I can’t believe it

(Note Dec.18, 2007: The below discussion is very tough on Melanie Phillips for supporting the “moderate” Muslim or “recovering” Islamist Ed Husain in his debate in November with Hirsi Ali. But just a month before that debate, Phillips in October wrote a scathing response to the supposed peace letter by 138 Muslim scholars to Western religious leaders. I only read her blog entry on this subject now for the first time tonight. It is an insightful and unsparing evisceration of the Muslim letter, one of the strongest things I’ve ever seen by Phillips. Therefore I don’t think Mary Jackson in her below attack on Phillips’s response to the letter is being entirely fair; nor am I being entirely fair in my applification of Jackson’s comment. The curiosity remains, however, that Phillips could instantly grasp the fraud of the Muslim letter in October, then turn around and fall for the obvious phony Ed Husain in November.)

For the first time ever, an Islam critic other than myself has criticized Melanie Phillips for her hard-line sounding but conceptually mushy approach to the Islam problem. And it’s not just anyone doing the criticizing, but Andrew Bostom, the respected author and editor of The Legacy of Jihad. Writing at the New English Review on November 23, Bostom reacts to Phillips’s support for ex-jihadist Ed Husain’s assertion (in a debate with Ayaan Hirsi Ali) that a moderate Islam can be created. She agreed with Husain, even while admitting that Husain himself is not yet a genuine moderate Muslim but is still supporting extremist positions. Of which I said, in a November 22 post: “Phillips has been writing about Islam for how many years now, and still is as stubbornly clueless as ever.”

Well, there I go again, being so mean and nasty and attacking my anti-jihad allies. But now I’m no longer alone, because here’s Andrew Bostom:

Phillips somehow found Husain’s arguments more “persuasive.” But in essence he simply repeats the same ahistorical, apologetic prattle about rediscovering factitious golden eras of Islam’s “own religious traditions of peaceful co-existence”—ignoring that this false construction is merely a euphemism for jihad-imposed dhimmitude, or for those societies not vanquished by jihad

Bostom continues:

Phillips’ “conclusion” is lamentable (and shallow) enough. Worse still, she blithely ignores Husain’s malicious, immoral equivalence between Zionism and jihadism, most notably the modern incarnations of this permanent, and genocidal Islamic institution.

He’s not done yet:

Both the rather uninformed Ms. Phillips, and the unreformed Antisemitic Muslim bigot Ed Husain would do well to heed the words of Bat Ye’or…


But there’s still more:

Ed Husain has merely exchanged his turban for the more acceptable Islamic Antisemitism/Anti-Zionism expressed at Durban. And Ms. Phillips just as desperately needs to become far better informed, shed her Spiritual Turban, and realize that she too, “…cannot stop the inquiring mind at the gates of any religion—let alone Islam.” Phillips must begin to realize the perversity of her willful ignorance about the contents of books such as Why I am Not a Muslim. In the words of that book’s author, Ibn Warraq, “How do they [those like Phillips] think reformation will come about if not with [such] criticism?”

Exactly right. Phillips has based her entire Islamo-critical oeuvre on her explicit refusal to know anything about historical, doctrinal Islam and whether or not it is the basis for today’s jihadism and terrorism. Her refusal to connect present Islamic belief to the classic doctrines of Islam has allowed her to oscillate back and forth between alarmed, panicked warnings about the Islamic threat to destroy Britain, and blandly hopeful assurances that the threat will somehow disappear if the leaders of British society give the Muslims a good talking to and get them to “assimilate.” Her belief in the prospect of the liberal reform of Islamic extremism, a belief made possible by her deliberate ignoring of how Islamic doctrine commands such extremism, makes it unnecessary for her to propose any serious responses to the Islamic threat.

Up to now, the Islam critics had maintained absolute unity among themselves, which had prevented them from engaging in vitally needed argument with each other on the nature of Islam and what to do about it. That unity is no more. Let the debate begin.

- end of initial entry -

Rebecca Bynum of New English Review informs me that she and other writers at NER have also criticized Melanie Phillips before this.

Here is Bynum, October 9, 2007, declaring that Phillips “demonstrates a decided paucity of intellectual depth and the strong psychological temptation to believe in miracles” when she subscribes to the idea that the Koran has no set meaning but can be interpreted any way that Muslims want, and therefore that the Koran can be interpreted in a a moderate, non-jihadist way.

On November 23, following Andrew Bostom’s post that I’ve quoted, Bynum wrote:

I have posted before about Melanie Phillips’ naive brand of optimism regarding the promises of Muslim “reformers,” but here she proceeds into even shallower waters, if that were possible. Reporting on the debate between Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Muslim “reformer” Ed Husain sponsored by Douglas Murray’s Centre for Social Cohesion, Phillips predictably gushes over Husain and dismisses Ali:

Also, Mary Jackson at NER calls on Phillips to be more frank in discussing the letter from 138 Muslim scholars to Christian leaders:

Melanie Phillips is not fooled by the latest Muslim “peace initiative.” But she won’t come straight out and call it Islam …

Jackson then quotes at length Phillips’ article exposing the supposed peace letter as a threat, which concludes with Phillips saying:

… it’s really a variation of the ancient adage: submit or die.

To which Jackson replies:

“Ancient adage”? You mean Islam. Call a spade a spade, Melanie. You’re nearly there.

Rebecca Bynum says that Hugh Fitzgerald has also criticized Phillips, but she has no link at the moment.

* * *

Phillips’s “ancient adage” comment and Mary Jackson ‘s criticism of it didn’t make an impression on me at first, but now that I look at it again I’m struck by it. As I say above, Phillips refuses to write about Islamic doctrine and history or to consider the meaning of contemporary Islamic extremism in the light of that history and doctrine. Here, however, in a rare moment she did refer to Islamic doctrine, the doctrine of “submit or die.” But how did she refer to it? Buy turning “submit or die” into some generic “ancient adage” rather than the sacralized law of jihad! This demonstrates beyond a doubt that Phillips is caught in a mental inhibition or paralysis born of liberalism, which prevents her from naming decisively damning facts about Islam as Islamic facts.

* * *

Rebecca Bynum sends a piece on Melanie Phillips by Hugh Fitzgerald commenting at New English Review in June 2007. Excerpts:

And while she identifies the problem of Islam in the Lands of the Infidels, she still draws back, still will not reach certain conclusions, and continues to confuse her audience and herself, in her failure to think things through. She has not, I think, called for a halt on Muslim immigration, has failed to discuss the un-usefulness, and even comical unhelpfulness, of the phrase or concept of the “moderate” Muslim—who, if that word “moderate” could be defined, could still lie about his “moderation,” or could be “moderate” today and “immoderate” tomorrow….

… Nor has she pointed out that the mere swelling of Muslim numbers in the West will, in democracies, with pusillanimous politicians, inevitably swell Muslim power, and cow or overwhelm those attempting to defend against that power. She has her points. But she hasn’t shown a desire to have her readers grasp the whole, to make the connections, and to begin to think about the kinds of measures that are perfectly justifiable, and made sense to such advanced and tolerant representatives of High European Civilization as the Czech statesmen Eduard Benes and Jan Masaryk.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at November 27, 2007 01:55 AM | Send

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