Friday, December 15, 2006

Koenraad Elst and the anatomy of Denial

With the antics of President Ahmadinejad and his Holocaust-Denial conference still fresh in the mind, now is a good time to introduce the work of Professor Koenraad Elst, a brilliant Flemish historian and comparative religion specialist. Professor Elst has written extensively on denial, or what he calls 'negationism', particularly in relation to Hindu-Muslim relations. Just substitute the word 'Jew' for 'Hindu', however, and the parallels are uncanny. Here he explains the tactics the negationist uses to confound his interlocutors (with thanks: Ranbir):

  • Ignoring the facts: This passive negationism is certainly the safest and the most popular. The media and textbook-writers simply keep the vast corpus of inconvenient testimony out of the readers' view.
  • Minimizing the facts: If the inconvenient fact is pointed out that numerous Muslim chroniclers have reported a given massacre of unbelievers themselves, one can posit a priori that they must have exaggerated to flatter their patron's martial vanity - as if it is not significant enough that Muslim rulers felt flattered by being described as mass-murderers of infidels.
An oft-invoked counterweight for the charge-sheet against Islam, is the fanaticism record of Christianity. it is indeed well-known that Christianity has been guilty of numerous temple destructions and persecutions. But the reason for this fanaticism is found in the common theological foundation of both religions: exclusivist prophetic monotheism. The case against Christianity is at once a case against Islam. Moreover, in spite of its theologically motivated tendency to intolerance, Christianity has had to go through the experience of "live and let live" because in its formative period, it was but one of the numerous sects in the pluralist Roman empire.

An even more general way of drowning Islamic fanaticism in relativist comparisons, is to point out that after all, every imperialism has been less than gentle. That may well be true, but then, we are not setting up cults for the Genghis Khans of this world. A religion should contribute to man's transcending his natural defects like greed and cruelty, and not sanction and glorify them.

For another example, negationists always mentionn cases of collaboration by non-Muslims (Man Singh with the Moghuls,etc.) to suggest that these were treated as partners and equals and that Muslim rule was quite benevolent; when in fact every history of an occupation, even the most cruel one, is also the history of a collaboration. As has been pointed out, the Nazis employed Jewish guards in the Warsaw ghetto, disprove the Nazi oppression of the Jews.

Read article in full (scroll down to General Characteristics of Islam Negationism)

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