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Faruk Rahmanovic

SAY IT AINT SO, ZIZEK!

Zizek Seminar

Let us imagine for a moment an article on David Hume, published in a scholarly journal, claiming Humes staunch Bahaism, and its impact on his thought. While reading through, it becomes readily apparent that the author does not, in fact, know anything about Hume or his works. If we then imagine the academic response to such an article, what comes to mind is certainly not an uncritical acceptance of the author and the publication. However, this is precisely what has happened numerous times, with numerous authors and articles, where Islam and Muslims are the topic. In this analysis, we look at the works of Zizek and his writings on Islam. As a globally renowned contemporary philosophy superstar one of very few Slavoj Zizek enjoys not only international fame, but also an enormous following in philosophical circles and elsewhere. He is an astute philosopher with a knack for cutting through the platitudes to get at the heart of the problems that face us today. Therefore, it is all the more tragic when he addresses the problem of Islam from a position of ignorance, with views barely deviating from the suppositions of the right-wing media. He is not alone in holding such a position among Western academics, which makes the problem that much worse, and the erroneous views more difficult to correct. While his motives may be benign, the methodology and the results are all too similar to the ignorance-based paranoiac conclusion that Islam itself is the problem and a threat. Consequently, the best that can be said of Zizek on this point is that he is complicit in propagating views and arguments that amount to little more than hate speech. The following analysis will examine the views of Zizek, as compiled from several of his works. Alongside the claims thus made, the analysis will offer a concise refutation, using Islamic primary sources, as well as other literature. Finally, we will briefly consider the implications of the findings.

Faruk Rahmanovic

SAY IT AINT SO, ZIZEK!

Zizek Seminar

Of the many premises Zizek holds about Islam, perhaps the most commonly shared among Western academics is one of Islamic militancy. That is to say, the issue at hand is not the political or economic situation of particular Muslims or particular nations, but Islam itself Islam qua Islam. Today, as religion emerges as the main source of murderous violence around the world, one grows tired of the constant assurances that Christian, Muslim, or Hindu fundamentalists are only abusing and perverting the noble spiritual message of their creed.1 In fact, since Zizek claims that religion in general, and Islam in particular, has no external ethical standards, he sees it as the excuse for committing the worst atrocities, while hiding behind the word of God.2 This is possible, since religious individuals act with reference to religious claims on the nature of the good . Atheists, on the other hand, are free from such complications, as their actions spring entirely from their notion of what is right.3 Of course there are cases of pathological atheists who are able to commit mass murder just for pleasure, just for the sake of it, but they are rare exceptions.4 Therefore, the problem with Islam is precisely that it is a religion.5 Islam is taken to be the source of the violence, due to the believers desire to please their God, which is further explained by the apparent absence of external standards. On the other hand, atheism is posited as the civilizing influence, yet one appropriated solely to Europe.6 What makes modern Europe unique is that it is

1 2

Zizek, Slavoj. Violence. New York: Picador, 2008. Pg. 133. Ibid. Pg. 137. 3 Ibid. Pg. 138. 4 Ibid. Pg. 136. 5 The term religion is rather ambiguous here, and one cannot help but understand it as any system that posits a particular worldview that vaguely defines the limits of legitimate human action. After all, what other definition can one use to group Jains, Amish, Taoists, and the Taliban in a single term? 6 Given that Europe is a historically ambiguous term (Greece was considered a part of the East until fairly recently ), it is unclear what exactly Zizek means here. How far back do we go, historically, to provide this view? The Moors held Spain (and th even part of France) for over 700 years, the Ottomans have been in Europe since the 14 century (and controlled a significant th portion thereof until the early 20 century ), the first officially atheist nation in Europe (lasting longer than 7 months) was postrevolutionary Russia (despite the fact that the majority of that nation is in Asia) and that experiment ended with some 40-60 million murdered by the atheist regime.

Faruk Rahmanovic

SAY IT AINT SO, ZIZEK!

Zizek Seminar

the first and only civilization in which atheism is a fully legitimate option , not an obstacle to any public post7 8 In a single instance, Zizek does offer a passage where he denies the clash of civilizations premise as the source of violence instead he points to clashes within each civilization as ultimately relating to global capitalism.9 However, the singular instance serves only to highlight the fact that, despite this apparent insight, Zizek plods onward with the Islamic militancy argument throughout that book and numerous others. On the notion of Islam and militancy particularly of the terrorist sort Zizek goes wide of the mark in two ways. First, Islam considers warfare to be solely a state-governed activity, predicated on the existence of a legitimate autonomous rule.10 There is also a historical precedent, where the early Muslims suffered 13 years of violent, and even murderous, persecution in Mecca (under the authority of the Quraysh ruling tribe), and were not given the ability to fight even in self-defense. It is only once the Muslim community migrated to Medina , and established a self-governed state, that the right to wage war was granted 11 and then only to the state as such,12 and only in necessity.13 Therefore, from the standpoint of Islam, non-state actors cannot legitimately engage in war as such actions are considered criminal. Second, the view of militancy Zizek takes is one of indiscriminate attacks which include civilians, women, children, etc. However, the Quran notes in unequivocal terms:
Whoever intentionally kills a person, except as a punishment for murder or for fitna (severe chaos, oppression or tyranny, actively and consistently fighting against justice) in the land, it will be written in his
7 8

Zizek, Slavoj. Violence. Pg. 139. Zizek is also off by some 2200 years on the idea of atheism as a socially accepted worldview, given that Legalism in China (championed by Han Feizi (d. 233 BCE)) not only advocated for such a position, but was the official creed of the Qui the state that unified China in 221 BCE. 9 Zizek, Slavoj. Welcome to the Desert of the Real. London: Verso, 2002. Pg. 41. 10 Khadduri, Majid. War and Peace in the Law of Islam. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1955. Pp. 60-61. 11 Ibid. 12 Hamidullah, Muhammad. The Worlds First Written Constitution. Lahore: Sh. Muhammad Ashraf, 1975. 13 El-Munziri, Zekijjudin Abdu-l-Azim Ed-Dimiski., comp. Muslimova Zbirka Hadisa: Izbor. Translated by Sefik Kudric. Zenica: Kuca Mudrosti, 2004. Hadith # 1126. Pg. 208. (Henceforth noted only as Muslim)

Faruk Rahmanovic

SAY IT AINT SO, ZIZEK!

Zizek Seminar

book of deeds as if he had killed all human beings because such a person makes no distinction between the guilty and the innocent.14

Against claims such as all infidels are guilty, or of guilt by (national) association, Quran and Hadith, 15 as well as scholars, hold that: 1) only those individuals who commit a crime can ever be held responsible for it i.e. no collective punishment is allowed,16 2) children (anyone under 15) cannot be held responsible for their acts even on the battlefield,17 3) enemy soldiers are not de facto guilty of a crime unless they commit an atrocity and if captured must be treated humanely,18 4) indiscriminate attacks are prohibited,19 5) a Muslim who violates these rules is thus guilty of a crime which is prosecuted with capital punishment in accordance with the verse cited above.20 Consequently, we can find no justification for Zizeks claim that Islam qua Islam is the source of militancy and violence. Further, the preceding elements, as well as a number of Quranic verses, Hadith narrations, and scholarly work provides an abundance of external ethical standards by which actions of an individual can be, and are, judged. As Zizek noted in the singular redeeming instance, modern violence is not caused by religion, but by socio-economic and political factors a fact which has been well-established.21 Yet, his continued insistence on Islam as the culprit, means that, for example, Palestinians would be just as likely to engage in suicidal attacks on Jewish civilians had the state of Israel not been established and committed atrocities against them. Whats more, Zizeks claims of atheist-embracing Europe, where the barbarism of mass murder is the

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The Quran. Translated and Annotated by Ali nal. New jersey, The Light, 2007. [Henceforth Referred to as Quran] (While this analysis is using this particular translation, any translation by a valid source will yield the same results. Rather than page numbers, chapter and verse numbers are given in the chapter:verse order) 5:32. (Includes Commentary by Ibn-Kesir. Tefsir Ibn-Kesir, Skraena Verzija. Edited by Muhammed Nesir Er-Rifa'i. Translated by Group. 2nd ed. Sarajevo: Visoki Saudijski Komitet Za Pomoc BiH, 2002.) ALSO Muslim. Hadith # 1133, 1134. Pp. 213-14 15 Hadith are the recorded actions, sayings, and practices of the Islamic messenger Muhammad. 16 Quran. 53:39, 35:18. 17 Muslim. Hadith # 1114. Pg. 194. 18 Quran 47:4, 76:7-9. ALSO Ullah, Hamid. Muslim Conduct of State. Ed. Syed Mahmud-un-Nasir. Lahore: Mansoor Book House, 1973. Pp. 74-5 19 Asad, Muhammad. The Principle of State and Government in Islam. Gibraltar: Dar Al-Andalus, 1987. Pg. 75. ALSO Aboul-Enein, Youssef H., and Sherifa Zuhur. Islamic Rulings on Warfare. Carlisle Barracks: Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, 2004. Pg. 22. 20 ALSO Quran. 17:33. ALSO Muslim. Hadith #1023. Pg. 103. 21 Esposito, John L. and Mogahed, Dalia. Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think. New York; Gallup Press, 2008.

Faruk Rahmanovic

SAY IT AINT SO, ZIZEK!

Zizek Seminar

exception to the rule, are patently false. Unless Zizek wants to limit himself to the Europe of the past few years, he has to contend with the knowing perpetration of genocide in Bosnia and Kosovo, through imposition and enforcement of an arms embargo (by the UN and the EU) on the only unarmed nations (Bosnia and Kosovo), while being fully aware of the concentration camps and other genocidal campaigns in progress.22 Additionally, many high-profile atheist leaders, such as Stalin and Mussolini in Europe, and Mao, Pol Pot, Kim Jong Il, and Than Shwe elsewhere, have caused more deaths in the past century than those caused by Islamic militancy. Thus, Zizeks claim, if taken in the most positive light, is a rather severe stretching of the truth or more likely a convenient (and conveniently ignorant) fiction in support of his argument. Yet the critique does not stop at the reading of Islam as militant and thus as justifying any action, nor at the exultation of atheism as a uniquely European remedy. According to Zizek, Islam is, as a consequence of its particular views, a barbarous, uneducated, and uncomprehending system. Thus, The Muslim reaction [to the Danish cartoons Circ. 2005] displays a blatant lack of understanding of the Western principle of an independent civic society .23 Here, Zizek draws a clear demarcation between Muslims and the West; one the progenitor of an independent civic society, the other not only ignorant, but made so by the worldview they hold i.e. Islam. In his defense, Zizek does note at one point that, it was through the Arabs that, in the Middle Ages, we in Western Europe regained access to our Ancient Greek Heritage.24 In his claims, Zizek might have been served well by actual research, rather than inane assumptions. Though he does mention the Greek philosophy connection, that miniscule nod barely scratches the surface. It is not the case that the Arabs merely preserved the Greek texts Caliph Al Mamun (d. 833 CE) the ruler of the Abbasid Dynasty paid translators the weight of each book in

22

Clinton, William. My Life. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004. Pp. 509-10. ALSO Branch, Taylor. The Clinton Tapes. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2009. 9-10, 217. 23 Zizek, Slavoj. Violence. Pg. 106. (Emphasis added) 24 Zizek, Slavoj. Welcome to the Desert of the Real. 41.

Faruk Rahmanovic

SAY IT AINT SO, ZIZEK!

Zizek Seminar

gold that they translated from Greek to Arabic 25 but rather, those texts came back with a copious commentary.26 This allowed Medieval Europe to reengage with philosophical thought and process, not start from scratch. Further, the staggering proliferation of philosophical texts and the accumulation of knowledge in the Islamic world, indicates that the Islamic societies understood well the concepts of civilization, civility, and progress. The same can be easily noted in the fact that, while European kings sat in gloomy and drafty castles, Andalusia (as well as all other Islamic states) turned architecture into religious art, and created such monuments as survive to this day.27 Further, all forms of science including biology, chemistry,28 mathematics, astronomy, medicine, surgery, mechanics, optics, etc., arrived in Europe from the Islamic world via open trade.29 Along with sciences came culture universities, paper, glass, banking system,30 waterworks, perfumes, hospitals, music, the notion of a three-course meal 31 - in other words, all those civilized factors Zizek claims as solely a product of Europe.32 It also bears noting that Islam provided the worlds first written constitution , a set of universal human rights, and any number of other elements which are now an integral part of European identity.33 Therefore, Zizeks claims are, once again, fictitious at best. Zizeks critique further extends to Islamic lack of participation in the modern economic system, which helps to explain his earlier remarks on clashes within a civilization . I think it is a fact that of all world great religions Islam clearly has the strongest resistance to the process of global capitalism. Other religions, like Buddhism, Hinduism, Catholicism and so on, have by and large
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1001 Inventions. Edited by Salim T.S. Al-Hussani. 2 Ed. Manchester: Foundation for Science Technology and Civilisation, 2007. Pg. 60 (emphasis added) 26 In Aquinas works, the term Philosopher always refers to Aristotle, while the term Commentator always refers to Ibn Sina (Avicenna) 27 E.g. Cordoba, Isfahan, Istanbul, Bursa, Konya, Fez, Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut, etc. 28 In fact, the Arabic word for chemistry is Chemia (system of balancing disparate parts) which, along with the definite article prefix al (thus al Chemia) was Latinized as alchemy. 29 1001 inventions. 30 th Ibid. pg. 148. in the 9 century a Muslim businessman could cash a cheque in Canton, China drawn on his bank account in Baghdad. 31 1001 inventions. 32 Trend, J.B. Spain and Portugal In The Legacy of Islam. Ed. Sir Thomas Arnold and Alfred Guillaume. Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1931. Pp. 5-6. 33 Hamidullah, Muhammad. The Worlds First Written Constitution. ALSO Islamic Concept of Human Rights. Edited by Haider, S.M. Lahore: The Book House, 1987. ALSO Murad, Abdal Hakim. The Muslim Influence On Europe and the West. (Lecture Series). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hc-oWwGUM6I

nd

Faruk Rahmanovic

SAY IT AINT SO, ZIZEK!

Zizek Seminar

adapted to global capitalism, but Islam has not.34 Consequently, we are now presented with a religious system which advocates for militancy and backwardness, which is not only backward socially, but also economically.35 Additionally, it is not just a fact that Islam (the religion itself) has failed to adapt to the fact of global capitalism, it is that it inherently resists such adaptation. Perhaps the key point is the fact that Zizek puts this issue in terms of Islam qua Islam, rather than of particular groups and nations, that really brings home the message that Islam itself is the problem . As far as this claim is concerned, one has only to observe the fact that Islamic banks, the world over, suffered minimal losses in the 2008 global market collapse,36 followed by the fact that some of the largest banks in the world including Citibank are currently actively diversifying their investments to include Islamic, Sharia compliant, finance.37 However, Zizek is partially right in his assessment. Islam is not only resistant, but outright prohibitive to certain commonplace Western economic models, such as usury, futures trading, speculative investments, and generally the exploitative elements of Western capitalism.38 39 Islam is also opposed to conventional interest-based financing, preferring to share the risk equally between the individual and the bank thus preventing problems like the post-2008 housing market collapse. Further, the Islamic economics system has been developing for as long as Islam itself.40

34 35

Zizek, Slavoj and Daly, Glyn. Conversations with Zizek. Cambridge: Polity Publishing, 2004. Pg. 159. This is not to say that Zizek here views capitalism as a positive value, but that the presence of a society thus adapted indicates its integration into modernity, and away from the primitive local systems. 36 Dridi, Jemma and Hasan, Maher. The Effects of the Global Crisis on Islamic and Conventional Banks: A Comparative Study IMF Publication, 2010. 37 Citi Wins Awards in Islamic Finance News Deals of the Year 2009. Global Islamic Finance Magazine. http://www.globalislamicfinancemagazine.com/?com=news_list&nid=1249 38 Naik, Zakir. Interest and Share Market by Dr. Zakir Naik. International Islamic Conference 2007. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XYhv10LcZTI 39 It should, perhaps, be granted that any form of capitalism carries with it an exploitative effect. However, there exists quite a bit of difference between particular instantiations of capitalism, based on the degree and kind of regulation exerted on the market. 40 The books of Hadith, as well as the works of all four major schools of law, have extensive discussions on economics and trading.

Faruk Rahmanovic

SAY IT AINT SO, ZIZEK!

Zizek Seminar

But what of Islams ability to adapt, as such? Zizek sees adaptation as already present within Islam, and from the Saudi-based, ultra-conservative, Wahhabi movement (though he does not identify it as such). On the question of Islamic need for a protestant revolution, Zizek notes,
This Protestant revolution was already accomplished more than two centuries ago, in the guise of the Wahhabi movement which emerged in (what is today) Saudi Arabia. Its basic tenet, the exercise of ijtihad (the right to reinterpret Islam on the basis of changing conditions), is the precise counterpart to Luthers reading of the Bible. Ijtihad is a properly dialectical notion: neither a spontaneous immersion in old traditions nor the need to adapt to new conditions and compromise, but the urge to reinvent eternity itself in new historical conditions.41

What arises from such a reading are two points: 1) Islam was a static system , which only managed to start adapting some 200 years ago; 2) the adaptation was brought about by the Saudibased Wahhabi movement (incidentally the same movement that gave us the basis for Bin Laden). Consequently, Islam was stuck in the 7th century mindset until the 1800s; and the reformation (i.e. Islam 2.0) is a more violently militant, intolerant, and oppressive system. Thus, if Islam was problematic to begin with, the adaptation of Islam to the modern environment is all the more so. With this argument, Zizek continues on his streak of claims without factual backing. The term ijtihad, as well as its applications, were noted by Muhammad,42 and considerably expanded upon, beginning in the first two centuries of Islamic scholarship. The founders of the four great legal schools all agreed on the main premise that any ruling made by jurists and scholars was limited to the time, place, and circumstances of the ruling. This allowed not only for different (yet equally valid and binding) rulings in different locations, but for different rulings in the same place, due to changing circumstances.43 In modern legal terminology, the rulings of legal scholars would be considered as precedent.44 Consequently, Islam, as well as its history from the earliest scholarly work, embodies the particular notion of ijtihad, as an adaptive property. As to the reason why such adaptation is generally

41 42

Zizek, Slavoj. Welcome to the Desert of the Real. Pp. 52-3. Asad, Muhammad. The Principle of State and Government in Islam. Pp. 24-5. ALSO Sunan Abu Dawud. Hadith # 3585. http://www.searchtruth.com/book_display.php?book=24&translator=3&start=10&number=3579 43 Asad, Muhammad. The Principle of State and Government in Islam. Pp. x, 12, 26. 44 Ibid. Pp. 14-17.

Faruk Rahmanovic

SAY IT AINT SO, ZIZEK!

Zizek Seminar

absent in much of the modern Islamic world, the long answer is beyond the scope of this analysis but the short answer is that the ability to adequately critique set rulings requires highly trained scholars much as one needs a constitutional scholar to provide an adequate critique of the US constitution which have been in short supply since the colonization of the Muslim world. For Zizek, his claims lead to the idea that Islam, and its reformed ideology, both amplify issues like oppression and militancy, and apparently glorify the extreme (re)actions, such as murder of civilians etc. With regard to US occupation of Iraq he notes, It is the first case of direct American occupation of a large and key Arab country how could this not generate universal hatred in reaction? One can already imagine thousands of young people dreaming of becoming suicide bombers, and how that will force the US government to impose a permanent high alert emergency state45 What Zizek posits at this point is not merely the (apparent) staggering degree of militancy in Islam, but also an unbridgeable gap between Muslims (or rather Islam) and the Western value system. The dream is not of freedom from foreign oppression, a dream for a better life, but a dream of murdering Western civilians and committing suicide at the same time . With his view of Islam as backwards, Zizek makes a rather stunning prediction of the US occupation of Iraq. Oddly enough, it seems that Iraqis, and Muslims in general, would rather blow themselves sky-high (despite suicide being categorically prohibited in Islam)46 than actually expel the invading forces. Perhaps Zizek here assumes that the only role models for Muslims in accordance with his views of Islam itself are those whose best purpose is as a cheap mobile explosive delivery unit. Yet, why not assume that thousands of young people are dreaming of becoming the next Saladin, of forcing the invading armies to retreat in unconditional surrender, shamed by the difference between their barbarous atrocities committed on civilians by the Western forces and the magnanimity of Muslims, who have taken the road prescribed by the Quran, Hadith, the life of their
45

Zizek, Slavoj. The Universal Exception. Edited by Rex Butler and Scott Stephens. London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2006. Pg. 302. 46 Quran. 4:29

Faruk Rahmanovic

SAY IT AINT SO, ZIZEK!

Zizek Seminar

prophet, and all the great generals after him?47 What is it about Islam and Muslims that has Zizek so certain that they would rather serve as a rather ineffectual suicide-explosive, than as a great leader to their oppressed nation? While Zizek does not give us a direct insight into his line of thought , it does smack of Orientalism and oddly enough seems to provide the attribution of the most bizarre notions of the Muslim Other. Zizeks analysis so far leaves us with a precious few solutions. The first step to solving a problem, as the saying goes, is admitting that you have a problem. In this case, Zizek holds Islam to be the problem and posits the recognition of the problem this way: The game of redeeming the inner truth of a religion or ideology and separating this out from its later or secondary political exploitation is simply false.48 In other words, Islam cannot be divorced from its representation as the ideology behind the vastly different and opposing views of Taliban, Hezbollah, etc. As such, it must be abandoned not in part but as a whole for any attempt at modification cannot escape the accompanying oppressively-homicidal terrorism. In regard to rational understanding of terrorists (though such an attempt is equally applicable to Muslims as a whole), Zizek seems to critique his own earlier claims.
Such an approach exemplifies the racist bias of the theories of rationality. Although their aim is to understand the Other from within, they end up attributing to the Other the most ridiculous beliefs In their effort to make the Other like us, they end up making him ridiculously weird .49

Thus far, Zizek has identified the problem (Islam), has noted that no rational understanding is possible, and that, since there is no way of redeeming Islam from the political exploitation, it must be abandoned as a whole (apparently by Muslims) and must be rejected by the liberal Leftists. How to achieve this grand goal? Zizek argues that the only way to do so is through the constitutional

47 48

Quran. 2:191-2, 4:90, 5:45, 9:6, etc. ALSO Muslim. Hadith #1126. Pg. 208. Zizek, Slavoj. Violence. Pg. 116. 49 Ibid. Pg. 82.

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Faruk Rahmanovic

SAY IT AINT SO, ZIZEK!

Zizek Seminar

elements of Western liberal Lietkultur, namely the freedom to attack anything or anyone; 50 to offer a critique as it should be offered disrespectfully. We should insist on the unconditional right to conduct a public critical analysis of all religions, Islam included While many a Leftist would concede this point , he or she would be quick to add that any such critique must be carried out in a respectful way, in order to avoid a patronizing cultural imperialism which de facto means that every real critique is to be abandoned, since genuine critique of religion will by definition be disrespectful of the latters sacred character and truth claims.51 As a result of Zizeks claims, we can conclude that, in his view, Islam stands as the polar opposite of the civilized Western values, beyond rationalization and exculpation. Weve already seen that Zizek has fallen prey to his own fanciful imaginings of Islam and Muslims, and ascribed a long series of incoherent attributes to both. The analysis now turns to the disrespectful critique. Zizeks idea of an appropriate and meaningful critique has two separate aspects. First, is whether a meaningful critique can even be offered, in light of events such as the violent protests following events such as the Danish cartoon publication. The Islamic answer is a resounding, yes. There is nothing within Islam that prohibits a dialogue, or criticism and both are in fact encouraged textually, as well as historically.52 The second question then turns on the notion of disrespect within a critique. Here, we must consider Zizeks phrasing. He considers the freedom to publically attack anyone and anything as a core European value, while a, genuine critique of religion will by definition be disrespectful of the latters sacred character and truth claims .

50 51

Zizek, Slavoj. In Defense of Lost Causes. London: Verso, 2008. Pg. 21. Zizek, Slavoj. Living in the End Times. London: Verso, 2010. Pg. 137. 52 Quran. 16:125. Call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and fair exhortation, and argue with the in the best way possible. Your Lord surely knows best who has gone astray from His way, and He knows best who are the rightly guided. (emphasis added). ALSO Muhammads message, particularly in the first period (Mecca 610-623), was met with everything from criticism and doubt to torture and assassinations attempts. Further, the notion of informing others of the Islamic message is, de facto, premised on their disbelief in Islam.

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Faruk Rahmanovic

SAY IT AINT SO, ZIZEK!

Zizek Seminar

If the notion of disrespect alluded to in this passage is one of not believing Islam to be true (i.e. the word of God), then there is no problem to be had, since the aforementioned Quranic and Hadith references already assume that the interlocutor is someone who does not believe in Islam . If, on the other hand, the notion of disrespect is understood as belligerence, false claims, and deliberate insults for their sake alone, then the problem of such a critique is not Islamic, but academic and is made such by the very notion of a civil society. Disrespectful approach creates a number of problems, including logical fallacies in the argument (ad hominem, straw man, scare tactics, etc.), hatemongering, and sophistry (in relying on the audiences ignorance to apparently score a point in a debate). Furthermore, all civilized nations have libel laws which are designed specifically to prevent the belligerent version of the disrespectful critique, by forcing the claimant to provide evidence of the charge, or keep silent. Therefore, what emerges in this distinction is that a respectful critique is not equivalent to pandering to the other side. Rather, what is at issue is the respect for the critique itself, by making such an endeavor an intelligent and educated one. No discussion is possible where one side is completely ignorant of the facts, yet refuses to become educated. A critique from a position of ignorance is no more than a bigoted rant.53 When the rhetoric of an academician echoes that of sideshow attractions like the right-wing radio hosts, it is not the sideshow that is in grave peril. While one fervently hopes that Zizeks account stems from a more educated place , its hard to hold out hope in light of his commentary. Finally, we turn to the notion that, The game of redeeming the inner truth of a religion or ideology and separating this out from its later or secondary political exploitation is simply false . Perhaps, with the assumptions and erroneous arguments Zizek holds, this argument should be understood as the issue of a system requiring such a degree of overhaul that the resulting reformation
53

Bigoted, as per the Cambridge Dictionary definition, of holding a strong and unreasonable view and these opposing it as wrong. The view must be unreasonable, since it arises from fancy and fiction. http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/bigot

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Faruk Rahmanovic

SAY IT AINT SO, ZIZEK!

Zizek Seminar

would be divorced from the original in too great a degree to hold any real connection to it. Alternately, Zizeks revolutionary streak might be pushing for another storming of the Versailles , rather than reaching for a compromise. What is given, regardless of Zizek, is that the majority of the modern, so-called Muslim states enforce a set of laws rather different than that of Islam. However, contrary to Zizeks oft used late fianc example , what must be considered in an intelligent assessment of any system are the theoretical dimensions , praxis, and the reasons for the discrepancy. One cannot simply overthrow systems as soon as their praxis does not match the theory, or our own preferences. If that were the case, there is not a political, philosophical, economic, or religious system that should have survived its first century. The French revolution included the killings of women and children (aristocrats); US engaged in the worst forms of slavery, denied rights to women, and just about exterminated an entire nation (Native Americans); Communist nations, whose official motto was atheism, exterminated their own people, as well as minorities, and began wars of aggression; etc. Thus, one must first be aware of the theory of a system in order to determine its potential value. Further, it is only against the background of such theory that praxis may be measured, and a determination may be made as to the relation between the theory and reality. Failing such an approach, one would be forced to condemn ideas like peace, freedom, and revolution, as UN peacekeepers have allowed genocide to occur, freedom-fighters have committed atrocities, and revolutions tend to involve chaos and murder. What is readily apparent from his premises and arguments is that Zizeks account is established on the ignorance of the system in question. Consequently, his solutions cannot be considered seriously at least until the preceding account is rectified . Such a conclusion must be made, and is independent of any particular subject matter, and is (or should be) the standard of academic work.

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Faruk Rahmanovic

SAY IT AINT SO, ZIZEK!

Zizek Seminar

Despite a fairly obvious conclusion to be drawn from Zizeks writings, one should not be uncharitable in such assessments, and should always give the author the benefit of the doubt. In such an attempt, we ask whether there is any way to read Zizek differently on this account. However, beyond the two noted exceptions, there is nothing to be had. Whats worse, Zizeks clumsy use of references (we will refrain from calling them intentionally fraudulent) is a clear indication that he argues from a position of ignorance. In fact, his occasional use of supposedly anecdotal tidbits seems to lend him credibility, except that even the most basic research will prove them patently false. For example, What underlies the Muslim attitude is the Muslim belief in the sacred status of writing (which is why, traditionally, Muslims dont use paper in their toilets).54 As quaint as such a sentiment may be, the reason why Muslims prefer not to use only toilet paper is because washing is considered to be better than using only solid objects, and is noted as such in several Hadith narrations.55 Further, the attribution of ijtihad to the Wahhabi sect is, in itself, partially true they did use the notion. However, the term was used by Mohammad, as well as scholars from the 7th century onwards. The misrepresentation is akin to positing that Protestantism arose from the idea of God as a Holy Trinity. Technically, the statement is true. However, the statement carries a clear implication that they were the first to do so, which is patently false. Zizeks failure to account for theology, history, social framework, etc. that were passed on to (Christian) Europe from Muslim nations in both the East and from Spain, indicates ignorance, and reveals a disturbing trend of Zizeks Orientalism. In this assessment, he gives no parallax view of Islam - it is, apparently, so homogenous and uniformly identical across the board, that all perspectives are exactly the same. What is disturbing in this account is that the statements made were not an offthe-cuff remark presented as a personal feeling towards Islam and Muslims. Such an account would
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Zizek, Slavoj. Violence. New York: Picador, 2008. 106. Bukhari (Translation of the Bukhari Hadith collection). Hadith # 1.4.152. http://www.quranexplorer.com/Hadith/English/Hadith/bukhari/001.004.152.html

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Faruk Rahmanovic

SAY IT AINT SO, ZIZEK!

Zizek Seminar

be bigoted and racist, but would at least be understandable. Instead, Zizek offers his account as an official critique throughout several books and articles, and offers it with a supposed insight into the subject. This makes the presentation that much worse, as it conveys the feeling of authority on the subject, despite its clear ignorance at least to someone who is educated on the issue. Zizek aside, what does the uncritical attitude toward, and the acceptance of, such arguments even when they are demonstrably ignorant by analysis or admission say about the state of academic attitudes on the subject? No professor would allow this argument as an oral one, let alone as a term paper. Yet we not only turn a blind eye to such work, but continue to endorse both the work and its author, despite knowing full well that their work is (in this regard) nothing more than a bigoted , racist, Orientalist, and ultimately ignorant approach to a popular topic56 where people do look to academia to provide answers and help place the issue into its appropriate context. Despite Zizeks claims, this is not a matter of providing a respectful or disrespectful critique of a religion. No, this is about showing the least bit of respect for academia, the very notion of a critique, and for philosophy. The trouble, in the real sense, is not the claim that some religious system should be dismantled. It is that such a claim is made on the grounds of absolute and obvious ignorance of the topic. Would we accept a critique of any other theory or system on the same ignorant grounds even as undergraduate work? The answer is a resounding, no. Whether this promulgation of ignorance and bigotry was intentional on Zizeks part, one cannot say and I personally prefer to give him the benefit of the doubt. However, it makes him no less complicit in that promulgation; and one that has reached a global audience, given his status as one of a rare few philosophy superstars.

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A potent example is one of Dr. Dawkins, who recently admitted to never having read the Quran, but continuing to affirm that Islam is the greatest force for evil today. When challenged on the failure to use anything approaching an academic method for such inflammatory language, he doubled down by indirectly equating Islam to Nazism and the Quran to Mein Kampf. http://www.salon.com/2013/03/30/dawkins_harris_hitchens_new_atheists_flirt_with_islamophobia/

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Faruk Rahmanovic

SAY IT AINT SO, ZIZEK!

Zizek Seminar

Works Cited 1. Aboul-Enein, Youssef H., and Sherifa Zuhur. Islamic Rulings on Warfare. Carlisle Barracks: Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, 2004. 2. Asad, Muhammad. The Principle of State and Government in Islam. Gibraltar: Dar Al-Andalus, 1987. 3. Branch, Taylor. The Clinton Tapes. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2009. 9-10, 217. 4. Clinton, William. My Life. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004. 5. Dridi, Jemma and Hasan, Maher. The Effects of the Global Crisis on Islamic and Conventional Banks: A Comparative Study IMF Publication, 2010. 6. El-Munziri, Zekijjudin Abdu-l-Azim Ed-Dimiski., comp. Muslimova Zbirka Hadisa: Izbor. Translated by Sefik Kudric. Zenica: Kuca Mudrosti, 2004. 7. Esposito, John L. and Mogahed, Dalia. Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think. New York; Gallup Press, 2008. 8. Hamidullah, Muhammad. The Worlds First Written Constitution. Lahore: Sh. Muhammad Ashraf, 1975. 9. Ibn-Kesir. Tefsir Ibn-Kesir, Skraena Verzija. Edited by Muhammed Nesir Er-Rifa'i. Translated by Group. 2nd ed. Sarajevo: Visoki Saudijski Komitet Za Pomoc BiH, 2002. 10. Khadduri, Majid. War and Peace in the Law of Islam. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1955. 11. Ullah, Hamid. Muslim Conduct of State. Ed. Syed Mahmud-un-Nasir. Lahore: Mansoor Book House, 1973. 12. Trend, J.B. Spain and Portugal In The Legacy of Islam. Ed. Sir Thomas Arnold and Alfred Guillaume. Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1931. 13. Zizek, Slavoj and Daly, Glyn. Conversations with Zizek. Cambridge: Polity Publishing, 2004. 14. Zizek, Slavoj. In Defense of Lost Causes. London: Verso, 2008.
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Faruk Rahmanovic

SAY IT AINT SO, ZIZEK!

Zizek Seminar

15. Zizek, Slavoj. Living in the End Times. London: Verso, 2010. 16. Zizek, Slavoj. The Universal Exception. Edited by Rex Butler and Scott Stephens. London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2006. 17. Zizek, Slavoj. Violence. New York: Picador, 2008. 18. Zizek, Slavoj. Welcome to the Desert of the Real. London: Verso, 2002. 19. 1001 Inventions. Edited by Salim T.S. Al-Hussani. 2nd Ed. Manchester: Foundation for Science Technology and Civilisation, 2007. 20. Islamic Concept of Human Rights. Edited by Haider, S.M. Lahore: The Book House, 1987. 21. The Quran. Translated and Annotated by Ali nal. New jersey, The Light, 2007. 22. Bukhari (Translation of the Bukhari Hadith collection). http://www.quranexplorer.com/Hadith/English/Hadith/bukhari/001.004.152.html 23. Naik, Zakir. Interest and Share Market by Dr. Zakir Naik. International Islamic Conference 2007. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XYhv10LcZTI 24. Sunan Abu Dawud. (Translation of the Abu Dawud Hadith Collection) http://www.searchtruth.com/book_display.php?book=24&translator=3&start=10&number=3579 25. Citi Wins Awards in Islamic Finance News Deals of the Year 2009. In Global Islamic Finance Magazine. http://www.globalislamicfinancemagazine.com/?com=news_list&nid=1249 26. Lean, Nathan. Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens: New Atheists Flirt with Islamophobia. Published 3/30/2013.
http://www.salon.com/2013/03/30/dawkins_harris_hitchens_new_atheists_flirt_with_islamophobia/

27. Cambridge Dictionary Online. http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/bigot 28. Murad, Abdal Hakim. The Muslim Influence On Europe and the West. (Lecture Series). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hc-oWwGUM6I

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