Yusuf al-Qaradawi

by Chris Bertram on September 4, 2004

The recent visit to Britain of Shaikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi and his reception by London mayor Ken Livingstone generated a lot of controversy. I confess that I was a little bit skeptical about some of the claims made about him by his opponents on a “they would say that, wouldn’t they?” basis. His latest declaration calling on Muslims to fight the Americans in Iraq and including civilians as legitimate targets should remove any doubt. Juan Cole —who can read the Arabic sources and is not one of the people who recycles the ravings of Daniel Pipes—is disgusted, and provides a good deal of further background .

{ 48 comments }

1

dsquared 09.04.04 at 11:45 am

Does anyone know how the Muslim Council of Britain relates to the Muslim Parliament of Britain?

2

Harry 09.04.04 at 1:32 pm

If Juan Cole says it then it must be ok to criticise al-Qaradawi now?

It appears that for Chris everyone else who pointed out al -Qaradawi’s reactionary views on a whole range of issues at the time of the British visit had some other agenda which nullified the value of the information they put forward.

3

dsquared 09.04.04 at 2:23 pm

To put it bluntly (without presuming to speak for Chris) yes. Juan Cole has a very good record as a straight-shooter in these matters. At the time of Qaradawi visit to London, it seemed quite likely that he was a loon, which is why you’ll find no ringing endorsement of him on CT, but the claque screaming for him to be denounced from the rooftops seemed so bloody appalling (and was so chock full of people who had axes to grind and seemed unconcerned about distorting the truth while grinding them) that I for one was reluctant to join it. It strikes me that this is an entirely sensible approach to subjects where one doesn’t have much knowledge; to trust the judgement of those who have proved trustworthy in the past, and ignore those who haven’t, however loud they scream.

There’s quite a detailed discussion of this approach in the comments to my post on Stephen Milloy, below. Suffice to say that, in as much as there is an official CT line on anything, our official line on people who demand that we sign up to their loyalty oaths is no thanks.

4

seth edenbaum 09.04.04 at 3:27 pm

I think Cole is more saddened and worried than disgusted.

There’s a difference.

5

Steve Carr 09.04.04 at 3:31 pm

Good to see Cole’s post. At the same time, I think he’s far too glowing in his praise of Abdul Mu’ti al-Bayyumi. He describes al-Bayyumi as “speaking eloquently about the Islamic duty to avoid harming civilians.” Look at what the guy actually said:

“Civilians who do not fight and do not take part in the fighting may not be killed or kidnapped. They must be treated well. If he does participate in the fighting against Muslims, in any way, it is permitted to treat him as a combatant.”

That “in any way” opens a hole big enough to drive a truck through, and that statement is in no sense the kind of unequivocal condemnation of attacks on civilians that Cole paints it out to be. Here again Cole seems to be trying to argue that Qaradawi is outside the mainstream of Islamic thought, when the truth is he’s probably quite close to the heart of it. If the most moderate cleric to comment on the case is someone who says that if civilians contribute “in any way” to a military struggle, they can be targeted and murdered, it’s a sign of just how extreme Islamism has become.

6

Harry 09.04.04 at 4:08 pm

Well that is simply pathetic Dan.

I have read multiple sources on al-Qaradawi, including the original source material of his fatwas (easily avaliable in English on his own Islamonline website).

It was not at all difficult to make ones mind up about what kind of views he held.

But you have to wait for an endorsment from some American academic before you can make a judgement.

Pathetic but not at all surprising.

7

Nicholas Weininger 09.04.04 at 4:18 pm

steve: take al-Bayyumi’s statement, exchange the word “Muslims” for “Americans” or “Israelis”, and you have precisely the attitudes toward civilians of, respectively, the US army in Iraq and the IDF in the occupied territories.

As you say, the “in any way” opens up a distressingly big loophole for atrocious behavior. But Western military forces are guilty in the extreme of exploiting just that same hole; so calling it evidence of Islamic extremism is employing a double standard.

8

Steve Carr 09.04.04 at 4:22 pm

The approach of relying on those who have proved trustworthy in the past seems reasonable. But surely you have to update your definitions of who’s trustworthy based on new information, so that going forward, you should be considerably more skeptical of those who initially defended (or were neutral towards) Qaradawi and considerably more respectful of those who, from the beginning, saw him for exactly what he is.

And it’s worth remembering that it was the uproar over Qaradawi’s visit that prompted Marc Mulholland’s absurd musings on how the attacks on Qaradawi were examples of Islamophobia and were “unconscionable.” “Ken Livingstone was quite right to greet diplomatically Yussef al-Qaradawi,” Mulholland wrote, in a post Chris labeled “useful and serious.”

9

rea 09.04.04 at 4:22 pm

“That “in any way” opens a hole big enough to drive a truck through, and that statement is in no sense the kind of unequivocal condemnation of attacks on civilians that Cole paints it out to be”

Well, exactly how is that different from the US policy about attacks on civilians by US forces? A civilian worker in a chemical plant that might be used to make munitions, for example, is a fair target in wartime, isn’t he? I won’t even get into the circumstances under which US doctrine allows strategic mass attacks on enemy civilian populations . . .

10

Chris Bertram 09.04.04 at 4:38 pm

Harry, you really are going way over the top here.

I said:

bq. I was _a little bit skeptical_ about _some_ of the claims made about him by his opponents [emphases added].

Your gloss on what I said is

bq. for Chris everyone else who pointed out al -Qaradawi’s reactionary views on a whole range of issues at the time of the British visit had some other agenda which nullified the value of the information they put forward.

It seemed to me at the time that al-Qaradawi had some unsavoury views. It also seemed as if some of the accounts of his views that were being alleged by the usual suspects were exaggerated. I didn’t do the research into his fatwas that you seem to have done (and all credit to you for chasing down the original sources). And yes, I am wary of sources of information when they are clearly peddling some agenda. (Aren’t you Harry? Surely everyone is.) I don’t have to wait for an “endorsement from an American academic before I can make a judgement”, but when someone whose views I respect and whom I regard as an authority sets things out as Cole has done, I am inclined to let me beliefs be shaped by what he says. Again, Harry, aren’t there sources whom you trust such that when they say “P” you are more inclined to believe that P??

11

Steve Carr 09.04.04 at 4:41 pm

If you can’t see the difference between the way the US military has fought this war in Iraq and al-Bayyumi’s advocacy of deliberately targeting and murdering any civilian who provides any comfort or aid to an enemy, then you have no moral compass. There is no doubt that the US has, in the past, adopted a “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” policy, most notably in Vietnam with the free-fire zones. There’s also no doubt of the immorality of that policy.

Regardless, let’s accept for the sake of argument that there is an analogy between al-Bayyumi’s position and that of the IDF or, to really stretch things, the US military. I don’t hear Juan Cole praising the IDF for its “eloquent” defense of killing only those civilians who provide aid to Hamas, or hear him praising the US for murdering civilians who provide members of the Mahdi Army with shelter. Again, it’s a sign of how extreme Islamic rhetoric has become that Cole can actually praise as eloquent in moderation someone who explicitly advocates kidnapping and murdering civilians. Of course, al-Bayyumi’s logic would also approve of violent resistance to the US military in Iraq, which means he believes American soldiers can be justly killed. But this is apparently so unexceptionable that no one seems bothered by it. (Somehow I think, or at least hope, we’d feel differently about a Christian cleric in Germany in 1946 saying that murdering American soldiers was justified, or a Shinto priest doing the same in Japan at that time.)

12

Chris Bertram 09.04.04 at 4:50 pm

Steve Carr: Of course you are right to say that Marc M endorsed Livingstone’s meeting with al -Qaradawi and you are also right to say that I wrote that his post was “useful and serious”. I still think that he made some very good points in that piece, points that unfortunately got lost because of some other ones he also made and which we’ve actually revisited in one of the Foucault discussions we had recently.

13

Nicholas Weininger 09.04.04 at 5:36 pm

steve: I agree, actually, that Cole should have been as tough on al-Bayyumi as he is on the IDF. He too employs a double standard at times, and should be called on it.

But again, when you call someone or something “extremist” you always have to answer the question: compared to what? And I think you’re mischaracterizing al-Bayyumi’s statement (not to mention minimizing the crimes of American and Israeli forces) to make it look more extremist than it is. He’s not saying there’s a positive duty to kill civilians who assist the enemy– he’s saying it’s permissible to do so. Again, I do not say this in defense of his doctrine, which I reject. I say it to make clear that that doctrine is not substantially different from that employed by Western forces, and so cannot reasonably be adduced as evidence of Islamic extremism.

Casting aspersions on my moral compass isn’t really an argument against this. To take one example, the reckless indifference to civilian lives shown by US airstrikes in Fallujah is very much in the spirit of what al-Bayyumi is saying. The doctrine implied by those airstrikes is that if you happen to be in a place we think is a “safe house for terrorists” then you must be aiding the enemy in some way, so it’s OK to kill you.

14

Harry 09.04.04 at 5:44 pm

Chris,

As I said, al-Qaradawi’s views are in the public domain, in his own words on his own website and a good number of the press articles and blogposts that risked the charge of ‘Islamophobia’ by criticising the mayor of London and other fools for embracing this homophobic supporter of the killing of civilians, actually pointed people in the direction of Islamonline.

The facts were there and had nothing to do with the opinions of those who choose to report them.

15

Steve Carr 09.04.04 at 6:09 pm

As Harry’s suggesting, anyone interested in these questions would be well-served by spending some time reading IslamOnline.net, in particular the “Fatwa Bank,” where Muslim jurists and clerics opine on ethical and legal questions, many of them having to do, unsurprisingly, with war. For instance, on 5/17/04, Qaradawi — whom Islam Online labels “the eminent Muslim scholar — was asked his opinion on whether it was lawful for Muslims to kill their captives: http://www.islamonline.net/fatwa/english/FatwaDisplay.asp?hFatwaID=114486.

In his response, Qaradawi says that in general, captives should either be released or ransomed, except that “criminals of war” who have committed “atrocities” should be executed. Reasonable enough, I suppose, but if you read the entire fatwa, Qaradawi says that Muslims should not even bother taking POWs before “vanquishing the enemy and subduing it altogether.” In other words, if enemy soldiers try to surrender in the midst of an ongoing campaign, they should be massacred, not taken prisoner.

It is just remarkable that Ken Livingstone welcomed this guy while British soldiers were in the field and he was advocating their murder if they chose to surrender.

16

Steve Carr 09.04.04 at 6:38 pm

By the way, unless I’m mistaken, the al-Bayyumi that Cole praises for his eloquence is the same person who published an article –in the fall of 2003 — arguing that because of the war in Iraq, any true Muslim scholar must now recognize Bin Laden as a “Muslim Mujahid” — that is, a freedom fighter — while calling Bush a “neo-terrorist” who “must be stopped immediately and by all methods.”

Bayumi also said it was a “fard ain” — a compulsory duty — for Muslims to wage war against the US, because it was an enemy that had invaded Islamic lands and was harming Muslims. So Nicholas, in context he’s not just saying it’s acceptable to murder civilians who help the US military. He’s saying it’s mandatory to murder (or perhaps just kidnap) them.

Remember, this man is among the most important and respected Muslim clerics in the entire world. In other words, this is not extreme. This is mainstream Islam. This is what now passes for reasonable — as evidenced by Cole’s bizarre praise of Bayyumi — in the Muslim world. How Daniel can continue to believe in the face of this that Islamism is “a fictional construct” is utterly beyond me.

17

Giles 09.04.04 at 6:58 pm

“It strikes me that this is an entirely sensible approach to subjects where one doesn’t have much knowledge; to trust the judgement of those who have proved trustworthy in the past, and ignore those who haven’t, however loud they scream. “

This strikes me as an entirely wrong headed approach on so many counts its hard to know where to start.

1. With experts its well accepted that past performance is no guide to future success.

2. Crowds, even if composed of the stupid D squared doesnt normally dain to address, are often/normally right – Wisdom of Crowds efficient markets etc.

3. One normaly expects an expert/academic to do at least some researh of their own before opining – as numerous posters have shown there was lots of information about al-Qaradawi publicly availble that would have allowed him to form his own opinion. Instead he just parroted his guru.

Which I think is a clue to why large sections of the “elite” are so beholden to these sages; like Sadr’s followers there seems to be an inherent human need to have a guru/wise man to lead you in the areas you cant be bothered to research yourself. This resulted in alot of Sadr’s followers getting shot through. In dsaqured’s case its just his credibility!

18

dsquared 09.04.04 at 7:53 pm

But you have to wait for an endorsment from some American academic before you can make a judgement.

Pathetic but not at all surprising.

As I’ve commented on another thread, in as much as there is an official line on anything at CT, our official line on the subject of people who come onto the comments boards and loudly demand that we sign up to statements condemning whatever happens to be the bee in their bonnet today, is, no thanks.

19

self 09.04.04 at 8:44 pm

If Al-Qaradawi’s call is against classical Islamic law then this isn’t as simple as an Islamic cleric’s sanction of attacks on civilians. This is not a purely Islamic issue so why work so hard to indict Islam as a whole. If there are Islamic decrees that rule out actions that may be required to defend a nation in wartime, Islamic clerics must articulate what is an allowable action. This seems more in line with their role as political leaders than religious motivation for depraved action. Al-Bayyumi states participation in fighting as a clear condition for the making of a target. If civilian casualties are accepted because they are not the intended targets, why is there an exception for supply and logistical support for the occupation forces ? Or is this some new kind of war with special rules for protecting occupation forces from democratic societies ?

And is it possible that Cole was supporting Al-Qaradawi’s visit as a right to be heard ? Promoting dialogue before events unravel to a degree that clerics make these kind of statements doesn’t seem to be irresponsible.

And what is with the IDF double-standard complaint against Cole ? I think some more context needs to be provided before you are justified in throwing that mudball. There are several differences in the situations that prevent this from being a workable criticism as stated. Please elaborate with quotes and context.

20

Steve Carr 09.04.04 at 9:44 pm

Juan Cole has called Ariel Sharon “nothing more than a mafia don who rubs out other mafia dons,” deemed the killing of Shaikh Yassin “a form of state terrorism,” and said that the killing of Yassin’s seven companions (who were with him when the rocket hit) justified putting Sharon in jail. This is just one article: http://antiwar.com/cole/?articleid=2181. If you take a few minutes, you’ll be able to find a host more in which he subjects Israel to unrelenting criticism for its tactics.

As I said, fine, I’m willing to accept for the sake of argument that the IDF is targeting civilians. But then do not praise Bayoumi for his eloquence in advocating the murder of civilians who “in any way” support fighting troops, which in Iraq could presumably mean everything from maintaining oil lines to training policemen.

As for the “differences in these situations,” certainly one difference is that the IDF is fighting against terrorists who use suicide bombings against civilians as their chief military tactic. Another difference is that Bayyumi is advocating violent resistance to an army that toppled the most brutal dictator in the Middle East and is trying to install an Iraqi democracy.

As for why we’re supposedly working so hard to indict Islam as a whole, our connection of the policies being advocated to Islam might have something to do that all the people we’re talking are Muslim clerics or scholars who are offering their opinion on what Islamic doctrine dictates. It might also have something to do with the fact that the reason Bayyumi is advocating violent resistance is because the Koran counsels it in cases when non-believers are encroaching on Muslims.

Finally, go read Qaradawi’s stuff and then tell me that you honestly believe dialogue with him is possible. Let’s be serious. Would you advocated dialogue with a Nazi party ideologue in 1940? Do you honestly think some benefit would have been reaped from this?

21

Harry 09.05.04 at 12:48 am

As I’ve commented on another thread, in as much as there is an official line on anything at CT, our official line on the subject of people who come onto the comments boards and loudly demand that we sign up to statements condemning whatever happens to be the bee in their bonnet today, is, no thanks.

What on earth are you talking about?

No-one is ‘demanding’, loudly or otherwise, anything.

22

Eric the Unread 09.05.04 at 9:45 am

Crooked Timber once again demonstrate their ability to confuse remaining aloof, pompous, and blind to the facts, as being impartial “wise” academics.

Oliver Kamm put it nicely: “Recently the authors of the Crooked Timber blog have excelled not only in the neatness of their uniforms, but also in their eagerness to congratulate themselves on how they look. It is an unendearing rhetorical tick to commend one’s own uniqueness among bloggers in commenting on a particular subject, and Crooked Timber’s authors appear to have caught it from each other. But if it were only their perspicacity, I should still find it tolerable; it’s their monopoly of virtue and omniscience that gets me down.”

23

Chris Bertram 09.05.04 at 11:33 am

Eric, I’d have thought my initial post should be sufficient evidence that I _don’t_ think of myself as having a “monopoly of virtue and omniscience”.

24

Anna in Cairo 09.05.04 at 2:30 pm

None of these muftis speak for all Muslims, as the Muslim religion does not have a universally accepted clergy. Here in Egypt, ask your average Egyptian if he thinks the Mufti is someone he must follow. He will tell you no, unless he thinks what the Mufti is saying about some particular issue makes sense. Qaradawi is an idiot who came out in favor of suicide bombings long ago but for some reason he still gets on Muslm talk shows. If that makes all Muslims a threat (a la Mr. Carr’s arguments) then the fact that Russ Limbaugh is on many US radio stations means that Americans are all raving drug addicted loons. It makes just as much sense.

25

Eric the Unread 09.05.04 at 3:12 pm

Come off it Chris. In your post you smear those who had misgivings about Yusuf al-Qaradawi with “they would say that, wouldn’t they? and “people who recycle[s] the ravings of Daniel Pipes”. This is despite the fact, that not all critics of Yusuf al-Qaradawi have been right wingers, and have included a number of well-informed liberals – who do not have a track record of Islamophobia – if we have to use that much misused word.

26

seth edenbaum 09.05.04 at 3:27 pm

“if you’re not with us, you’re against us”
That’s not a good enough description.
“If it moves, kill it” is a better one.

The targeting of civilians is a centerpiece of modern war. Germany, Korea, Vietnam.
And one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. That should be old hat by now. In the past six months Israel has killed 436 men women and children. How many dead children in Chechnya?

Charlie Chaplin put it well in Monsieur Verdoux, the state says war is noble, but if I kill someone it’s a crime.

I ask this every few months and no one ever answers: If Germany had stopped after Eastern Poland and were still there today, having moved in families and children, what would you call those who were still fighting for what they would call their land? And of course there would be a dialogue by now, but not everyone would want to join.

I am not a nihilist – and by the way neither are Hamas and Hezbollah (Al Qaeda is a different matter)- nor am I defending nihilism. And I am not defending terrorism. But I am capable of understanding where each comes from.

As far as negotiation is concerned, remember the friendships Sharon has with those on his right, some of whom have argued for genocide. Can we have ‘dialogue’ with such people? Sharon make me want to puke. If we want peace we have no choice but to talk to terrorists and war criminals alike.

A uniform does not cleanse the act of murder. And the lack of one does not add to the filth.
What happened yesterday in Russia was a tragedy and a crime. But the perpetrators will be blamed for their crimes and for Putin’s as well. It shouldn’t be allowed to work, but it will. And for that, among others we will have people like Harry to blame.
Raise the red flag Harry, and be proud.
Unto the pure all things are pure.

I’m just sad.

27

Scott Martens 09.06.04 at 10:35 am

Look, Qaradawi beieves lots of things I think are outright wrong. But, seeing civilians who work for the occupation as occupiers just the same is not exactly unprecedented in the West. The French Resistance didn’t feel a whole lot of obligation to treat German civilians working in France really well either.

As for advocating kidnapping, if Juan Cole says that Al-Sharq al-Awsat is reporting that Qaradawi is endorsing kidnapping civilians, I’m sure that’s what the newspaper said. But, just last Wednesday, Qaradawi said the opposite in response to the kidnappings of French journalists:

Shaikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, one of the Muslim world’s most respected scholars and theologians, has appealed to the captors to release the journalists immediately, saying that hostage-taking is “incompatible with Islam”.

“This act is unacceptable and inadmissible in light of the Sharia. Hence, I appeal and urge those who kidnapped the two French journalists to free them immediately and refrain from harming them in anyway,” Qaradawi said on Aljazeera television on Monday.

Now, maybe the guy is as two-faced as a right-wing talk show host, but considering that Al-Sharq al-Awsat is published in London and is probably recycling news from other sources, there is the possibility that Qaradawi isn’t endorsing kidnapping.

28

dsquared 09.06.04 at 1:49 pm

Harry, in that case, let me put it plainly, in words of few syllables.

You, and your website, have talked such an unbelievable amount of rubbish about everything to do with Iraq, for the last eighteen months, that when you were shouting and screaming about Qaradawi, I at least assumed that it was more of the same crap from Harry’s Place. You had long since fallen off the “always check” list and onto the “don’t bother” list.

Now it turns out that on that occasion, you were right, and Chris happened to found this out because someone who did not have a track record of talking hysterical bollocks happened to say the same thing.

To reiterate: when Juan Cole says that someone is a dangerous and nasty Islamist, one pays attention because Juan Cole is a reasoned and sensible commentator. When you say the same thing, one tends not to pay attention, because you say the same thing about almost everyone, including the Queen Mother and my milkman.

And now you’re calling me “Pathetic”? Look, you got the wrong message from the fairy stories your mother told you when you were growing up. The “little boy who cried wolf” was not the hero of that story.

29

Harry 09.06.04 at 3:12 pm

Daniel,

You are perfectly at liberty not to take me seriously because of my opinions. It has been abundantly clear for some time that you take very little seriously.

But how seriously should one take the opinions on religious extremism of someone who suggests Islamism doesn’t exit and has been invented?

How seriously should one take the opinions of someone who then says, well, yes Islamism does exist after all but is ‘purely an Arab phenomena’.

How seriously should one take the opinions on religion and Iraq from someone who operates under the illusion that the Shia are a minority in that country?

And we do not need to bring the railroads of Vietnam into this discussion do we?

As for the “hysterical bollocks” that you allege I write (and what charming phrases and biting wit you academic chaps can come up with) then please check my posts on al-Qaradawi where you will note that I actually argued strongly against the right-wing campaign to ban this reactionary from entering the UK.

My point was however that while he should be free to enter the country, he should not be greeted as a ‘moderate man of peace’ by the mayor of London and that we should be free to criticise him.

In other words I took a consistently liberal approach against the state deciding what political views make presence on UK soil acceptable and against the dangerous idea of censoring criticism of religions and religious figures.

30

Jimmy Doyle 09.06.04 at 3:38 pm

It should have been clear to all from the outset what kind of a person al-Qaradawi was. D2 wrote “the claque screaming for him to be denounced from the rooftops seemed so bloody appalling (and was so chock full of people who had axes to grind and seemed unconcerned about distorting the truth while grinding them) that I for one was reluctant to join it.” This really won’t wash; perhaps it partly reflects what some of his comments here also indicate: that his attitude to Harry’s Place has been distorted by some kind of trauma-related hysteria. Among the very first people to denounce al-Qaradawi for what he was was Nick Cohen, and others who explosed his demented ravings gave more than adequate direct quotations and links to impeccable sources. I don’t know which “bloody appalling” people D2 is referring to but to call the sources I came across axe-grinders and cryers of “wolf” is simply absurd. Full marks, however, for keeping your cool in your characteristically calm and measured response to Harry.

31

Jimmy Doyle 09.06.04 at 3:50 pm

Sorry; tidied-up version:

It should have been clear to all from the outset what kind of a person al-Qaradawi was. D2 wrote “the claque screaming for him to be denounced from the rooftops seemed so bloody appalling (and was so chock full of people who had axes to grind and seemed unconcerned about distorting the truth while grinding them) that I for one was reluctant to join it.” This really won’t wash; perhaps it partly reflects what some of his comments here also indicate: that his attitude to Harry’s Place has been distorted by some kind of trauma-related hysteria. Among the very first people to denounce al-Qaradawi for what he was was Nick Cohen, and others who exposed his demented ravings gave more than adequate direct quotations and links to impeccable sources. I don’t know which “bloody appalling” people D2 is referring to, but to call the sources I came across axe-grinders and cryers of “wolf” is simply absurd. Full marks to D2, however, for keeping his cool in his characteristically calm and measured response to Harry.

32

dsquared 09.06.04 at 4:48 pm

I’ll see your al-Qaradawi and raise you an Ahmed Chalabi

I must say I haven’t really followed the media/political campaign against Chalabi too closely, although I have read enough to get the impression of a smear campaign.

(I was going to give chapter and verse about how you’ve grossly misrepresented what I said on the previous thread, but to be honest that Chalabi quote is much funnier).

33

Chris Bertram 09.06.04 at 4:57 pm

Jimmy, Perhaps I should have been reading Nick Cohen. (Since he’s a mate of yours you may well pay closer attention than others do.) But in support of D2 I can tell you that in my own case it was the ravings of Melanie Phillips on the subject that made me think that there might be less to the fuss than met the eye. In my experience “believe Melanie Phillips” is a poor strategy for acquiring true beliefs about the world. In fact the opposite strategy is usually sounder. Perhaps you disagree?

I’m sure Harry will appreciate you leaping to his defence against D2, but frankly Harry has behaved somewhat trollishly here. I explained in my post my reasons for suspending judgement at the time (which may or may not have been good reasons). Harry posted a hostile and provicative comment in response which demonstrably mischaracterized what I had written. (Others of his ilk who have piled in have even accused me of “smearing” Al-Qaradawi’s critics!) I think you’ll agree that it is reasonable, when assessing the value of information coming from a particular source, to take account of the interests and agenda of that source.

34

Jimmy Doyle 09.06.04 at 5:15 pm

Quite funny, I agree — but nowhere near as funny as it would have been if
Nick Cohen, echoed by other emphatically non-“bloody appalling” people, had conspicuously written,

“Chalabi’s website is available for the world to read. It supports the murder of Israeli civilians and declares that “on the hour of judgement, Muslims will fight the Jews and kill them”. Homosexuals, the website continues, are depraved and abominable and should be put to death to cleanse Islamic society of its “perverted elements”. As for women, they must be kept in their place. Wives are forbidden to rebel against their husbands’ authority. A husband may beat his wife “lightly with his hands, avoiding her face and other sensitive parts”. Rape victims must carry a portion of the guilt if they dress “immodestly…”

which is what Cohen did say, perfectly accurately, about al-Qaradawi’s own website. Howevere certain you may be that Chalabi is an equally disgusting character, I rather doubt that you can point to any comparably unequivocal self-condemnation, in a context in which he is explaining to the world at large what he’s really all about. So even when you raise the spectre of the notorious Chalabi to illustrate Harry’s lack of judgement, you do nothing to banish the suspicion that all this cautious “consider the source” bollocks about al-Qaradawi is an expression of a grotesque double standard.

What’s more, as a regular visitor to Harry’s Place, I can assure you, who have long since consigned the site to your “don’t bother” list, that the post on Chalabi is far closer to an aberration than to a representative sample.

As for misrepresenting what you said, since I assume you’re not referring to the part where I actually quote your words, I have no idea what you’re talking about.

35

dsquared 09.06.04 at 5:52 pm

So even when you raise the spectre of the notorious Chalabi to illustrate Harry’s lack of judgement

Not at all; I’ve simply dug it up to show that it can happen to the best of us.

36

Harry 09.06.04 at 5:53 pm

Chris,

Given that I don’t very often venture into these esteemed environs and rather spend my online time writing “hysterical bollocks” at my own weblog, I think the ‘troll’ accusation is a bit unfair.

We could discuss Dan’s touching faith in the Jordanian legal system but I think we both probably realise there is not much point to this.

37

Jimmy Doyle 09.06.04 at 6:13 pm

Chris:

Of course I agree about the epistemic value of Melanie Phillips’s judgements. I believe my original source was the far more reliable and in many ways rather admirable Scott Burgess, who linked to a Guardian comment piece from about three years ago in which the illustrious moralist Faisal Bodi approvingly quoted al-Qaradawi explicitly justifying the murder of Israeli civilians. See the Daily Ablution July 7th and 9th of this year for extensive documentation, with links to original sources, of al-Qaradawi’s eccentric views.

Of course I can’t really blame people for not picking up information on Scott’s site. But Nick Cohen’s piece is a very different matter. The article quoting al-Qaradawi’s words, which I in turn quoted in my response to D2, was published in the New Statesman (available, unusually, online) and was the most blogged-about “state of the Left” essay of the last six months at least (see Socialism in an Age of Waiting 18th August et seq — sorry, too stupid to link — for a rundown of the discussion). In fact, I know you read the Cohen piece, or part of it, because the SIAW people were, unfairly, very cutting about your remark that “Nick Cohen … cites my post …”

I agree that Harry’s response to you was intemperate and unjustified.But the substance of his first response to D2 was:

“I have read multiple sources on al-Qaradawi, including the original source material of his fatwas (easily avaliable in English on his own Islamonline website).
It was not at all difficult to make one’s mind up about what kind of views he held”

and I must say that he is absolutely right.

The suggestion that you were “smearing al-Qaradawi’s critics” amply warrants the “exclamation-mark of absurdity” with which you report it. A similar charge against D2’s characterisation of the Sheikh’s critics as a “bloody appalling claque,” however, would not be so easy to dismiss.

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dsquared 09.06.04 at 6:21 pm

This is an object lesson in how sources can lead you astray; if you’d read other sources than Hitchens on the subject of Chalabi (specifically, if you’d read the comments section of your own site where I warned you about this, twice), you’d know that the collapse of the Petra Bank in Jordan was actually precipitated by the collapse of another Chalabi family entity (Mebco), which in turn was precipitated by that entity having its banking license removed after investigation by the Swiss banking authorities.

As I say, it happens to the best of us.

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Jimmy Doyle 09.06.04 at 6:26 pm

D2:

“‘So even when you raise the spectre of the notorious Chalabi to illustrate Harry’s lack of judgement…’
Not at all; I’ve simply dug it up to show that it can happen to the best of us.”

Is this entirely ingenuous, D2? Is Harry “the best of us,” or the author of “an unbelievable amount of rubbish,” given to “shouting and screaming…crap,” with a “track record of talking hysterical bollocks”? I find it difficult to see how he could be both.

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Chris Bertram 09.06.04 at 6:48 pm

Jimmy, the initial fuss over Qaradawi was at the beginning of July. I posted a brief note of the Cohen piece “a very different matter” on 16th August (6 weeks later) , after receiving an email about it from Chris Brooke, mainly as a courtesy to Chris. I was then away from the 18th to the 24th and again from the 28th to the 31st! Do you really think me culpable for not extracting the relevant info and blogging about it?

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dsquared 09.06.04 at 7:22 pm

Is this entirely ingenuous, D2?

I’m sure Harry cares about my opinion of him even less than you do, Jimmy, but for what it’s worth I think he’s a fine journalist and a decent man of the left, with a massive blind spot when it comes to being sold a bill of goods under the name of “Islamism”, and a slightly irksome tendency to call people fascists when they aren’t.

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Jimmy Doyle 09.06.04 at 7:38 pm

Chris:

I didn’t mean to suggest that you’re culpable of anything. My point was more general: that the true nature of al-Qaradawi was not hard to discern by anyone who was interested (no reason why you should be particularly interested — even you can’t blog everything!), and even his most high-profile critics could not be dismissed as a “bloody appalling claque.” And I suppose I meant to express some surprise — nothing more — that you hadn’t cottoned on to Cohen’s report of al-Qaradawi’s website, given that you had mentioned his essay on CT.

D2:

Fair enough.

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Jimmy Doyle 09.06.04 at 7:44 pm

Chris:

Sorry, I’ve just realised why you thought culpability was at issue: “I can’t really blame people for not picking up information on Scott’s site. But Nick Cohen’s piece is a very different matter.” This carried an unintended implication. I should have said “No reason to expect that everyone will pick up information on Scott’s site…,” or something similar.

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Dan Hardie 09.06.04 at 10:30 pm

‘We could discuss Dan’s touching faith in the Jordanian legal system but I think we both probably realise there is not much point to this.’
This is the C. Hitchens line: Chalabi was convicted in absentia of banking fraud by a Jordanian court and hence that verdict is worthless. Now leaving aside the news, which may not have percolated to all quarters, that rather a lot of questions have recently been raised about Chalabi’s honesty that have *nothing* to do with Jordanian banks, can one just add that the Jordanian case was in fact precipitated by the Swiss banking authorities bringing malfeasance charges against executives of Chalabi’s bank, who included his brother? Might one also add that these charges were not contested by the Chalabis? Has Switzerland joined Jordan on the ‘Harry’s Place’ list of banana republics intent on fitting up the Chalabi family?

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Dan Hardie 09.06.04 at 10:33 pm

Sorry, skipped reading the Dsquared post which made the same point- feel free to delete my post.

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seth edenbaum 09.07.04 at 12:54 am

Obviously my comments before were not about al-Qaradawi as much as about the debate over him. I trust Juan Cole and I don’t trust Harry. Why is that?
As I think I’ve said before, in a similar context (I just spent 10 minutes trying to find the post on CT where D2 wrote “put a fucking sock in it Seth!”) there is an ongoing conflict here and elsewhere between forms of programmatic logic a more flexible kind of intellectualism. D2: I remember that in the Foucault post, you and Olivia Benson passed right by each other in the discussion of stoning.

“You work in my department. We hire a new guy; he’s Pakistani. You spend all morning saying “Don’t you agree that stoning women is bad, Hussain? Stoning women is bad, isn’t it, Hussain? What do you think about stoning women, Hussain? It’s really bad that Muslims stone women, isn’t it, Hussain?”. In the afternoon, I sack you for racially harassing Hussain. My guess is that you’d get a much more sympathetic hearing from Oliver Kamm than from Michel Foucault. Or for that matter, an industrial tribunal.”

“Ah. And when do you stop saying embarrassing things about stoning women?”

“Not sure what your point is here, Ophelia?”

I thought her point was obvious, but that’s not saying I agree with it. You were talking about things in the context of their environment and Ophelia responded by saying that context was irrelevent. It’s similar to the debate over genital cutting. Does the fact that something is a ‘cultural practice’ have any bearing at all on our response? In a discussion of radical Islam, does the history of Islam, in the context of European expansion, later American policies, Israel etc. have any role in our response to terrorism? Why would a figure such as al-Qaradawi be popular in the 21st century, let alone someone such as bin Ladin. And how do we respond to his popularity?

You don’t put it that way. I think you elide the issue by putting it in philosophical terms. Responding to Eve Garrard :

“But you still seem to be operating on a view of the world which has things in it called “meanings”. Quine ended up concluding that there weren’t any such things, and some of the best bits in Foucault and Derrida involve trying to analyse the damage caused by the assumption that there are.”

I think there is a relation between the belief that it is appropriate to stone women, and the act of stoning, and no linguistic gamesmanship will remove it. But there is a difference between potentiality and act, and there is a difference between aberrant and normative behavior in different societies. The question is not whether we should agree on the issue of stoning or genital cutting, but how should we respond. By my logic, Harry, Olivia Benson, and quite a few others- their friends- respond to complex social and political problems with simple, paper solutions. I think you respond to complexity with complexity, but for example in the debate with me (sock fucking etc.) you turned the discussion into one of economics, rendering it complex but abstract, while I thought it more important to understand how the problem itself could have been avoided.

Any criticism of you here is minor. I agree with you, C Bertram, and Scott Martens; but I still think, as in the discussion of Foucault, that there are problems where being able to understand them and to act from that – whatever the actual response to a given situation- is more important than trying to form a logic for that is globally applicable. Harry et al. would rather oversimplify and moralize. The difference I have with you is that I think the complexity is not so much philosophical as human.

peace out.

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dsquared 09.07.04 at 2:11 pm

Yeh, I remember feeling bad about that battle we had, Seth; I think I had a point, but was probably needlessly aggressive.

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kevin donoghue 09.08.04 at 2:37 pm

It may or may not be of interest, but Abu Aardvark maintains that Juan Cole is doing Qaradawi an injustice. (I know exactly as much about Abu Aardvark as I do about Qaradawi so I’m staying on the fence.) Possibly Juan Cole placed too much reliance on a single report?

http://abuaardvark.typepad.com/abuaardvark/2004/09/qaradawi_again.html

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