I thank Dr MacEoin for his time and for his kind reply to my criticism and series of questions concerning his Policy Exchange’s report. Dr MacEoin replies below to my questions (I supposed in a very hasty way) :
Oh, this is so silly. The report makes it clear that teams of young Mudslims [sic] visited the mosques and bought or were given the materials that served as the basis for the study. They obtained receipts everywhere they went. With the help of an advisory committee, I organized the material, identifying offensive passages where they occurred. Some were in English, some were translated from Arabic. The offensive passages are now in the public forum, and the report identifies the places whjere [sic] they were found. I don’t doubt this could all be refined, but that wasn’t our purpose. All we did was show that offensive and hate material was available in around a quarter of the premises visited.
All we have had from the Muslim comunity [sic] so far has been excuses, denials, and repudiations, as though this stuff had descended from the stars. No-one has had the guts to say ‘This is dreadful, it represents an extreme form of Islam, we wil [sic] do everything in our power to remove it from mainstream institutions’. All Inayat Bunglawala could do was protest that it was all quite legal. That’s not the point. The point is that telling Muslims to hate all non-Muslims, to avoid contact with them as far as possible, tobelieve [sic] Jews are the cause of all the world’s degradation, and so on and on — this is deeply offensive to the host society and, quite frankly, to all moderate Muslims. If Bunglawala or yourself had reacted to this extremism and vowed to eradicate it, Muslims wouldf [sic] have gone up in the public estimation. As it is, you all seem to think this sort of thing is OK. You bring nothing but shame on yourselves by giving it even tacit approval. The materials are all entirely genuine, they are all available.
I am not, in spite of Irene Lancaster’s praise, the qworld’s [sic] greatest authority on Islam, or anything like it. I wasn’t employed to be. I was someone with the sort of knowledge that enabled me to understand and present the texts. The healthy thing is to forget me and Policy Exchange, and instead look at the texts. Shooting the messenger will get you nowhere.
Of course, I still consider the methodology (young Muslims sent to buy around booklets or pamphlet form people at mosques, and having a receipt for the transaction) of the report severely flawed and unconvincing.
Dr MacEoin, from what has written above, seems that did known, personally, the ‘team of young Muslims (Where they trained researchers? How have been recruited, did they know what the research was about?). Indeed, Dr MacEoin involvement, as he says, was limited to ‘organize[d] the material, identifying offensive passages where they occurred’. So, who really conducted the research and selected the booklet and pamphlet? With which criteria?
The report is not an academic work as Dr MacEoin seems to agree, so it is just a political tool. Certainly, we cannot call it a research.
I am also sorry that Dr MacEoin, as usual, does not read what I write, before expressing comments about my own opinions and views. I ask him, for intellectual honesty (if he has some left) to point the readers where I would say in any of my works that, to quote himself,
As it is, you all seem to think this sort of thing [controversial and radical Islamic material] is OK. You bring nothing but shame on yourselves by giving it even tacit approval. The materials are all entirely genuine, they are all available.
Of course, I do not find the material OK, but not for this reason I am ready to clap my hands to a bad, ideologically driven, work. To disagree with the report does not mean, despite how much Dr MacEoin would like, to agree with distressful and shameful, if not often ridiculous, Islamist rhetoric. At the same time, I want to clearly state that I totally disagree with censorship, something that Dr MacEoin seems to be happy with (just as long as if not applied to Rushdie).
I also wonder whether Dr MacEoin, while writing the report, had still the same feelings toward mainstream Islam (note, Islam, not extremists) that he had in 2005. Indeed in 2005, Dr MacEoin declared that, as far as Islam is concerned, he had
very negative feelings about it, but still try to appreciate those elements that elevate it (such as the finer forms of Sufism, the poetry, the architecture, and the belief in material simplicity over greed).
I also would like to ask a final question to Dr MacEoin: Do you find the Qur’an deeply offensive? Do you think that part of the Qur’an should be removed or edited? I have to notice that some of the material shamed in the report sounds, in some cases, very ‘Quranish’. So, should we ban that Qur’an from mainstream Muslim institutions in the UK?
Indeed, should we use Dr MacEoin’s textual approach, part of the Qur’an, leaving aside the Hadith collection by al-Bukhari and Muslim, is offensive (as the Bible or part of the Talmud would be) to the ‘host’ secular country (apparently still host, according to Dr MacEoin, even for the tens of thousands of Muslims who were born here). So should the Qur’an and the mentioned Hadith collection remain within the mosque?
I, of course, do not believe that a text as text can have any real impact without other important elements (otherwise I would not have decided to study Muslims, and I would have studied Islam). Yet it is clear that Dr MacEoin believes that removing the incriminated literature (I wonder whether the literature may stay at least in a library or if Dr MacEoin would prefer to burn it in a public celebration) will make us much safer.
Coherence would dictate that Dr MacEoin should have added to the list of the incriminated mosques those of them which hold a Qur’an, and the Hadith collections of al-Bukhari and Muslim. He didn’t. I wish to know why he made such an exception.
From what I can read in Dr MacEoin’s comments, his position seems to be, at the end, that even if the report is the result of bad research, which could have been even unethical, the important thing his to impress the reader, the public and the politicians and denounce the evil institutions. This is fine. Yet do not call it an academic research since it has not the same standard of an academic research.
I surely would have not wasted my time with this report, which does not add anything new to what everybody knew before, if it was not presented by Policy Exchange as a superb and highly academic work. Moreover, I suppose that the report does not surprise the UK government, which is, since Baroness Thatcher, one of the best allies of the Saudi regime and is ultimately responsible for the spreading of these publications.
I am sorry to say that the report does not tell us the real and important things, like how this literature has been used, who used it, in which way, and which impact it has on Muslims. The report is just a collection of sentences aimed to impress.
I have also the impression that Dr MacEoin still believes that Muslims live in a cave. Young Muslims, in the majority, do not read books in mosques (and actually, beyond Friday prayer, very few go to the mosques). They surf the Internet, chat and watch satellite television.
Much of the material denounced in the report can be considered soft and even friendly compared to what you can see, read and hear within the virtual sphere. Furthermore, much of the material and books exposed in the report can be found in several internet websites.
Yet Dr MacEoin, or Policy Exchange that paid him, did not tell you this; guess why?