Robert Spencer, Patrick Sookhdeo and me

It seems I’ve been getting a lot of referrals from the ghosts of the American right-wing Islamophobic blogosphere lately, as shown in my Incoming Links on my control panel. They all had to do with my brief exchange with Ben White a year or so ago, who tipped me off that he had reviewed a book by Patrick Sookhdeo. Without having read it, I posted an entry titled “Review of rotten book by the SookhDevil”. I didn’t feel the need to actually read the man’s books, because I’d seen so many of his gibberish articles in the Spectator and Evening Standard and knew exactly what the book would contain.

Nowadays, I don’t bother refuting nonsense on Islamophobic blogs. They are not as important as they were at the moment anyway, now that the explosion of interest in them prompted by 9/11 has died down a bit. The movement has fragmented considerably, with Spencer and Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs (I had to struggle to remember his name) having fallen out because the latter wasn’t willing to go buddy-buddy with European fascists (he fell out with others because he was unwilling to entertain “birther” conspiracy theories). There had been other fallings-out, notably over the Schiavo case which split the “Bush liberals” like Johnson from the hardcore conservatives. LGF itself is a shadow of its former self, covered in intrusive adverts which it certainly wasn’t in 2004.

Spencer wrote this review of Sookhdeo’s most recent book earlier this week. In it, he drew attention to an exchange of comments we had back in 2004 on his blog, when I was more zealous about defending Islam from people like him than I am now. Today, I am more interested in defending Muslims in this country from defamation in the British press and from the likes of the EDL; I also have other interests. The review was cross-posted to Front Page Magazine, but so far I’ve had no referrals from there (I’ve had a total of 25 from Jihad Watch).

His article read:

The venomous antisemite and historical revisionist Ben White attacked the book in an odd review that noted correctly that Sookhdeo contended that “the primary motivation of terrorists and suicide bombers is theological” and then purported to refute that contention not by showing that Sookhdeo had misrepresented Islamic theology, but that jihadists cited political issues in their communiques — thus demonstrating only that Ben White has no clue whatsoever about the inherently political character of Islamic theology.

This was enough, however, for the Islamic supremacist blogger Yusuf Smith (Indigo Jo), who showed up here a few years back in a most illuminating exchange (read the comments), to dub Sookhdeo “the Sookhdevil” — resulting in Sookhdeo being threatened with death by some of Indigo Jo’s coreligionists. Yusuf did not, of course, call them devils.

Actually, the reason I called him that is because his articles, such as Will London Burn Too? ([1], [2], [3], [4]) contained outright falsehoods, such as this particularly ludicrous one:

Migrant Muslim communities in the West are constantly engaged in sacralising new areas — first the inner private spaces of their homes and mosques, and latterly whole neighbourhoods (e.g., Birmingham) by means of marches and processions. So the ultimate end of sacred space theology is autonomy for Muslims of the UK under Islamic law.

Apart from the fact that most Muslims in the UK nowadays are not “migrants” but citizens, and the obvious geographical absurdity of calling Birmingham a neighbourhood when it is in fact a large city (I still marvel that this got past the editorial staff), the fact is that marches are not used to sacralise space in Islam at all. In fact, they have no ritual significance. They are used for political demonstrations and by one section of the community (Brelvis) to celebrate the Prophet’s (sall’ Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) birth. The claim Sookhdeo makes is plainly false, baseless and malicious and was obviously made to stoke hostility. How do his supporters explain this?

As for why I never called those who made the alleged threats “devils”, I have nothing to do with them. I do not know if they exist or if any threats were made, or if they were made on the basis of things they had read here. Given the above, we cannot really rely on claims that Sookhdeo or his supporters make. It was given undue prominence by being repeated as fact by Melanie Phillips in the Spectator in March 2009, but that does not make it true.

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