A follow-up of sorts to my colleague’s Comment on Crooked Timber. Bush’s monopoly seems to be broken for the moment; the Timberites are discussing Beslan and Islamophobia and Islamophobiaphobia. Somewhat heatedly, as a matter of fact.

There is a thread on ‘Al Qaeda in Beslan?’ for instance, and another on the horror itself which kicked up an interesting comment by Dsquared:

I think that ‘Islamism’ is a politically convenient but fictional construct drawn up by people who want to drag their own pet Middle Eastern issue into the fight against Al-Quaeda.

Ah. Fictional construct. Really. Do the people in, say, Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Turkey, etc etc, who are damn well terrified of Islamists, think ‘Islamism’ is a fictional construct? I don’t think so. Didn’t Islamists in fact kill one or two people in Algeria? Don’t Islamists want to impose Sharia everywhere they can? Is that a fictional construct? It doesn’t seem particularly fictional to me. Once again I have to wonder why some people think it’s in any way progressive or respectful to side with an intensely reactionary, regressive, coercive, anti-egalitarian movment, against its progressive, secular, egalitarian, rights-defending opponents.

So then Chris posted on Yusuf al-Qaradawi – and the fur started to fly.

Harry of Harry’s Place says what I would have said if he hadn’t (except I probably wouldn’t have said it as well):

If Juan Cole says it then it must be ok to criticise al-Qaradawi now? It appears that for Chris everyone else who pointed out al -Qaradawi’s reactionary views on a whole range of issues at the time of the British visit had some other agenda which nullified the value of the information they put forward.

Just so. Then Dsquared answered:

To put it bluntly (without presuming to speak for Chris) yes. Juan Cole has a very good record as a straight-shooter in these matters. At the time of Qaradawi visit to London, it seemed quite likely that he was a loon, which is why you’ll find no ringing endorsement of him on CT, but the claque screaming for him to be denounced from the rooftops seemed so bloody appalling (and was so chock full of people who had axes to grind and seemed unconcerned about distorting the truth while grinding them) that I for one was reluctant to join it. It strikes me that this is an entirely sensible approach to subjects where one doesn’t have much knowledge; to trust the judgement of those who have proved trustworthy in the past, and ignore those who haven’t, however loud they scream.

Then Harry answered that:

Well that is simply pathetic Dan. I have read multiple sources on al-Qaradawi, including the original source material of his fatwas (easily avaliable in English on his own Islamonline website). It was not at all difficult to make ones mind up about what kind of views he held. But you have to wait for an endorsment from some American academic before you can make a judgement. Pathetic but not at all surprising.

And so on – but you can read it yourself, obviously. It’s just that I’m naturally interested, because this difference of opinion is very like the one we had over Marc Mulholland’s post a few weeks ago, here, here, here, here, here, and here. People do disagree about this. Strongly. I wish people who hesitate to criticize the likes of al-Qaradawi were more aware of groups like the ones I linked to in connection with the demo today, and the one that issued that Manifesto. I wish they would side with groups like that – groups that are for equality for women and secularism, and against homophobia and anti-Semitism – rather than with groups like Fans of al-Qaradawi. I wish they would wake up and realize what it is they’re supporting, in short.

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