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Thursday, April 3, 2008

Fits about FITNA::Tom Carew refutes Hugh Fitzgerald's Jihadwatch attack about Dutch film

Tom Carew's Israel News article on Fitna, the Geert Wilder's movie, cautioned against accepting the premise of the movie at face value and insisting that all Muslims are Jihadist fanatics. Hugh Fitzgerald has attacked Carew:
All those tom-carews of this world have been attacking Fitna because they wish to retain the support, as they see it, of some "moderate" Muslims, which "moderate" Muslims are simultaneously our "allies" in "this struggle." But why? Shouldn't they too wish Infidels to be apprised of what is in the Qur'an and, indeed, in other canonical texts of Islam? Isn't that the best way to ensure that Infidels will cease to assume the posture of the "pre-emptive cringe" -- in J. B. Kelly's phrase -- and, in recognizing what is wrong with those texts, be firmer and therefore more steadfast in dealing with what Tom Carew devoutly hopes and wishes to believe is merely the "bad" version of Islam as opposed to the "good" one about which he, Tom Carew of Dublin, is knowledgeable, and which he, Tom Carew of Dublin, finds so impressive and its existence so comforting?
That's about the mildest part of Fitzgerald's text. Fitzgerald goes on to confute Tom Carew with the likes of Esposito and other publicists for Islamism. The rest of the attack is here. A veritable Donnybrook in the liveliest tradition.
My own comments on Fitna are in Religious hatred: the movie. Carew is right. Regardless of what it says or does not say in the Quran, the main point is that Wilders' movie is a reactionary political statement that is intended to stir up primitive prejudices against all Muslims in Europe. Widlers is entitled to his opinion, and his opinion is not that Jihadism should be fought and prohibited, but that all Muslims should be expelled from Europe. Wilders is preaching a doctrine that is philosophically about as evil as Jihadism, though he doesn't seem to advocate violence. The movie is designed to attract converts to that cause. "Fitna the movie" is not fit for human consumption.
Below is Tom Carew's response.
Ami Isseroff

Comment from Tom Carew re views of  Hugh Fitzgerald:

There is not now, and never was in the past, any such fixed entity as **Islam itself**.  Neither Islam-as-understood, nor Islam-as-lived.

And I can only wonder whether Hugh Fitzgerald has spent half as much time pondering and evaluating the actual writings of non-toxic Muslims, some of whom I instance, or on the brave role of many current Muslim defenders of freedom, as he has dwelling on a plethora of secondary literature from commentators on the originals, who mostly concentrate on the toxic stream.

Just as Judaism, or its Brooklyn or Israeli versions, are certainly not reducible to, or identifiable with,  the toxic ideology of the maverick mass murderer, Dr. Baruch Goldstein, slaughtering 29 worshipers in the Hebron Ibrahimi Mosque on Feb 25, 1994, nor is Christianity reducible to the Inquisition or the Crusades. The Judaism I admire is that of the Warsaw Ghetto Rising in 1943, the Sobibor and Auschwitz Revolts, the  Jewish Legion  [under Irish Col John Henry Patterson ] in WW I, and the  Jewish Brigade in WW II, or the profound philosophy of Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig, while the assassin of PM, Lt-Gen  Yitzhak Rabin, Yigal Amir, is no reason to reject or dismiss the entire Jewish people or tradition.

The toxic appeasement by many, indeed by most Lutheran and Roman Catholic bishops in Nazi Germany, or of Nazi Austrian, Bishop Alois Hudal, or Croatian Ustashe fascist Rev Dr. Krunoslav Dragonovic, both based in Rome and notorious for organising the flight of fugitive Nazi war-criminals to South America,  contrasts with the Christian martyrs, like Protestant Pastors Dietrich Bonhoeffer and WW I veteran
 Paul Schneider, or Roman Catholic Dean Bernhard Lichtenberg of St Hedwigs Cathedral in Berlin, who died in Dachau Camp, and Jesuit Alfred Delp or Rev Karl Leisner, or with those clergy aiding escaped anti-fascists, persecuted Jews or Allied Prisoners of War [ like Scottish Presbyterian **Tartan Pimpernel** Rev Donald Caskie or executed Catholic Abbe Pierre Carpentier in France, or Irish Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty and 18 more clerics in his network in Rome ]. The voices and courageous witness that have become influential and been rightly honored, have been those of the resisters, not the collaborators, or the craven appeasers.

The Germans I honor include not only Willy Brandt and Bertolt Brecht, but Roman Catholic  Col Klaus von Stauffenberg, of the July 1944 Hitler assassination plot,  just as the Muslims I admire include Sunni Beduin IDF Lt-Col Abd el-Amin  Hajer [ alias Amos Yarkoni ], 1920-1991, commander until 1969 of the Beduin **Shaked** Recon Battalion. In the eternal battle between Qubh [evil] and Sidq [truth], both emerged on the right side, and both put their own lives on the line, and that is all that matters - not their theological understandings, or their forms of worship. When I see which way Hajer's Uzi is pointing or firing, then I know whom I can trust - neither native language or faith is decisive, but ethical commitment.

When rotten trees produce rotten fruit, the fact of some good fruit suggests that not all trees are identical. Nor are all Muslims, or their versions of Islam. Follow the concrete evidence, with Aristotle, not the abstract dogma with Plato. And recall with Karl Popper, that every conjecture is liable to be refuted. There are white blackbirds - what Irish poet Louis MacNeice called **the drunkeness of things being various**.

That easy and lazy [ and utterly un-historical ] **Islam itself** sound-bite represents the lethal traps of  Essentialism and of Reification.  Plato is dead as is his presumption of some ethereal, ideal, permanent, unalterable realm where **Islam itself**, or  *Justice itself**, could reside. Like Literalism, it offers simplicity at the expense of truth.

 Islam exists in the minds of Muslims, and Islamic texts, including their Quran, like the Jewish Tanakh or the 4 Christian Gospels, and the hordes of commentaries produced on and from them, are both produced and understood and re-interpreted by living minds, which may evolve or regress, as whole cultures may also do.

 The struggle to understand is never achieved once-for-all in issues of ethics or faith or philosophy, and there is no incremental progress, which can be banked or assumed,  as we can have in science. The enduring reality of human freedom simply does not permit any such determinism, in either personal or cultural histories. And the illusion of Historicism, of inevitable progress,  has been well demolished by thinkers like Karl Popper, as well as by the experience of 20th century horror, be it genocidal with Hitler, or democidal with Mao and Stalin.

The splendid philosophical trio of al-Farabi, Ibn Sina and Ibn Rushd, like the thinking of the late Dr Zaki Badawi in Muslim College, London, or Irshad Manji in Canada, or the earlier  Mutazili  movement, with
 Ibrahim al-Nazzam,  Abd al-Jabbar,  Wasil Ibn Ata,  establish that Islam may be, has been, and is being constructed, and lived, in non-toxic as well as toxic modes. The Mutazilite grounding of the credal in the rational, is the golden thread within Islamic thinking, as is their **Wujub al-Nazar**, the first human duty of reflection.
 Their commitment to divine justice, in contrast to the Asharis obsession with divine omnipotence, is a vital response to the eternal question posed in Plato's ** Euthyphro** of whether the good is commanded because good, or good only because commanded, the Divine Command Theory, which crucial decision manifests not only in toxic faith [ be that an Islamic or Christian fundamentalist version ] but also in either arbitrary or rational personal and social ethics. That conflict of Voluntarist versus Rational ethics was continued the Middle Ages with Thomas Aquinas as the champion of Intellect versus the prioritising of Will by John Duns Scotus [ with Schopenhauer and Nietzsche following on that irrationalist kind of vein ].

And the Mutazilites also embody the admirable Quranic dictum [6:164] that each soul earns its own due.  Which endorsement of human freedom and personal responsibility is echoed by Jakob Harmensen      [ Arminius], 1560-1609, the inspiring opponent of pre-destination within Calvinism.

And furthermore, the creative inter-penetration of emerging understanding and lived experience will also generate a positive dynamic - the contemporary contest in Turkey to entrench or alter secular provisions in its polity shows, as does the life of Kemal Ataturk himself, that a slow evolution is not an impossible dream. But precisely because of the irreducible reality of human freedom, it remains, in all cultures, a reversible and permanently contested achievement.

Just as **Nature** does not pre-determine **Nurture**, so texts do not pre-determine the evolving worlds of Islam-as-understood or Islam-as-lived, and the martyrdom of Benazir Bhutto reminds us that there is a life-and-death struggle raging within the Muslim worlds, a struggle that is both ideological and physical, where the outcome in both these spheres,  is of absolutely crucial import for all humanity, and where the Muslim enemies of  the toxic Jihadi ideology are our front-line in defence of human values and progress, and so both need and deserve our whole-hearted support and unstinted admiration.

 And even if some of those enemies of Jihad may not yet have fully transited to a more evolved version of Islam, as we see it, or beyond it, their value is not thereby eliminated - it was not essential for Churchill to first abandon some of his imperialist delusions, nor for even Stalin to become a Gorbachev, before they could function as vital forces in the urgent confrontation with the Nazi threat, by a very broad front of allies.

The best can indeed be the enemy of the good, and evolution, not revolution, must remain the preferred option. You may prefer Wafa Sultan to Irshad Manji, but for now the practical priority is to stand with both, and with armed Beduins in both Jordanian, Israeli or Egyptian uniforms, against our common Jihadi enemy. Humanity in general, and Muslims both need Ijtihad, not Fitna, and the film FITNA serves a different and ultimately self-defeating agenda of exclusion and global demonization.

Tom Carew.


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