Robert Spencer is absolutely fuming over my book review in The Australian. In fact, fuming is probably an understatement. And what makes him especially angry is that I refer to him by the title of ... wait for it ... a Catholic.
Poor fellow. He now gets a taste of his own medicine. This is the same Robert Spencer who regularly attributes acts of violence to the faiths and cultures of 1.2 billion people. And all disguised as "scholarship".
... at Jihad Watch I provide on a daily basis mountains of evidence, cascades of evidence, for the reality of Islamic supremacist activity around the world ... the extent of jihadist activity and sympathy in the Islamic world ...
What the ...? Evidence? All Spencer does is trawl through newspapers and websites and search for anything even resembling intolerance or violence by people with some link to Muslim communities. In fact, he doesn't do much of the trawling. His army of fellow hate-crusaders like this chap (who even thinks actor Omar Sharif is part of a grand Islamist conspiracy) do all the trawling for him.
I refuse to believe that each and every Catholic is guilty of the excesses of a few. I understand that group responsibility is a concept which went out of fashion after the Holocaust. The tabloid media that paints the stereotype of Islamic terrorists is the same media which reminds us of pedophile Catholic priests. But don't expect me to set up a blog filled with innuendo and smear or suggesting that pedophilia is supported within "the Catholic world" (if such an entity existed).
So what was it that has angered poor Robert? The answer can be found in these paragraphs ...
WE don't often associate the skin tones, exotic culture and poverty of the world's largest Catholic continent with Catholicism.
Few Australian Catholics would recognise the popular beliefs and practices of their Latin American co-religionists.
So if I were to make an ambit criticism of Christianity based on the extreme poverty and draconian politics of Latin America, Catholics would be justified in poking their fingers at me and ridiculing my simplistic reasoning. But among those pointing at me in ridicule would be the polemicists and cultural warriors with three fingers pointing back at themselves. Google jihad. Featuring prominently is JihadWatch, a blog moderated by far-right Catholic polemicist Robert Spencer.
It takes a certain degree of intellectual laziness (often combined with irrational prejudice) to attribute negative characteristics to an entire group of people, especially when members of this group rarely, if ever, regard themselves as sharing some uniform identity.
Do entities such as the Muslim community or the Muslim world really exist? Do all Muslims regard themselves as belonging to the same community of believers? Indeed, do all Muslims regard each other as Muslims? If so, how do we explain the rhetoric of Iraqi Sunni groups who attack Shia Muslim shrines with a view to destroying the infidel? And how do we explain that an elderly Lakemba-based imam who once claimed the title of mufti of Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific wasn't recognised by many Australian Muslims as playing any religious role whatsoever?
Yet we still see, hear and read of the Muslim community and the Muslim world having a uniform manifestation of faith in a monolithic (usually violent and hostile) manner. We so easily lump together 1.2 billion people in the same category.
What is so contentious about claiming that it's almost impossible to generalise about 1.2 billion people? Where is the controversy in suggesting that a Muslim in Malaysia probably has more in common with a Singaporean Catholic than a Muslim in Morocco? What is so offensive about suggesting that, culturally speaking, Robert Spencer has more in common with former boxer Muhammad Ali than Indian cricketer Yusuf Pathan?
I'm not sure. But I do know this: If the likes of Robert Spencer are angered by what I write, it means I must be on the right track.
Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf