I feel very uncomfortable with this whole string. It seems to me that sunshine girl, wittingly or unwittingly, tried to serve as an agent
provocateur. First, her article pinned all the "Arabs" into one corner. Then, the article made it
argumentatively impossible for "Arab" site participants to deny
effectively the contents of the article., After all--to use the logic of the
article--any "Arab" she speaks to might simply be practising taqqiya.
The implication of such reasoning is: how can you talk to people who practice
taqiyya? Sunshine girl's contribution is
thus at best a non-starter for any
dialogue and at worst an attempt to derail discussion.
Yigal's simple equation of freedom of the press with democracy is also problematic. I know this relationship is theoretically
espoused by thinkers like Amartya Sen, and is an intrinsic part of human rights
strategies, but I see it at best as a
correlation and not as a causality. Yigal seems to imply "their"
press lies, while "ours" does not. But in the past 40 years, sweeping
changes have reshaped the news landscape: press/media concentration, the
suppression of critical journalism, the reduction of expertise among
journalists, the culture of "leaked" stories or stories from
"unnamed sources", the rise of infotainment and disinformation, the
influence of new technologies with their capacity for falsification, to name
only a few. If, as Yigal maintains, the press is a measuring stick of the state
of democracy, then it would seem that none of us is living in an
informationally transparent society.The informational clash of civilizations
that underlies Yigal's observations--whether he realizes it or not--is, like
sunshine girl's contribution, a non-starter.
Certainly, it is legitimate and necessary to discuss issues which have created or threaten to create divisions. Both sunshine girl and
Yigal have raised important issues. Given space and time constraints, I will
address just of these topics. Let us take, for example, the issue of taqiyya
which clearly troubles the writer of the article posted by sunshine girl.
Taqiyya regularly recurs in the literature produced by those fighting
so-called Islamofascism.If my memory serves me well,in this literature taqqiya becomes the strategy by which the
House of Islam can combat the House of War.Because of the capacity of taqiyya
to sow the seeds of distrust in non-Muuslims, and hence cripple meaningful
exchange, it could be fruitful to address it.
But addressing it would require a detailed examination, one that would resist the easy reductionism
of much of the literature on "Islamofascism.".We would want to know
the circumstances under which the term originated, how its meaning and
application may have shifted over time, how it has been received by different branches of Islam and by
different cultural communities, and how 9/11 has affected the understanding and
interpretation of the term.
With respect to non-Muslim discussions of the term: we would need to know the history of such discussions in non-Muslim literature before
and after the Twin Towers. Who has written about taqiyya, how was the term understood at the time of its first reception, how have perceptions of taqiyya evolved over time, how has 9/11
affected these discussions? Et cetera.
I was somewhat surprised by Basil's comments, which struck me at first as being defensive. But then I realized his question was highly
useful on two fronts. First, questions always have a multiplication factor
built into them. How many people other than Basil have asked themselves the
very question he poses? To answer him is in all likelihood to answer many other people. Secondly,
by pointing out similarities and differences in Muslim/Jewish practise, a
discussion of Basil's question could deconstruct the the artifical opposition between "us" and "them" and reveal the mechanism be which
"we" project onto "others" what "we" ourselves also do, e.g. the marranos, the crypto-Jews emerging in Iberia, the Jews living
underground in WWII, the spies using
assumed identities, etc. By lessening the distance between various positions,
the discussion of Basil's question has the potential to facilitate dialogue.
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