Saturday, January 30, 2010

In A Disastrous Economy, The One Thing Americans Will Not Live Without? BOOKS

I know the image of Americans is that we're a bunch a stupid, illiterate rednecked "bitter clingers".

But, the truth is, we're a diverse melting pot of people who elected a black President, with an Islamic name, and we fucking love to read.

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) – During tough economic times when U.S. consumers are trying to cut back the indulgence they can't seem to live without is books.

Three-quarters of adults questioned in an online poll said they would sacrifice holidays, dining out, going to the movies and even shopping sprees but they could not resist buying books.

Right now, I'm reading two books; Thomas Mann's Dr. Faustus, and a biography of General George S. Patton.

I spend a good 8-10 hours a day reading. What about you?


Unknown said...

Right now I am reading the book Culturism. It is . . . ha ha ha. No, but really, I used to read and write 12 - 14 hours a day. I wish I had the time and wonder where you find it.

I just finished my first full book in a while. it was an overview of Ludwig Wittgenstein's three major works. And, tonight I went to a group that read some of Plato's Republic. I am also reading a book that talks about the role of memory in corporate ethics and (their phrase) "corporate culturism."

I am glad Americans read and interested to hear what you think about Dr. Faustus. BTW, if you look at the language of books available in book stores, you will see not all Americans read so voraciously. Draw your own conclusions.

midnight rider said...

Just finished See Spot Run!


Ok, currently on Jim Harrison's The English Major, Going Rogue (off and on) and Samuel Adams bio by Ira Stoll.

2 that I just picked up today are The Citizen's Consitution (Seth Lipsky) and A New American Tea Party (John O'Hara). Also, on advice of a certain blogger I know, Dostoevsky's Demons.

My problem is I start a book and another catches my fancy so I start that and you get the idea.

Anonymous said...

As a youngster, I resented reading, especially assigned material, up to and including mandatory classics by Miller, Shakespeare, Dickens, Pearl S. Buck, and even Orwell. Ironically, I'm now related to Buck through one of my children's marriages. I simply refused to read any of it-managing to pass my classes only because students received credit if they bothered to show up. However, I was very active and read every sports related magazine that offered any useful tips for my upcoming matches, as well as reading the girly/pop related magazines my mom subscribed to for me-desperate I someday find a topic which would hold my interest. I gave up magazines about a decade ago and confirm my distaste for the contents of these rags in every waiting room I visit.
To this day, I refuse to read novels, save for the sci fi classic, DUNE and the NYT's best seller by Brad Thor, "The Last Patriot".
Today, reading is my full time hobby - 10-12 hours/day enabled through audio books/web/text, though I rarely read a book, cover-to-cover. Typically, I have two or three books open at any given time, probably because of the nature of the material - American history and Islam.
I eagerly consume[d] material written by Ibn Warraq, Dr. Andrew Bostom, Bat Ye'or, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Robert Spencer, Oriana Fallaci, Fjordman, etc . . .you get the picture.
Today's selections include a fascinating thesis , by John O'Neill [more at Faith Freedom].
". . ."Until the closing of the Mediterranean [trade route] in the seventh century, the predominant cultural influence upon Europe was from the East: from Byzantium and from the ancient Hellenistic centers in the Near East, especially Egypt and Syria. With the closing of the Mediterranean, the West was isolated, and the centre of gravity moved, as Pirenne stressed, to the North; to northern Gaul, Germany and Britain. Yet the influence of the East did not come to an end. There was continuity. But now the East meant Islam. And in the centuries after the first Arab conquests, the influence of Islam became profound: It was this influence that would definitively terminate Classical civilization and give birth to the theocracy we now call "Medieval Europe". . ."
"Historians are familiar with the influence of Islamic philosophy upon the West at this time, and they quote, generally with approval, the study by Europeans of the Persian Muslim Avicenna and the Spanish Muslim Averroes. But not everything that came from Islam was so benevolent. It is widely known, for example that the Byzantine doctrine of iconoclasm, the destruction of sacred religious images, was directly attributable to the influence of Islam. But many Islamic ideas, some of them the polar opposite of those found in early Christianity, now began to find resonance in the thinking of Europeans at almost every level. How could it have been otherwise, when impoverished Christian travelers viewed with astonishment the wealth, luxury and sophistication of Muslim cities in Spain, Sicily, and further east? That this wealth and luxury was debarred to them by the very Muslim Emirs and Caliphs whose opulence they so much admired, was beside the point. Europeans could only be impressed, and influenced. and influenced they were. From the Muslims they learned "Holy War"; from them they learned too that the Jews were an accursed race and the enemies of God. the consequences of these Islamic notions about the Jews were to be as long-lasting as they were tragic." . . ."(p 12-14)
I'm also reading and two books by Mark Durie, recommended by DumbledoresArmy at JihadWatch.

Epaminondas said...

Three ... Lawhead's "Scarlett", Daniel Faber's, "Munich 1938", and Marc Thiessen's "Courting Disaster".

In the truck is always the 'emergency while waiting for the wife volume' - which right now is Scheurer's "Marching Toward Hell"

revereridesagain said...

Epam: I would be interested in your thoughts on "Courting Disaster".

Volumes with bookmarks in them around here and in the car include Thiessen, Hugo's "93" (finally!), and Twain's "Innocents Abroad". "Girls Like US" (Carly, Carol and Joni) is out in the car. Oh yeah and Bathroom Reader #13.

Meanwhile Borders Books still nearly went under because of poor upper management. Sad.

Anonymous said...

BTW - add to comment at 11:40:00am . . .I'm not buying any of the e-readers anytime soon. This technology is vulnerable to post release editing/pulping (i.e. Alms for Jihad)

I remain faithful to hard copies (bound text, audio discs/cassettes).

Hmm, looking at the material above, I'm way out of my league here - Wittgenstein, Dostoevsky . . .ya'all read the 'deep' thinking stuff.

Although I have Lipsky's book, I haven't started it yet. I won't read anything by Scheuer, & Mark Thiessen's book is on my wish list.

Epaminondas said...

Anon ..while we probably agree on some of Scheurer's rather ignorant inner compulsions, no one can argue over the sacrifices he has made, and the expertise on OBSERVED FACTS he has ..the latter of which is knowledge .. opinions based on those facts can be argued, the facts themselves are objects to be consumed.

Some of his conclusions match ours ..usually they are operational. His ideas about how we can avoid our strategic problems are truly ignorant, however, despite his experience. They are IDEALISTIC and BIGOTED all at once. Paul+Buchanan.

Anonymous said...

EPA, I am indebted to folks who like you , Hugh Fitzgerald, Spencer, Bostom et al - who have the patience and fortitude to sift through works of writers like Scheuer. The first book I purchased about Islam - by default, as Spencer's books were not in stock locally or in the library (1994) - was written by taqiyya expert, Stephen Sulieman Schwartz (a revert fm Judaism). A false start, to say the least.
My limits in patience and time force me to resort to gleaning details from trusted writers who do read, comprehend and communicate the limited value of Scheuer or Schwartz or the endless list of Islam's apologists.

Epaminondas said...

Anon - if u are referring to the TWO FACES OF ISLAM... it's a gr8 book, you just have to realize when he gets round to Bosnia and eastern europe WHO HE IS. But that, ironically, was the 1st book I read on all this as well.

Anonymous said...

Epa- "gr8 book", hmmmm.
If it wasn't for Schwartz' age, little prevents his transformation from following the same predictable pattern as that of NYT's latest puppy, "The Jihadist Next Door

Schwartz' "maturity" limits his defense of jihad to taqiyya.

StephenSchwartz said...

I am not a "revert" -- a term I do not use -- from Judaism. My mother was Christian in origin and my parents were antireligious. Islam is my first religion.

I do not practice taqiyya, as anybody who reads the sites of my organization, the Center for Islamic Pluralism, can see. People who actually know something about Islam know that Sunnis, like me, are forbidden to do taqiyya unless facing forcible conversion to another religion. Taqiyya is historically a Shia practice.

I was one of the first people to denounce Michael Scheuer as you can see at

Ignorant people who have nothing going for them except fear and hatred of Islam are destined to learn the same thing Christians learned 1100 years ago: to oppose Islam you have to have a clear account of it.

No sensible Muslim objects to non-Muslims defending their beliefs or lack thereof, but opposing Islam on the basis of caricatures and straw men will not be of much use.

My TWO FACES OF ISLAM was the first non-academic account of Wahhabism published in the West and has had a major impact in the Muslim world, especially in Saudi Arabia.

The claim that I am a secret jihadist or preventing from becoming a terrorist by age is absurd and libelous.

I don't post anonymously.

Pastorius said...

I've read your articles, and have thankfully been informed by them.

Thanks for commenting. I considered rebutting the Anonymous commenters remarks, but decided against it, because often it seems like swimming upstream to explain, to people who conflate all Islam into Jihadism, that there are many Muslims who are decent people, and that we certainly do not experience the same threat, from Sufis such as you, that we do from Wahabbist Islam.

Here's a question for you, though: Is Taqiyya allowable in Wahabbist Islam?

StephenSchwartz said...

Thanks for your kind consideration.

First, I would specify that there are jihadist Sufis. The Qadiri and Naqshbandi orders of Sufis are jihadist, and the Naqshbandis are historically distinctly anti-Western. We now have a problem in Pakistan with Qadiris who say they are against the Taliban, the U.S., and Israel! They are involved in the general Pakistani conspiracy theory that claims the Taliban were formed by the U.S. to divide Muslims.

On taqiyya and Wahhabism, it is not necessary to embroider the realities of deception and deceit by the Saudis and Pakistanis by calling it taqiyya. Real taqiyya has mainly been practiced by Shias who are under Sunni rule. This was especially pronounced under the Ottomans (Sunnis). I know some Sufis who are Shias but claim publically to be Sunnis -- they are, however, also sincerely pro-Western and progressive. Taqiyya is a total system of camouflage, not a tactic or strategy.

Wahhabis are contemptuous of Western society and its laws and customs -- in violation of traditional Islamic guidance -- but deception and deceit exist at all times and places and sometimes are justifiable, to save lives and defeat tyrants. For example, the U.S. did not publically announce its plans for dealing with the USSR in case of war. Traditional Islam holds that Muslims living in non-Muslim societies must accept the laws and customs of their hosts.

Bin Laden, Ahmadinejad, etc. do not practice taqiyya. Nor did Nidal Hasan at Fort Hood, for whom the fires of hell most surely await. Even CAIR always leaves itself a rhetorical out to justify terrorism. Anti-terror investigators and moderate Muslims can almost always identify radicals because the latter do not engage in taqiyya.

Sleeper terrorists might be accused of taqiyya but, to emphasize, I don't think it's necessary to make simple deception something more complicated than it is already.

Thanks again!

Pastorius said...

I'm guessing I would have to read your book to understand the following statement:

"Taqiyya is a total system of camouflage, not a tactic or strategy."

Obviously, the common Infidel understanding of Taqiyya is merely lying/obfuscation for dawa/Jihadic purposes.

Apparently, you say that is wrong.

It would be better for us to merely use the word deception.

Pastorius said...

You wrote: Traditional Islam holds that Muslims living in non-Muslim societies must accept the laws and customs of their hosts.

I say: Isn't that CAIR's line also. Sure, Ibrahim Hooper did slip and tell Michael Medved that he wants to see Sharia in the United States, but only after Muslims constitute a plurality of Americans, as I understand it.

I take it from your statement that you must feel the same way to some degree.

What elements of Sharia law do you reject outright (I am not asking what elements you reject at this time for the U.S.)?

Do you reject the stoning of apostates, adulterers, and homosexuals?

Do you think homosexuality and apostasy ought to be punishable in Islamic societies?

If so, what would that punishment be?

If you do reject the above aspects of traditional Sharia, upon what basis do you reject them?

That's the money question to me.

It seems to me that according to Ijma (Consensus), Democracy and processes of reform ought to be easy in Islam.

And yet, Islam has seen only scant periods of actual peacefulness.

Why is that, in your opinion?

You probably know well that the Judaic scriptures also call for death to apostates, adulterers, and homosexuals. You may also well know that Jews argued through those scriptures, and gradually spiritualized them, giving all vengeance to God.

Jesus was not the first Jew to suggest that he who is without sin ought to cast the first stone. Jesus was not the first Jew to say that the law is summed up in loving the Lord God and one's neighbor. Jesus was part of a tradition of progress in Judaism, a tradition which began, as I understand it, with the Oral Torah, and continued with the Talmud.

And, of course, Christianity has gone through a similar argumentative process with has resulted in reformations.

Why not Islam, in your opinion?

StephenSchwartz said...

I'll answer your comments one at a time but I want you to know that it is difficult to sign in to the site and I am very concerned about computer security. I got a message indicating someone else has tried to use my personal e-mail to send messages supposedly from me.

I am not avoiding any of your questions. I will stay signed on until I have answered all of them.

I should be somewhat offended that you leap to the conclusion that I share the view of CAIR on anything but since you have been civil enough to let me express myself there is no point to making an issue out of it.

More to come -- I also have to worry about the length of messages.

StephenSchwartz said...

OK, now one at a time.

Taqiyya is a technical term in Islam and I don't see any need to use it in place of "deception" or "deceit" when discussing the activities of Islamists.

It would seem to me very hard to do either dawah or military jihad while at the same time doing taqiyya. Dawah is an open call to Islam and military jihad is armed war. I would be interested to know where in the history of Islam anybody ever did either of these through deception.

I do not do dawah on non-Muslims. I am happy to leave non-Muslims to their own religions. I do dawah on radical Muslims. I do not think jihad is legitimate anywhere in the world. This does not mean that Balkan Muslims or Caucasian Muslims have no right to defend themselves against post-Communist aggressors. But they should not call it jihad.

Jihad in traditional Islam can only be called by a global commander of the faithful and there is no such person today. Certainly a terrorist like Bin Laden has no such standing. Nor is it probable that an emirate or caliphate uniting all the Muslims will emerge.

Very few Muslims today talk about these concepts, aside from radicals. The caliphate is an obsession with Westerners, not with Muslims. A new emirate or caliphate would have to be based in the most powerful Muslim land and if there were the possibility of creating one the Muslim lands would get in quite a fight over where it would be located. Saudi Arabia? Turkey? Indonesia?

It is not a realistic concept today. I do think the Ottoman caliphate was a factor for stability and should not have been dissolved, but what's done is done and Muslims need to move on. Most Muslims agree with me on this.

StephenSchwartz said...

Next point.

You say Hooper and CAIR say the same thing we do -- that Muslims have to accept the laws and customs of countries to which they emigrate. All I can say to that is, first, don't leap to false parallels, and second, you can judge us by our activities. I and my group really put this in practice. We published a 250-page report on Shariah agitation in Europe in which we argued forcefully against the importation of Shariah to non-Muslim lands. CAIR does not do that. Otherwise, all I can do is trust your good faith in observing my group over time. The Euro-Shariah report is on our website at as a free download.

I do not call for or anticipate the Islamization of the U.S. I have no idea what the future history of religion in the U.S. might be but I certainly would be opposed to the importation of Islam as a dominant religion into the U.S. I accept that the Judeo-Christian countries and the Muslim countries and the Buddhist countries and the Confucian countries all have their own religious cultures. That has been a traditional Islamic position for some centuries. The idea of conquering the West through dawah is a modern notion.

The Prophet Muhammad predicted that as the last days approached the Christians would be strong and the Muslims would be weak. You can take that however you wish.

My job is to defeat Islamist radicalism. Period. As I said before, I don't do dawah on members of other religions. I do call atheists and communists to religion but it is better that they go to the religions of their parents. My situation was and is not one I would suggest others need to emulate. My Islam is very personal. I have been attacked for this, not by Muslims, but by certain anti-Islam types who seem to agree with the Wahhabis that there is only one form of Islam. There isn't.

I am against Shariah as public law anywhere in the world. Most Muslim countries do not have Shariah as public law. Saudi Arabia is the only one with exclusively Shariah-based public law. Even Iran kept elements of European public law dating from the 1907 revolutionary period. The Shariah experiment failed in Sudan. I only recently learned that Libya had attempted something similar but seems to have abandoned it.

Some Muslim countries claim to draw on Shariah alongside civil law. I will discuss that in the next installment. Pakistan is the main example of this. Plus there are deviant "Shariah zones" run by Wahhabis in remote areas of Malaysia, Nigeria, Indonesia, and other places.

I am only for personal religious shariah, governing diet, forms of prayer, assessment of charity payments, male circumcision, and burial.

StephenSchwartz said...


I am against any interference with people's religious choices, so naturally am opposed to any harassment of so-called apostates. The great Islamic theologian Al-Ghazali argued that Christians and Jews were not to be called unbelievers because the truths of religion were true for them as they understood them. This is also a long-established traditional Islamic position.

I think adultery or divorce should be matters left to civil law. Adultery is not punishable in modern civil law but can be the basis for divorce. That's enough for me.

I don't care about people's sexual preferences unless they force them on others.

I am against hudud punishments -- stoning, amputations, etc. I am for capital punishment for murderers with aggravated circumstances, including terrorists. The traditional Islamic position was different -- it held that murder should be punished by levying of fines payable to the victim's family. I was against capital punishment for most of my life but 10 years as a daily newspaper crime reporter, and the example of Slobodan Milosevic, changed my view. I certainly never thought capital punishment should not be applied to Hitler.

The basis of my rejection of exclusive Shariah -- which is NOT REPEAT NOT "traditional" -- is as follows: when the Mongols who conquered Baghdad became Muslims they refused to give up their traditional law and relegated Shariah to religious matters. For this reason, Ibn Taymiyyah, the inspirer of Ibn Abd Al-Wahhab, called the Mongol converts to Islam false Muslims who should be killed. But the Ottomans, representing the greatest Islamic state in history, also refused to give up their traditional Turkic common law and relegated Shariah to religious matters. They got around this by defining all law as Shariah.

In any event, a pluralism of civil law as public law and restriction of Shariah to personal religious matters is hardly a novelty in Muslim countries, though in places like Pakistan those who would agree with me have to fight to defend their position.

StephenSchwartz said...

In conclusion...

First, I apologize for taking up so much space, and second, I really do have concerns about security and usually don't comment on blogs, so if you want to continue the dialogue perhaps it would be better for you to e-mail me. Let me know what you think about this.

I should have mentioned earlier that I don't use the term infidel. The Islamic term kuffar means "concealer of the truth" and has a parallel in Judaism, almost exactly the same word, koferim, which also means "concealer of the truth" and is used to refer to irreligious people. I don't know or care what religion you belong to, if any, but you don't appear to me to be a wilful concealer of the truth. You are trying to establish truth. That is good. So you are not one of the kuffar, as far as I see it.

Now for the real bottom line, as far as I am concerned.

First, the Islamic lands did enjoy long periods of stability and peace. But that is a discussion that would require much more elaboration and space.

Second, I avoid the use of the term "reform" because all the Sunni radicals call for reform of the religion by wiping out Sufism as well as the precedents of traditional Shariah. They do not hold to the ijma of the Sunnis. They make Islamic law and theology up as they go along.

I am for social reform in the Muslim lands and the reestablishment of Islamic intellectual pluralism. That will allow all these issues to be argued anew and settled, one hopes.

I do not see the problem as one of Islam as a religion. The problem is that Islam conquered the Asiatic and African countries which had always been despotic and corrupt. The fault is in the sociology of these countries. Islam attempted to bring these countries to something similar to the Western recognition of the rights of individuals, but the Muslims may have failed in this task. I have not made up my mind about this.

None of these issues are simple. I will close by saying something a lot of Muslims say to me: we have no intellectuals in the real West, i.e. Europe and the U.S., who can further the social reform of the Islamic lands and restore intellectual vigor to the religion.

Since I was reproached here for my position on Bosnia I will say that Bosnia, located in Europe, could have been the place where new ideas flourished in Islam, but the gentle Serbs prevented that. Bosnia's Muslim leadership has slipped into the hands of corrupt Arabs. The ordinary Bosnian Muslims are safe and non-radical. But the failure of Balkan Islam to assume its rightful place as a enter of a truly European Islam is a great tragedy.

For the rest, I am on the side of the Iranian protestors against clerical rule and I hope that Saudi King Abdullah will get rid of the Wahhabi monopoly on religious life in the KSA. If the Iranian clerical dictatorship falls and the Wahhabis are removed from their position of control in Saudi I think Islam will see a revival of its intellectual vigor.

But I am neither too pessimistic nor too optimistic. That happens to be the traditional Sunni position on the world.

It's been good, this dialogue, I think. I have no way of proving my sincerity to you, so will leave it as it stands.

May the blessings of merciful and compassionate God be upon you and all who seek the path of truth. You would be surprised, I am sure, to learn how many Muslims agree with me, not CAIR!

Pastorius said...

Thanks for the response, Stephen. I appreciate it.

I looked for your email on Google yesterday and was unable to find it.

I'd like to keep in touch, because you are a valuable source of information.

My email address is

I'm sorry about comparing your position to CAIR, without explaining that I know you don't think the same as CAIR.

My point was more that CAIR says what they say, and I interpret it as a form of "taqiyya". Also, it seems to me to be "dawah" in the sense that they are attempting to portray Islam as something sweet and nice for Americans, so that we will come to believe the way they do.

Also, I wrote that taqiyya could be used as a form of Jihad meaning that I think Dawah is part of Jihad. Jihad is, as I understand it, struggling to make Allahs rule supreme, so it can be physical, spiritual, and political.

That's my interpretation. I may be wrong.

Anyway, if you want to answer my comments and further this conversation, that would be great. Just email me.