21 thoughts on “What Does Christopher Hitchens Know About Islam? – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم
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  1. Hitchens makes me itch every time I hear him speak. It may be a cliche to say that a militant atheist is merely the mirror image of the militant Fundamentalist. If so, then Hitchens is an overstuffed cliche.

  2. C’mon Richard. That’s a rather isolated example. So in the heat of the moment he got the term ‘Islam’ and ‘Muslim’ mixed up. So what?

  3. So the entire point of your post is there is an apparent big difference between “peaceful submission” and “submission”…………..??

    And this point even is heavily disputed in translation and in practice now and throughout history…

    As in when you listen to CAIR spokesmen/women on tv explain that the entire Asian subcontinent mass converted to Islam via “peaceful conversion”…. it had nothing to do with any violent Jihand use of conquering and vanquishing… no what simply happened was thousands of teachers went out and taught about Islam and the people mass converted all the way to Malaysia and Indonesia. And it was all a voluntary miracle…. ie a peaceful submission

    Perhaps you could explain this to apostates dead and alive who apparently live in no fear whatsoever… and those too scared to leave who live in peaceful submission ie…. You convert and your otherwise peaceful family will have fear, terror and potentially death inflicted upon them via the mob mentality… otherwise you can live in “peaceful submission” within Islam.

    Thank g-d someone had the balls to stand up in the face of the intimidation and murder in the case of the filmaker murdered in Holland and the fact that Ms Ali had to walk with bodyguards 24/7 in that country for simply exercising free speech…

    Yes Hitchens luvvvs to hear himself speak sometimes… as do most public personalities… as well as some bloggers… (as in yourself) however, listening to him take apart Galloways lies and silky demagoguery…. is a task not many would be able to so artfully do.

    If you would like to argue about the meaning within the Koran, Hadiths etc… and its history perhaps you could debate with some who have voraciously studied it… and whom vehemently disagree, like Robert Spencer. I am not sold on him, but I do agree that whenever I see him quietly debate a CAIR or INSA rep on tv they always resort to name calling, easily provable lies, and demagoguery? I don’t understand why they can never simply answer any criticism or questioning?

    As far as I’m concerned the cartoon controversy, honor killings, and the mob mentality in practice is enough for me regardless of what the exact translation and meanings in the Koran are.

    JC

  4. HItchens is an anti-religious bigot, who has found that to be anti-islam is presently stylish. A century ago he would probably have been an anti-semite.

    Zhu Bajie

  5. I do not speak Arabic, but I have always heard that “Islam” means “submission” and not literally “peace”, As a Jew who knows some Hebrew, I can tell you that “shalom” does not always mean peace in Hebrew, either, In the TANACH (Bible) , book of Second Samuel, Chapter 11, verse 7, David asks Uriah ” l’shlom hamilchama”, i.e. “how is the war going?” so here “shalom” means “situation”. I would not translate it “what is the peace of the war?” which is obviously meaningless. Thus I would question your assertion that it is “obvious” from Hebrew that word “Islam” is derived from the word “shalom-peace”.

    As JC pointed out, Islam did not generally convert people by the sword, yet the majority non-Muslim populations in the regions they conquered militarily or came to dominate generally whithered away becoming small minorities today. Why was this? Was it because they came to realize the supposed truth of Islam, or was it do to the discriminatory laws that were applied to them as “protected” people? Laws such as those applying a special “jizya” tax on non-Muslims, or restrictions on building synagogues or churches in their communities, or invalidation of testimony of non-Muslims in a court of law, laws forbidding conversion out of Islam on pain of death, etc.
    Regarding explanations of professional lobbyists like CAIR, it must be remembered that Islam is an aggressive missionary religion and its spokesmen are likely to put a postive spin on answers to difficult questions like those that Hitchens have raised.
    If it makes you feel any better, Hitchens despises Judaism (which he discovered he was born into) at least at much as Islam, if not more.

  6. I have absolutely no desire to either argue with Islamophobes or allow my blog to be used to preach hate of Islam. So I aboslutely will not respond to anything JC wrote.

    But Imjudy’s comment does deserve a response:

    I have always heard that “Islam” means “submission” and not literally “peace”

    Then clearly you haven’t read this book & perhaps you should. From the Concise Encyclopedia of Islam, Harper and Row, 1989, Cyril Glasse:

    Islam (lit. “surrender,” “reconciliation,” from the word salam, “peace” or “salvation.”)

    yet the majority non-Muslim populations in the regions they conquered militarily or came to dominate generally whithered away becoming small minorities today.

    Where did you “learn” this? Could you explain why there was a thriving Jewish minority in medieval Muslim Spain & why until 1948 there were thriving Jewish minorities in most Arab countries? Why didn’t THEY “wither away?” And why is it that the Spanish Inquisition was not initiated by Spanish Muslims, but rather by Spanish Christians??

    it must be remembered that Islam is an aggressive missionary religion

    Oh, like evangelical Christianity? Or Mormonism? Or Roman Catholicism? And btw, what IS an “aggressive missionary religion?” Precisely how is Islam “aggressive” in its proselytizing? And how is this alleged “aggression” diff. than those of the other missionary religions I mention above?

    1. Dick – Let’s be honest, Islam was spread by invading non-Islamic territories, mostly Christian and Zoroastrian and later Hindu, Buddhist and animist. In fact, Muslims didn’t force conversions on their subject peoples — in the early stages, they actively discouraged it — but being a non-Muslim (including in Spain) meant being a second-class citizen subject to higher taxes and a host of other, mostly symbolic indignities. Interesting that you think the Jewish communities in the pre-1948 Middle East were thriving. And, then suddenly these thriving communities were taken in by Zionist propaganda and fled without their property for no reason? How did they get fooled into this? Do you think American Jews could be tricked into leaving for Israel by a media campaign tleling them they have it bad?

      Your efforts to link the word Islam to “peace” are incorrect. Irrespective of how warlike Islam may be, it certainly doesn’t regard peace, and certainly not pacifism, as a special virtue, so it is highly implausible that, etymologies notwithstanding, that “salaam” has any connection with the word. On the other hand, submission to the will of God is a cardinal part of the Muslim faith.

      Your efforts to turn everything into a black and white dicotomy forces you to engage in potted history and tortured analysis. Things aren’t that simple.

      1. Davey, don’t you know how to address someone properly & respectfully? Maybe when you can do that I’ll grace yr comment with a reply. And I’ll call you by your proper name when you can call me by mine.

        How did they get fooled into this?

        Arab Jews were helped along in their conversion to Zionism & aliyah by a campaign of violence and bombings perpetrated in some cases by Israeli or local Jewish agents posing as local anti-Semites.

        it certainly doesn’t regard peace…as a special virtue

        All major religions have important traditions which regard peace as a virtue. Islam is no different.

  7. My understanding is that the “Golden Age in Spain” was a myth invented by Jewish historians in the 19th century in order to shame Christian scholars in Europe for their antisemitism, by claiming that the Muslims were much more tolerant and this led to their societies prospering more. There certainly were good Muslim rulers who allowed their non-Muslim populations to prosper, but they are considered “bad” rulers by Muslim historians. In general the attitude towards non-Muslim populations varied from ruler to ruler. The argument that Jews were “thriving” in Muslim Spain is an overexaggeration. Don’t forget that the RAMBAM (Maimonides) was forced to flee Spain in the 12 th century due to the persecution by the Muslim Almohad rulers. He then went to Morocco where they forced Jews and Christians to convert at sword-point, leading the RAMBAM to write his “Iggeret HaShmad” (Letter on forced apostacy). He also had to write his “Iggeret LeTeiman” (Letter to Yemen) because of the persecution of the Jews there under Muslim rule. The RAMBAM then was forced to leave Morocco so he then went to Egypt where conditions were better.
    The fact that Jews may have had a frutiful culture in Spain doesn’t necessarily prove the rulers were good, because, at the same time in Christian Europe, the Baalei Tosfaot and Hasidei Ashkenaz were turning out important literature while at the same time the massacres of the Crusades and Black Death were occurring, in addition to the expulsions from England and France.

    Your quoting of the meaning of “Islam” meaing “surrender” or “peace” does not refute what I wrote, in fact I consider the equation of “surrender” and “peace” in Muslim terminology to be quite significant.

    You also did not refute what I wrote about the whithering away of non-Muslim groups in the Muslim world. The Jews in the Muslim world were being ground down in the period leading up to the 20th century. Their numbers were small and the proud history of scholarship they had had declined considerably, compared to the Ashkenazic world. At one time, the Middle East, particularly the part that had been under Byzantine rule had been all Christian. The main Patriarchates of the Eastern Orthodox Church had been in Antioch, Alexandria, Jerusalem and Constatinople. All had become mere shadows of their former glory by modern times. Look at the pressure the dwindling Christian populations in Syria, Iraq, Egypt and other countries in the Muslim world are under and why so many Christians are fleeing that part of the world for greener pastures elsewhere.

  8. My understanding is that the “Golden Age in Spain” was a myth invented by Jewish historians in the 19th century i

    Where does yr “understanding” come from??? I am a student of medieval Spanish Jewish poetry and I assure you the Golden Age was no myth. It was an amazing period & your “understanding” of it is deeply flawed. I make no claim that the Golden Age was a Garden of Eden for Muslims & Jews. There was conflict. There were disagreements. But it was an extraordinary period in Muslim-Jewish relations which we’d profit fr. knowing more about in our current age of darkness.

    The fact that Jews may have had a frutiful culture in Spain doesn’t necessarily prove the rulers were good, because, at the same time in Christian Europe, the Baalei Tosfaot and Hasidei Ashkenaz were turning out important literature

    The treatment of Jews in Europe at the hands of Christians was pure barbarity compared to their treatment by the Spanish Moors. I’m glad you haven’t forgotten the Crusades.

    The Jews in the Muslim world were being ground down in the period leading up to the 20th century.

    You make sweeping statements & provide no proof for them whatsoever. Who says they were being “ground down?”

    the proud history of scholarship they had had declined considerably,

    Everything in Muslim countries in the 19th century had “declined considerably” from their flourishing during the Middle Ages. All scholarship had declined, not just Jewish scholarship.

  9. “As JC pointed out, Islam did not generally convert people by the sword, yet the majority non-Muslim populations in the regions they conquered militarily or came to dominate generally whithered away becoming small minorities today.”

    A different way of looking at things is: Monophysites, Nestorians, Mandaeans, Yezidis, etc., etc., all have long existed in the Middle East, but not in Europe. Why? I think it has to do with the long, unpleasant history of European societies requiring uniformity. I think it’s largely from the heritage of Rome, esp. Roman law. 2000 years ago, one had to revere the genius of the emperor or die. 1000 years ago, you had to be a catholic christian or die. 500 years ago, your king could chose between Catholic or Protestant, but you had to agree, or die. (Cuius regio, ejus religio was the legal formulation.)

    In the Middle East, if you were submissive to your ruler and paid your taxes, he didn’t care if you joined his _millet_. Think about Candide tending his garden on the outskirts of Istanbul. If anything, conversion was long discouraged. Non-muslims paid higher taxes.

    Why do you think Maimonides headed for Egypt when he had to leave Spain? He could have gone to France, Germany, England. But he was astute as well as philosophical, and knew he was more likely to thrive in Egypt.

    Not that it was heaven on earth, but middle eastern civ. is not demonstrably inferior or less tolerant, to western europe’s over the long haul.

    Zhu Bajie, feeling safe in China

  10. This is from the conclusion of Maxine Rodinson’s Israel and the Arabs. Rodinson agrees that “The Jews, a minority and subject community, had always been subordinated and often humiliated” under Muslim rule. However, he also writes:

    “In any case, these features of the classical Muslim world were in process of changing in the course of the nineteenth century, especially in the region where Palestine is situated, the Arab Middle East. Evolution was proceeding in the direction of a secular society on the European pattern, starting with a tendency towards equality of status for the three communities. At the beginning of the twentieth century the Jews were, in these countries – let us be clear on the geographical point – in a peaceful, prosperous and often envied situation.

    This evolution was partly checked, first by the reaction to the Zionist implantation in Palestine and then by the creation of the state of Israel. True, hostility to Zionism, like every similar movement, made use of every means available. It exploited what was left of the religious hostility to Judaism and the feelings of contempt towards the Jews which had been inherited from the medieval situation. It quoted those verses from the Koran which date from the period when the Prophet was combating the Jews of Medina. But there can be no doubt that the hostility felt towards any implanting of an alien state on Arab soil would have been the same whether those involved had been Chinese or Greeks, Christians or Buddhists. It would simply have found other texts, sacred or otherwise, to exploit.”

    http://www.marxists.de/middleast/israrab/part1.htm

  11. I must take issue with JC who accuses Richard of loving to hear himself speak. I have known Richard for 40 years. His passion is not hearing himself speak–in my class, he spoke so seldom and so softly that the class became very quiet in order to hear him. His passion is Judaism and justice. Richard would love nothing more than to spend the blogging time with his lovely wife and children. But unfortunately, there are many, many Americans and Israelis who need to see the other side which Richard is trying to do.

    In the award winning film “Fog Of War”, former Sec. of Defence McNamara’s number one rule to prevent war is:
    EMPATHIZE WITH YOUR ENEMY. He put it many different ways — “see our positions through our enemies eyes”, another was “put yourself in your enemies skin” etc. etc.

    Thank you Richard for helping to make us aware of the Palestinian position, and calling Israel and the US to task for policies (such as the occupation and settlments) that will most assuredly fail with disasterous results for the Unites States and Israel, as well as the Palestinians — all of us will lose! Thank you Richard for trying to save us from certain disaster.

  12. The spectre of “the Hitch” always makes me kind of depressed. Such a fine writer, the guy really knows how to turn a phrase, but such a sloppy, shallow thinker when it comes to U.S. policy toward the Muslim world, and specifically Iraq. He can be really compelling to listen to or read, but he’s just got a chip missing or something. There’s no depth or cultural literacy to his foreign affairs analyses. And there’s a tremendous blindness on his part when it comes to the both the weltanschaung and the on-the-ground reality of the Neoconservative project. It’s like he’s off in his own little deluded universe.

  13. ‘It’s like he’s off in his own little deluded universe.” Like the Dispensationalists and the Neo-cons, then.

    Zhu Bajie

  14. “…Islam did not generally convert people by the sword….” “Islam” doesn’t do anything; only individuals do things. The Muslim who sold me noodles for lunch the other day, the Muslim (and Communist) who hired me for my current job, the Muslim students in my English classes last semester, were all individuals, not “Islam.”

    Zhu Bajie

  15. To Zhu Bhajie-
    Tell me, did the “Nazis” do anything? Did the “Stalinist-Communists” do anything?
    As a matter of fact, Germans or Russians acting under those ideologies carried out
    atrocities unheard of to those same Germans or Russians before those vile ideologies
    came around. Thus ideology or religion CAN motivate people to do things. That is why it is legitimate to study what “Islam” did because the Islamic conquests were carried out by a government acting under its ideology. Now, of course, there can be divergences carried out by individual leaders. But if we see a pattern developing over centuries, we can draw the appropriate conclusions.

  16. Germans or Russians acting under those ideologies carried out atrocities unheard of to those same Germans or Russians before those vile ideologies came around.

    You think that Russia and the area which eventually became known as Germany had never seen similar atrocities before? Do you know much about Russian history? Do you know how much blood was spilt over centuries by various tsars to impose their authority? And Jew hatred has is a hallowed Russian tradition including the Kishniev pogrom and Chmielnitsky massacres among many others.

    Now let’s turn to Germany: how about the First Crusade in which Jewish communities in Mayence and Speyer were eliminated by Germans. How about the various bloody European wars afterward some of which were fought on German soil.

    ideology or religion CAN motivate people to do things.

    Certainly it can–very bad things. And in our own religion as well. Why do you forget this?

  17. “Thus ideology or religion CAN motivate people to do things.”

    That’s why I fear the anti-Muslims, esp. the Christian Dispensationalist ones.

    Zhu Bajie, alive in the bitter sea
    Kunming
    China

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