July 25, 2006

AZIZ POONAWALLA ON THE BARRETT AFFAIR:

This is an affront to me on multiple levels of identity – as a muslim, sure, but also as a proud Badger alumni . . . My beef isn’t with Barrett’s comments – hey, free speech, whatever – but rather that they reveal a mentality that is very dangerous for a professor teaching introductory Islam. Barrett has a clear agenda and is going to use his class as a vehicle for it. Rather than be taught about the great history of jihad, the critically differing interpretations of it between (as an example) the Umaiyyads and the Fatimids, the students will be taught a bland version of the concept that ultimately takes away the power of jihad as a principle of Islam.

This is my beef with progressivism in general – it seeks to neutralize the power of faith and the vibrancy and potency of its ideas. Islam is not easy. It isn’t meant to be distilled into coffee-cup aphorisms or worn on the sleeve. It’s not a pet cause to be trotted out in service of political posturing. It means something, it has a real depth and a real heft, but people like Barrett (and bin Laden) cannot allow that wondrous complexity to distract their audience from their own petty agendas.

Perhaps the University of Wisconsin should hire Aziz. It would have to be an improvement!

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