Saturday, November 29, 2008


TWILIGHT is an action-packed, modern-day love story between a teenage girl and a vampire. Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) has always been a little bit different, never caring about fitting in with the trendy girls at her Phoenix high school. When her mother re-marries and sends Bella to live with her father in the rainy little town of Forks, Washington, she doesn't expect much of anything to change. Then she meets the mysterious and dazzlingly beautiful Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), a boy unlike any she's ever met. Edward is a vampire, but he doesn't have fangs and his family is unique in that they choose not to drink human blood. Intelligent and witty, Edward sees straight into Bella's soul. Soon, they are swept up in a passionate, thrilling and unorthodox romance. To Edward, Bella is what he has waited 90 years for - a soul mate. But the closer they get, the more Edward must struggle to resist the primal pull of her scent, which could send him into an uncontrollable frenzy. But what will Edward & Bella do when a clan of new vampires - James (Cam Gigandet), Laurent (Edi Gathegi) and Victoria (Rachelle Lefevre) - come to town and threaten to disrupt their way of life?

ABOUT TWILIGHT: Based on the number 1 New York Times Best - Selling series with over 17 million books in print by Stephenie Meyer, TWILIGHT is a cultural phenomenon, with a dedicated fan base that eagerly awaits this movie. There are over 350 fan sites devoted to TWILIGHT, and it has been chosen as the New York Times Editor's Choice, a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year, Amazon's "Best Book of the Decade...So Far", Teen People's "Hot List" Pick, and The American Library Association's "Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults" and "Top Ten Books for Reluctant Readers," among others. Critically acclaimed director Catherine Hardwicke brings to life this modern, visual, and visceral Romeo & Juliet story of the ultimate forbidden love affair - between vampire and mortal.

Friday, November 28, 2008

A Short History of the Study of Islam in the West

In the Name of God, the Infinitely Good, the All-Merciful

Islam is both a religion and a civilization, a historical reality that spans over fourteen centuries of human history and a geographical presence in vast areas stretching over the Asian and African continents and even parts of Europe. It is also a spiritual and metahistorical reality that has transformed the inner and outer life of numerous human beings in very different temporal and spatial circumstances. Today over 1.2 billion people from different racial and cultural backgrounds are Muslim, and historically Islam has played a significant role in the development of certain aspects of other civilizations, especially Western civilization. Not only Islam is a major presence in today’s world, but its influence is also evident in the history of the Christian West, not to mention that of India and other regions of Asia and Africa. This is why knowledge of Islam is so important for those who are concerned with the situation of contemporary humanity and those who are interested in Western intellectual and cultural history, as well as those who are attracted to the reality of religion and the world of the Spirit as such.

One would think, therefore, that the study of Islam would be widespread in the West and especially in America, which has a notably Muslim minority and, which is now able to project so much power globally including within the Islamic world. Such, however, is not the case, despite the rise of interest in Islam since the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Moreover, much that is presented today in the English language as the study of Islam by so-called experts is strongly colored by various prejudices and ideological biases, although there are exceptions. In fact, although Islamic studies have been carried out in the West for over a thousand years, in each period such studies have been distorted and tainted by a particular set of errors and deviations.
The study of Islam in the West began in the tenth and eleventh centuries. Because this was a time in which Europe was thoroughly Christian, Islam was seen as a Christian heretical doctrine, and its founder as an apostate. Soon the imminent threat to Western Christendom from Islam led many to call the Prophet of Islam as the antichrist, and the Quran itself was translated by order of Peter the Venerable in order to be refuted and rejected as sacred scripture. The Middle Ages were marked by strong religious opposition to Islam. Yet it was at this time that the West showed the greatest interest in the Islamic thought, including philosophy and the sciences, and Islamic education, arts and technology were greatly respected. The first translation into Latin of works of Islamic thought, ranging from philosophy and even theology to astronomy, mathematics, and medicine belong to this period. Formal Islamic studies in the West may in fact be said to have begun during the Middle Ages.

The Renaissance perpetuated religious opposition towards Islam, but also began to show disdain not only for Europe’s own medieval past, but also for Islamic learning, although there were some exceptions. Furthermore, the emphasis on eurocentrism during the Renaissance and the rise of humanism caused many European thinkers of that time to consider people of other civilizations and ethnic groups, including Muslims, inferior. Although Islamic studies were carried on during the Renaissance, and in some places such as Bologna, even within the framework of the older medieval respect for Islamic thought, in many places they were distorted by a sense of Western superiority, characteristics were to continue into the modern period.

The Enlightenment turned against the theological assertions of Christianity and substituted rationalism for a worldview based on faith. Moreover, it further developed the idea that there was only one civilization, the Western one, and that other civilizations were significant only to the extent of their contribution to Western civilization, which the French encyclopedists referred to as the civilization (la civilisation). Obviously in such a situation Islam and its civilization could only play an inferior and secondary role. Although some new translations of Islamic sources were made into European languages at this time and Islamic studies remained an intellectual and academic discipline, little was done to understand the teachings of Islam in their own terms. Many of the leading thinkers of this period, in fact, maintained the older European disdain for Islam, but at the same time tried to make use of some of its teachings to attack Christianity. Such a dual attitude towards Islam is evident in the works of Voltaire, among others.

During the nineteenth century, historicism in its absolutist sense took the center of the philosophical stage with Hegel, who considered all other civilizations stages in the march of Geist in time leading to the final stage, which was supposedly realized in modern Western history. And yet this was also the period when the Romantic Movement began, when many minds, tired of the rationalism of the Enlightenment, turned anew to the Middle Ages as well as to seeking meaning beyond the borders of the West. This was the period when many of the greatest spiritual masterpieces of Islamic literature, especially many of the Sufi classics, were translated into German, English and French and seriously attracted major Western thinkers and writers, such as Goethe, Ruckert and Emerson. This was also the period when the exotic image of the Islamic East, with its mysterious casbahs and harams full of nude females, developed, as reflected in nineteenth-century European art associated with ‘orientalism’.

Moreover, this period marked the beginning of official oriental studies, including Islamic studies, in various Western universities often supported by colonial governments such as those of Britain, France, the Netherlands, and Russia. Oriental studies, in fact, developed as an instrument for furthering the policy of colonial powers, whether they were carried out in Central Asia for use by the Russian colonial officer or in India for the British government. But there were among the orientalists in the late nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century also a number of noble scholars who studied Islam both objectively and with sympathy, such as Thomas Arnold, Sir Hamilton Gibb, Louis Massignon, and Henry Corbin. Later Western orientalists who belong to this tradition include Marshall Hodgson, Annemarie Schimmel, and several other important scholars. But the main product of the orientalists’ manner of studying Islam remained heavily biased not only as a result of the interests of those powers it was serving, but also through the absolutization of current Western concepts and methodologies that were applied to Islam with the sense of superiority, going back to the Renaissance definition of the “European man.”1

The last half of the twentieth century witnessed a major transformation in Islamic studies in the West, at least in certain areas. First of all, a number of acutely intelligent and spiritually aware Westerners who realized the spiritual poverty of modernism began to seek wisdom in other worlds. Some turned to objective and unbiased study of the deepest teachings of Islam, which confirmed for them the reality of the presence of a perennial Sophia at the heart of heavenly inspired religions. This group, which includes Rene Guenon, Frithjof Schuon, Titus Burckhardt, Martin Lings, Gai Eaton, Michel, Valsan, William Chittick, Michel Chodkiewicz, James Morris, Vincent Cornell, and many other notably contemporary Western writers on Islam, has produced a wholly new type of literature in the West as far as Islam is concerned. It has created a body of writings rooted in the authentic teachings of Islam, yet formulated in the intellectual language of the West and based on the confirmation – not the denial – of the spiritual teachings on which traditional Western civilization itself was founded.

Furthermore, during this same period authentic representatives of the Islamic tradition, those who were born and brought up in that tradition, began to study Western thought and languages and gradually to produce works in European languages on Islam that were not simply apologetic (as had been the earlier works in English of a number of Indian Muslim writers), but explained clearly and without compromise the teachings of Islam in a manner comprehensible to Westerners. Needles to say, during this period there also appeared a large number of completely modernized Muslim writers who wrote about Islam not from within Islamic worldview, but from the point of view of the ever changing categories of modern and, more recently, postmodern Western thought.

Finally, younger generations of scholars have appeared on the scene during the past few years who are both Muslim and Western. Either they are Muslims born in the West or Westerners who have openly embraced Islam, have lived in the Islamic world, and know it well from within. Scholars belonging to this category are now beginning to occupy a number of academic positions in Europe and America and to produce pertinent works of an authentic nature on various aspects of Islamic studies.

Despite the presence of such groups, however, the anti-Islamic approach to Islamic studies continues in many circles. Some academics continue to apply non-Islamic, and in fact purely secularist, concepts drawn from various currents of Western philosophy and social sciences to Islam. And then there are the political ideologues, who often have little knowledge of Islam yet are presented as experts on the subject; from them one hears the most egregious anti-Islamic statements touted in the media and in popular books as authentic knowledge of Islam. They are joined in this chorus by a number of Christian voices from extremist groups who speak as if they were living in twelfth-century France at the time of the Crusades, but who are at the same time completely devoid of knowledge of traditional Christian theology, not to mention Christian humility and charity.

Each period of the study of Islam in the West has produced its own literature usually colored by the prejudices of the period, which have been for the most part anti-Islamic. There is, in fact, no religion in the world about which Western authors have written so much and at the same time in such a derogatory way as Islam. And yet, despite the persistence of this genre of writing and in fact its increase since the tragedies of September 11, 2001, authentic works on Islam based on truth and the intention to create mutual understanding rather than hatred, works of the sort that were practically nonexistent in the earlier part of twentieth century, are now readily available in the English language.

Islam is not only a religion; it is also the creator and living spirit of major world civilization with a long history stretching over fourteen centuries. Islamic history concerns the historic existence of the people of many lands, from North Africa to Malaysia, over vast spans of time. It has witnessed the creation of some of the greatest empires and the integration into a single social order of many diverse ethnic and linguistic groups. Islamic history has, moreover, directly affected the history of Europe for over a millennium and has been in turn deeply affected by the West since the advent of the colonial period. Islamic history has, furthermore, been profoundly intertwined with the history of India since the seventh century and with certain aspects of Chinese history for the past millennium (and to some extent even before that, going back to the century following the rise of Islam).

Islam created a civilization that has covered the middle belt of the Old World for over a millennium. This civilization produced great intellectual figures, a distinct art and architecture, dazzling achievements in science and technology, and equitable social order based on the teachings of the Quran. Its thinkers, poets, musicians, and artists created works that deeply influenced Western as well as Indian and even to some extent Chinese art and thought. Its scientists formulated theories and carried out practices that were widely emulated by Western scientists during the Middle Ages and even the Renaissance.

The contributions of Islamic science are so great and complex that they cannot even be summarized in a proper and meaningful way in a short essay of this kind. Suffice it to say, for some seven centuries (the eighth through the fourteenth and fifteenth century), Islamic science was from the point of view of creativity, at the forefront of science considered globally. Not only did Muslims synthesize Greco-Alexandrian, ancient Mesopotamian, Iranian, Indian, and to some extent Chinese science, but they created many sciences or added new chapters to the ancient sciences. For example, in mathematics they expanded the study of the geometry of the Greeks and created the new disciplines of trigonometry and algebra. Likewise, in medicine they furthered the studies of Hippocratic and Galenic medicine while diagnosing and distinguishing new diseases, discovering new remedies, and proposing new theories. The same can be said for numerous other sciences, from alchemy to astronomy, from physics to geology. The global history of science has as one of its central chapters Islamic science, without which there would have been no Western science. And yet Islamic science had an understanding of nature and the role of the sciences of nature in the total scheme of knowledge that was very different from what developed in the West with the seventeenth-century Scientific Revolution2.

In trying to understand Islam and Islamic civilization, it is essential to remember not only the diversity of the arts and the sciences, but also the diversity of theological and philosophical interpretations of Islamic doctrines and even of Islamic Law. There is nothing more erroneous that thinking that Islam is a monolithic reality and that Islamic civilization did not allow the creation or subsistence of diversity. Although a sense of unity has at all times dominated everything Islamic, there has always existed a diversity of interpretations of the religion itself as well as various aspects of Islamic thought and culture. The Prophet of Islam even considered the diversity of views of the scholars of the Islamic community a blessing from Allah3. When one studies Islamic civilization, one sees not only differences of language and dress, writing and singing, color of skin and physical features, cuisine, and response to different climatic conditions, but also different interpretations of verses of the Holy Quran, sayings of the prophets, and tenets of the Divine Law as well as theological and philosophical questions. And yet a remarkable unity predominates in the civilization, as it does in the religion that created that civilization and has guided its history over the ages.

The norm in the Islamic world today, despite all the political tragedies that have befallen it, is not what many in the media and popular literature in the West claim. It is not religious extremism or ‘fundamentalism’; nor is it secularist modernism. The norm is traditional Islam4, in comparison to which both secularist modernism and ‘fundamentalism’ are extremes. At the present juncture of human history, it is of the utmost importance for Westerners who seek understanding and goodwill to comprehend clearly the norm with respect to which all forms of extremism must be measured. And it is important to distinguish authentic knowledge of the subject matter at hand from ideologically distorted accounts of it.

1 For further reading, please refer to The Essentials of Western Anthropology by Ken Morris.
2 For further reading, please consult The Need for a Sacred Science by Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Classification of Knowledge in Islam by Osman Bakar, and History of Western Thought by Robert Bogdan.
3 Sahih Muslim, Book 39, No. 6773.
4 By traditional Islam I mean it is based on the Divine teachings guided by the Holy Quran and the authentic traditions of Prophet Muhammad S.A.W.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Kalaulah Ku Tahu Itu Kenyataan Nya.......

Gerimis mula membasahi bumi Bandar Maharani ini. Disertakan dengan angin sepoi-sepoi bahasa. Membuatkan suasana amat dingin. Aku duduk kaku di kerusi itu. Sambil menghadapkan wajah ku ke arah Selat Melaka. Dalam usaha ku untuk mencari ketenangan. Perkara yang telah lama terpadam dalam kamus hidup ku.

Biak-biak air hujan menerpa ke wajah ku. Dek kerana deru angin ombak Selat Melaka. Aku termangu di kerusi itu. Duduk keseorangan. Tanpa sebarang arah tujuan. Tanpa ku tahui apakah yang ingin ku cari di sini.

Lagu itu bermain-main di telinga ku. Indah. Seindah penyanyinya. Namun ku tidak pasti adakah ianya dapat ku jelmakan dalam hidup ini. Minda ku bercelaru memikirkannya. Dan setiap kali aku memikirkannya, dan setiap kali itu jualah aku gagal untuk mencari jawabannya. Dan kesudahannya aku terus duduk di sini. Termangu-mangu. Mencari jawapan pada persoalan yang tiada kesudahannya…..


“Sorry. I can’t accept it. Yeah I do like you. But only as a friend. Not more than that.”
“Yeah. After all the things you did to me, now only you said that. Terima kasih sangat!!”
“Please. I don’t think I can.”
“Then why don’t you say it earlier? When I just knew you? Hah??”
“Please…. At least we can be friend rite?”
“Yeah… You wish!!”


“I am sorry. I wish I could say no. But I don’t have any other options. I have to. I am really sorry…..”
“Say sorry to yourself. In life, we do have options. Either yes or no, ok or not ok, left or right. It is just a matter of choosing the right option. How can you say that you don’t have any option? Hah??”
“I have to. You know my mom rite. Biler dia dah buat keputusan, semua orang kena ikut. Tak boleh nak lawan……”
“Then it is your problem lah. Not mine….”
“I am sorry. But I think you can live without me, rite?”
“Hahahahahahaha……. Betul lah tue.”


“Sorry. Been busy. Banyak kerja……..”
“Hmmm…. Takanlah selamanya busy. Just nak reply sms pun takan tak sempat….”
“Tadalah marah ke apa. I know you tue busy. Just bengkek ajer when you tak reply my sms. Orang call pun tak angkat….”
“Siapa suruh?”
“Erk…. Memanglah takda siapa suruh….”
“So kenapa nak bengkek plak?”
“Hmmmm….. Takda apalah……”


Angin bertiup agak kencang. Pelepah pohon kelapa jatuh dek kerana kencangnya angin yang bertiup. Aku masih lagi di sini. Melihat deru angin Selat Melaka. Sambil memerhatikan mereka yang sedang keseronokan bermain di hujung sana. Melihatkan keletah mereka membuatkan aku ketawa keriangan. Bagi ku, mereka sajalah permata hati ku ini. Yang mampu menceriakan hidup ku di kala aku melara jiwa. Yang mampu menzahirkan sekuntum bunga di wajah ku, tiap kala aku kemurungan.

Sang hujan sudah lama melabuhkan sayapnya. Namun guruh masih berdentum di atas langit sana. Menandakan sang hujan akan kembali lagi. Mungkin kali ini lebih hebat, lebih gagah. Mereka masih seronok bermain-main di sana. Seolah-olah tidak mahu pulang.

Lagu itu sudah berkali-kali dimainkan. Namun tidak sekali pun aku berasa jemu mendengarnya. Aku sendiri tidak pasti kenapa. Mungkin kerana ianya dapat menceritakan apa yang telah aku rasa, apa yang telah aku lalui. Mungkin betul kata mereka. Aku terlalu mengikut kata dia. Aku terlalu menurut. Dan bila keadaan sebaliknya, adakah dia di situ bersama ku? Hanya sekadar untuk melihat bintang di langit. Yang ada hanyalah kami. Berdiri di bukit itu, melihat cahaya neon Kuala Lumpur, mengira-ngira bintang di langit. Berbicara pada alam……

Guruh berdentum lagi. Kali ini di ikuti dengan gegakan sang petir, sabung-menyabung. Awan mega beralih arah. Memberikan laluan pada si kabut. Tanda hujan akan turun lagi. Pastinya lebih meriah. Aku bangkit dari tempat duduk ku. Mencari mereka di hujung sana. Untuk ku bawa pulang. Melihatkan ku sudah berdiri, mereka terus mendapatkan ku. Faham bahawa aku ingin pulang.

Aku terus melangkah. Menuju ke tempat itu. Dengan sisa keyakinan yang masih ada. Iltizam dan kekuatan diri yang masih berbaki. Dengan teman yang sentiasa di samping ku. Dengan wajah-wajah ceria, comel mereka. Yang pastinya akan menzahirkan warna-warna pelangi hidup ini. Dengan si Hajah yang senantiasa ceria. Dengan gelak ketawanya. Membingitkan hidup ini. Dan aku terus melangkah. Meninggalkan taman khuldi itu………

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Clash of Civilizations: A Question to Ponder

In the Name of God, the Infinitely Good, the All-Merciful

At the start of the new millennium two global civilizations appear to be poised in a complex confrontation on various levels of human activity. One is based in Muslim countries and the other in the West, mainly North America and Western Europe. For the sake of simplication we will use the shorthand terms Islam and the West, although they are unsatisfactory and do not express the diversity and complexity of either Islam or the West. The central ideas of both are expressed through the process of globalization and radicalization that swirl and eddy around the world like an atmospheric storm. Commentators are already seeing the confrontation in apocalyptic terms and calling it the last crusade.

It is well to remember that there are over a billion Muslims in the world today. Significantly, over twenty million of them live in the West and are shared about equally between the USA and Europe. There are about fifty Muslim nations, the number having been inflated by the six recently independent former Soviet republics.

In the next decades the planet will continue to shrink at a breathtaking pace because of the rapid technological changes in the media, transport, telecommunications and so on. It is therefore clear that few exercise will be more worthwhile that helping to increase understanding between Islam and the West, with a view to easing the tension between them. Confrontation is neither necessary nor desirable; besides, there is much in common both in ideas and in human societies. It is this which needs to be increasingly explored. We need to be able to see the other and say, "We understand you are different but we also understand your difference."

Despite the many superficial differences, deeper and more permanent values are similar: the respect for knowledge, for justice, for compassion towards the less privileged, for a healthy family life, the need to improve the here and now. The last is significant. Islam, unlike some other religions, does not reject the world. The Muslim ideal balances matters of the world (dunya) with ideas of religion (din); a good Muslim must participate in both. This goes a long way towards explaining the power and popularity of Islam in today’s world.

Although there is a genuine desire in the west to understand Islam, people do have a problem in understanding it, perhaps because of the mutually hostile experiences of the last thousand years. False images and ideas are thus perpetuated. For example, it is an almost unshakeable article of belief in the West that Muslims treat their women badly and that Muslim priests – in the form of mullahs – tyrannise Muslim society. We, Muslims, have to prove that these assumptions are no correct. None the less, Europeans will instinctively refer to their own medieval times, recalling the long and tortuous struggle to free themselves of the church’s domination. Confronting the images they themselves created and imposed on to Muslims, they are really looking at their own history. In order to appreciate Islam, therefore, the West must come to terms with its own past. An exercise like this is crucial not only for building bridges with the alien other, but also for exorcizing the ghosts within.

Muslims complain of being colonized by the West twice over: politically in the last century and then culturally in this one. But Europe also has its memory of Islamic conquest in the first centuries after Islam. Spain and Sicily were under Muslim domination for centuries, and Muslim armies were stopped from conquering France by Charles Martel in the eighth century. Vienna was almost conquered twice, the second attempt being made in the seventeenth century. It is time, then, to stop scoring points against each other and start looking at the new realities and the future.

Only a few decades ago it appeared possible for Islam and the West to be compartmentalized into separate geographical areas; indeed they seemed destined to live on different continents. This is no longer true. By the 1980s we had become aware of how interlinked and interwoven the modern world actually is. Not only are millions of Muslims living in Europe and the USA but there are thousands from the West working in the Muslim countries. Besides, there are large Muslim groups like those in former Yugoslavia, who are European by race, culture and location. Furthermore, scholars and students, diplomats and politicians, economists and entrepreneurs continue to travel to and from between the two. In any case videos, television, fax, the internet and satellite telecommunications ensure that everyone on the planet has access to common ideas and programs; it is no longer possible to isolate one from the other.

Although Western ideologies seem mainly to be rooted in a vision of the world as secular, democratic and ordered by the need to acquire material goods for a satisfactory life, whereas those of Islam are motivated primarily by religious beliefs, the picture in practice is not simple or clear. It is further confused by elements of both philosophies in each camp. Many living in secular material societies openly challenge them; many look back to traditional beliefs and seek answers in religion or ethnicity or the tribal group. Similarly, many of those who live in Muslim societies pay only lip-service to the notions of piety and faith, and often disguise materialist greed with religious rhetoric.

In the Gulf War of 1991 we saw how America’s attempt to maintain global hegemony, to ensure continue supplies of oil so that the high material lifestyles of the West could be maintained, were also a chance to show who was boss or as the American soldiers put it, to ‘kick ass’. For many Arabs who opposed Saddam Hussein and his policies their paradoxical support of Iraq was a gesture of defiance against the West. What began as an unpopular invasion by a larger neighbour ended up with huge processions in Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan and even India, supporting Saddam. Somehow, his standing up to the West had tapped deep reservoirs of resentment in many parts of Africa and Asia. Those people who still clung to tradition and religious belief were depressed by world developments for which they blamed the West, in particular the USA, which symbolized the West. Support for Saddam allowed them to express their disgust and anger at forces they felt were enveloping them but which they could not fully comprehend or control. Their support had little to do with the merits of Saddam or his policies – both roundly condemned by the very same Muslims before the war.

Later in the year, many Muslims with funds in the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) were financially devastated by its collapse. None the less, throughout the Muslim world there was a perception that the hostile media attacks on the BCCI were motivated by hatred for Muslims. Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa condemning Salman Rushdie, for his The Satanic Verses, to death in 1989 had kept these attacks on the boil. Indeed, Western commentators were freely talking of a ‘criminal culture’.

The confrontation between Islam and the West is widely seen in the Muslim world as a straightforward clash, between greed and the faith, between a way of life that encourages violence and anarchy and one that stresses balance and order. Yet these images are completely reversed in the Western viewpoint, which tends to see Muslims as a source of violence and anarchy threatening a stable and prosperous West. It is truly a topsy-turvy world, but perhaps by simplifying difficult and complex issues we can hope to make some sense of it.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Kemelut Wanita UMNO


Kemelut Wanita UMNO sudah pun bermula. Datuk Seri Shahrizat bte Adbul Jalil telah pun mengeluarkan kenyataan yang beliau akan bertanding jawatan Ketua Wanita UMNO. Dan ini sudah semestinya akan membuatkan beliau menentang 'ketuanya' selama lapan tahun, Tan Sri Rafidah bte Aziz. Tan Sri Rafidah bte Aziz pula dalam kenyataan balasnya pula menyatakan "kita bertemu di gelanggang nanti...."
Kedua-dua calon mempunyai justifikasi masing-masing mengapa mereka menawarkan diri untuk bertanding jawatan Ketua Wanita UMNO. Bagi pemegang kerusi, Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz, dalam situasi UMNO yang terumbang-ambing selepas kekalahan agak teruk dalam Pilihanraya Umum yang Ke 12 baru-baru ini, Wanita UMNO yang merupakan nadi tunjang UMNO perlulah kukuh dan kuat lantas Pelan Peralihan Kuasa yang dicadangkan olehnya amat penting untuk dilaksanakan demi kestabilan dan kekuatan UMNO. Bagi Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil pula, walaupun dalam situasi UMNO yang agak lemah ini, namun kehendak akar umbi tidak dapat diketepikan begitu sahaja; suara akar umbi perlulah didengar dan dihormati.
Dalam komen mantan Perdana Menteri Malaysia, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad pula, dalam sistem demokrasi yang diamalkan di Malaysia, tiada salah jika berlaku pertandingan antara kedua-dua calon tersebut. Namun pertandingan perlulah dilaksanakan dalam semangat demokrasi iaitu kedua-dua calon perlulah saling hormat-menghormati agar tidak berlaku sebarang perpecahan yang teruk kepada parti. Dan selepas pertandingan tamat, barisan kepimpinan Wanita perlulah dirapatkan dan siapa yang kalah perlu bekerjasama dengan yang menang.
Maka, siapakah yang bakal menduduki kerusi Ketua Wanita UMNO nanti? Para perwakilan persidangan Wanita UMNO lah yang akan menentukannya. Perwakilan perlulah bersikap matang dan rasional dalam memilih ketua mereka tanpa sebarang kecondongan emosi. Seperti kata ahli bijaksana, pemilih yang bijak bakal menentukan kepimpinan yang mulia......

Islam in the West Part II

"There are a number of reasons that might explain why Said says nothing about Islam. He might have intended to write only of the West. He might not know enough about Islam. He might have felt that it was sufficient instead to name those of whose work he disapproves. He might have felt it best to say nothing rather than to say some one thing. He might believe that it is inappropriate or impossible or even hostile for any outsider to speak of a belief system which he does not share. Whatever his reason, Said says nothing and says nothing about why he says nothing" Leonard Binder (1988).1

Said like the practitioners of "critical scholarship" had nothing to say about Islam for all these reasons and one more: his academic generation drew upon the experience of the 1960s and 1970s. They were products of late-Cold War third worldism, which they had worked into an epistemology and which could be summarized in three words: resistance, revolution, liberation.They expected radical change, but of a very specific kind. After 1967, so their argument went, American-engineered schemes for the Middle East could no longer be concealed behind the remote threat of Soviet expansion. Peoples of the region first and foremost, the Palestinians, followed by other Arabs and Muslims would rise up against the hegemony of the United States and its clients, especially Israel. There were forces at work, deep in Arab and Muslim societies, which would no longer submit to a skewed order devised solely to preserve American interests.These forces were progressive. They would not only undermine the old order; they would construct a new order that would raise up and empower the excluded: workers, women, students, intellectuals, refugees. The duty of the sympathetic scholar was to study these forces, prove their potential on a theoretical level, and support them as a practical matter. As the progressive forces seized the initiative in Middle Eastern capitals, their allies would do the same on American campuses.

Blinders and Blind Spots
As an assessment of what had gone before, this analysis was arguable. As a prediction of what was to come, it was lamentable. For as Said prepared the ground for the successful overthrow of the existing order in Middle Eastern studies, in the Middle East itself only Ayatollah Khomeini enjoyed any success in the art of overthrow.
The Achilles heel of Orientalism, and much of the "critical scholarship," was its very narrow conception of the forces of change in the Middle East. Orientalism made no mention of modern Iran at all, or indeed of any movement framing its agenda in the language of Islam. To Said's mind, it was an orientalist trope to invoke "the return of Islam."2 "History, politics, and economics do not matter" to the orientalists, wrote Said mockingly. "Islam is Islam, the Orient is the Orient, and please take all your ideas about a left and a right wing, revolutions, and change back to Disneyland."3 In many contexts, Said insisted upon writing "Islam" with quotation marks, as though it were a category created solely by and for orientalists. That "Islam" might actually serve to mobilize movements more readily than ideologies of left and right seemed not to occur to Said at all. Malcolm Kerr, in his review of Orientalism, was struck by the omission: "Does Said realize how insistently Islamic doctrine in its many variants has traditionally proclaimed the applicability of religious standards to all aspects of human life, and the inseparability of man's secularand spiritual destinies? What does he suppose the Ayatollah Khomeini and the Muslim Brotherhood are all about?"4
It was a valid question, and one that Said consistently dodged. His Covering Islam, published in 1981, represented a scramble to cover the gaping hole in Orientalism. Said's indictment of the media and "experts" for their failure to anticipate or explain the revolution in Iran was very much a diversionary tactic, given Said's own failure to do the same in a book published only two years earlier. Nor did he risk offering an interpretation of his own. The closest Said came to an account of Islamism was to blame the orientalists: according to Said, Muslim Orientals, subjected to orientalist demonization, had entered a reactive mode, "acting the part decreed for them" by the experts.5 By this logic, Said could trace every Islamist excess to Western prejudice, and eventually he did. In 1989, Khomeini issued a fatwa (edict) condemning the British-Indian author Salman Rushdie to death for his novel The Satanic Verses. "Why is that ignorance there," asked Said, "if not for the disregard, indifference and fear with which things Islamic are considered here? . . . Islam is reduced to terrorism and fundamentalism and now, alas, is seen to be acting accordingly, in the ghastly violence prescribed by Ayatollah Khomeini."6 This mode of argumentation conveniently absolved Said and followers of the difficult job of accounting for Islamist deeds. Instead, each Islamist action became another opportunity for the repetitive and ritual denunciation of Western prejudice against Islam.
Still, the "return of Islam" was an unwelcome surprise to Said and Saidians. Even more surprising (and, for Said, unpleasant) was the way many Islamist "returnees" read Said's texts. Almost invariably, they understood them as anti-Western, pro-Islamic polemical tracts and deployed them as intellectual ammunition against Islam's "enemies," including secularists in their own societies. By choice or by ignorance, Said had disregarded the prior existence of an elaborate discourse of anti-orientalism within the Muslim world. When these Muslim readers opened Orientalism and Covering Islam, they perceived nothing new, and read them merely as "insider" confirmation of long-standing suspicions that Western scholars were agents of their governments, that Western scholarship was part of a conspiracy to defame Islam.
In the 1980s, as Iran's revolution resonated abroad, this reading produced some unexpected coincidences. For example, in Orientalism, Said determined that American hospitals and universities in the Middle East were tainted by "their specifically imperial character and their support by the United States government."7 (Leftists of the MERIP group had leveled the same charge against the American University of Beirut in 1975, describing the university as a "base of operations" funded from Washington and bristling with"sophisticated equipment in the field.")8 It was a telling coincidence that when a militant Islamist movement arose among the Shi'ites of Lebanon in the 1980s, its zealots saw these institutions in just this light and deliberately targeted university and hospital personnel. (By that time, all of these personnel were in Lebanon against the advice of their own government, and had remained there out of sympathy for Lebanese and Palestinians.)
AUB drew much of the fire. In 1982, the university's president became the first American taken hostage in Lebanon. After the abduction, Malcolm Kerr arrived in Beirut to serve as president. Kerr was a son of AUB, a founder and past president of MESA, a supporter of Arab causes and the lone American critic of Said's Orientalism. That he continued to reject Said's premises was obvious from his inaugural address in Beirut. In it, he pointed to the evolution of AUB "from a university offering Western culture to the Arabs, to one that promotes both Western and Arab cultures and implicitly looks for a symbiotic relation between them, in the best tradition of European Orientalism."9 In 1984, Kerr was gunned down outside his office, by assassins who must have seen this symbiosis and its best tradition as forms of imperialism.There was much irony in the fact that Said and the "progressive" scholars, from the safety of American universities, should have delegitimized the one university in the Arab world where academic freedom had meaning, thanks to its American antecedents.10 There was irony in the fact that the Beirut hostage-holders of Islamic Jihad should have offered Said's Covering Islam as reading to their captive audience of hostages.11 And there was irony in fact that so many secular intellectuals actually living in the Arab world should have regarded Said's Orientalism as a hostile text ammunition that their Islamist opponents fired off as proof of the innate hostility of the West toward the Muslims.12Islamists surprised Said and followers again in 1989. Rushdie, a novelist with an eye for influential critics, admired Said and shared the professor's political sympathies and antipathies. He also praised Said's courage. "Professor Said periodically receives threats to his safety from the Jewish Defense League in America," said Rushdie in 1986, "and I think it is important for us to appreciate that to be a Palestinian in New York ?in many ways the Palestinian is not the easiest of fates."13 But as it happened, Said's fate became infinitely preferable to Rushdie's, after Khomeini called for Rushdie's death in 1989. It was ironic that Rushdie, a post colonial literary lion of impeccable left-wing credentials, should have been made by some Muslims into the very personification of orientalist hostility to Islam. Just as ironic was the fact that Said ?who had stoked the fires of suspicion in the Muslim world ?had read Rushdie's book in manuscript and failed to see the risks in publishing it.14
There was still more irony in the tendency of some supporters of the death edict to invoke Orientalism and Covering Islam as evidence for the prosecution disregarding Said's personal posture of solidarity with the besieged novelist.Said later admitted that Orientalism's embrace by the Islamists was "the one aspect of the book's reception that I most regret," and that Orientalism could "only be read as a defense of Islam by suppressing half of my argument."15 But Said's surprise at this regular misappropriation of his work underlined his own failure to anticipate Islamism, and the ways it might make him complicit in its sweeping indictment of the West. In fact, it was easy for Islamists to suppress half of his argument because he made it sotto voce. In a new introduction to Covering Islam, fifteen years after the Iranian revolution inaugurated an era of excess in the name of Islam, the most criticism Said could muster was this: "recourse to a hazy fantasy of seventh-century Mecca as a panacea" was "an unattractive mix that it would be rank hypocrisy to deny."16 This reservation now stated, Said immediately proceeded to issue new indictments against American scholars and journalists who had tried to say something more. No wonder Islamists so readily discarded this half of his argument: in quantity and style, it seemed insubstantial and pro forma.In sum, Said was repeatedly surprised not only by the force of Islamism, but by the way Islamists recuperated his criticism of orientalism for their own purposes. As this failure of imagination became clearer, Said protested that it was not his business to explain any of the messy realities of the Muslim world: "I say explicitly in [Orientalism] that I have no interest in, much less capacity for, showing what the true Orient and Islam really are."17
His job was simply to criticize others. Following his lead, scholars merely repeated stale assurances that kidnappings, hijackings, bombings, and the infamous fatwa did not represent Islam ?without any explanation of why those Muslims who committed and applauded these acts thought otherwise.No one outside academe believed that American stereotypes were to blame for the Muslim movements that lived up to them. The expert refusal to narrate left a very wide field to those who would ?a handful of scholars and many more journalists who tried to interpret "unattractive" news that came out of parts of the Middle East during the 1980s. Whatever their shortcomings, at least this group of commentators did not answer every media query by accusing the media of distortion, or respond to every act of violence against Americans with denunciations of American ignorance and bias.In the 1980s, the refusal of the academics to move beyond their banalities set the scene for a revealing instance of intellectual poaching. As the Middle East filled front pages, Martin E. Marty, an authority on the history of American Christianity at the University of Chicago, came up with the idea of a project that would compare fundamentalisms. He then retailed this idea to the Chicago-based MacArthur Foundation and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Some of the most stimulating studies of Islamism came to be written under these auspices. Predictably, MERIP Reports and the MESA Bulletin published disdainful critiques of the Fundamentalism Project, but even Said had to acknowledge that the resulting five volumes included "often interesting papers."18
The Fundamentalism Project conveyed a subtle but powerful message: if the new leaders of Middle Eastern studies persisted in their refusal to address the issue of Islamism head-on, the organizing initiative would come from outside, and the overheads would go elsewhere.
Esposito's Islam
As the 1990s opened, the American public demanded a more substantial interpretation of Islamist movements. That demand was met by an academic entrepreneur who arrived from the far margins of Middle Eastern studies.During the first part of his career, John L. Esposito never studied or taught at a major Middle East center. He completed a doctorate in Islamic studies at Temple University in 1974 and then spent nearly twenty years teaching comparative religion and Islam at the College of the Holy Cross, a Jesuit college in Massachusetts. His early published work dealt with Pakistan and Muslim family law. Had he continued along this trajectory, he would have remained obscure even by the standards of Middle Eastern studies.But a fundamental transformation had occurred in the field, opening space at the center for someone positioned at the edge. The rank-and-file of MESA were drawn increasingly from academics like Esposito, at lesser universities and colleges. Many of them were teaching the most basic courses on Islam, with enrollments driven by bad news from the Middle East. They were on the lookout for sympathetic texts on Islam ?pitched lower than Orientalism, uncontaminated by anti-Americanisms, preferably even written by an American which they could use in their classes and recommend to their departmental colleagues. Esposito met the demand. In 1984, he published Islam and Politics, followed in 1988 by Islam: The Straight Path. These were the first of a series of unpretentious, clear, and favorable books on Islam that would become relative best-sellers and go through many editions. In 1988, Esposito was elected president of MESA.
Oxford University Press commissioned him to edit a four-volume encyclopedia of the modern Islamic world and seemed content to publish everything else he produced. In 1993, Esposito arrived at Georgetown University, where a Palestinian (Christian) donor endowed a Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, to support his work.19 In short order, Esposito assembled a group of like-minded colleagues ?two of them, like himself, past presidents of MESA. Grant money began to flow in for conferences and projects. By the mid-1990s, Esposito could claim to speak from the very summit of the field.Esposito understood that Said's message, despite its immense academic success, carried too much Palestinian, postcolonial, and progressive baggage. To move it beyond the campus, the message needed reformatting, with an ear to the American mainstream. If most of the wider American public respected an argument framed in the language of national interest or moral principles, Esposito would provide it. If most of the American public were amenable to the argument that religion deserved a place in public life, Esposito would make it. If most of the American public were concerned by the possible emergence of "the Islamic threat," he would get them to read his book by titling it The Islamic Threat.This technique owed much to his Muslim mentor.
At Temple University, Esposito had prepared his thesis under Ismail R. Faruqi, Palestinian pan-Islamist and theorist of the "Islamization of knowledge," around whom there had developed a personality cult. (Faruqi and his wife were later murdered by an unstable acolyte.) As the years progressed, Faruqi increasingly inhabited a gray zone between scholarship and political activism, his ideals growing ever more radical as he moved through successive stages of Islamist enlightenment. Faruqi opened the world of Islamist activism to Esposito, who was welcomed on Faruqi's recommendation in places as far-flung as Pakistan and Malaysia. Esposito, without choosing Islam, nonetheless became a convert to Faruqi's mission which, according to the former, consisted of "present[ing] Islam in Western categories to engage his audience as well as to make Islam more comprehensible and respected."20 Esposito embraced Faruqi's method. Americans would never understand a presentation of Islam in its own categories ?that would take more knowledge and empathy than most students, journalists, and officials could be expected to muster. But they might see Islam and Islamist movements more favorably, were they presented in Western categories. Fundamentalism was one such category, but it had strong pejorative associations, more likely to excite suspicion than respect. Why not place Islamist movements in the political category of participation, or even democratization?
The popularity of this idea within the field had roots in a widespread frustration. While other parts of the world democratized through the 1980s, the Muslim Middle East did not. While experts on Latin America, Eastern Europe, and Russia went off to advise new governments on the mechanics of democratic transition, the experts on the Middle East stayed home. Kings and presidents-for-life would not be moved; the most visible opposition movements called for an Islamic state. The Middle East looked like an exception, at a moment when "exceptionalism" was being denounced as an orientalist thought-crime.To resolve this anomaly, Esposito came forward to claim that Islamist movements were nothing other than movements of democratic reform. Only orientalist prejudice, of the kind dissected by Said, prevented American observers from seeing past external form to this inner quality. Americans would "have to transcend their narrow, ethnocentric conceptualization of democracy" to comprehend "Islamic democracy that might create effective systems of popular participation, though unlike the Westminster model or the American system."21 This idea that Americans suffered from an ethnocentric understanding of democracy soon reverberated throughout Middle Eastern studies. Historian Richard Bulliet, on-and-off director of the Middle East Institute at Columbia University (and self-described "consultant to the Department of State")22 declared (in a Washington conference) that the defining of democracy was part of "a world hegemonic discourse of Western cultural imperialism." He urged "the reshaping of the concept of democracy within world terms in which there is a dialogue of discourse and not simply a Western hegemonic discourse."23Armed with this indictment of American ethnocentrism, academic experts could now assert that every Islamist state or movement was either democratic or potentially democratic.
Historian John Voll, Esposito's closest collaborator (whom Esposito would bring to Georgetown from another remote outpost, the University of New Hampshire) appeared before a congressional committee in 1992, where he pleaded on behalf of Sudan a place without political parties, ruled by a military junta in league with an Islamist ideologue. Voll described the Sudanese regime as "an effort to create a consensual rather than a conflict format for popular political participation," and then delivered this opinion: "It is not possible, even using exclusively Western political experience as basis for definition, to state that if a system does not have two parties, it is not democratic."24 And so American congressmen were instructed by the president-elect of MESA that a country with no political parties, presided over by a coup-plotting general, ridden by civil war, with a per capita gross domestic product of $200, still might qualify somehow as a democracy. This was not deliberate self-parody; it was merely Esposito's logic advanced ad absurdum.As for Islamist violence, this was deemed beyond the bounds of approved research. Dwelling upon it would only reinforce stereotypes. After all, announced Esposito, "most" Islamic movements had reached the conclusion that violence was "counterproductive." "They speak of the need to prepare people for an Islamic order rather than to impose it."25 Therefore, promised Esposito, the violence that had marred the 1980s would recede, and "the nineties will prove to be a decade of new alliances and alignments in which the Islamic movements will challenge rather than threaten their societies and the West."26
Yet despite these assurances, there seemed to be no shortage in the 1990s of Islamists still prepared to live up to orientalist expectations. Acolytes of shaykhs angry at America continued to plant massive bombs ?inside the World Trade Center in New York, near an American barracks in al-Khobar, outside American embassies in Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam. Tourists in Luxor, bus riders in Tel Aviv, and pedestrians in Algiers all became the targets of lethal and indiscriminate attacks. Not all of the Islamists ?perhaps not even "most" of them ?had heard that violence was "counterproductive."Whenever such an act occurred, scholars who had promised a waning of the violence entered a state of denial. After the World Trade Center bombing, Columbia's Richard Bulliet organized a conference ?not to explain the appearance of terrorism in his city, but to confront "a new anti-Semitism" against Muslims, driven by "the propensities of the non-elite news media to over-publicize, hype, and sell hostility to Islam." These media were the real fanatics. "Some Muslims from New York are going to be tried for seditious conspiracy to commit criminal acts," he warned ominously. "A guilty verdict will send a chill of fear throughout America."27 This was typical of the hyperbole popularized by Said ?and it was just as misplaced. When "some Muslims" eventually were found guilty, there was no chill of fear, and no new anti-Semitism. Americans, in their basic fairness and respect for due process, saw the bombing trial as a straightforward criminal case. In their coverage of the arrests and trial, "non-elite" journalists and commentators again outperformed the tabloid academics, who had been indoctrinated by Said to expect only the worst from America beyond the campus.From the Islamists, these same scholars expected only the best. Islamists were either moderate or moderating, moving steadily toward a rational accommodation with changing reality. The Palestinian Hamas was a case in point.
In 1993, Foreign Affairs opened its pages to Bulliet, who considered the "possibility that a Hamas campaign of violence could cause the Rabin government to fall and return the Likud Party to power." Given the track record of Hamas, this did look like a cause for concern. "But that outcome seems unlikely," Bulliet reassured his readers, "since it would amount to Israel playing into the hands of the spoilers. Violence, therefore, will probably be deemed too great a risk by Hamas leaders."28 The prophet did prophesy falsely: two years later, a violent campaign of suicide bombings by Hamas did return the Likud to power, with implications for the balance of the decade. Academics blinded by the paradigms of Said and Esposito continued to be surprised not only by America, where they lived, but by the Middle East, which they studied. Still, the expectations of their academic milieu remained very predictable, and as long as they met them, they remained safe and secure behind its impenetrable defenses.

Muslim Luthers
Were there any Muslim activists who deserved to be explained, and not just explained away? Yes: the leading lights in the "Islamic reformation."The idea of "Islamic reformation" perfectly fit the agenda of presenting Islam in Western categories. It first surfaced in journalistic usage."Islam is now at a pivotal and profound moment of evolution," wrote the journalist Robin Wright in 1992, "a juncture increasingly equated with the Protestant Reformation."29 Islam was experiencing "a new spirit of reform," she wrote in 1993, "addressing some of the same issues ?such as the relationship between church and state ?central to the 16th-century Christian Reformation."30 "The reformers' impact is not merely academic," she wrote in 1996. "By stimulating some of the most profound debate since Islam's emergence in the seventh century, they are laying the foundations for an Islamic Reformation."31The analogy received academic legitimacy two years later. It came not from Esposito, whose base within a Jesuit-run institution effectively ruled out his deployment of the Reformation trope. Instead it came from Dale Eickelman, a Dartmouth anthropologist. "If my suspicion is correct," he wrote in an article entitled "Inside the Islamic Reformation," "we will look back on the latter half of the twentieth century as a time of change as profound for the Muslim world as the Protestant Reformation was for Christendom."32
This was exciting news for the practitioners of Middle Eastern studies, who were frustrated by the sheer persistence of old leaders, old orders, and old conflicts. Now they, too ?so they persuaded themselves ?were witnessing the most important moments in Islam since its revelation, or at least (in Bulliet's words) "the most exciting period in Islamic religious history since the twelfth century."33Did Eickelman and others realize that the heralding of an "Islamic reformation" echoed a classic orientalist trope? Nearly forty years ago, the political scientist Manfred Halpern criticized orientalists "because they often sympathetically, but perhaps with Christian parochialism no less than forbearance, await a Moslem reconsideration of Islamic theology as a sign of an Islamic Reformation and hence neglect the social and political revolution that instead is under way."34 A. L. Tibawi, an earlier (Muslim) critic of orientalist scholarship, also writing nearly forty years ago, was genuinely offended. "Orientalists, and more particularly those who are Protestants, cannot free themselves from what might be called the inevitability of the Reformation," he complained. Western anticipation of a Protestant-like reformation insinuated what earlier Western polemicists openly denounced as Islam's "falsehoods" and "defects."35 "Orientalists mask their distaste for their subject by calling for reform," observed MERIP's indictment of Middle Eastern studies twenty years later. "Islam needs a thoroughgoing Reformation of its own in order to gain vitality and meaning," to exit a state of "weakness, inadequacy, and stagnation."36
The resort to the Reformation comparison in the 1990s was but one more example of how academics kept recycling old analogies, probably without even being aware of it.But for the Reformation analogy to be persuasive, there had to be identifiable reformers. A major project of Middle Eastern studies in the 1990s thus became the quest for a thinker who would nail his theses to the mosque door. In the early 1990s, the searchers fixed upon Rashid al-Ghannushi, an exiled Tunisian philosophy teacher and leader of that country's Islamist movement, in whose writings some heard an echo of support for pluralism. Ghannushi once spent six months speaking and travelling in the United States, and Esposito, for one, pinned high hopes on him.37 Something of the exalted reputation of Ghannushi in academic circles was conveyed by a course description of an offering on democratic theory at Tufts University, where students would examine the thought of "Ghannoushi, Habermas, Havel, Huntington, Jefferson, Madison."38 But on closer listening, one could also hear disturbing echoes in Ghannushi's line, especially his fierce denunciations of conspiracies by "Jewish Masonic Zionist atheistic gangs," and his expressions of support for some of the least accommodating Islamists.39
This kind of rhetoric tended to obscure whatever innovation could be detected in his writings.In the mid-1990s, the spotlight fell upon the Tehran University philosopher Abdolkarim Soroush, a disillusioned son in the revolution. "Supporters and critics now call him the Martin Luther of Islam," gushed Robin Wright, "a man whose ideas on religion and democracy could bridge the chasm between Muslim societies and the rest of the world."40 Soroush was an American academic's dream, who mixed his Islamic sources with citations from Hume and Kant, Kuhn and Popper. The enthusiasm of the academics even got him an article in Time. ("He has the West paying attention, too," the magazine confided. "The Council on Foreign Relations in New York recently issued a 56-page study devoted to Soroush's political thought.")41 Most American academics got a chance to hear the philosopher on one of his American lecture tours. But Soroush (whose courage was undeniable) did not appear to have a substantial following in Iran, where few people beyond university campuses understood his obtuse method of reconciling disparate thought.In the late 1990s, the mantle briefly settled upon the shoulders of Muhammad Shahrur, a Syrian civil engineer who had published an 800-page tract on the Qur'an in 1990. "A publishing event is sweeping the Middle East," enthused Eickelman in a 1993 piece for the MESA Bulletin. "From the Arab Gulf to Morocco a modernist, not to say liberal, interpretation of the Qur'an by a Syrian civil engineer who interprets his own scriptures has become a best-seller." Shahrur's 800-page tome was an appeal for the application of human reason to the Qur'an, much in the spirit of the "Islamization of knowledge."
Eickelman suggested the book might be "an intellectual equivalent in the Arab world to Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind."42 But five years later, he offered a far more ambitious analogy: "Shahrur's book may one day be seen as a Muslim equivalent of the 95 Theses that Martin Luther nailed to the door of the Wittenberg Castle church in 1517."43 In 1998, Eickelman brought Shahrur to Chicago, where he was unveiled before an assembled MESA conference. Few were impressed.It is a recurring theme: the Western sympathizer sets out for the East in search of a Muslim thinker, who is then presented to Western audiences as forerunner of a great reformation. The English poet-explorer Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, the Victorian enthusiast for Islam, set the first precedent more than a century ago, when he announced that the ideas of Jamal al-Din "al-Afghani," the Iranian activist and philosopher, "stood in close analogy to what we have seen of the re-awakening of the Christian intellect during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in Europe."44 Afghani once allowed one of his admirers to introduce him to a London audience with these words: "He is the Luther of the new Reformation, and I trust that he will persuade the English people to move their Government in our favour."45 Each of the Muslim Luthers of the 1990s was seized upon and discarded by American enthusiasts in rapid succession, as it became clear that none of them could "deliver," at least not in the ways expected by their foreign admirers. Traditional Muslims were bound to reject them, believing like Tibawi that "perceptible 'reform' cannot be effected in the doctrines of the faith without diminishing or canceling their validity."46 Nontraditional Muslims did not need them either. "Secularization is already a de facto reality," wrote one of them, the Moroccan scholar Abdou Filali-Ansari, even though "the equivalent of the Christian Reformation" was "far from having been achieved."47
But rather than focus upon that de facto reality, America's Middle East experts remained obsessed with a handful of Muslim "thinkers," who were debating issues in principle that had been resolved in practice.The reality of secularization owed nothing to the Muslim thinkers paraded on American lecture tours. It owed everything to the state. Muslim liberalism "still has many voices, some of them very creative and of considerable talent," historian Aziz Al-Azmeh acknowledged, "but the most important [one] is the Arab state, which has embraced Islamic modernism as its own."48 American academics, by their preoccupation with would-be Luthers, succumbed to the occupational hazard of overestimating the role of intellectuals. And by discounting the state, they failed to discern the deeper processes of state-generated and state-sanctioned secularization that had expanded the scope for social change, and would block the ascent of Islamism to power.

Vested Interests
By the end of the 1990s, Islamism seemed less like the dawn of a new age and more like a lunge for power that had failed. It was a Frenchman, Olivier Roy, who as early as 1994 had the courage to publish a book entitled The Failure of Political Islam and to write of the Middle East as having entered the stage of "post-Islamism."49But few in the United States had any interest in concurring; for while political Islam may have failed in the Middle East, it had been a spectacular success in American academe. The high profile it had conferred upon certain scholars had produced tenure, grants, book contracts, and even directorships of centers. Yvonne Haddad, another MESA president stabled at Esposito's center, admitted that "since 1979 many members of MESA have had a meteoric rise in their careers." One of her colleagues confided to her "that if someone were tracking his achievements he should have a stamp engraved on his forehead reading 'Made by Khomeini.'"50 "Islam has become the center of political and moral discourse throughout the Islamic world," announced Columbia's Bulliet, adding: "Right prediction, it seems, has its rewards."51
In a paradoxical way, these academics needed the "clash of civilizations." Strife sustained the flow of rewards. After all, it was now their responsibility to sustain the institutions of Middle Eastern studies that they had seized. How many resources within the university could they command if their phones stopped ringing and their deans did not see and hear them quoted in the national newspapers and on public radio? And how would enrollments hold up if Muslim movements failed to hit the headlines? When Bulliet at Columbia taught "The History of Islamic Society, from Muhammad to the 20th Century," or Voll at Georgetown taught "Islam and the West," were they not banking on the eternal appeal of the orientalist cliche? Who needed reified Islam now?"For the foreseeable future," predicted Esposito in 1997, "the conditions and issues that have spawned Islamic revivalism and political Islam will continue. . . . Understanding the nature, record, and potential impact of political Islam is more critical than ever."52 "I see no reason to suspect that the appeal of political Islam, in some form, will lessen in the coming years," Bulliet told a Washington conference in 1998. Quite the opposite: Islamic politics, he announced, would "become increasingly important in our pondering of American policies toward the Islamic world."53
These were plausible arguments ?but only if terrorists like Osama bin Laden were included under the rubric of political Islam. After all, the edicts of bin Laden, not the tomes of the "reformers," had the most "potential impact" on America and its policies.But in the 1990s, as in the 1980s, the academics refused to study those very Muslims whose radical interpretations of Islam put them on a collision course with America. Bin Laden was a case in point. The academics were so preoccupied with "Muslim Martin Luthers" that they never got around to producing a single serious analysis of bin Laden and his indictment of America.54 Bin Laden's actions, statements, and videos were an embarrassment to academics who had assured Americans that "political Islam" was retreating from confrontation. If they mentioned bin Laden at all, it was to dismiss his influence. "Focusing on Osama bin Laden," wrote Esposito in 1998, "risk[s] catapulting one of many sources of terrorism to center stage, distorting both the diverse international sources (state and nonstate, non-Muslim and Muslim) of terrorism as well as the significance of a single individual."55 Potential sources of terrorism may have been diverse, but there could be no doubt by 1998 which source had the most "potential impact" on America, and which source was most likely to seize "center stage."And so while the academics brooded over the "diversity" of terrorist threats, it was left to journalists and terrorism experts to follow the bin Laden trail and predict the dangerous trajectory of his school of political Islam. The academics then protested against the worrisome conclusions of other experts and dismissed the warning signs. "The threat of terrorism has spawned a big industry, and has struck fear and horror in the American psyche," complained Sarah Lawrence professor Fawaz Gerges, whose book on U.S. policy toward Islamic movements was inspired by the Esposito paradigm:
Should not observers and academics keep skeptical about the U.S. government's assessment of the terrorist threat? To what extent do terrorist "experts" indirectly perpetuate this irrational fear of terrorism by focusing too much on farfetched horrible scenarios? Does the terrorist industry, consciously or unconsciously, exaggerate the nature and degree of the terrorist threat to American citizens?56

It was easy to envision multitudes of academics nodding in agreement. Gerges published his complaint exactly six months before terrorists brought down the World Trade Center.In retrospect, the new elite in Middle Eastern studies had failed to ask the right questions, at the right times, about Islamism. They underestimated its impact in the 1980s; they misrepresented its role in the early 1990s; and they glossed over its growing potential for terrorism against America in the late 1990s. Twenty years of denial had produced mostly banalities about American bias and ignorance, and fantasies about Islamists as democratizers and reformers. These contributed to the public complacency about terrorism that ultimately left the United States vulnerable to "surprise" attack by Islamists. But there was no serious debate over Islamism within the field itself. Middle Eastern studies were so heavily invested in one interpretation that few dared to challenge the collective migration from one error to another. Dissent could be found only in think tanks that encouraged it, and in the Middle East itself, among intellectuals with a nearer and more acute angle of vision on Islamism in practice.Even before the catastrophe of September 11, 2001, some portions of the general public had begun to write off academic "expertise" on political Islam. The loss of public confidence reflected the yawning gap between the actual conduct of Islamist movements and their representation by the academy. The camp led by Esposito assured America that "most Islamic movements are not necessarily anti-Western, anti-American, or anti-democratic."57 But as an exasperated Gerges admitted, "time and again, Islamists have proven to be their own worst enemies" by "being equivocal about democratic norms, human rights, peaceful relations with the West, and the use of terror in the pursuit of domestic political goals."58
Most Americans could tell that the professors were engaged in special pleading, a suspicion confirmed by the countless discrepancies between academic punditry and Islamist word and deed. How long would it take for this failure to register within the academy? The academics ?remote from the Middle East, distant from Washington, accountable to no one ?could probably muddle through another decade without a reckoning. As long as they engaged in the ritual of condemning the public, the media, and the government for ignorance of Islam, they could be reasonably assured of the solidarity of their guild. But by the middle of the 1990s, the contraction of Islamist movements had left a vacuum in Middle Eastern studies. What would fill it? Salvation seemed to reside in the discovery of "civil society." The result would be yet another lavishly funded intellectual failure, on a scale only America could afford.

1 Leonard Binder, Islamic Liberalism: A Critique of Development Ideologies (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988), pp. 120-21.
2 Edward W. Said, Orientalism (New York: Pantheon Books, 1978), pp. 107, 225, 316.
3 Ibid., p. 107.
4 Review of Orientalism by Malcolm H. Kerr, International Journal of Middle East Studies 12, no. 4 (December 1980), p. 545.
5 Edward W. Said, Covering Islam (New York: Pantheon Books, 1981), pp. 52-53. "Not that there really is not an Islamic revival independent of the reactive process." There was ?but to Said, it was not clear whether the terms "Islam" or "Islamic" did justice to its diversity.
6 Lisa Appignanesi and Sara Maitland, eds., The Rushdie File (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1990), p. 165.
7 Said, Orientalism, p. 294.
8 [Peter Johnson and Judith Tucker], "Middle East Studies Network in the United States," MERIP Reports 38 (1975), p. 15.
9 "Inaugural Address of President Malcolm H. Kerr," December 3, 1982, AUB Bulletin 25, no. 4 (December 13, 1982).
10 Another irony was to follow, for at an opportune moment Said completely reversed his view of the American universities in the Middle East. "The modern American university seems the last utopian place," he told an interviewer in 1997, "a liberal ideal that has helped the Middle East, in its manifestations in Cairo and Beirut." See "Conversations with Outstanding Americans: Edward Said," Christian Science Monitor, May 27, 1997. The reassessment was timely. In 1999, Said collected an honorary doctorate from the American University in Cairo, and was received enthusiastically by a crowd of 1,000 at the American University of Beirut."The atmosphere was almost like a carnival," reported the Beirut Daily Star (July 7, 1999).
11 "A few English books were brought for us to read," recalled Rev. Benjamin Weir, one of the hostages of Islamic Jihad. "In one way or another they all centered on topics the guards thought we ought to know. Some of the books were about the Iranian revolution, others about the history and development of Shiite religious thought. One book, by a Columbia University professor, dealt with the misunderstanding of Islam in the West." Benjamin and Carol Weir (with Dennis Benson), Hostage Bound, Hostage Free (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1987), p. 156. More specifically: "There became available a few books in English, provided not only for our recreational interest but presumably for our education. There was Edward Said's Covering Islam." See Benjamin M. Weir, "Reflections of a Former Hostage on Causes of Terrorism,"Arab Studies Quarterly 9, no. 2 (Spring 1987), p. 157.
12 See in particular the criticism of Said by the Syrian philosopher Sadiq Jalal al-Azm, "Orientalism and Orientalism in Reverse," Khamsin 8 (1981), pp. 5-26.
13 Salman Rushdie, "On Palestinian Identity: A Conversation with Edward Said," in his Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism, 1981-1991 (London: Granta Books, 1991), p. 171.
14 Said read the book in typescript. "He didn't anticipate what Khomeini would do," said Said of Rushdie. "My impression was he was expecting the novel to have an impact. He said it would shake up the Muslims. But he never expected it to bring about a threat to his life." See W. J. Weatherby, Salman Rushdie: Sentenced to Death (New York: Carroll and Graf, 1990), p. 108. Nowhere does Said say he himself thought that publication of the text might endanger Rushdie.
15 Afterword to 1994 edition of Said, Orientalism, pp. 330, 332.
16 Introduction to 1997 Vintage Books edition of Said, Covering Islam, p. xv.
17 Afterword to 1994 edition of Said, Orientalism, p. 331.
18 Introduction to 1997 Vintage Books edition of Said, Covering Islam, p. xvii.
19 John L. Esposito, "A Man and His Vision," in Hasib Sabbagh: From Palestinian Refugee to Citizen of the World, ed. Mary Jane Deeb and Mary E. King (Washington, D.C.: The Middle East Institute, 1996), pp. 71-82. "Georgetown University declined requests for exact funding information," reported a sympathetic news item in 1996. Eleanor Kennelly, "Catholic Georgetown Mecca for Islamic Study," Metropolitan Times, February 7, 1996.
20 Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World, s.v. "Faruqi, Isma'il al-Raji" (John L. Esposito).
21 John O. Voll and John L. Esposito, "Islam's Democratic Essence," Middle East Quarterly 1, no. 3 (September 1994), p. 11.
22 Bio in Timothy D. Sisk, Islam and Democracy: Religion, Politics, and Power in the Middle East (Washington, D.C.: United States Institute of Peace, 1992), p. 84.
23 Quoted in ibid., p. 59.
24 Hearing statement of John Voll, May 20, 1992, Subcommittee on Africa of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, House of Representatives, Islamic Fundamentalism in Africa and Implications for U.S. Policy (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1993), pp. 65-72.
25 John L. Esposito, The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality? (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), p. 166.
26 Ibid., p. 207.
27 Richard W. Bulliet, "Rhetoric, Discourse, and the Future of Hope," in Under Siege: Islam and Democracy, ed. Richard W. Bulliet (New York: Middle East Institute of Columbia University, 1994), pp. 4, 7.
28 Richard W. Bulliet, "The Future of the Islamic Movement," Foreign Affairs 72, no. 5 (November-December 1993), p. 43.
29 Robin Wright, "Islam, Democracy, and the West," Foreign Affairs 71, no. 3 (Summer 1992), p. 133.
30 Robin Wright, "Muslims Open Up to Modern World," Los Angeles Times, April 6, 1993.
31 Robin Wright, "Islam and Liberal Democracy: Two Visions of Reformation," Journal of Democracy 7, no. 2 (April 1996), p. 64.
32 Dale F. Eickelman, "Inside the Islamic Reformation," Wilson Quarterly 22, no. 1 (Winter 1998), p. 82.
33 Bulliet, quoted in Sisk, Islam and Democracy, p. 60.
34 Manfred Halpern, "Middle Eastern Studies: A Review of the State of the Field with a Few Examples," World Politics 15, no. 1 (October 1962), p. 116.
35 A. L. Tibawi, "English-Speaking Orientalists: A Critique of Their Approach to Islam and Arab Nationalism: Part 1," Islamic Quarterly 8, nos. 1-2 (January-June 1964), p. 41; idem, "Second Critique of English-Speaking Orientalists and Their Approach to Islam and the Arabs,"Islamic Quarterly 23, no. 1 (January-March 1979), p. 6. The notion of an "Islamic reformation" was simply "another attempt to change the Muslim view of Islam, and to bring it as near as possible to Christianity, or, better still, to the Protestant form of Christianity."
36 [Johnson and Tucker], "Middle East Studies Network," p. 20.
37 "Symposium: Resurgent Islam in the Middle East," Middle East Policy 3, no. 2 (1994), pp. 15-16.
38 Course on "The Future of Democracy," offered by the Tufts University Education for Public Inquiry and International Citizenship, MSANEWS/199701/19970121.9.html
39 All these themes recur at length in an interview by IntraView, February 10, 1998,
40 Robin Wright, "Islam's Theory of Relativity," Los Angeles Times, January 27, 1995.
41 Scott Macleod, "Democracy vs. the Ayatullahs: Abdelkarim Soroush Challenges Iran's Regime," Time, June 23, 1997. The reference is to the report by Valla Vakili, "Debating Religionand Politics in Iran: The Political Thought of Abdolkarim Soroush," Council on Foreign Relations, January 1996.
42 Dale Eickelman, "Islamic Liberalism Strikes Back," MESA Bulletin 27, no. 2 (December 1993), p. 167.
43 Eickelman, "Inside the Islamic Reformation," p. 84.
44 Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, Secret History of the English Occupation of Egypt (London: Unwin 1907), p. 102.
45 Quoted in Nikki R. Keddie, Sayyid Jamal ad-Din "al-Afghani": A Political Biography (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972), p. 359.
46 Tibawi, "English-Speaking Orientalists," p. 42.
47 Abdou Filali-Ansari, "Islam and Secularism," in Islam, Modernism and the West, ed. Gema Mart抧 Mu杘z (London: I.B. Tauris, 1999), pp. 133-34.
48 Aziz Al-Azmeh, Islam and Modernities (London: Verso, 1993), p. 33.
49 Olivier Roy, The Failure of Political Islam, trans. Carol Volk (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994).
50 Yvonne Y. Haddad, "Middle East Area Studies: Current Concerns and Future Directions" (1990 Presidential Address), MESA Bulletin 25, no. 1 (July 1991), pp. 1-2.
51 Richard W. Bulliet, "Twenty Years of Islamic Politics," Middle East Journal 53, no. 2 (Spring 1999), p. 190.
52 John L. Esposito, "Introduction," in Political Islam: Revolution, Radicalism, or Reform?, ed. John L. Esposito (Boulder: Lynne Rienner: 1997), p. 13.
53 Bulliet, "Twenty Years of Islamic Politics," p. 195. This was the keynote speech presented at the annual conference of the Middle East Institute.
54 For the lone (and telling) exception, see Bernard Lewis, "License to Kill: Usama bin Ladin's Declaration of Jihad," Foreign Affairs 77, no. 6 (November/December 1998), pp. 14-19.
55 Esposito added mention of bin Laden to the third edition of his book, The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality? Full text at
56 Fawaz A. Gerges, "The Ultimate Terrorist: Myth or Reality?" Daily Star (Beirut), March 12, 2001. His book: America and Political Islam: Clash of Cultures or Clash of Interests? (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999).
57 Esposito, The Islamic Threat, p. 212.
58 Gerges, America and Political Islam, pp. 241-42.