It begins Saturday in Istanbul.
What a galere.
There is "Lord" Ahmed, fresh from Khartoum, no doubt expecting to be basking in gratitude from the non-Muslims of Great Britain, for though Al-Bashir had decided to free Gibbons before Ahmed and his traveling companion (a Muslim woman, not married to Lord Ahmed, whom some fellow Believer should not forget to punish for her crime) arrived.
There is the hysterical, ex-nun Karen Armstrong, who needs no introduction, and who believes that Muhammad's essential function was that of Peacemaker. She apparently still has not figured out that she really must reread the Qur'an, and then find out all about the Hadith (and how their "authenticity" has been ranked to Muslim satisfaction) and the Sira -- for Aisha, the Khaybar Oasis, the decapitation of the Banu Qurayza, the murders of Abu Afak and Asma bint Marwan are just of the few of the things that Armstrong forgot to mention, much less to comprehend, in her guide to nothing and nowhere, Islam: A Short History.
There is the crazed antisemite Norman Finkelstein, for whose parents -- Holocaust survivors -- we must feel sorry. About him nothing more need be said except that at such gatherings one completely lunatic Jewish person is de rigueur, and apparently Israel Shamir was otherwise occupied.
There is Tariq Ramadan, about whom see Frere Tariq, a book-length study of his soft-voice taqiyya (but listen for the hiss underneath at all). He is determined to make sure that the confusion and fog of war continue while Muslims make themselves as comfortable as possible in the Lands of the Infidels, settling in for the long haul and the demographic conquest that, if nothing is done, is assured. It is Tariq Ramadan who promises a new Islam, a "European Islam" that he carefully never defines. He never explains what that "European Islam's" canonical texts will look like, or how they will differ, those texts and then those tenets of Islam, from the Islam we have all seen, and grown correctly to fear, in Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Iran, Pakistan, indeed everywhere in the Muslim lands, among all those Muslims who take their Islam seriously -- which is to say, almost all of them, though they are very good at finding westernized, plausible, smooth-talking representatives to fan out to the capitals of the West to deny, obfuscate, and sometimes, in their own persons, to offer a false view of Islam. Think of jolly Prince Bandar, offering the port and cigars, joking with everyone from James Baker to Colin Powell about "a little corruption" in Saudi Arabia, implying that they were all men of the world, weren't they, and besides, Saudi Arabia had its ruling class, and America had its ruling class as well -- and Islam never came up, the primitive belief-system of the Al-Saud, and of the country they named after themselves. It was overlooked, and still is being overlooked, in dealings with Saudi Arabia.
There is John Esposito who no longer disguises, even in the name of his fiefdom, with his henchman John Voll and others of that unseemly ilk, the Arab money that he takes in such quantities. Years ago, toiling in the humble vineyards of Holy Cross, and merely an apologist for Islam, not the Big Entrepreneur he has become today, Esposito found his first sugar daddy in a rich Lebanese contractor, an islamochristian. Now he has progressed to the stage of cutting out the islamochristian middleman and going directly to the Saudis, and has renamed his institute after the one with the facial tic and the big-hearted -- what he wouldn't do to protect the image of Islam -- wallet.
Lean, mean, jogging John. I can see him lapping the hippodrome, as he skips some morning -- or is it the afternoon -- session? Or perhaps he'll find a track right by the Bosporus, but they're not being put up in the Ciragan Palace, you know, and perhaps security will prevent his usual jog. That's okay for John -- there's the hotel's Western-style exercise room. He can't miss his exercise, even if he does not have time to find out, doesn't want to find out, what all the Western scholars of Islam knew before the Great Inhibition set in. Even if he does not have time to read Snouck Hurgronje or Henri Lammens, or several dozen other Western scholars of Islam who studied and wrote before Said and Orientalism, he has time for his daily exercise and ablutions. Why study Islam any more at this point? He knows what he has to say, and how he has to say it. It's the same thing, over and over again. Oh, it's true that he had to put that little word "jihad" into a new, post-9/11 edition of his The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality? because he had mentioned it, in passing, only once in the first edition. But otherwise, it's the mixture as before, for the Apologist By Appointment To The Court Of The Guardians Of The Two Noble Sanctuaries.
They do have their work cut out for them, don't they? What with the condemning to death of Abdul Rahman in Afghanistan, the man who attempted to convert to Christianity, and the killings not of mere Jews or Christians (in the West we can ignore that more readily) but of Buddhists in southern Thailand, and the blowing-up of the Bamiyan Buddhas, which raises the whole matter of non-Muslim statuary and other art under Islam. Where did it all go, the Greco-Bactrian artifacts of Afghanistan, and the Buddhist stupas all over Central Asia, and the ancient libraries of Mandaean manuscripts burned up by Muslims in "liberated" Iraq? The contents of those khutbas calling for such destruction are now brought to our attention by the marvelous monitoring and translation services of MEMRI, which monitoring and translation services are making Muslim Arabs extremely nervous -- for now we Infidels can eavesdrop on them as we never could before.
Most of the conference participants are Turks. The conference organizers must be disappointed that the only non-Turks who would show up were people of the distinctly low Armstrong-Finkelstein-Esposito level, exhibiting various predictable signs of mediocrity or madness or cupidity. The most famous of the Turks who is announced as coming is the present Prime Minister of Turkey. Recip Tayyip Erdogan. It was Erdogan who famously said that "the minarets are our bayonets, the domes our helmets, the mosques our barracks." The French scholar of Islam, Anne-Marie Delcambre, found the phrase so telling that she chose to end her useful short study, "L'Islam des interdits," with that quote from Erdogan, that demonstrates that mosques are not peaceful places of contemplation and private worship, but places from which war is made on the Infidels. "Les minarets sont nos baionnettes, les coupoles nos casques et les mosquees nos casernes." It was Erdogan who never denounced the Turks who described American soldiers as behaving like "Nazis." Yes, we all remember how the Nazis handed out candy and soccer balls to little Jewish children, don't we? And how the Nazis also spent a trillion dollars trying to establish the conditions of good government and prosperity, building those schools and hospitals in Jewish areas all over Europe? Erdogan also stood for that vicious movie, with the American soldiers depicted on screen as those same Nazis, aided by a Jewish doctor who harvests organs for the American market from innocent Iraqis murdered by those American "Nazi" soldiers. It was Erdogan who in 1974, as Andrew Bostom discovered, directed and played the leading role in Maskomya, a play put on in Turkey in the late 1970s, the very title being an acronym for "Masons-Communists-Yahudi [Jews]", and full of the usual anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.
Then there is the outwardly respectable -- he was chosen to be Secretary-General of the O.I.C. -- Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu. He wears a suit and a tie. He is soft-spoken. He considers himself to be an historian of science, of "Islamic" science. Should we find anything objectionable? Well, here is how Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu described the status of dhimmi endured by Christians and Jews under Muslim rule (and by Zoroastrians and Hindus, if they were lucky, and treated as honorary members of Ahl al-Kitab, the People of the Book). He helpfully explained, in a recent address to an audience of American Infidels, that the "privilege of becoming a protected minority via an act of dhimmiship was given only to the followers of a prophet to whom a sacred book was revealed." So that status of deliberate humiliation, degradation, and physical insecurity (for a Muslim mob or a Muslim ruler might decide to revoke this "protected" status at any point, for all kinds of reasons -- an entire community could be made to suffer if one person did not come through with the Jizyah, or otherwise misbehaved according to the Muslim view) is described by this "historian" as a "privilege" given to a "protected minority."
And what's more, Ihsanoglu attempts, slyly, to describe these Christians and Jews in Islamic terms, almost claiming them for Islam (just as, according to Muslims, everyone is born a little Muslim, and only falls away from the True Faith later on). He describes them as being lucky to be treated as dhimmis, which was only possible because, like Muslims, they are "the followers of a prophet to whom a sacred book was revealed" -- thus likening Moses and Jesus, quite inaccurately, I'm afraid, to Muhammad. Muhammad received his message over 23 turbulent years of scribes and -- who knows? -- possibly scribal error. I won't bother to deal with Ekmeleddin Ihsnaoglu's idea of what constitutes objective history, but he is one more Muslim who has no clear idea of Western standards in such matters. His last book, reviewed by the bizarre Ziauddin Sarkar in the pages of "Nature" (how that was allowed is another story), was basically not a history of Ottoman science, or "Islamic" science, but an attempt to explain why such things as the clock did not develop in the East but only in the West. You see, since the early clocks were not sufficiently accurate for Muslims to rely on them for knowing when it was time for prayers, they did not think it worth using them, or trying to improve them. Such explanations do not satisfy intelligent readers, but raise more disturbing questions about the Muslim mindset than Dr. Ihsanoglu apparently realizes.
No doubt clever secular Turks, in Turkey and abroad, know many of the names of the people showing up at this dismal event. Perhaps one of them, in the know, will write in to tell us about the others in the same galere, which I would name as the S.S. Naufragium, except that I've already used up that name several times, in describing the Bush Administration's folly in Iraq, and its taking-on-water ship of state.