i) James White did a DL yesterday. He referred to me, among others. It's hard to interact with what he said because his remarks were completely unresponsive to my actual arguments. Frankly, it was a scatterbrained presentation on his part, as he bounced from one thing to another like a racquet ball.
ii) He suggested that because Omar Mateen was reportedly homosexual, "the whole ISIS thing was a cover". Perhaps. But doesn't that mean White thinks a true Muslim can't be homosexual? Therefore, Mateen's real motivation couldn't be religious?
If so, that's problematic for White's position. He keeps telling us that Islam isn't "monolithic". So why can't a true Muslim be homosexual? Is White claiming that Islam doesn't regard hypocrites as Muslims?
Keep in mind, too, that homosexual impulses are distinct from beliefs. You can have beliefs that run counter to your impulses. A junkie can sincerely believe that his addiction is self-destructive, yet he's hooked.
BTW, there is a tradition of homosexuality in Islam. It ordinarily takes the form of pederasty. But since pedophilia is currently illegal in the US, that's not a safe option for a homosexual Muslim.
ii) Why aren't more Muslims jihadis? Several reasons:
Many Muslims are nominal Muslims. Cultural Muslims. Or modernist Muslims. They go through the motions to get along, but they just don't believe in traditional Islam. The conviction is lacking.
Many Muslims are ignorant of Muslim history and theology.
Finally, it takes a lot of commitment to be a terrorist. You have a lot to lose. How many Muslims are prepared to take the risk? Stake it all on virgins waiting for them in paradise?
iii) White said I had "lost my mind" by calling him a Muslim partisan. Problem is, he never got around to engaging my actual argument. I didn't just say he was a Muslim partisan. I explained what I meant. I illustrated what I meant.
When, in the wake of yet another jihadist attack, your first impulse is to defend Muslims and attack critics, that's the knee-jerk reaction of a Muslim partisan. Your reflexive response is to start making excuses for Muslims, and redirect to attacking their critics, as if their critics, who aren't killing anyone, are the real source of the problem.
White said nothing to refute that or defend his modus operandi. Presumably, because he can't refute it or defend his modus operandi. Instead, he went off on a tangent, attacking things I never said–as if that's an adequate substitute.
iv) He keeps accusing critics of emotionalism. To begin with, that's a tactic to preemptively deflect and discredit criticism. It's always the other person who's guilty of confirmation bias.
Moreover, anyone watching his DL presentations, where he goes to bat for Muslims, can see how overwrought he is. Couldn't be that he's the one who needs to get a grip on his own emotions.
v) He said my credibility is down to zilch. That's a revealing characterization. Even if that were true, it's a category mistake. Credibility has nothing to do with it. I present evidence and make arguments. My personal credibility is irrelevant to the quality of the evidence and the soundness of the argument.
vi) He say anyone who denies there's such a thing as cultural Islam is a glowing hypocrite. Unfortunately for him, he didn't quote me denying the existence of cultural Islam.
vii) He said cultural Islam is "ugly"–whatever that means. That stands in contrast to what, exactly? Zealous Islam? I'd say zealous Islam is far "uglier" than cultural Islam.
viii) He accused his critics of not knowing any Muslims. I, for one, have known many Muslims. It's revealing how he stereotypes his critics.
ix) He then said that even if his critics do know Muslims, these are "street level" Muslims who "rarely read their own history".
That's classic. First accuse critics of having no firsthand knowledge of Muslims. But in the next breath, summarily dismiss firsthand knowledge of Muslims.
How ironic. He's dismissing "street level" Muslims. Apparently, they aren't representative of "true" Islam. Does White think only Muslim scholars like Fazlur Rahman and Seyyed Hossein Nasr can be authentic spokesmen for Islam?
If so, isn't that a backdoor admission that there is a standard of comparison? That historically informed Islam represents true Islam? But isn't that precisely what the jihadis appeal to? White's appeal sabotages his own argument.
On the one hand he insists that we should judge Muslims on a case-by-case basis, as individuals. Not "lump" them together. On the other hand, he disqualifies the vast majority of Muslims as merely "street level" Muslims who rarely read their own history. On the one hand he insists that if a Muslim tells us he deplores a jihadist attack, we should give him the benefit of the doubt. On the other hand he indicates that the average Muslim is too ignorant to speak for Islam.
x) White says the founding source documents are inconsistent. But he doesn't cite any founding source documents that promote a tolerant, peace-loving version of Islam.
xi) White has a funny way of pulling rank. He says he knows "ten times more" about Islam than I do. Maybe he does, maybe he doesn't. I don't see the value of bragging about how much you supposedly know. If you're that knowledgable, you don't need to brag about it–your knowledge will speak for itself. Conversely, if you feel the need to brag about it, that's a sign of intellectual insecurity.
This isn't the first time he's drawn an invidious contrast between his alleged expertise and the alleged ignorance of his critics. Since he keeps playing that card, I guess we have to be blunt: from what I can tell, White is basically self-taught when it comes to Islam. He doesn't have a degree in Islamic studies. He doesn't have an institutional position. He doesn't have the credentials of scholars like Albert Hourani, Kenneth Cragg, W. Montgomery Watt, Daniel Pipes, D. S. Margoliouth, Bernard Lewis, Michael Nazir-Ali, Marshall G. S. Hodgson, &c. So it would behoove him to refrain from flaunting his nonexistent credentials. It's not as if he's an acknowledged world authority on Islam. He has an MA from Fuller, and he got his "doctorate" from a diploma mill. So spare us the constant condescension. You're in no position to pull rank.
This morning he posted a follow up:
But even if we were to limit our examination of "peace" to external conflict, it is painfully obvious that the meaning of terms like "jihad" does differ within the Islamic community. Attempting to deny this requires a tremendous effort at redefinition that mainly takes the form of, "Well, if a Muslim disagrees with MY definition of what THEY mean by jihad, they are not REALLY a Muslim."
Well, what about Ibn Khaldun's definition of jihad:
In the Muslim community, the holy war is a religious duty, because of the universalism of the Muslim mission and (the obligation to) convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force...It is (for them to choose between) conversion to Islam, payment of the poll tax, or death. (Muqaddimah, chapter 3.31).
Isn't Ibn Khaldun a paradigm Muslim thinker?
But one must be blind, or bigoted, or just willfully dishonest, to not see that the history of Islam as a whole is not just one massive bloodbath. There have been times of peace and stability where a progressive culture was created that produced philosophers and mathematicians and scientists.
That's pretty euphemistic. After military conquest and subjugation, there are periods of peace and stability.
But the fact remains that, by God's common grace, a higher-order Islam has existed, and continues to exist through to this day. I KNOW, personally, Muslims who remain faithful to the central tenets of their faith who would never accept any definition of their faith that would lead them to murder their fellow men. Argue that they are not Muslims all you want: all you are doing is demonstrating why the conflict exists in the first place.
Are these the "street level" Muslims who "rarely read their own history"? Didn't he tell us in the podcast that we should discount their testimony, given how ignorant they are of their own religious tradition?
But demanding that this corrosive form be taken as the ONLY representative of Islam is to make the very same mistake the secular world does in demanding I answer for the Westboro Baptists and Steven Andersons and Walid Shoebats of the world.
Once again, that comparison is vitiated by disanalogy. White doesn't think the position of Westboro Baptists and Steven Andersons of the world are Biblically justifiable. By contrast, he concedes "the toxic, self-destructive forms, which I have always said have deep and ancient roots in the Islamic tradition itself." Therefore, Muslims are answerable for jihadist massacres in a way that Christians are not answerable for Steven Anderson and the Westboro Baptists.
White keeps using illogical arguments. Yet he's a professional Christian apologist. Is it asking too much that he be logically consistent?