what are, in fact, perfectly legitimate concerns about security, and the negative influence of Islam on Western institutions. The result was my new book, Defending the West (2007), an attempt to tackle once again two related tasks - the Defence of the West and a critique of Edward Said's arguments that had successfully silenced critical thought and placed all Western intellectuals on the defensive.
FP: Tell us about Edward Said's influence in the humanities.
Warraq: Edward Said, who died in September 2003, was Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University , and the author of more than twenty books on cultural, literary, and political subjects, such as Joseph Conrad and the Fiction of Autobiography, Covering Islam, Musical Elaborations, The World, the Text, and the Critic. Said also saw himself as a Palestinian, and defended the Palestinian cause with passion, and rage, writing influential books on the conflict such as The Question of Palestine, The Politics of Dispossession, and Peace and Its Discontents. Arguably his most influential-and in my view the most pernicious - work was Orientalism (1978), giving birth to entire new disciplines, such as Postcolonial Studies, and influencing several others such as Subaltern Studies. Universities round the world heaped honours on Said - he is said to have received at least seventeen honorary doctorates - and at the same time turned out hundreds of students whose doctoral theses were on or influenced by Orientalism. From the The Oxford Classical Dictionary to a book on Mozart's Operas, one can see Said's influence at work in all the humanities, almost negating centuries of Western scholarship of the highest order.
Take Classical Studies. The prestigious The Oxford Classical Dictionary [OCD] under the entry on the historian and mercenary leader Xenophon has a cross reference to an entry on "Orientalism", since he has left us an account of the life of the Persian Cyrus the Great. But the article in the OCD does not mention that Xenophon in fact came to feel at home with the Persians, and looked at non-Greeks in a discriminating but fair manner, distinguishing enlightened Persians from backward tribes. He never goes beyond justifiable rejection of what is uncultured. But for Said and his ilk any critical look at non-Europeans is considered "biased", "racist", and "Orientalist", making it impossible for responsible historians, sociologists and anthropologists to make cross-cultural assessments and judgements. The result is that we in the West now condone, and certainly do not condemn, barbaric behaviour committed by non-Europeans. Western feminists remain scandalously silent about the treatment of women in Islamic societies.
Said dismisses such classics of the Western canon as Aeschylus' The Persians as "orientalist" and the Western Classicists remain silent, and do not come to The Greek playwright's defence. Far from being "racist", Aeschylus' drama is a tragedy according full dignity and humanity to the Persians, praising their valour and ethics.
In English Literature departments, the classics from Jane Austen, Charles Dickens to Rudyard Kipling are dismissed as "imperialist" and "racist". Thus, despite evidence to the contrary, Said claims that Jane Austen condones slavery- I present the relevant, and, I think, the decisive evidence to the contrary in my book. But such is Said's influence that a recent B.B.C. Televison production of Austen's Mansfield Park has a scene set on a sugar plantation in the West Indies showing the conditions of slaves. Of course, no such scene exists in the original novel. There is only a passing reference to the slave trade, and it is clear from her all her other writings that Jane Austen was an abolitionist. Said similarly misreads Kipling's novel, Kim. But once again such is his influence that various editions of Kipling's novel published by Penguin books carry a preface from Said. I give numerous examples of Said's total incomprehension of Kim, and the novels of Austen.
A discussion of Mozart's operas, for example by Nicholas Till, Mozart and the Enlightenment, is similarly marred by the Orientalist thesis. Again I show Mozart's generous and positive attitude to the "other".
As for the visual arts, I shall begin with this example:
In the guest book at the Dahesh Museum on Madison Avenue, in Upper Manhattan, there is an entry by a tourist, possibly German, who enthuses about the Orientalist paintings in the collection, saying how much she admired and enjoyed them. Then, almost as an afterthought, as though she has only just remembered to put on her ideological spectacles, she adds words to the effect that, "of course, they were Orientalist works, hence imperialist and reprehensible." Apparently, she felt guilty for having enjoyed and appreciated Orientalist art. How many other ordinary lovers of paintings, sculpture, drawings, watercolors and engravings have had their natural inclination to enjoy works of Orientalist art damaged, or even destroyed by the influence of Edward Said and his followers? How many people have had their enjoyment of Jane Austen spoiled by Said's insidious claim that Austen was condoning slavery?
Much of Westerners' travel writings are dismissed as "orientalist". Where Said finds Kinglake's account of his travels in Islamic lands, Eothen, overrated, Jacques Barzun considers it a minor masterpiece.
Finally, in filed I have a special interest in: Islamic Studies.For a number of years now, Islamologists have been aware of the disastrous effect of Said's Orientalism on their discipline. Professor Berg, of the University of N.Carolina, has complained that the latter's influence has resulted in "a fear of asking and answering potentially embarrassing questions – ones which might upset Muslim sensibilities….".
FP: Would it be fair to say that Said simply lied in much of his work?
Warraq: Yes, indeed. Said deliberately misrepresents the work of distinguished scholars such as Richard Southern and Raymond Schwab, making them sound as though they were endorsing Said's own views when in fact they were arguing the opposite. Though I do not venture into Said's writings on the Arab-Israeli dispute, scholars such as Justus Reid Weiner have shown how Said fabricated all sorts of autobiographical information.
Jamie Glazov is Frontpage Magazine's managing editor. He holds a Ph.D. in History with a specialty in U.S. and Canadian foreign policy. He edited and wrote the introduction to David Horowitz's Left Illusions. He is also the co-editor (with David Horowitz) of The Hate America Left and the author of Canadian Policy Toward Khrushchev's Soviet Union (McGill-Queens University Press, 2002) and 15 Tips on How to be a Good Leftist. To see his previous symposiums, interviews and articles Click Here. Email him at
Let us take his Palestinian stance. A man is indeed free, to a certain extent, to choose whatever identity he wishes, and who are we to quibble if Said defines himself as a Palestinian; and, perhaps, justice of the cause he wishes to defend is separate from the character of the man who wishes to defend it. But how can we characterize Said's willingness to accept fianancial compensation from the Israeli government for losses that he never, in fact, suffered, except as fraud? Another of Said's fabrications concerns his putative family home in Jerusalem . Justus Weiner describes the situation in great detail, I wish to single out just one aspect of the saga. Weiner writes:
"In 1992, Said wrote of having heard, years earlier, "that Martin Buber had lived in the house for a time after 1948" (emphasis added by Weiner). Last year, in a speech at Birzeit University on the West Bank, he amplified this thought with characteristic vehemence: 'The house from which my family departed in 1948-was displaced- was also the house in which the great Jewish philosopher Martin Buber lived for a while, and Buber of course was a great apostle of coexistence between Arabs and Jews, but he didn't mind living in an Arab house whose inhabitants had been displaced'. But the truth is the other way round: it was Said's aunt who evicted the Bubers, an event-surely a memorable one- that took place during the very period when Edward Said was allegedly growing up in the selfsame house, and long before Israel's war of independence in 1948. But there can be little wonder why neither that event, nor the presence in and subsequent removal from the building of Martin Buber's surely no less memorable library of some 15,000 books, has ever figured in his meticulous recollections of 'my beautiful old Al-Talbiyeh'. The Bubers and their library were there. Said was not." This is not the first time that Said has traduced a great scholar.
FP: The Left simply adored Said. He is like a God-figure to them. Tell us why.
Warraq: Edward Said's Orientalism gave those unable to think for themselves a formula.
His work had the attraction of an all-purpose tool which his acolytes, eager, intellectually unprepared, aesthetically unsophisticated, could apply to every cultural phenomenon without having to think critically or without having to conduct any real archival research requiring mastery of languages, or research in the field requiring the mastery of technique and a rigorous methodology. Said's Orientalism displays all the laziness and arrogance of the man of letters who does not have much time for empirical research or, above all, for making sense of its results. His method derives from the work of fashionable French intellectuals and theorists. Existentialists, structuralists, deconstructionists, post-modernists all postulate grandiose theories, but, unfortunately, these are based on flimsy historical or empirical foundations. Claude Lévi-Strauss, with just a few years of fieldwork in Brazil , constructed a grand theory about the structures of the human mind. This tradition was carried on by Michel Foucault, surely one of the great charlatans of modern times.
Said, influenced by Foucault, Marx and the French intellectual tradition, refuses to acknowledge evidence that does not fit into his already prepared Procrustean bed. Said in an ideologue who is immune to argument, he believes his ideas about man, history and society to be self-evident, and anyone opposing them is either stupid or malevolent.
But why was it so successful among Western intellectuals? Post- Second World War Western intellectuals, and leftists were consumed by guilt for the West's colonial past and continuing colonialist present, and wholeheartedly embraced any theory or ideology that voiced or at least seemed to voice the putatively thwarted aspirations of the peoples of the Third World . Orientalism came at the precise time when anti-Western rhetoric was at its most shrill, and was already being taught at western universities, and third-worldism was at its most popular. Jean-Paul Sartre[1] preached that all white men were complicit in the exploitation of the Third World , and that violence against westerners was a legitimate means for colonized men to re-acquire their manhood. Said went further: "It is therefore correct that every European, in what he could say about the Orient, was consequently a racist, an imperialist, and almost totally ethnocentric." [2] Not only, for Said, is every European a racist, but he must necessarily be so. As I have argued, Western Civilisation has been more willing to criticize itself than any other major culture.These self-administered admonishments are a far cry from Said's savage strictures, and yet they found a new generation ready to take them to heart. Berating and blaming the West, a fashionable game in the 1960s and 1970s which impressionable youth took seriously, had the results we now see when the same generation appears unwilling to defend the West against the greatest threat that it has faced since the Nazis.
When shown that Said is indeed a fraud, his friends and supporters in academia, side-step the criticisms and evidence, and pretend, as did several reviewers of Robert Irwin's book on Said, that Said may indeed have got the "footling details" wrong but he was, nonetheless, onto a higher truth. Said's influence, thus, was a result of a conjunction of several intellectual and political trends: post-French Algeria and post-Vietnam tiers mondisme [third-worldism], the politicization of increasingly post-modernist English departments which had argued away the very idea of truth, objective truth, and the influence of Michel Foucault. In effect Said played on each of these confidence tricks to create a master fraud which bound American academics and Middle East tyrants in unstated bonds of anti-American complicity. [3]
FP: What have been the reactions to your work so far? Any surprises?
So far there have been three very favourable reviews, one by Bruce Thornton in the City Journal, one by Michaell Weiss in the New York Sun, and one by Rebecca Bynum.
However, I am quite sure that the Liberal establishment who swallowed Said's nonsense whole will not take it lying down, and I am expecting some violent attacks in the New York Times, The New York Review of Books, and in England, The London Review of Books, and the daily, The Guardian. Roger Scruton once said one should write to offend as many people as possible, and I suspect I have written just such a book. After all there would be no point in writing a book about a man who had absolutely no influence, and who was not considered important. Unfortunately, Said continues to poison young minds, and for that reason is worth criticizing in a strong but also in as scholarly a fashion as possible.
FP: What do you hope your work will help achieve?
Warraq: Let me answer that by an example. Even before my book was actually published there was a description of it and a photo of the cover on An art historian wrote to me that the description alone gave him confidence to defend certain works of 18th Century French paintings that had hitherto been dismissed as "orientalist" in Said's pejorative sense. I hope curators in art museums will now dust off paintings left to moulder in damp basements because they had been dubbed "orientalist".
I also hope that the humanities departments in Western universities will get back their confidence and teach the Western canon in an unabashed manner- from Herodotus and Aeschylus to George Eliot and Jane Austen. That the real Orientalists-such as Sir William Jones, Ignaz Goldziher, and many others I discuss in my book- will get their due recognition as great scholars who devoted their lives to recovering humankind's manifold creations, to uncovering the history of our past. That the universities will go back to their traditional task of scholarship untainted by political correctness, to the never-ending labour of striving for the objective truth.
FP: I would like to turn to some personal aspects and also get your perspective on some recent developments, as well as on the conflict we face in general.
First, could you share some thoughts for us on your own spiritual and intellectual journey -- in terms of where you think you may stand at the moment? I mean this in the context of the long road you have traveled. And I also mean it in generally. Have you, for instance, changed at all over the years? Do you have an outlook on something that is perhaps different than how you saw it in the past? What is looming large on your consciousness these days? Where, for instance, do you think you stand politically? Would you, for example, consider yourself a Conservative, etc? And what would you say is the state of your faith? Do you see yourself today as an atheist, an agnostic, a believer, etc?
Warraq: Of course, I have changed over the years. As a great Irish comic, Spike Milligan, used to say, "I have changed my mind, socks, and underwear". I have changed my mind on economic and political issues, and I certainly no longer wear velvet trousers as I used to in the sixties.
I forget which 19th Century European politician said "if you are not a socialist when young you have no heart, but if you remain one when you get older you have no brains". I was never a joiner of parties, or attracted to ideologies, but when I did vote, both in France and Great Britain , I voted for Francois Mitterand, the Socialist, and James Callaghan, the leader of the Labour Party, respectively. But the transforming events of the last thirty years such as the collapse of Communism, and the success of the market-oriented countries in Asia means I am less attracted to government intervention, on the whole, in the economy. I am sceptical of grandiose schemes since they are all utopic. I remain a sceptic, and an empiricist. But can the market really solve all our problems? Surely some kind of intervention of the government might be deemed necessary to protect us from unbridled exploitation by ruthless entrepreneurs. And the market has an unfortunate influence on the quality of culture, it can lead to its dumbing down.
The other great transforming event of my life-time is, of course, the World Trade Center atrocities of 11 September, 2001 . The Left generally has been not only unable to comprehend what hit us on 9/11, it has also gone to the extent of apologizing, condoning and making alliances with the Islamists. It is a failure of the Liberal imagination since Liberals still do not understand what motivates the Islamists. Liberals, six years after the event, are still looking for the "root-cause" in poverty, American foreign policy, and the Israel-Arab conflict. I am not sure that the Conservatives in the USA understand the nature of the threat, either. They are reluctant to criticize religion in general, and are more worried by secular humanists than by the Islamo-fascists Since I am a secularist, and an agnostic, there are many Conservatives who fear me more than they fear Bin Laden.
FP: There are, of course, courageous anti-fascist Muslims like Thomas Haidon and Hasan Mahmud who wish to try to bring Islam into the modern and democratic world. As we know, they face a huge calling and large, perhaps insurmountable, obstacles. The effort to "reform" Islam is not, to say the least, going very well. Is there any hope in this area? What are your thoughts at the possibility of an Islamic Reformation and also of simply not giving up on supporting such an effort?
Warraq: I have no short answer to the question of a possibility of reform in Islam. Here is something I wrote earlier:
Since there is no Pope or even, in principle, an organized clergy in Islam how would we ever know if an Islamic Reformation had taken place? One person's reformation will be another person's decadence. My perspective will be from The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, which many Muslims still do not accept. I think those who do accept the latter declaration would agree that a de facto reformation had taken place in Islamic societies, as for example in Pakistan or Egypt, if we were to find that the following conditions now obtained in them:
1. The subordinate place of women has given way to full social and legal equality. Women have freedom of action, are able to travel alone, are permitted to uncover their faces, and are allowed the same property and inheritance rights as men, and their testimony in a court of law is equal to that of men .
2. No girl is forced into marriage, and no girl is permitted to marry until fully physically mature. Every woman is free to marry a man of her own choice without permission from a putative guardian or parents, or to remain single if that is her choice. Muslim women are free to marry non-Muslims. They are free to divorce and are entitled to maintenance in the case of divorce.
3. Women have equal access to secular education, equal opportunities for higher education, and are free to choose their subjects of study. They are free to choose their own work and are allowed to fully participate in public life-from politics and sports to the arts and sciences.
4. All citizens are equal in front of the law, irrespective of race, religion, creed, or sexual orientation. In other words, non-Muslims (Christians , Jews , Pagans , Zoroastrians , Hindus , Buddhists ,atheists ) and homosexuals enjoy the same human rights as Muslims.
5. Jihad in the military sense is rejected since it does not respect the rights of non-Muslims. Freedom of expression, freedom of thought and belief, freedom of intellectual and scientific inquiry, freedom of conscience and religion – including the freedom to change one's religion or belief - and freedom from religion: the freedom not to believe in any deity are all protected , and where blasphemy is not a crime. These freedoms include the right to examine the historical foundations of Islam, and to explain the rise and fall of Islam by the normal mechanisms of human history, and the freedom to criticize Islam and the Koran.
6. No person is subjected to cruel punishments such as mutilation of limbs for theft, stoning to death for adultery. Copies of Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses, and Ibn Warraq's Why I Am not a Muslim are freely available. Well, at least the latter rather than the former!
But how likely is such a reformation in today's Islamic societies? Can Islam institute such reforms and stay Islam? There are some, I believe, misguided liberal Muslims who want to have their cake and eat it. These liberals often argue that the real Islam is compatible with Human Rights, that the real Islam is feminist, that the real Islam is egalitarian, that the real Islam tolerates other religions and beliefs, and so on. They then proceed to some truly creative re-interpretation of the embarrassing, intolerant, bellicose and misogynist verses of the Koran.
But intellectual honesty demands that we reject just such dishonest tinkering with the Holy Text, which, while it may be open to some re-interpretation is not infinitely elastic. As a tactic it will simply not work either, because to trade verses with fundamentalists is to do battle on the fanatics' terms, on the fanatics' ground. For every text that the liberal Muslims produce, the mullahs will adduce dozens of counter examples exegetically, philologically and historically far more legitimate.
Reform cannot be achieved on these terms – whatever mental gymnastics the liberal reformists perform they cannot escape the fact that Othodox Islam is incompatible with Human Rights. There are moderate Muslims, but Islam itself is not moderate. Islam itself is a fascist ideology. There is no difference between Islam and Islamic fundamentalism, at most there is a difference of degree but not of kind. All the tenets of Islamic fundamentalism are derived from the Koran, the Sunna, the Hadith – Islamic fundamentalism is a totalitarian construct derived by Muslim jurists from the fundamental and defining texts of Islam.
The only solution is to bring the questions of human rights out of the religious sphere and into the sphere of the civil state, in other words to separate religion from the state, and to promote a secular state where Islam is relegated to the personal, and where it would continue to provide consolation, comfort, and meaning to millions of individuals. Are Islamic societies secularizable? Yes, there are my reasons for thinking so.
Since September 11, every journalist has been eager to point out that in Islam there is no separation between mosque and state. Indeed in Classical Arabic there are no pair of words corresponding to ‘lay' and ‘ecclesiastical', ‘spiritual' and ‘temporal', ‘ secular' and ‘religious'. But what these same journalists fail to add is that the doctrinal lack of a separation of mosque and state did not mean that Islamic history was a chronicle of a series of relentless Muslim theocracies. On the contrary, as Carl Brown demonstrated recently, Muslim history has been marked by a de facto separation of state and religious community.
Many of the modern leaders of culturally Islamic countries were secular in their outlook and approach to the problems of modern industrializing societies; leaders such Muhmmad Ali Jinnah of Pakistan , Nasser of Egypt, Sukarno of Indonesia. Unfortunately, corruption, nepotism, incompetence, pandering to the mullas, the obscurantist religious scholars, and above all economic failure in Islamic countries led to the rising influence of the Islamic fundamentalists, who, sensing that their time had come, demanded ever more introduction of Islam in public life.
Other indications that Islamic societies are secularizable come from the Islamic Republic of Iran, of all places. Iran has adopted many institutions from the Western democracies, and which have nothing to do with Islam historically or doctrinally, institutions such as popular elections, a constituent assembly, a parliament, even a constitution inspired by the 1958 French Constitution.
The empirical evidence does not bear out conventional wisdom that Militant Islam is born out of economic despair. Nonetheless, Islamists are adept at exploiting the economic and political failures of almost all regimes in the Islamic world. Thus only an introduction of accountable, representative government that can improve the economic conditions of its people can take the wind out of the sails of the Islamists. Democracy will ensure that citizens will have legitimate outlets to express their grievances, with some hope of ameliorating their lives. With the partial exception of Turkey , there is not a single stable democracy in the Islamic world. It is not surprising that Muslims living under repressive regimes turn to Islamists for support, both moral and economic.
How did secularization take place in the Christian West? Some of the factors involved in the secularization of the West were: advances in knowledge in general and the sciences in particular meant that the criteria of rationality could be applied to religious dogma with devastating effect; Biblical Criticism which led to the abandonment of a literal reading of the Bible; religious tolerance and religious pluralism that eventually led to tolerance and pluralism tout court. As scholar Chadwick put it, "once concede equality to a distinctive group, you could not confine it to that group. You could not confine it to Protestants; nor, later, to Christians; nor, at last, to believers in God. A free market in some opinions became a free market in all opinions ... Christian conscience was the force which began to make Europe ‘secular'; that is, to allow many religions or no religion in a state, and repudiate any kind of pressure upon the man who rejected the accepted and inherited axioms of society ....My conscience is my own".
What lessons can we learn from this process of secularization of the West? First, we who live in the free West and enjoy freedom of expression and scientific inquiry should encourage a rational look at Islam, should encourage Koranic criticism. Only Koranic criticism can help Muslims to look at their Holy Scripture in a more rational and objective way, and prevent young Muslims from being fanaticized by the Koran's less tolerant verses. It does not make sense to lament the lack of a reformation in Islam, and at same time boycott books like "Why I am Not A Muslim". Instead of which, political leaders, journalists and even scholars are bent on protecting the tender sensibilities of the Muslims. We are not doing Islam any favors by protecting it from enlightenment values.
Second, simply by protecting non-Muslims in Islamic societies we are encouraging religious pluralism, which in turn can lead to pluralism in general. By insisting on article 18 of the UDHR which states, "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, ....", we are loosening the grip of fanatics, we are encouraging in the words of Chadwick a free market in all opinions, in other words democracy.
We can encourage rationality by education, secular education. This will mean the closing of religious madrasas where young children from poor families learn only the Koran by heart, learn the doctrine of Jihad, learn, in short to be fanatics. The failure of the central government in Pakistan , for example, to provide free schools, and economic prosperity for all its citizens has led to the rise of madrasas where poor children are given some schooling and food that their poor parents cannot provide. In Pakistan , it is clear that many of these religious schools are funded by Saudi Arabia . The West must do its utmost to reduce the ideological and financial influence of the Saudis, and instead encourage Pakistan to provide free secular education for all children, boys and girls. The West can give aid with strings attached to this end.
What kind of education? One hopes that education will encourage critical thinking, and rationality. Again to encourage pluralism, I should like to see the glories of pre-Islamic history to be taught to all children. But education alone cannot solve the problems.
Several million young educated people enter the job market only to learn that their education has not opened the doors to economic prosperity they had dreamed of. Education without economic opportunities at the end leads to social frustrations which can only help the fundamentalists.
Islamic countries will never make any progress if they continue to blame all their ills on the West. Islamic countries need charismatic leaders capable of self-criticism who can say to their people that "the fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings" , nor does the fault lie with some putative Imperialist –Zionist conspiracy; leaders who can lead their people to democracy, who can institute a civil state and a uniform code of civil laws separate from and independent of religious institutions, but allowing free choice of religious belief and practice who can pass legislation to enshrine the rights of all its citizens, men and women, Muslim and non-Muslim as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the various UN Conventions, who institute free secular education for all. The West must review its continuing and unconditional support for Saudi Arabia which is responsible for the spread of radical Islam. Will the West encourage secularism in the Islamic world when two of its recent leaders, Tony Blair, and now, Gordon Brown, and Gearge W. Bush, have done more than any other leaders in the West since 1945 to introduce more and more religion into the public sphere? May I remind them of the words of James Madison, "There is not a shadow of right in the general government to intermeddle with religion. Its least interference with it would be a most flagrant usurpation".
FP: What are you short-term future plans? What project do you have in mind? What do you see as your next contribution to the battle? What, in the end, drives you and makes you tick? The battle can tire us and also often disillusion us. From where do you derive your energy and the inspiration, courage and passion to proceed?
Warraq: I should like to work on two projects. First, I should like to return to some kind of Koranic Criticism of the philological, historical kind. I am lucky to be involved with some German scholars who are breaking new ground in the field of the History of the Rise of Islam, and the Collection of the Koran, especially its relation to the Syriac linguistic background in the Near East .
I should also like to research further the neglected and positive aspects of Western civilization, to write on its uniqueness, and try to explain the reasons for its obvious success.
FP: Ibn Warraq, thank you for joining us. And thank you for your courageous and priceless contribution to the fight for historical truth and liberty -- and against historical amnesia and tyranny.
Warraq: Thank you so much for having me, and listening to me so patiently

1 comment:

Winston said...

just ordered it online and waiting to get it soon!