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Unlike Guardiano, I’ll take Spencer’s Scholarship over D’Souza’s Sloppy Statement

Posted on March 14 2010 3:35 pm
David Forsmark is the owner and president of Winning Strategies, a full service political consulting firm in Michigan. David has been a regular columnist for Frontpage Magazine since 2006. For 20 years before that, he wrote book, movie and concert reviews as a stringer for the Flint Journal, a midsize daily newspaper.
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John Guardiano railed against caricaturing Islam today—by caricaturing conservatives like Robert Spencer and Andrew McCarthy.

Worse, he used as an authority for his point, a book by Dinesh D’Souza in which it is a close call  as to whether the author makes more demonstrable errors of fact, or more intellectually dishonest assertions of moral equivalence.

GUARDIANO: But the idea that Islam is inherently threatening and irredeemable also isn’t true. This charge, in fact, is a dangerous and malicious lie. In reality, as Dinesh D’Souza observes in his excellent (albeit much misunderstood) book, The Enemy at Home: the Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11:

Slamming the D’Souza book is not to “misunderstand” it, that is the only reaction one can have from reading it with any knowledge of the history of radical Islam.

I reviewed this awful tome for Frontpage Magazine in 2007.  I’ll lay some of the most egregious factual errors later, here is the basis of D’Souza’s thesis– which begins by asserting Osama struck the US because he was so offended by homosexuals and abortionists and depraved American culture in general:

FORSMARK: Here we see the seeds of the biggest problem with D’Souza’s analysis.  While he dismisses as illogical and disingenuous the foreign policy reasons for Islamic radical attacks on the U.S., and as such treats them as mere propagandistic device, he chooses to accept as genuine every radical condemnation of American depravity—and comes very close to treating them as justification. In short, D’Souza treats Islamic complaints he agrees with as legitimate, and the ones he considers illogical as disingenuous propaganda.  And based solely on his handpicked issues, D’Souza takes the unprecedented step of proposing that American conservatives  unite with what he calls “traditional societies” worldwide—including what he perceives as the vast majority of the Muslim world—to fight the imperialist cultural left. According to D’Souza, this is the “only way to win” the war against radical Islam.

I don’t think so.

To elaborate further on D’Souza prermise:

FORSMARK: These are head-spinning thoughts. Because of D’Souza’s ignorance of the nature of the enemy–and his overly benign view of the society that bred them–he envisions something like an international version of the Reagan coalition. But this isn’t about winning over Evangelical and devoutly Catholic union workers who may have some liberal economic views (and resent being pushed into higher tax brackets) and separating them from the Democrat Party over abortion, gay rights, and the war on Christmas.

There is a big difference between voting against gay marriage, and wanting to put homosexuals in a pit and drop a wall on them.  There is no common ground between being against easy divorce to protect women and children, and allowing polygamy for men while allowing no divorce for women.  In fact, even the romantic nonsense of liberal definitions of marriage and easy divorce are far superior to the “traditional” view of Islamic marriage.  And it’s one thing to oppose the UN’s forced secularization of underdeveloped countries and to argue that a manger scene will not traumatize passers-by; it’s quite another to have the death penalty for blasphemy.

Part of the problem in making a realignment with the other traditionalists, D’Souza thinks, is that the rest of us are too paranoid about theocracy.  Apparently too many of us think that it means “rule by divine authority of the priesthood or clergy.”  That is apparently not correct:  D’Souza insists that in Iran “the power of the state and of the mullahs is limited by the specific rules set forth in the Koran and the Islamic tradition. The rulers themselves are bound by these laws.”

Hey, you might say, Dinesh is one of us, and entitled to his opinion.  You can argue with him, but what’s with the dismissive tone.  Well, D’Souza is entitled to his opinion, but, as they say, he is NOT entitled to his own facts.  And his factual errors contribute to his daffy opinions:

FORSMARK: For someone who is making an argument that is downright revolutionary—and proclaims ownership of it nearly as often as the professor in the Monty Python sketch about brontosaurus theory–D’Souza has done very little primary research and relies too often on media-driven cliches.  In fact, D’Souza ignores even widely read respected books on bin Laden’s history and ideology to put his own particular spin on it.

For instance, in a section decrying the use of the word Islamofascism, D’Souza makes the argument that Osama bin Laden is “one of the world’s richest men,” despite the fact that Osama has been cut off from the bin Laden fortune for over a decade, as Lawrence Wright reveals in The Looming Tower. D’Souza also dislikes the term, because he says there is a tradition of “capitalism” in the Arab world, who were great “traders.”  In fact, the Arab world never fully made the leap to free markets from mercantilism, as their economy and society were slave-based and hurt badly by the British campaign to end the trade.

D’Souza does not just take Islamic radicals words at face value; he seems to believe their PR about their resumes, as well.  He not only makes mistakes about bin Laden’s background, but that of his intellectual godfather, Sayyid Qutb. The following unforgivably sloppy summary of Qutb’s background flubs the facts in favor of D’Souza’s thesis.  “Originally a traveler in literary and pro-Western circles, Qutb became fiercely anti-American after living in the United States.  He returned to Egypt, joined the Muslim Brotherhood, and advocated Islamic Radicalism as an antidote to what he perceived as American decadence.”

In reality, Qutb was on the road to radicalism in Egypt and came to America ahead of an arrest order from King Farouk.  The “decadence” that Qutb encountered was in the dry town of Greeley, Colorado, circa 1949–though he may have been exposed to secularist liberal philosophies at the “progressive,” Colorado State College of Education. Someone made the innocent mistake of taking the tightly wrapped Egyptian to a dance in a church basement, and this was his impression:  “They danced to the tunes of the gramophone, and the dance floor was replete with tapping feet, enticing legs, arms wrapped around waists, lips pressed to lips, and chests pressed to chests. The atmosphere was full of desire,” and so on.

D’Souza uses similar truncation to propose that Osama bin Laden’s primary focus is religious devotion, and that his aims have been consistent throughout his career.  “Osama bin Laden also endorsed this strategy,” D’Souza writes of the idea that a radical Muslim state would be the launching point for jihad.  “His main emphasis during the 1980s was on driving the Soviets out of Afghanistan so that it could become a Muslim fundamentalist state.  When that was successful, bin Laden returned to Saudi Arabia and focused his effort on changing the corrupt and insufficiently orthodox policies of the Saudi government.”

This ignores Wright’s well-researched account of the Afghans shunning the bin Ladenites who were more excited about martyrdom than winning the war.  D’Souza discusses the fact that bin Laden lobbied to become a player in the Saudi military during the invasion of Kuwait and only rebelled against the Kingdom after being unceremoniously shut down.  However, he incoherently draws the conclusion that even though bin Laden became an outlaw immediately, it was the fact that Americans later stayed and “imported their values” that really bothered him.

In fact, bin Laden’s infamous fatwa against America was not issued until 1996, after bin Laden had been kicked out of the Sudan.  Wright details the power struggle among the jihadis and how most of bin Laden’s cohorts rejected his new campaign until events left them with little else that could unite their movement.

The book is filled with errors. D’Souza says that al Zawahiri and bin Laden “met in Afghanistan” in the mid to late 1990s, and formed an alliance based on their mutual and independent decisions to declare war on America.  They met in Afghanistan, all right, but it was in the late 1980s, and they were together in the Sudan in the mid 1990s.  Zawahiri resisted striking America until he was expelled from the Sudan, and had nowhere to go but bin Laden’s cave in Afghanistan.

The critics who blasted Dinesh D’Souza’s book The Enemy Within understood it all too well.  Anyone who bases his opinion of Islam on reading this book, is the one who misunderstands.

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