A few years ago a reader sent me a copy of Edward Feser’s Five Proofs of the Existence of God. Though I haven’t read that book, I did read a substantial proportion of Feser’s Aquinas: A Beginner’s Guide on a plane trip recently. I’m not a big believer in whole-hog Thomism, but I’ve read some Aquinas before and always admired his incredible intellect. Feser’s treatment seems to be a good introduction to that.
So a friend emailed me and wondered why I’m so hard on R.A. Fisher. To be honest the number one reason is that his own daughter seems to have written a rather unflattering biography when it comes to his personal temperament. That being said, let me pass on E. B. Ford’s R. A. Fisher: An Appreciation.
When it comes to any individual it’s easy to be at some remove from a situation and pass on lies because you don’t know any better. It has certainly happened to me.
Which brings me to what’s happened to someone named Wajahat Ali. He’s a Muslim American (Pakistani) public intellectual who has gotten in trouble with some Muslims because he violated some of the norms of BDS (though he never joined on with BDS as such, it’s become normative in many Muslim circles). To me, there are two curious aspects.
First, the general one that in some cultural milieus lies are very powerful, and became truth. If some people generate enough smoke, other people will assume there’s fire. It’s pretty obvious that the people accusing Ali of being an Islamophobe and Zionist-stooge are either liars or enthusiastic witch-burners. But there’s no huge penalty for making this stuff up, so only “upside” for the accusers.
It is also interesting that Ali contends that some people are finally standing up and admitting they know him, and all the accusations are lies, and they can’t listen to the lies any longer. The implication though is that these people were silent for a long while because they were afraid to stand by him when he was maligned unjustly.
A pretty honest commentary about our society today.
Second, Ali exposes the tacit racial hierarchy which is taken for granted in the Muslim American community. A few months ago a friend of mine who is a liberal (white) academic was saying some negative things about Hindu nationalism in relation to Islamophobia and wondered what Muslim students on campus would think about the tolerance that Hindu nationalist speakers are shown in the United States. My first thought: the only Muslims who care about Hindu nationalists are South Asians. Arabs probably don’t even know anything about Hindu nationalists.
The reality is there is one overwhelming concern of Muslim Americans, and that’s Palestine. To be entirely frank many Arab Muslims don’t give a shit what happens to South Asian Muslims. They’re not as callous to proactively not care. It’s just that it never really comes onto their radar. What matters to them is what is happening in the Middle East.
The converse is not true. South Asian Muslims care a great deal about Palestine. As they should: Arabs and Middle Eastern people, in general, are the center of Islam’s mental hierarchy. Not explicitly so. But implicitly, obviously. In general, Arabs will not listen to South or Southeast Asians, or black Africans tell them anything about Islam. In contrast, non-Arabs will listen to Arabs about Islam (Turks and Persians are a special case, and may not defer as much to Arabs).
Ali’s transgressions led to pretty straightforward observations he was being an uppity Pakistani who should leave Israel-Palestine to Arabs. He doesn’t seem to have been traumatized by this, but that’s because I assume he expected that that would happen. South Asians who don’t defer on these sorts of religious issues will be put back in their place. The mosque in New York I went to as a small child had an ethnic division of labor. The South Asians, mostly Pakistani and Indian doctors, provided funds when needed, and the Arabs ran the mosque and took on adult and childhood religious education.
What Really Happens in China’s ‘Re-education’ Camps. You probably know about the ethnic and religious targeting of Uighurs, and the fact that hundreds of thousands have been placed in re-education camps.
Back in the day, I used to read Tariq Ramadan’s books to get a sense of what intellectual Muslims think from a moderately conservative viewpoint. Today he stands accused of multiple rapes and admits that he had many affairs. The thing for me to reflect on is that I have no doubt that Ramadan believes in an all-powerful God. And yet he knowingly commits what he believes to be sin (extra-marital sex). And he may have raped women.
In to Asia. Lots of human evolution and paleoanthropology happened in Asia.
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