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Anti-Islam Propaganda: An Illustrative Example
The Case of Bill Warner

For well over a decade an assortment of Western-based (and often well-funded) individuals and political groups have produced an immense amount of propaganda intended to discredit Islam. One of the most common traits shared by such English-speaking propagandists is that they, being unable to read Arabic, and having no academic expertise in relevant fields such as fiqh, use various published English interpretations of fundamental Islamic texts such as the Koran and Ahadith.

An illustrative example here is an American calling himself ‘Bill Warner’ – real name William French – who, although he cannot read Arabic and has no academic expertise in relevant fields such as fiqh, has published a number of books about ‘political Islam’, has established a so-called ‘Center for the Study of Political Islam‘, and whose books and ‘statistical analysis’ of texts such as the Koran have been trumpeted by various political groups and by individuals opposed, for whatever reason, to Islam. Both Warner himself – and those using his works for propaganda purposes – claim that his analysis of Islamic texts is “scientific”.

However, his analysis of Islamic texts is hardly scientific and most definitely unscholarly because he uses, not the actual Arabic texts (such as, in the case of the Koran, the Uthman codex), but rather the English “interpretations of meaning” published by others. In addition, he uses an English interpretation of the Koran – written in modern “newspaper style” English – that does not even follow the traditional (Arabic) arrangement of Quranic chapters (starting with Surah Al-Fatihah) but which instead places them into a particular conjectured “historical order” for which there is no scholarly consensus and no historical evidence. {1}

Thus, his much vaunted ‘statistical analysis’ is simply his personal opinion about the interpretations of someone else and has no scholarly (or even academic) value whatsoever given that Warner relies on secondary, and sometimes tertiary, not primary sources. For one of the attributes of modern scholars is that they have a detailed knowledge of primary sources acquired from reading such sources in their original language and thus do not rely on the translations or interpretations of others. One of the attributes of non-scholars in the milieu of academia and otherwise is that they base their writings on secondary sources and thus in the main just interpret or reinterpret the interpretations and conclusions of others. In the case of Islam, the primary texts – such as the Koran and Ahadith – are all in classical Arabic.

To give just one example, of literally thousands, of the folly of the English interpretation Warner/French used, the word “war” occurs in surah 9:29 as the “translation” for a certain Arabic word – transliterated qatilu – and which Arabic word, correctly understood in context, implies fight, struggle (against), oppose: فَقَاتِلُوا أَئِمَّةَ الْكُفْرِ إِنَّهُمْ لَا أَيْمَانَ لَهُمْ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَنْتَهُونَ

In respect of the matter of English interpretations of important texts such as the Koran there is an interesting essay by David Myatt (who actually can read Arabic), first published in 2012, and in which essay Myatt writes:

“The problem of sometimes projecting modern interpretations onto ancient texts by the injudicious use, in a translation, of a particular English word is especially relevant in the matter of the Quran, for it seems to be increasingly common for someone reliant on translations – on the interpretations of meaning given by others – to misunderstand the text of the Quran and then, from that misunderstanding, not only form a misconceived (and sometimes prejudiced) opinion about the Quran in particular and Islam in general but also to give voice to such an opinion.

For example, an ayah (verse) often (mis)quoted is Ayah 151 of Surah Al ‘Imran, which is usually interpreted as “Soon shall we cast terror into the hearts of the unbelievers.” However, the word ‘terror’ is an inappropriate interpretation for several reasons.” {2}

Myatt then quotes the Arabic of that verse in full and argues that the particular Arabic word in question does not imply ‘terror’ but rather “the fear/the dread and ‘the astonishment/awe’ – that is, that human feeling inspired by apprehending or experiencing some-thing supernaturally or extraordinarily powerful and numinous.” He then provides a comparison with a passage in Greek from the New Testament – Luke 24.37 – and goes on to provide his own quite poetic interpretation of meaning of the Arabic Ayah:

“Into the hearts of they who disbelieve We shall hurl redurre because they, without any authority revealed about such things, associate others with Allah; and for their home: The Fire, that harrowing resting place of the unjust.”

Myatt further writes that

“I have used the unusual English word redurre, with a meaning of ‘awe combined with a trembling fear’. A word suggested by its occurrence in religious works by Richard Rolle and John Gower, and also by texts such as Morte Arthure and which word therefore places this Ayah from the Quran into the correct context, which is that of a religious revelation, a spiritual message, comparable to that of Christianity, and of the particular ontology that Islam offers as answers to questions concerning the meaning and the purpose of our mortal lives; of how that purpose may be attained; and thus of what wisdom is. Answers which have nothing whatsoever to do with ‘terrorism’, or even with ‘terror’ as that word is now commonly understood.”

Myatt’s measured words and scholarship, evident in his post-2011 writings, place the works of the likes of Bill Warner into the correct perspective: as works of prejudiced propaganda.

JB & KS
2017

{1} Islamic scholars have argued – for over a millennia – about the chronological order of the Koran. All the scholars, however, agree that the traditional arrangement was inspired by the Prophet Muhammad himself and is thus how the Koran should be read and used, by Muslims, as a guide.

{2} Myatt, David: Exegesis and Translation: Some Personal Reflexions, 2012. Myatt included part of this essay as an appendix to his book Poemandres: A Translation of and Commentary on the Poemandres part of the Corpus Hermeticum. Third edition, 2014. ISBN 978-1495470684

Myatt’s 2012 essay is currently [January 2017] available in pdf format from his weblog: https://davidmyatt.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/exegesis-and-translation-partsone-two.pdf

 


 

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Abdul-Aziz ibn Myatt

Abdul-Aziz ibn Myatt

Countering Muslim Extremism
(pdf)


Article source: http://www.davidmyatt.info/muslim-extremism.html