The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Wael Hallaq the parrot

This is what Wael Hallaq, signatory to the BDS petition, has to say about Orientalism:

There is a lot that can be said of this issue. To put it as briefly as possible, and paradigmatically speaking, the Western intellectual tradition has not engaged with other traditions–especially the Islamic–in any serious or half-serious way. Instead, its three-centuries history has been one of dismissing such an engagement, while passing an off-hand condemnatory judgment whenever an encounter–however brief and unthreatening–is forced upon it. To say that the reaction to Islam is downright irrational is of course not to exhaust analysis, but it is certainly on the mark. This is extremely ironic in view of the fact that Western culture has defined itself as the abode of reason and rational enquiry par excellence!

First, note how blithely this professor dismisses from the Western intellectual tradition all Christian thought. Christianity's dispute with Islam goes back to when Islam was still forming. In more modern times: so much for Muir, Inchbald, Tisdall et c. We can take it as given that Hallaq already knows all that. This omission is deliberate.

Hallaq also doesn't count where Enlightenment thinkers have checked into Christian thinkers on the topic and cited the latter approvingly. One example here is Gibbon's citation of Joseph White's Bampton lecture. Hallaq further doesn't count observers like Sir Richard Francis Burton. He has nothing to say on any neutral Western scholarship upon Islam for Islam's own sake (which will mostly be German): there is no Wellhausen here, for instance; no Geiger or Jeffery.

Hallaq reduces the entire 1400-year-long Western encounter with Islam to Enlightenment-and-later philosophy.

Now, if Hallaq had been honest about this, and restricted himself exactly to "the output of Western atheists taking Islam seriously" - arguments could be made that Western Philosophy didn't bother sending its own messages to address the Orient; that it piggybacked upon the Christians' missionaries and the colonial armies. (By analogy, Islam did not spread its message throughout the Magians and pagans in the east, but let the Manichees and Nestorians spread theirs - until the `Abbasid era.) There is space in scholarship for discussion about what the philosophers could have done. It's even possible that the first person to attempt an apologia for Western philosophy amongst the Muslims is Ibn Warraq.

But Hallaq didn't bother making the case. Hallaq preferred to sneer and to throw out insinuations. I conclude he has no real interest in the quality of Western thought himself; that would entail some personal risk and more to the point personal effort.

This is the calibre of intellectual mind behind the BDS petition: abusive, dishonest and fundamentally lazy.

posted by Zimri on 11:22 | link | 0 comments

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