Ever wonder how Monty Python would’ve discussed Islam and Muslims? Wonder no more. Behold the upcoming Secular Islam Summit, wherein an assortment of people with Muslim-sounding names are going to–drum roll, please–"chart the future course of reason, pluralism, and freedom of conscience in the Islamic world".
Some folks in the MSM appear to be excited about this millennial gathering, including CNN Headline News’ Glenn Beck, who announced that he’d be broadcasting his show from the summit. The shindig has thus being elevated to the status of a national happening like the Democratic Convention or Super Bowl.
Too bad the event is likely to have as much affect on Islam, Muslims or the Middle East as a Shriners Convention.
I don’t know all the individuals involved, but the most prominent of the luminaries that have been tasked with plotting out the future of the Ummah are people who not only lack credibility or influence among Muslims, but actually inhabit surreally parasitic niches in the debate Islam and Muslims, passing themselves off as experts on a community and/or religious tradition to which they have a tenuous claim to expertise. Many make a living off being shrill, self-proclaimed Muslim dissidents–and ones that are, of course, the proud exceptions that make the rule of Muslim barbarity–and others are run-of-the-mill post-9/11 Muslim-bashing ideologues, albeit with the novel twist of having brown faces and Islamic names.
Take a look for yourself:
Who will be there? Mona Abousenna, Shaker al-Nabulsi, Nonie Darwish, Afshin Ellian, Hasan Mahmud, Tawfik Hamid, Shahriar Kabir, Nibras Kazimi, Irshad Manji, Salameh Nematt, Walid Phares, Wafa Sultan, Amir Taheri, Mourad Wahba, Ibn Warraq, Manda Zand Ervin, and a distinguished member of the Iraqi government, and many others.
No doubt many lucrative careers in Beltway punditry will be launched as a result of the MSM’s fawning attention to this trivial gathering, but the event it won’t make an iota of difference in the real world.
Well, perhaps that’s too uncharitable. It might well succeed in changing the world in one critical respect: It could help to postpone Islamic reform by giving rank and file Muslims yet another reason to (wrongly) suspect all Islamic reformers of being in league with the proverbial "enemies of Islam" in the West. (And, no, I’m not using inflammatory rhetoric by that turn of phrase, as many of these individuals openly and unapologetically admit to such animosities. Take Wafa Sultan, Nonie Darwish, or Ibn Warraq, for example. They make no bones about being out to discredit Islam.)
For all his PR missteps vis-a-vis the Muslim world, George W. Bush at least had the modicum of good sense to strive to minimize any appearance of his War on Terror being a war on Islam per se. Decision-makers at CNN, to the contrary, seem to believe that the cause of civilizational dialog and intra-Muslim debate is somehow served by a pillar of the Washington establishment openly aligning itself with a motley gang of disgruntled and unknown ex-Muslims without a shred of support within "their" community.
Now, the desire of powers that be in Washington to be "part of the solution" and to encourage political reform among Muslims as best they can is understandable, but this farcical confab is about as un-credible a vehicle for reform (or prognostications about its prospects) as they come. These are people who couldn’t hail a cab outside a mosque, much less lead a glorious Islamic reformation.
And if detectable influence and/or recognition within any known segment of the Muslim community is not an essential criterion of being a contributor to this weighty discussion, why not eliminate the middle men and just gather the real leaders of this school of thought–people like Franklin Graham, Daniel Pipes, Robert Spencer and the like–around the table right off the bat?
Some might view my dismissal of this eagerly awaited event as a calculated attempt by a traditional Muslim (whatever that means these days) to marginalize dissent and debate. They are free to do so, but they should realize their theory overlooks the fact that these guys are already utterly, irremediably, marginal. One needn’t silence them, as no-one in the Muslim community gives a hoot what they have to say in the first place.
I’m sure their real audience–neocons, Islamophobes, secularists and others with an agenda to discredit Muslims and their viewpoints in the public eye–will be eagerly hanging on every word. I’m reminded of a memorable Dave Chappelle skit about a confused Black Klansman given to scorching denunciations of "n*****s" who hasn’t realized his own ethnic makeup because he’s blind. Many of these counterfeit community activists exhibit comparably self-hating ideas and schizophrenic alliances.
It’s reminiscent in its farfetchedness of Monty Python, especially the beloved Ministry of Silly Walks. Here, though, instead of outlandish gaits you have harebrained schemes to forcibly remake the Muslim world in the West’s image and endless clicheed slogans about "dhimmis" and "Islamofascism".
Update (2007-03-14): A few tweaks, most notably the masking of the n-word.
That’s a blood-drenched, gut-wrenching word that I only used because I think the prejudice and hatred we’re talking about here is equally noxious and heartfelt. That word is verbotten in most situations for good reason, but when critiquing racism I think its sometimes helpful to remind people of its continued existence in the world. It’s alive and well, and it has some new masks (e.g., Islamophobia).
However noble one’s intenstions, banishing from public life frank discussions of the continued presence of racism ulimately helps racists escape scrutiny. It’s healthy for right-thinking mainstream observers to be occaisonally forced to squirm at the shocking sight of the ugliness that continues to blight the lives of many African-Americans and other minorities.
Still, the knowledge that this word was sitting in open sight on my blog has been eating away at me, so I’m going to have to give into convention even though my usage is obviously not approving.