Monday, December 27, 2010

Answering Khaled Abou El Fadl

by Daniel Pipes

"Shari'ah Watch: A View from the Inside" blares the headline of a talk announced for Nov. 3 by the Center for Near East Studies at UCLA, "Lecture and Extended Q&A with Professor Khaled Abou El Fadl, Moderated by Professor Asli Bali. Please join us for an informed discussion about Shariah and its role and impact in the West."

I, sadly, could not make it to the "informed discussion." Fortunately, however, the center posted an audio version of the talk by Abou El Fadl, a professor whom I have repeatedly criticized.

Announcement of "Shari'ah Watch: A View from the Inside" by Khaled Abou El Fadl.

For a Campus Watch report on the lecture as a whole, see "UCLA's Professor of Fantasy" by Cinnamon Stillwell and Eric Golub. They pay particular attention to Abou El Fadl's false statements about Robert Spencer and Steven Emerson – that's the "fantasy" in the title. His falsehoods about them are so egregious, they deserve to get Abou El Fadl sacked.

He also mentions me repeatedly in the course of his lengthy, rambling, and self-indulgent meander. First, he wonders whether my colleagues and I even matter:

The various discourses that we find by the Steven Emersons, the Robert Spencers, the Daniel Pipes's, the countless "watch" folks, the Jihad Watch folks – various pseudo-experts on whatever they wish to be experts on. Does it make a difference? Does it actually have a concrete effect in any form or context?

Oddly, Abou El Fadl avoids replying to his own question but, obviously, his devoting a whole talk to us strongly suggests we do make a difference.

Second, he distorts our shared hope that moderate Muslims will arise to challenge the Islamist hegemony:

at the same time that the Daniel Pipes's, the Robert Spencers, the Steven Emersons, the Glenn Becks … say "Well, in order for Muslims to prove to us that Islam can change, is capable of changing, we need to see a virtual civil war between the moderates and the others—extremists, militants, whatever you want to call them … something akin to a religious civil war in the Muslim world." At the same time, they often point to any inter-Muslim violence as evidence of the failure of these people as a people.

For the record: We hope that moderate Muslims will challenge Islamists in the realm of ideas, not by starting a religious war or engaging in violence.

Third, Abou El Fadl gets personal, referring to my lengthy 2004 analysis of his work titled "Stealth Islamist: Khaled Abou El Fadl." What I mean by "stealth," he replies

does not necessarily mean that all Muslims are stealth agents, but, rather, stealth in the sense of sleeper cells, that Muslims, just being in the right set of elements, environmental elements, the right set of circumstances, and they will come into contact with this essential core of their faith and therefore, immediately become prone to turning jihadi or violent.

No, that's another distortion: My article does not suggest that Abou El Fadl is a sleeper agent who might engage in terrorism; it argues that he is an Islamist posing as a moderate.

Finally, he mangles what I wrote in a 1990 article and reminisces that

when Pipes wrote this in the 1990s, I actually recall, I was giving a lecture at Irvine and there were a few professors attending the lecture and when I read this quote—in conversation with two professors afterward, they were basically saying "You're exaggerating. No one takes Pipes seriously; he's insane. Your concern about a statement like this shows your own cultural anxieties about fitting in as an immigrant [from Egypt]," blah, blah, blah. At the time, I have to admit, I thought "Well, maybe they have a point." But the Pipes-type discourse … was reserved and more civil than the discourses after 9/11. 9/11 presents a watershed moment where remarkably it becomes open season.

Comment: How interesting that Abou El Fadl, even as he distorts my message and calls me names, belatedly and reluctantly appreciates my "reserved and more civil" position opposition to Islamism, as opposed to all of Islam. (December 24, 2010)

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Daniel Pipes

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