Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Alten Takes on Kevin "Hang 'em All" Barrett

The author Steve Alten was on Kevin Barrett's radio show last night. It frequently got quite weird, because although Barrett was trying to push his book, Alten, who is Jewish and a supporter of Israel, was obviously uncomfortable talking to someone who doesn't believe Israel has a right to exist, and that there is no such thing as Islamic extremism.

The whole interview has this surreal quality, but probably no part more so than when Barrett declares that the Islamic Wahabbi sect, known even among most Muslims as an extreme interpretation was in fact the pro-Western faction.

Actually, as an Islamologist, I have been studying this stuff, and actually they have nothing against the west at all. The Wahhabi movement is actually pretty conservative in supporting this nasty corrupt Saudi monarchy that you depict fairly accurately I am afraid to say, but the Wahhabi movement is far from radical, it is extremely conservative, and it is extremely pro-US.

While he may be semantically correct in that it is more accurate to call them conservative than radical, in this case it makes little difference. To somehow conclude from this that this makes them pro-western is just bizarre. As describes the history of Wahhabism:

Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab's emphasis on the oneness of God was asserted in contradistinction to shirk, or polytheism, defined as the act of associating any person or object with powers that should be attributed only to God. He condemned specific acts that he viewed as leading to shirk, such as votive offerings, praying at saints' tombs and at graves, and any prayer ritual in which the suppliant appeals to a third party for intercession with God. Particularly objectionable were certain religious festivals, including celebrations of the Prophet's birthday, Shia mourning ceremonies, and Sufi mysticism. Consequently, the Wahhabis forbid grave markers or tombs in burial sites and the building of any shrines that could become a locus of shirk.

His instructions in the matter of extending his religious teaching by force were strict. All unbelievers (i.e. Moslems who did not accept his teaching, as well as Christians, &c.) were to be put to death. Immediate entrance into Paradise was promised to his soldiers who fell in battle, and it is said that each soldier was provided with a written order from Ibn 'Abd ul-Wahhab to the gate-keeper of heaven to admit him forthwith. In this way the new teaching was established in the greater part of Arabia until its power was broken by Mehemet Ali. Ibn'Abd ul-Wahhab is said to have died in 1791.

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