Waves and Rocks, Chapter 79, The Search for Beauty in Islam: A Conference of the Books

“I hope that being an Islamist will in of itself—without necessarily having ties to violence—be grounds for keeping aliens out of the United States, much as being a communist was grounds for exclusion in an earlier era.”



The Conference of the Books stands every night reviewing and re-telling what we did.  The Conference of Books is our record—moments of victory and moments of loss, moments of darkness and others of light, moments of morality and moments of sin, moments of conscience and others of death—moments when we acted as Muslims should and others when we betrayed ourselves.  The Conference speaks to us—who else is responsible for our legacy?  Who else is charged with the duty and right to exhume the full record and subject it to scrutiny?  Who else must unearth the devilish ugliness when it exists and transform it to divine beauty?


As the Conference of Books marched deep into the night, the books took their toll on my mind.  With the progress of hours, the chair seems to harden and the muscles of the back feel as if they are about to collapse and crumble.  As the head wrestles with the entangled and unyielding words the eyes feel strained and the neck grows weary of its weighty load. 


The keeper of the Conference usually lasts until the sun puts the Conference to sleep, but that night exhaustion overtook the keeper and he passed out on his papers and desk.  Often he dreams of scholars and angels, but that night he dreamt of a well known Islam-hater.  But in his dream the Islam-hater stood supreme recognized by all as a sage to be obeyed in all matters of religion and belief.  He had become the authoritative voice defining what ought to be considered as acceptable and moderate and what is militant and extreme. 


In this dream, a group of Islamophobes stood on an enormous stage—they were many and their names were even much more.  On this huge stage, stood so many among them: Tom Boy the Sharkasi, Ibn the Towel Head, Spencer the Denser, Banji the Danji, Lucifer the Miller, Emerson the Terrorson, Kelvin the Fascist Schmidt, Farroosh the Terrortoosh, and many more.  The names phased in and out in my dreamy mind, but it did not matter because they were all exactly the same.  They perjured themselves before their lord and call their lies insightful “witness.”  The master of this group and the most infamous of them was Poops the Tubes who stood in the center of the stage and before all.  In this dream, Mr. Tubes, as he always wanted, had become the grand master for all Muslims, and appointed himself the Grand Shaykh.  He was the honored guest of all the Gulf States, and all the kings’ and princes’ men and queens stood sunny and beaming.  The Al Jazeera television channel had hundreds of televisions broadcasting so that the audience could comfortably see Tubes’ angelic face on huge screens.


Before him stood heaps of Muslims all eager to hear from Tubes the truth about their faith, and he stood eager to oblige and please.  To the right of the stage stood a group of Jews and to the left stood a group of Christians present to attest and learn from the Master’s speech.


With his arms spread out on the podium, Tubes started out his speech: “Oh Muslims, hear me out for I am a knowledgeable author about your religion.  I speak the truth with complete fairness and justice, and I do not conceal any ill will or hate against you or your religion. I learned your history and faith because I am a friend, and all my hope is that you will thrive and excel.  I, and some of my standing friends, have been on Al Jazeera channel many, many times and this is further proof of my bona fides.  So, hear me now and hear me well.  To be Muslim is fine but to be an Islamist is bad—it is to be a fascist, militant, and extremist who deserve to be deported from the face of the earth.”


The Muslim audience yelled in unison, “We see, we see.”


Two people from the Christian and Jewish camps came forward to the stage raising their hands: “Master, sir,” they said, “We have a question if you will permit.  We heard of the bad Islamist but is there such a thing as a Judaimist or a Christianist?”


Tubes roared in response: “What a silly question this is!  Of course, there is no such a thing as a Judaimist or Christianist!  There is only an Islamist, and only Islamists must perish!”


From the thick crowds emerged a Muslim with his face to the ground and said:  “Master Tubes if you please, we all know Islam but what exactly is an Islamist—we have not found this term in the Qur’an, traditions of the our Prophet, or any of the books we read.”


Tubes folded his arms and smiled: “You! Listen carefully to me—you do not know Islam!  What qualifications do you hold to make such an audacious claim?—I hold a doctorate, I wrote books, very important people set up a whole institute for me, and other very important people bought me a whole journal to edit and lead!  The idiotic universities did not hire and tenure me, but this is because they are controlled by Islamists who night and day plot and scheme against ME! I know Islam—and you don’t!  I know the secrets of that faith and all that Muslims conspire to hide and conceal.  Your question betrays your audacity! You sir are an Islamist!  The evidence against you is compelling and clear!”


In a second, the INS and FBI swooped in and took the miserable dunce to suffer the consequences of his misdeeds.


Having calmed down Tubes spoke softly:  “O’ people, Islamists are extremists and fanatics—they are militants and zealots.  But moderate Islam is fine and good, and that is the Islam that Muslims should learn and believe in, and this is the kind of Islam that ought to exist in the world.  The most authoritative voices on moderate Islam my friends are those of people like Ibn Warraq—a good man who knows what type of Islam is good.  Also you should focus on extremely knowledgeable books like: Islam Revealed; Islam Unveiled; The Trouble With Islam; or even better the author of What Went Wrong with Islam—these my friends are the real voices of moderate Islam so focus and learn the truth about your beloved faith. Ah yes, moderate Islam is wonderfully set out in The Great Divide: The Failure of Islam and the Triumph of the West.  This book proves you guys are losers—ah, I mean that moderate Muslims know that they have much to learn from the West.  But because I know you Muslims well, I know that you do not read, so get the book on tapes and listen to them attentively.”


A Muslim man came forward from the crowds with his eyes glued to the floor.  “Master, sir, I have a question if you may. Ibn Warraq is the author of books with titles like ‘Why I am not a Muslim’ and ‘Leaving Islam’—how could someone who clearly detests Islam be the authoritative voice of moderation about the faith?  Bertrand Russell wrote a book titled ‘Why I am not a Christian’—can anyone claim that Russell was the voice of authentic Christian moderation?  Can someone who writes about the evils of the Jewish faith and becomes a Jewish apostate become the voice of Jewish moderation? 


“Sir, forgive me, I also cannot help but wonder.  If you are objective and fair, why do you celebrate those who leave the Islamic faith, create links to their writings on your website, and promote and praise their works at every occasion and everywhere?  Why do you celebrate the circle of hate—all these writers cannot read any of the original sources, and they are but a circle—they feed from each other, repeat the same stories, which they learn from each other, and they cite and endorse each other.  It is like a circle of hate!”


Tubes’ eyes flared with heat and fire, and his face became inflamed: “You!  Stop right there!  This is the type of babble Islamists say! I am a man who loves the truth and nothing else, and Ibn Warraq and all the others, may God bless them, reveal the full truth about the Islamic faith. I respect them because they testify with the truth about all the ugly and vile actions and beliefs of your religion. Ibn Warraq, for instance, had the courage to abandon this religion and he showed that many other Muslims have dared to do the same. Now, some of the faithful may not have the same strength or courage, and I respect their right to believe and practice their faith, but on one condition—they must know the truth about their religion regardless of how this knowledge may hurt or induce pain. Islam was spread by the sword!  Islam is a violent religion!  Muslims collected the poll tax, humiliated, and degraded non-Muslims and called them infidels. Islam divided the world into the abode of Islam and the abode of war, and this shows that aggression flows in the blood of the Muslim faith. From the beginning, this religion and its followers have been bad, ugly, and inhumane, and until Muslims realize this about their faith, they are extremists and militants by definition! In the same way these books reveal and unveil the secrets of this religion, I have unveiled your secret sir! Sir, you are an Islamist!  The evidence against you is compelling and irrefutably clear!”


In a second, the INS and FBI swooped in and took the miserable dunce to suffer the consequences of his misdeeds.


At this point, two men followers of the Christian and Jewish faith politely approached the illustrious sage. In unison they spoke: “Mr. Tubes, if you will excuse us sir, we have questions that will help us learn and compare. In our religions, there have been many mistakes—in Christianity we cannot forget the violence of the inquisition, and the way Christianity treated native populations and the untold numbers of forced conversions whether in medieval or colonial age. Sir, for instance, Christianity remained the faith of a very small and weak minority until Constantine and his assistant Licinius forced his whole empire to adopt Christianity. Sir, the spread of Christianity under the rule of Constantine involved bloodshed, torture, and pain for all who resisted or abstained. If you read history, Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea in 325 and violently suppressed paganism and idolatry, and spread Christianity by violent punitive measures. This initiated a development that in the Middle Ages led to the forcible conversion of, among many others, pagan Germans, Slavs, and Jews. Also, we cannot forget the bloody crusades and the thousands of Muslims, Jews, and even eastern Christians who were massacred during a level of violence that bordered on insanity. In addition, historically the poll tax has been a part of the world system that prevailed back then. There are many instances when Christian states had Muslims pay the poll tax including, for instance, the tax imposed on Muslims by the Crusader states, and the Spanish authorities in Toledo and Marbella. Those who know anything about medieval world systems know that Christian states always imposed special taxes on religious minorities, whether Muslims or Jews. Furthermore, our learned sir, the dichotomous view of the world was part of Jewish law and Canon Law, for that was the prevailing logic back then. Christianity saw the world as either Christians or heathens. For example sir, we are sure that you read the monumental work: How the Idea of Religious Toleration Came to the West. So you would know that medieval Canon lawyers practically had no conception of tolerance, accordingly they divided the world into true Christians on the one hand and heathens, idolaters, and heretics on the other.  Similarly, Judaism saw the world as either Jew or oved kokhavim u-mazzalot or for short, akkum (idolater).  Furthermore, Israel has many Palestinians under its dominion and it has imposed on them both special taxes and exceptional laws, and as an occupier, it has often mistreated and abused them.”


Tubes was smiling smugly until that last sentence.  Upon hearing it, fire blazed out of his eyes, steam exploded out of his ears and perspiration tried in vain to cool the heat burning his face. Tubes yelled: “All the stuff you’ve said are complicated matters that cannot be so easily judged. It is the Islamists who confuse things in your minds so that you will think that Islam, like the two great religions, Christianity and Judaism, have mixed records of good and bad. One cannot generalize about the two great religions, Judaism and Christianity, or discuss their legacy in this sweeping fashion.  But in all cases they are nothing like Islam! This confusion induced by the Islamists can be forgiven, but that last statement cannot be uttered except by a self-hating Jew or an anti-Semite. Israel has never, never, and ever wronged the Palestinians or any Arab in any way or fashion. To say that Israel has mistreated or wronged the Palestinians is nothing but lies and deceptions and to accuse Israel of misdeeds is a sure sign of an Islamist.”


The poor two men started trembling with fear, but Tubes interjected: “Fear not—I forgive you for Islamists are stealthy and conniving creatures, but never repeat such heresy about Israel again.”


Nodding and bowing the two men backed up into the crowd, but at the same time, a Muslim came forward.  Looking at Tubes, he said: “But sir, how about the Islamic civilization and its humanism. The Islamic civilization made great humanistic contributions and non-Muslims such as Montgomery Watt, Hamilton Gibb, Joel Kraemer, Norman Daniel and many others wrote as much. Lenn Goodman just came out with a first-rate book titled Islamic Humanism. Islam inspired a great civilization that contributed a great deal to humanity. In fact, sir, in the opinion of many, the European Reformation and Renaissance would not have been possible had it not been for coming into contact with the Islamic civilization, and the works of the great Islamic thinkers such as Ibn Rushd. Haven’t you read Aristotle’s Children by Richard Rubenstein or The Ornament of the World by Maria Rosa Menocal?  Sir, even Thomas Aquinas himself cites and debates Ibn Rushd among other Muslim thinkers in his works.  In the opinion of many scholars sir, the very idea of toleration and idea of tolerance came to the West from the Islamic civilization.


“Sir, this is a civilization that was full of awqaf (legal trusts) that financially supported professors, students, grand universities, and enormous libraries. There were trusts that financially supported the homeless, abused or divorced wives, widows, the freeing of slaves, the feeding of prisoners of war, the construction of gardens, the support of artists and musicians, and even trusts that paid for broken musical instruments and things like bottles and dishes—these trusts paid for dishes or other wares broken by waiters and workers so that these people would not get fired from their jobs. Sir, at the time Europe treated the mentally ill by putting them in chains and abusing them, the most popular method in medieval Muslim hospitals was the inducement of laughter. Muslim physicians back then believed that if you cheer up the mentally ill and get them to laugh and listen to music, this will cure them.


“Sir, have you forgotten the mozarabs (the Arabized) of the West, the large number of Christians who in medieval times adopted the Arabic language without adopting Islam.  We cannot overlook the complaint of the Bishop of Cordoba, Alvaro in 9th century C.E. Spain who wrote:


‘Many of my coreligionists read verses and fairy tales of the Arabs, study the works of Muhammedan philosophers and theologians not in order to refute them but to learn to express themselves properly in the Arab language more correctly and more elegantly. Who among them studied the Gospels, and Prophets and Apostles? Alas! All talented Christian young men know only the language and literature of the Arabs, read and assiduously study the Arab books . . . . If somebody speaks of Christian books they contemptuously answer that they deserve no attention whatever (quasi vilissima contemnentes).  Woe! The Christians have forgotten their own language, and there is hardly one among a thousand to be found who can write to a friend a decent greeting letter in Latin.  But there is a numberless multitude who express themselves most elegantly in Arabic, and make poetry in this language with more beauty and more art than the Arabs themselves.’


"Furthermore Sir, if Muslims mistreated non-Muslim minorities to the extent that you claim, why did the Egyptians celebrate the defeat of the Byzantium forces that occupied Egypt and welcome Muslim rule?  Isn’t it a fact that when the inquisition in Spain heated up against Muslims and Jews, Jews escaped to Muslim lands? When the inquisition reached Venice didn’t the Jews escape to the Ottoman Empire and didn’t they establish solid financial institutions in Muslim lands? Sir, even Maimonides, the great Jewish thinker, and many others, were secure in Muslim lands when he wrote his theological and legal works, and in fact, he was directly influenced by theology and Islamic law. Isn’t it a fact that in pre-modern times Muslims who lived in Europe were eventually forced to convert or leave while Christians lived securely in Muslim lands to this very day? Jews lived in Muslim lands until the 1967 war when most of them migrated to Israel?  Aren’t these facts that clearly attest to the humanism and tolerance of Islam?”


Tubes enjoyed a hearty laugh before responding: “These are all lies!  Islam was never ever humanistic or tolerant. If you read the great works of Ibn Warraq you would realize that these are lies. This is a telling difference between Islamists and moderate Muslims—people who make such claims are Islamists, and militants. Muslims who know that Islam was never humanistic or tolerant are the real moderates! The problem is that you and the authors you cited are reading Muslim sources, which are full of lies. If you want the truth about Islam you must read the non-Muslim sources—the non-Muslim sources tell you the truth about what Muslims said or did. This is another huge difference—militants and Islamists believe the lies you just said and know history by reading Muslim sources. Muslim moderates, on the other hand, know history by reading non-Muslim sources.”


“But, Sir, Master Tubes, Alvaro the Bishop of Cordoba is not a Muslim source, and non-Muslim sources had a much weaker sense of historicism than their Muslim counterparts in the medieval age. As proof, medieval historical sources faithfully documented the deeds and misdeeds of Muslims while Western sources at the time could not differentiate between mythology and history.”


Tubes had grown impatient: “You sir, are argumentative” Tubes yelled, “and what you say is nonsense.  All I have to say is that you are clearly a militant and a stealth Islamist!”


In a second, INS and FBI swooped in and took the miserable man to suffer the consequences of his misdeeds.


Two men from Jewish and Christian groups came forward looking worried:  “Master Tubes, we have a question if you please, you said that if we want to learn the truth about Muslim history we should read non-Muslim sources.”


“Most certainly,” Tubes confidently interjected.


“But sir, we are most concerned because if we followed this methodology we will have to re-write the whole of Jewish and Christian as well as European history. Western historians would have to learn Arabic and read Arabic sources before exploring history. We would have to write non-Muslim history by reading Muslim sources because we would not be able to rely on Western sources in writing Western history.”


“No, no gentlemen,” Tubes exclaimed, “the logic is not the same—Muslims are a special case.  The problem is that Muslim sources are inherently unreliable and full of prejudice, bias, and pietistic fictions. This is because Muslims do not know factual incidents or the truth—they fundamentally cannot understand it.”


A Muslim sprang out of the crowds protesting in a confrontational tone: “Master sir—Master sir. This methodology is odd indeed! You are basically saying that we should write the history of Muslims by relying on and trusting the texts of their enemies! What makes you believe the sources of those enemies would be any less prejudiced or biased or sincere? Even the grandfathers of this methodology, Patricia Crone and Michael Cook, have not trusted it—look at their recent works. They rely nearly exclusively on Muslim sources. How would you like it sir if we wrote the history of Israel by relying exclusively on Palestinian sources—the sources of their enemies!”


On the mention of Israel, Tubes’ face once again blazed with anger and heat: “I have already said: Muslims are a special case—their sources cannot be trusted. Muslims lie and this is a fact proven and affirmed by history! You should take your so-called Palestinian sources and throw them in the trash. As Golda Meir already said, those people do not exist!  Now, your sins are too enormous to ignore—first, your hostility proves you’re a militant and your arguments are decisive proof that you are an Islamist.  The case against you is compelling and clear!”


Tubes regained his composure and after taking a deep breath, he resumed his speech: “People listen to me! Islamists are a stealthy and tricky bunch—they try to sound progressive, educated, logical, and smart, but you have to be very careful indeed. You need experts like myself to snuff them out—to uncover their lies and deceits. They may appear reasonable and scholarly but far from it—as I have shown today, their tricks are many and they seek to do no less than the full destruction of the West and all that is moral and good. They may claim that they believe in democracy but they lie. They may say they believe in human rights but they lie. They may say they believe in tolerance and co-existence but they lie—this is who they are! The problem, people, is in their Divine law—the so-called Shari’a or Islamic law.  Shari’a law is simply vile, full of the most ugly commands and inhumane laws.  Islamic law commands the beating of wives and indeed Muslims beat their wives if they say a word or even smile.  Islamic law commands the veiling of women as if women’s hair was obscene. Shari’a has the evil doctrine of jihad that ought to scare everyone. This is why anyone who believes in Shari’a or defends it is clearly an Islamist and a militant.”


At this point a Jewish woman came up from the crowds and cut in: “Mr. Tubes, excuse me please, but what you are saying is rather troubling and needs careful scrutiny. Following your logic are you saying that anyone who believes in or defends the Halakha or Jewish Law is also a fanatic militant? The Halakha contains rules that to say the least is not friendly towards women—I am sure you are aware of problems surrounding the get, and the rebellious wife or the agunah. There are also problems regarding the rules mandating obedience of wives to their husbands, and regarding the permissibility of husbands physically chastising their wives. Rachel Biale has already written about these problems.  Carol Goodman Kaufman and many others wrote about the problems of spousal abuse in Jewish Orthodox communities. Furthermore, in fact, Halakha law, in the opinion of many, demands that women cover their hair.”


At this point, another Jewish woman and a Christian woman came up to join their friend and they continued to question Tubes: “As to the doctrines of jihad, sir, have you read the rules of war in Deuteronomy, which demand that the defeated be entirely wiped out—whether men, women, or children?  Have you read the Canon laws associated with Crusading? They pose no less a problem than that of jihad. The point is, sir, are you saying that anyone who believes in Halakhic law or Canon law is also an extremist and a militant?”


Tubes looked very irritated: “No, my friends, I am not saying that because it is very different. The issues you raise are very complicated and we cannot make sweeping generalizations about them. These are quite complicated matters that need much analysis and discussion. For one, all these problems you’ve raised have been discussed and debated by many scholars, and these scholars have found innovative and original solutions to these medieval issues. People, the difference is that Shari’a is nothing like Jewish or Canon laws. Shari’a law has remained frozen since the 4th or 10th century so it is archaic, medieval, and old. It has never been changed or developed—what can you expect from such a law?  For a thousand years, Islamic law has been in a frozen state after the doors of ijtihad (independent thinking) were closed. It is idiocy to compare Muslim thought with Christian and Jewish thought—the former is archaic. Medieval, and clearly not fit for the modern world.”


A Muslim walked up to the podium with a steady stride: “Master Tubes,” he said, “I have a question if you would permit: Who said that the doors of ijtihad have been closed for at least a thousand years?”


Tubes immediately replied: “My son, this is an established fact—beyond dispute. It was said by many among them the immutable scholar and sage Shaykh Joseph bin Schacht, the non-Muslim, the Great!”


“But,” the man continued, “greater scholars like Baber Johansen the non-Muslim the German, Wael Hallaq the Christian the Canadian, and David Powers the Jewish the American have proven that Schacht was clearly wrong. Shari’a law dynamically continued to develop until the Colonial age. Even after the Colonial age, there were the great liberal reformers such as Muhammad Abduh, Abd al-Rahman al-Kawakibi, Taha al-Rifa’i, Abd al-Razzaq al-San’ani, al-Shawkani, Rashid Rida and many others.  The liberal project of these reformers was aborted by the oil-rich Wahhabis and this is the real Muslim plight. So just as in the case of Jewish law, the story is complicated and not susceptible to sweeping generalizations, which you are so fond of promoting. Schacht’s scholarship was careless, ideologically motivated, and decisively flawed. For instance, Master Tubes, I personally own thousands of books on Islamic law—I wonder how many of these books you’ve read so that you give yourself the right to generalize sweepingly about the whole Islamic juristic tradition. If it is true that Islamic law stopped developing as you say why did Muslims write thousands upon thousands of books on law and philosophy?  Do all these books redundantly repeat the same exact ideas and thoughts?  If as you say Islamic law and thought stopped developing wouldn’t we find just a few books written by Muslims and all Muslims studying the same exact texts again and again?  Isn’t it possible sir that Muslims are not aware of their rich intellectual heritage and tradition?”


Tubes’ voice roared to the point that the Jazeera technicians rushed to adjust their instruments and sound monitors. “You little intellectual pipsqueak! How dare you question the great master Joseph Schacht, the towering founder of Islamic legal studies!  I don’t care about the other intellectual pipsqueaks that you’ve cited—it is not a matter open to debate that the doors of ijtihad have been closed and firmly shut since the 4th/10th century and that is the end of the matter.  Muslims do not have the intellectual aptitude to engage in serious thought for very long, and as to the thousands of books you claim to own, you can dump them in the garbage can. I have read all the books written by Muslims and there is no thought or thinking there! There is just repetitive babble and prattle—most of it entirely incomprehensible. All these books demand the murdering of infidels—the killing of innocent peace-loving civilians. All these books demand the stoning of women and the chopping off of the hands of thieves on the most flimsy and tangential evidence. All these books demand that Christians and Jews be degraded and humiliated and forced to pay your jizya (poll-tax). Those who defend the Shari’a are stealth Islamists plotting to establish an Islamic state where women are forced to be veiled, where hands will be chopped off, where women will be stoned, and where non-Muslims will be forced to pay the jizya. You sir are one of those stealth Islamists and the evidence against you is compelling and beyond question.”


In a second, INS and FBI swooped in and took the man to suffer for his beliefs.


Hardly had the soldiers left when a Muslim woman immediately sprung forward.  “Sir, sir,” she called out, “why do you seem to cling to anything that makes Islam look bad!  For instance, sir, if you really read these texts you would know that the real meaning of jihad is to struggle and exert one’s best efforts and hence the word “ijtihad.”  You would also know that the Prophet taught that the highest form of jihad is to struggle and to cleanse oneself.  You would know that Muslims long debated whether pre-emptive strikes can constitute just wars, and they debated whether proper jihad can be offensive or defensive wars.  You would know that the evidence required to apply the punishment for theft or adultery is very difficult to satisfy. In fact, stoning is not mentioned in the Qur’an but it is mentioned in the Old Testament or the Torah, and Muslim jurists have long debated whether stoning is part of Islamic law.  If you read Muslim texts you would know that the legal logic behind the jizya is that it is money paid in return for Muslim protection and that according to the Shari’a, if Muslims are unable to protect a non-Muslim population, they cannot collect the jizya. The fact that there were misapplications or abuses committed in Islamic history does not change the nature of the textual and intellectual legacy.  No doubt some Muslims have stubbornly defended archaic aspects of the legal tradition but here is where the reforms of progressive Muslims become particularly important. Progressive or liberal Muslims engage the tradition from a critical perspective and keep the Shari’a living and dynamic.  Nevertheless, in a review you wrote about a recent Rand report, you claimed that the progressive and liberal movement is a failed and useless project.  So following your logic, the classical Shari’a tradition is no good, and modern thinkers who try to work with the Shari’a tradition to update it are also no good.  So we and our tradition are just no good!”


Tubes was growing visibly impatient: “You militant Islamists are good in twisting facts and corrupting my arguments.  I told you, those who believe in Shari’a believe in something that is inhumane, and I don’t care what your texts say.  Towering figures like Schacht already told us what the Shari’a has to say about the different topics, and all this mumbo-jumbo about what Islamic texts say is apologetic nonsense.  Look at what Muslims did!  But, as I said, in order to know what Muslims did don’t look at Muslim sources, look at what their enemies had to say about them.  Now, the so-called progressives and liberals are actually quite reactionary because they respect and defend Shari’a instead of solidly and unequivocally condemning it.  To know the real liberals and progressives of Islam, read books like Leaving Islam and Why I am not a Muslim—I already said all of this—what is wrong with you people! Don’t you have the ability to listen and understand! The real moderates are those who condemn Shari’a law in all its forms because it is too evil to be fixed or reformed. As I already said, those who defend Shari’a in any form, or speak of reform, what they really want is to establish an Islamic state and a theocracy!  There is no such thing as an Islamic democracy. Organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood and men like Ghanoushi or even worse CAIR and others in this great country who all pretend to believe in democracy have no place among us whatsoever—they are all Islamists who want to establish a theocracy. As to you missy, whoever you are, I have seen through your guise and conspiracy—you are but another stealth Islamist conspiring against this great democracy—the evidence against you is overwhelming and compelling, and your status does not warrant a bit of scrutiny!” 


In a second, INS and FBI swooped in and took the daring women to suffer the consequences of her speech.


At this point, a group of Christians and Jews approached rather bashfully, and spoke hesitantly: “Mr. Tubes, we are a bit concerned about your analysis and speech.  As you know sir, in Israel there are several religious parties all competing for power within a democracy—and all these parties strongly believe in the Torah, Talmud, and Halakha.  Through their participation in the process, they seek to give effect to God’s law and will.  Also in several European democracies, there are Christian parties that are actively engaged in the political process.  Should all of these be barred from participating in the political process—are all of these a source of danger for our Western democracies?


Tubes smiled before replying: “No, my friends it is not so—the issues are very, very complex in Israel and Europe.  You cannot compare apples and oranges—things are different in the Muslim Middle East.  Indeed, things are different for the Islamist Organizations in the United States—these are front organizations for terrorist conspiracies.  Don’t you notice that these organizations sponsor the entry of so-called Shari’a scholars into the United States?  These Shaykhs and specialists in Shari’a are an incredible danger to civilization!  They are the source that feeds and nourishes the Islamists!  The real moderates denounce and condemn the so-called Shari’a scholars of new and old. Read Why I am not a Muslim, Leaving Islam or The Trouble with Islam to see how the real moderates unequivocally condemn the people Muslims call the fuqaha—those fanatic militants that have always promoted the Shari’a among Muslims. Can you imagine that these fuqaha get involved in politics, and then they dare speak of democracy! These reactionary fanatics get involved in politics and then they dare speak of democracy—this is nothing short of a joke!”


Men from the Christian and Jewish groups immediately replied: “But Mr. Tubes, priests and Rabbis are often involved in politics in Israel and Europe.”  A Rabbi spoke alone: “Pipes, listen carefully to me.  In the Shulkhan Arukh the rules say that it is a great sin to humiliate or hate Rabbinic scholars.  Indeed, one who holds the Rabbis in contempt has no portion in the World to come.  Denigration of the sages leads to the mocking of Rabbinic authority and eventually the Halakha itself.  I fear that what you say about moderate Muslims will be taken to encourage so-called moderate Jews to attack and denounce the sages and their Rabbis. Be careful, Tubes, with what you say!  Because you will have few friends if you are attacking all religious authority.”


Looking stressed Tubes said: “I have never attacked religious authority and nothing I said should apply to Judaism or Christianity.  Things with Judaism and Christianity are very complex and we cannot generalize sweepingly—I am talking only about Islam and nothing but Islam!  Islam is a special case—an exception—an idiosyncrasy.”


Another Muslim woman marched forward—confident looking and she spoke defiantly:  So Tubes, you’ve made perfectly clear that you think that Islam is an exception—apparently, an exception to all of humanity.  We have listened to you carefully, and we have listened with deference and even fear.  Thus far, all we have learned from you is that an Islamist is a Muslim who is proud of his heritage and who thinks Islam is a living religion that can contribute to humanity.  All we understand from you is that an Islamist is someone who claims to herself the rights other people enjoy. The type of Muslims you call moderates and who you like are self-hating Muslims who detest everything in their law and history.  I wonder if you would demand the same from Christians or Jews.


In response, Tubes screamed: “This is nonsense!  You Islamist militant!  You are indeed part of the Islamic conspiracy!  For your information, there are self-hating Jews—they are Jews who, for example, criticize Israel!  So what are you whining about?”


“This is such a non-answer!” the women yelled back, “And you savagely attack these so-called self-hating Jews.  The difference, however, is that if a Muslim dares criticize Israeli policies towards the Palestinians you accuse them of being Islamist militants and then claim that they deserve to be purged from history!  Isn’t it a fact that the only reason you commend books like The Trouble With Islam, and take such books to be an example of moderation is because they vindicate Israel of wrongdoing and are entirely oblivious to Palestinian suffering?  Isn’t it a fact that what you consider moderate Muslims are people who are willing to find everything wrong with themselves, but at the same time place Israel above scrutiny?”


Tubes shouted back: “Yes, of course—those who criticize Israel are criminal Islamists conspiring to destroy the Jewish state!”


She quickly retorted: “Although many of them are human rights organizations or Christian Palestinians like Edward Said and Hanan Sha’rawi!  In other words, they are Arabs, but not Muslims—so what will call them?  Arabists!”


In a rage, Tubes pounded the podium with all his strength.


In a second, INS and FBI swooped in and took the defiant woman to suffer the consequences of her opinions.


Without pause an elderly Muslim man jumped in the place of the woman who disappeared behind the democratic sun. He challenged the speaker standing on the stage: “Sadly, sir I have to concur with the sister who said you simply dislike Muslims. You enthusiastically celebrated the well-known statement: ‘Fears of a Muslim influx have more substance than the worry about jihad. Western European societies are unprepared for the massive immigration of brown-skinned peoples cooking strange foods and maintaining different standards of hygiene. Muslim immigrants bring with them a chauvinism that augurs badly for their integration into the mainstream of European societies.  Put differently, Iranian zealots threaten more within the gates of Vienna than outside them.’ (emphasis added)  This is clear bigotry.  It reminds me of Nazi writings in the 1930’s that claimed that Jews can never be integrated with German society or be loyal to Germany because their loyalty belongs to the halakha!  Yet you attempt to legitimate your bigotry by exploiting the Islamist label.  In your writings, you supported the decision of our government to deny Yusuf Qaradawi and Tariq Ramadan a visa to our beautiful country.”


“That is right,” Tubes responded, “Qaradawi is a Muslim cleric who is a known supporter of terrorists, and Ramadan is one of those so-called moderates who in reality is a stealth militant Islamist.”


“But you also supported the decision to deny a visa to Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens)—a Muslim singer.”


“Well, unlike you American Islamists,” Tubes retorted, “I trust my government—if they denied him a visa, they must have had their very good reasons.”


The Muslim man replied, “But at the same time when our government has granted visas to other Muslim moderates, you still protested and accused our government of ignorance, naiveté, and even incompetence.  So it seems that you support our government when it fits your whims and you oppose our government also whenever it fits your whims.”


Tubes spoke condescendingly: “Because you’re an Islamist, you don’t understand the nature of our democratic governance. The whole point of a democracy is the freedom—even the duty—to oppose the government when a citizen believes the government is following the wrong policy.  This is a matter of freedom of speech—a sacrosanct right in our Constitutional history.  But of course because you are an Islamist you can’t understand concepts such as the right to speak freely.”


Folding his arms, the Muslim said: “Precisely!  So why is it that when Muslim citizens oppose the U.S. government’s policy in the Middle East—such as the invasion of Iraq or the policy of unequivocal support for Israel, you typically accuse these Muslims of being Islamists, militants, or even traitors!  You claim to respect freedom of speech yet in one of your endless flood of e-mails you celebrated Tariq Ramadan’s decision not to pursue his academic post in Notre Dame, but you claimed it is not a perfect victory.  You went on to support a guy who wrote: ‘I hope that being an Islamist will in of itself—without necessarily having ties to violence—be grounds for keeping aliens out of the United States, much as being a communist was grounds for exclusion in an earlier era.’  Excluding people we rather not hear is hardly consistent with the principle of freedom of speech. Your ‘hope’ sir would make the United States in violation of a dozen international conventions guaranteeing the right to religious freedom and forbidding discrimination on the basis of religious convictions and beliefs. If your concern sir is to protect the U.S. from religious militants—I wonder if you would support a similar exclusion against European militant nativist groups that detest Muslims or the exclusion of members of extremist and militant religious groups from Israel!  No sir, you care not for the integrity of the U.S. constitution or even for the principle of freedom of speech. You want to use the immigration laws of the U.S. to serve your own ideological agenda and your own religious prejudice.


“Tubes, I have another question as to the exclusion proposal that you endorsed.  If a Muslim criticizes Israel, they become Islamists and are excluded from the United States.  But I read books like Speaking the Truth: Zionism, Israel, and Occupation; Towards an Open Tomb: The Crisis of Israeli Society; and The Other Israel: Voices of Refusal and Dissent.  All of these strongly criticize Israeli policies and Israel’s human rights record. The authors of these books are not Muslim and so they will not be excluded.  Meanwhile, if these same books were written by Muslims they would be excluded as Islamists!”


Tubes looked very irritated and impatient—he was silent for a couple of seconds then in frustration he pounded the podium with all his strength. The Muslim man anxiously looked around him—the room was entirely quiet as all expected the forces to come swooping in but no one came. Hesitantly, the man slowly walked back and joined the crowds and waited.


Encouraged by the lack of response another Muslim man walked up to the stage. Tubes rolled his eyes and puffed then he started shouting: “When is this mockery going to stop!  I am growing tired of you people and your endless rant—obviously you are pea brained, nit wits—you are blockhead dunderheads who cannot understand the obvious difference between a good moderate Muslim and an Islamist!”


The man standing before the stage protested: “But I have a very important comment to make.”  Speaking fast so that he would not be interrupted, he continued: “You wrote a book about Muslim conspiratorial thinking.  You claimed that Muslims believe that the whole world is conspiring against them, that Muslims are irrationally suspicious and that they constantly think there are schemes and plots being weaved to rob them of independence and liberty.  You even claimed that Muslims are always suspicious of Jews and so they are anti-Semitic—whether consciously so or subconsciously.  But Tubes, I look at your own writings and I notice a constant and persistent theme—that theme is the Islamist conspiracy.  You repeatedly speak of stealth and undercover Islamists. You consistently accuse progressive or liberal Muslims who do not meet your fancy of being deceivers, liars, and dissimulators.  You even supported Joseph Bodansky who during the Bosnian Genocide wrote about the ‘International Islamist’—a massive worldwide Islamist conspiracy being woven to dominate the world.  Obviously, the label used here has grotesque references to the Nazi era and its terminology, and in fact, it is an eerie reminder of Nazi anti-Semitism.  In fact, during what Human Rights Watch called an act of “human extermination,” you publicly advocated that the USA should abandon the Bosnians to Milosevic and Karadzic rather than rescue them.


“You proposed that all Islamists—whatever an Islamist means—be summarily excluded from the United States regardless of whether these Islamists believe or do not believe in violence. You also endorsed the idea of every single Muslim as constituting a terrorist sleeper cell—a source of constant danger that might be triggered and explode at anytime. Sir, in short you accuse Muslims of conspiratorial thinking but you sir are the master of conspiracy thinkers. Assuming you actually believe what you teach, you are obsessed with the idea of Muslim conspiracy. I do think this is decisive evidence that you are an Islam-hater or better put ‘an Islamophobe.’”


Tubes could not contain his anger: “Me, an Islamophobe!  The concept doesn’t exist! Your speech exhibits all the symptoms of an Islamist who excels in sophistry.  I don’t doubt for a second that you are a sleeping cell endangering national security!”


The man turned around and started heading towards the crowd, but before he could reach his position suddenly INS and FBI agents swooped in and took the surprised man to suffer the consequences of his protests.


A group of Muslims marched forward and confronted Tubes—a woman spoke on their behalf: “Tubes you personify our sense of alienation, suffering, and persecution. You are not an academic, researcher, nor a seeker of truth, but a propagandist and legitimator.  What you promote and legitimate is fear—the type of fear that fuels social and economic discrimination. You contribute to a process of dehumanizing Muslims by categorizing, labeling, and demonizing—you stroke the ego of the persecutor so that those who wish to do harm to Muslims may do so without guilt—you provide such persecutors with a laundry list of feel good-excuses and justifications.”


Tubes yelled in frustration: “Ah! People, do you see! Muslim conspiratorial thinking emerges again!  They constantly whine and complain about feeling oppressed, discrimination and alienation, while there is not a shred of evidence that anyone has done them harm except that they harm themselves.  Especially here in the West, they live a life of luxury that they could not have dreamt of if they stayed in the countries where they belonged. They come to the land of freedom and complain about unfair arrests and unjust prosecutions—here Muslims have shown themselves for what they are and I need not say more!”


The Muslim woman yelled back at the man at the podium: “I am a native-born American and a convert to Islam, and I know no other country. You conveniently ignore that whether you like it or not, more and more Muslim are citizens and this is their only country. Whatever your loyalties might be, most Muslim citizens are only loyal to this country. 


“But the real problem is that you and people like you are our persecutors and our persecution!  The problem sir is that you define instead of letting us define ourselves—you slice and dice us into black and white blocks—this block is good and this other is bad.  You want a Muslim who dances to your tune—who says only what you want to hear and does only what you want to see.  You want a Muslim who hides in his home, performs his rituals, and dutifully leaves the world for you and your friends to run as you please.  You want a Muslim who does not define his history, his law, his politics or even his holy book but leaves everything to you and your friends to decide what is acceptable and what is objectionable—what is false or true—what is mythical or historical.  You and your friends with their meager credentials appoint yourselves as the owners of the truth—you decide who is good and who is bad, you even know what is in the hearts and conscience of Muslims. You accuse journalists, politicians, academics, and citizens of being bamboozled and fooled by this and that Muslim.  In truth, you are the quintessential trickster—putting on the robe of the sagacious and objective judge of everything Muslim but you have an extremist militant agenda that despises Muslims and vindicates all the interests that you fancy that Israel needs.


“You speak of democracy!  But what democracy do the occupied Palestinians enjoy! You speak of democracy but you had high words of praise for the dictatorships in Algeria and Tunisia because they slaughtered and tortured what you call Islamists. You even praise the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein because it went to war with Iran and because it exterminated what you call Islamists!  You speak of terrorism, but you had the highest words of praise for Mujahideen Khalq because they blow up civilians in Iran!


“You write with vigor and sensitivity about rising anti-Semitism in Europe, the U.S. or the Middle East.  But this vigor and sensitivity is entirely shut off when it comes to Muslims.  Regardless of the evidence, you deny with all your will and might the rise of an anti-Muslim feeling in Europe, the U.S., or Israel!  But how could you admit the existence of a problem that you work very hard to create!


“We are no longer afraid of you or believe that you are a master. It suffices that you call all those who affirmatively condemn and demonize Islam and then leave the faith the moderates—the ‘real moderates’—and you encourage all Muslims to follow their lead. And before you gleefully exclaim that according to Shari’a law, apostates should be executed and this is proof of how vile Islam is, let me remind you that the Qur’an mentions no punishment for apostates. Progressive Muslims who come along and say that ‘we respect Shari’a law but death for apostates is not Qur’anically supported and should be abolished because it contradicts the Qur’anic command that there be no duress in religion,’ you accuse them of being liars and insincere and call them stealth militants.


“Let me remind you that unlike the Qur’an, Deuteronomy 13:7, 9-10 says: ‘If your brother …or your closest friend …entices you secretly, saying, Come let us worship other gods…do not assent or give heed to him…but take his life.’  Did you know that the word Marronos given to Spanish Sephardi Jews forced to convert to Christianity in reality means ‘swine’?  Do you know that in Halakhic law an apostate is considered dead, and relatives are commanded to go through the rituals of mourning for the dead, but when an apostate actually dies, however, no actual mourning period is observed?  How shameful for you to demand that Muslims celebrate, be proud of, and give heed to their apostates!  Perhaps sir, you should go focus on learning your tradition, and leave it to us to deal, and at times, struggle with our own tradition!  As you yourself repeatedly pointed out to our Jewish and Christian brothers and sisters, matters related to religion are complex and need to be worked through with empathy and care and with the exactitude of surgical precision not with the mentality of a butcher or meat processor!”


Suddenly, in this dream, all the keeper of the Conference could see is Tubes’ stern face speaking calmly and very carefully: “As to your invitation that I focus on my own tradition and leave you alone, thank you very much but that will not happen.  As to all your complaints about who has the right or power of definition, this is a free country.  If you do not like what I have to say, you are free to speak.  I carry no weapons and I have not pointed a gun at any of you.  Whatever influence or power I have it is through my hard work, and if you wish, you can work as hard to gain or achieve what you please.  These are my final words—all of you go and do what you will, but I will always be right there in your faces, and I will—I promise that I will—say whatever I want or please.”


At this point, the dreamer felt an overwhelming sense of panic.  Will the FBI and INS officials come swooping in to pick up the Muslim woman and the group standing with her?        


                                    *                      *                      *


Hearing the decisive roaring vow and feeling the intense sense of panic, the keeper of the Conference was jolted from his uncomfortable sleep. His neck hurt and he felt sorry for the books that pillowed his head through the night. The sun was threatening to rise and he realized that he had but minutes left to catch fajr prayers in time. He rose promptly to do his ablution, but as he washed up for prayer he could not help but think of this strange dream. What did it mean? 


Despite the truth that sustained this Conference for fourteen-hundred years, in this age, the Islam-haters and Islamophobes have multiplied. They arrogantly claim to have discovered the truth that over a billion people have missed: Islam is an evil religion that managed to deceive its followers for centuries. The absurdity of this proposition was challenged by the contemporary reality. Printers of books keep spewing out trash about this majestic religion, and the logic of supply and demand and the temptation of profits make this like a tidal wave that can only be broken and stopped by a will that is as hard as rocks.  But the solution is as simple as buying books—it is the simple act of purchasing books that determines the strength and height of the wave.  Where is the Muslim will?  Where are those rocks?  Will they ever come to exist?