Friday, 29 June 2007

So-called "Experts"

So-called experts say some stupid things. I've just been reading this article, in which Akbar Ahmed, "one of the world's leading authorities on Islam", sets out the ways in which the West and Islam can "overcome the huge chasm" that exists between them. In his mind, it's all about education for both sides - overcoming ignorance and fear and learning to work together.

All very unobjectionable stuff, but he then goes on to make the bizarre statement that "It's not just 9/11. It started in the 19th century when the first clashes between the west and Islam took place" [emphasis added].

Yeah, I didn't think I'd read it correctly, either. The 19th Century. Has "one of the world's leading authorities on Islam" never heard about the Crusades? The Reconquista? The Battle of Tours? Does he really think that the first clashes between the West and Islam were a mere hundred and fifty years ago?

Very strange; Akbar obviously knows that he's misrepresenting the truth with that statement, because he can't possible believe it's true, but in which case, why lie? You would think that, when calling for greater education about a subject, you wouldn't tell obvious mistruths about it from the other side of your mouth.

I wish I had greater insight into why he said what he did, but The Guardian article doesn't shed any more light. It's just...odd. Why pretend that the West and Islam didn't clash until the 19th century? Is he engaged in revisionism; trying to make us forget that Muslims once aimed to take over the world? Or is he trying to make us think that the West, once upon a time, looked on Islam as a busom buddy, and can do so again in the future?

It reminds me that most "experts", especially the ones who appear on TV and in newspaper articles, don't really have much more authority to comment on a given subject than you or me. Best to ignore them, I think, and make up one's own mind.

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