Tuesday, August 02, 2011

What we say counts

You know, I started writing this post, in part as a response to a couple of my senior male colleagues who have been showing their asses on the internet so much lately that they might as well wear kilts. And you know? I can't be arsed.

It makes no sense to try to prove that there is no Unified Muslim Plan for total Jihad by Migration. It also makes no sense to try to prove that Muslims *don't* want others to convert.

BUT

converting the unbeliever is also part of the Christian mission. Christians are still flocking all over the world to barely industrialized countries and trying to convert the natives. Why is going into a country as missionaries, not planning on settling permanently, and making new Christians NOT jihad, but Muslims who move to new countries, taking their families and settling down and joining a new society MUST be waging jihad?


Jon Dresner offers a possible answer, and it has to do with colonialism and imperialism and how they affect the imperialists

8 comments:

Jonathan Dresner said...

Thanks for the link! I do think that our current domestic political panic has a great deal to do with imperial overstretch anxieties (also, sex panic), and the lack of self-reflective perspective is deeply disturbing, especially when it afflicts the historically literate.

Historian on the Edge said...

I really like Jonathan Dresner's post - not least because it says (sort of) one of the things I was trying to say in my 'Beyond the Invasion Narrative' sessions.
But once again it shows that academics have to *think* and *be careful* about how they express themselves because words are powerful things with lives of their own beyond the academy (thus writing for mass audiences requires even more, not less, care). Sadly, one is evidently not allowed to point this out or to express anger about the irresponsibility of certain authors, or even float the possibility that they might belong to the right, in the UK. So much for freedom of speech.

Jonathan Dresner said...

Thanks! I love the Barbarian narrative post -- I'm very sorry not to have heard the live version! -- both for the connection to what we're talking about here as well as providing a wonderfully clear set of points I can use in my upcoming World history lectures (I'm doing World to 1500 again after a 4 year hiatus, and ADM's been helping me with medieval stuff).

The hard part, in the long run, is going to be convincing people to treat culture, states, economies and civilization as something dynamic and unstable even when things seem to be staying the same for long periods. All periods are periods of transition, as I've sometimes said in class.

Another Damned Medievalist said...

I think it's true here, too. And also not so true in either place. I think the issue is to be able to critique and criticise without coming across like a jerk who personalizes things. My gut feeling is that we have several sets of rules and standards operating now, and some people are really trying to get a grip on what things like blogging mean with regards to our professional identities. There are people out there who clearly see the advantage of being able to reach huge audiences, but don't get that that access also means that we have more and different responsibilities than when we only spoke to colleagues, students, and the occasional Rotary Club meeting. If rl were peddling this stuff in a pre-internet way, he'd be marginalized and would only be talking to nutcases. At best, people would say he had once been a good scholar, but some of his new stuff... well ...

And in that same vein, I think your critiques of some of our colleagues would have made many people uncomfortable, but as long as they were not too public, people would have clucked and tutted, but generally just could chalk it up to academic rivalry. They might suggest that you take a page from WP's book -- be charming, not confrontational, as you point out the errors.

But the public forum makes people far less comfortable. It's too much like airing dirty laundry. There's no plausible deniability. People feel they have to take sides, and our world is still a very small one in terms of the people we associate with IRL. And the idea that non-academics might be listening to anything we say hasn't sunk in, because for may f our colleagues, the main means of communication is the monograph. The idea that someone might be writing their theories online, without peer review, and have those things read by non-specialists? Surely you jest!

Annelise said...

Interesting comparison. It's amazing how racial difference plays such a large part in the perception of Islam, and so unfair to be suspicious of apolitical Middle Eastern migrants.

You're right that 'Christian culture' has proven itself to have political potential, too many times over. In the Middle East particularly, people will not soon forget the Crusades or equate choosing to be a Christian with anything but European empire.

A positive point in Muslim expansion history is that it often seems to have adapted to the cultures it's overtaken. Arabisation is innate, but there's also great diversity in the 'Muslim world'- and sometimes a fair level of tolerance for other co-existing (monotheistic) religions. The greatest issue for me is that conversion from Islam carries a death penalty, which seems to be considered applicable even by some who otherwise promote 'inner (spiritual) warfare' instead of political jihad.

The New Testament documents clearly do not suggest a political, violent 'kingdom of God': they go to such effort to redefine the nature of that kingdom, and of the Messianic expectation. Very little in common with 'Christendom' and the European 'civilising mission'. Sharing with people what you believe to be true, good and important can be either political or relational, in the case of any religion... So while 'trying to convert the natives' is very wrong, it may not be fair to stereotype deliberate sharing of any belief (historical, philosophical, religious or otherwise) as a political or racist phenomenon.

Cultures are always changing, flowing in and out of each other and the experiences of their people. Every culture should definitely be challenged on some points, but learnt from and celebrated in others! Australian culture has a lot to gain from Middle Eastern ways of thinking and relating :)

Annelise said...

P.S. Also, there are Muslims from outside the Middle East as well of course... Yet my closest Muslim friends happen to be from there, thus the generalisation. Sorry!

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