Welcome John Feffer (ForeignPolicyInFocus) and Host Zaid Jilani (RepublicReport.org)

Crusade 2.0: The West’s Resurgent War on Islam

Less than a week after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, then-President Bush infamously called the resulting “war on terror” a “crusade…[that] is going to take awhile.” The use of the phrase brought about global rebukes, ranging from French foreign minister Hubert Vedrine, who said that we “have to avoid a clash of civilizations at all costs” to Soheib Bensheik, the Grand Mufti of the mosque in Marseille, France, who warned that the use of the phrase was “most unfortunate.”

Bush’s trip-up was seen largely as a gaffe that U.S. public affairs officials sought to avoid in the future. But in John Feffer’s Crusade 2.0: The West’s Resurgent War on Islam, we are shown that the current conflicts the United States is involved in with the Muslim world — both at home through Islamophobic protests of mosque construction and abroad in hot conflicts in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, and elsewhere — in a way do resemble a renewed Crusade.

Feffer’s book seeks to connect the Christian-Muslim wars of yesteryear to today by taking the reader first through a re-told, myth-busting history of the original Crusades. The book corrects the notion that the Crusades were largely a defensive war against the Muslim armies in the east, and looks at much of the rhetoric about the insatiable evil of Muslims and how that rhetoric has entered the Islamophobic dialogue of today.

But it is the Cold War that serves as the bridge between the original Crusades and Crusade 2.0. Feffer explains how the massive geopolitical conflict between the United States and Soviet Union involved a huge expansion of American military power onto Muslim land. We are brought through the history of the U.S. arming dictators, siding with paramilitary extremists, and ignoring legitimate grievances of the Islamic world in order to gain the upper hand on the its Soviet nemesis.

Finally, the book recounts the current “war on terror” and laments how President Obama has continued too many facets of Bush’s Crusade 2.0. Feffer links our wars abroad to an increase in demonization of Muslims at home by the far right, and notes that it’s very difficult to separate the two. Despite modest efforts by both the Bush and Obama administrations to preach tolerance towards Muslim Americans, Islamophobia is on the rise, driven by far-right figures like Frank Gaffney. Crusade 2.0 also shows that things are worse abroad, with Muslim populations and their rights under increasing scrutiny and attack in European countries.

Feffer’s book concludes by proposing a path to ending Crusade 2.0 and coming to a reasonable conclusion of hostility between the West and the Muslim world. This path includes re-aligning U.S. policy to end military conflicts against Muslims, respecting the civil liberties of the domestic population, and coming to a meaningful understanding of modern Muslim states like Turkey who are seeking a more assertive role in global politics.

Please welcome John Feffer and let’s begin this discussion of our renewed Crusade, and, perhaps more importantly, how to end it.


[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]

102 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes John Feffer, Crusade 2.0: The West’s Resurgent War on Islam”

BevW August 4th, 2012 at 1:47 pm

John, Zaid, Welcome back to the Lake.

Zaid, Thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

For our new readers/commenters:

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John Feffer August 4th, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Thanks, Bev. And thanks, Zaid. I look forward to the discussion.

dakine01 August 4th, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Good afternoon John and Zaid and welcome back to FDL this afternoon

John, I have not read your book so forgive me if you address this in there, but given the number of people in power that continue to harp on “radical Muslims” as the biggest threat to the world, how do we break that cycle of demonization?

Additionally, how does the US perpetually supporting the dictators make this effort easier or more difficult as the case may be?

Zaid Jilani August 4th, 2012 at 2:02 pm

John thanks so much for being here. I wanted to start by asking you why you chose to write this book. What about the current conflicts between the West and the Muslim World do you think is being left out of the current discussion? How does the narrative of Crusades 2.0 act as a corrective to our discourse about this issue?

John Feffer August 4th, 2012 at 2:05 pm

Those are good questions. Let me take them one at a time. In terms of the first question, we certainly do have people in power, like Michelle Bachmann and her colleagues in the House, who demonize “radical Muslims.” Getting the Republican Party to condemn Bachmann, as John McCain has done, is very important. Mitt Romney has so far refused to do so. Voting these politicians out of office because of their statements is the next step. But we also have to recognize that a significant number of Americans support Bachmann’s position. So it’s essential that we address this issue at a cultural level. I’ll return to this issue after I address your next question.

hpschd August 4th, 2012 at 2:05 pm

Welcome to the Lake!

A very interesting book. I’ve not finished it yet but it’s a great read.

I was surprised by the historical distortions that began with the “Song of Roland” battle which actually had nothing at all to do with fighting Muslims.

There certainly continues to be distortions and misrepresentations of current events.

How to get past these poisoned attitudes and false histories? As you point out, it is a 1000 year tradition.

BevW August 4th, 2012 at 2:08 pm

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John Feffer August 4th, 2012 at 2:08 pm

On to your next question, and then I’ll respond to Zaid’s question.

U.S. support of autocrats in Saudi Arabia and Egypt has long been a major source of discontent in the Muslim world, and it’s actually something unites democrats and al-Qaeda. The Arab Awakening should have done a number of things: put to rest the fallacy that Islam and democracy are somehow incompatible, demonstrate that the people of the Arab world are not quiescent, and force the United States to rethink its support of those autocrats. So far, in terms of the third items, Washington has not done so with respect to Saudi Arabia…

Jim August 4th, 2012 at 2:08 pm

Why are there Sharia courts in the UK? Muslims are succeeding at playing liberals for suckers. A war on Islam is a non sequitur. It’s really Islam’s war on everyone else. Try being a Christian or a woman or gay in a Muslim country. Better have a good life insurance policy.

John Feffer August 4th, 2012 at 2:11 pm
In response to Zaid Jilani @ 4

Hi Ziad — thanks for those questions. Let me answer the first one and then come back to the others when there’s a lull.

I chose to write this book because first of all I was shocked by the disparity between the coverage of the AKP party in Turkey and the reality of what was taking place in the country. I was struck by the tremendous changes in Turkey as it moved away from authoritarianism, and I didn’t see those changes reflected in the mainstream press coverage of the AKP. Combine that with what was happening in America in the summer of 2010 and the explosion of hatred toward Muslims and I felt it was very important to write about this issue, especially as a non-Muslim.

John Feffer August 4th, 2012 at 2:14 pm
In response to hpschd @ 6

Yes, it is a thousand-year tradition that began with the French chansons like Song of Roland and continued through the entire narrative of Western civilization. In other words, Europe came to understand itself as an entity largely through its opposition to Islam. I don’t think that these are insuperable biases, however. After all, Franco-German enmity also goes back hundreds of years, yet today the two countries cooperative quite well. To deal with these old biases, I recommend that Europe rethinks its history to include the contributions of Islam and Muslims and, today, understands itself as an entity that includes millions of Muslim citizens.

John Feffer August 4th, 2012 at 2:18 pm
In response to Jim @ 9

There are sharia courts in the UK — as there are in Israel. As there are Jewish courts. These are for dispute settlement. In fact, Muslims were simply following the example of Jews and other religious groups in advocating for these dispute settlement opportunities. There’s nothing scary about them. As for being Christian or a woman or a gay in a Muslim country, it depends on the country. There’s a diversity of experiences. I suggest you read the report on women’s rights in Turkey produced by the European Stability Initiative to learn how women’s rights improved in Turkey under the AKP in comparison to the secular authoritarian regimes that preceded it.

That said, places like Saudi Arabia are not great for minorities or for women. And we should support the groups in countries like Saudi Arabia that are pushing for civil rights.

DWBartoo August 4th, 2012 at 2:19 pm
In response to John Feffer @ 5

Welcome to the lake, John.

Thank you, Zaid, for hosting.

John, it would seem that it is not merely Bachmann and the Republicans, but ALL of the political class, which includes the media, who are all too ready to go to war … I offer the Patriot Act, the NDAA, and the continuing assault by the Obama Administration on civil rights and Constitutional protections, think Gitmo, think Bradley Manning, as “evidence”.

Does your book explore the role of Israel and its American “lobby” in promoting a war with the “radical clerics” of Iran, for example?

Do you discuss the lies that took this nation to war in Iraq, and the fact that NONE of the political class dared stand against the assertion, the false argument (argumentum ad baculum, “argument with a stick”) “You are either with us or against us”, that Bush loudly proclaimed?


Siun August 4th, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Welcome John and Zaid,

In the midst of reading this book and finding it so informative and important.

Thanks for the writing – and for joining us today.

Zaid Jilani August 4th, 2012 at 2:22 pm
In response to John Feffer @ 12

I think the question is based on a false conclusion (Muslim domination) but I do think it poses an interesting question. We have empirically seen that Muslim populations in Europe tend to be more prone to radicalism than the U.S.’s population. Why do you think this is?

John Feffer August 4th, 2012 at 2:22 pm
In response to John Feffer @ 12

So, your second question was about the current conflicts between the West and the Muslim world. Yes, it is often forgotten that, for instance, the current wars that the United States conducts with its allies in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other majority Muslim countries have a far greater impact on the relations between the West and the Muslim world than, say, President Obama’s speech in Cairo calling for a reset. Mind you, the speech was a great one. And the president deserved the applause he got from the Egyptian audience. But U.S. favorability ratings in the Muslim world fell even lower under Obama’s tenure than it was under Bush. And that was largely because of the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan and the drone wars conducted in other countries, all of which produced for the most part, Muslim casualties.

In other words, we can’t improve the relationship between the West and Islam without ending these wars.

hpschd August 4th, 2012 at 2:22 pm

The contradiction of treating some Muslim countries as allies when they are totalitarian or feudal, and others that are much more democratic as enemies is profoundly confusing.

In the 1950s the US was approached by the King of Saud for a loans(!) of hundreds of millions. The King’s profligacy of building palaces and buying hundreds of US cars and modern technology left the country in dire poverty. This was perceived by the State department as fertile ground for communist uprisings. So the King got the money. The US made it possible for the King to continue to abuse and neglect the people.

The Saud family was traditionally Wahhabi and should have rejected all western progress and technology, but embraced it with a vengeance, but only for the royal family.

This certainly created problems and conflicts in the Muslim world. How have other Muslim nations worked out the conflicts of ‘modernization’.

CTuttle August 4th, 2012 at 2:23 pm

Mahalo, John and Zaid for being here at the Lake…!

John, do you delve into the major sects of Islam? Such as the Shi’a, Sunni and Salafi…? What are your thoughts on each of them…?

John Feffer August 4th, 2012 at 2:25 pm
In response to Zaid Jilani @ 15

Part of it is probably due to the socioeconomic issue. Muslims in America by and large enjoy a higher economic status than the Muslims in Europe. There is, in other words, a great deal more alienation, anger, and frustration among European Muslims. We have to be careful here, of course, because some of the radicalism in Europe has taken place among middle class European Muslims. But they are, at least according to their comments, responding to feelings of not fitting in, of not being accepted in mainstream society.

Siun August 4th, 2012 at 2:26 pm
In response to John Feffer @ 16


While I am certain drones and our continuing war in Afghanistan (and intervention in Yemen) are key reasons Obama’s initial applause has waned in the Muslim world, would you say the US support for Israel and refusal to act on Palestinian rights is also critical?

John Feffer August 4th, 2012 at 2:29 pm
In response to hpschd @ 17

Yes, geopolitics certainly makes strange bedfellows, as the U.S.-Saudi relationship proves. Of course, the United States has never really put “democracy” as the priority when choosing what allies to cultivate. “National interest” is of much greater importance — and Saudi oil is a critical national interest.

We’ve seen different models of modernization in the Muslim world. Turkey, again, offers two different approaches — radical secular Westernization along the French model wit ha highly centralized state followed by the AKP’s approach of more laissez-faire economics, greater democracy, and an attempt to bring Turkey into compliance with EU standards. This latter approach has proven quite popular at least on a rhetorical level in the Arab world as countries like Egypt and Tunisia cast about for ways to pull themselves out of their autocratic pasts.

azhealer August 4th, 2012 at 2:31 pm


If we are to take people’s words seriously, and hold them to account– how is Israel and the West to respond to Iran’s repeated (even this week) intent to annihilate Israel and wipe it from the Earth?

Would you not consider that this is more damaging to peace and stability?

What kind of ‘reset’ to better align with Islamic countries ought the US have in order to accommodate Iran’s goals?

John Feffer August 4th, 2012 at 2:32 pm
In response to CTuttle @ 18

I don’t write very much about the different sects of Islam. I’m not a specialist on Islam and I recommend in my book various other books on Islam — by John Esposito, for instance. Instead, Crusade 2.0 looks at how the West has perceived Islam — during the Crusades, during the Cold War, and during the “war on terrorism.” I write about how there is a tendency, among Islamophobes, to reduce Islam to a caricature, an undifferentiated “ideology” rather than a complex religion with many different traditions and interpretations.

John Feffer August 4th, 2012 at 2:35 pm
In response to Siun @ 20

Yes, absolutely, there is great disappointment over U.S. policy toward Israel. There was an expectation, perhaps naive, that Obama would push much harder to stop Israeli settlement policies. And with the discourse in the U.S. having shifted in important ways on Israel — just look at what Tom Friedman has written recently or what Walter Pincus has written in the Washington Post — there is disappointment that the Obama administration hasn’t reflected this shift. I’m sure Obama has said certain things away from the microphone, pleading for people to simply wait for his next term before he can really do anything….

CTuttle August 4th, 2012 at 2:35 pm
In response to John Feffer @ 21

What are your thoughts on Egypt’s Mursi renouncing his Muslim Brotherhood ties and having to work with a cabinet that had been vetted/approved by the SCAF, do you think the Tahrir square protestors are happy with that outcome…?

PeasantParty August 4th, 2012 at 2:37 pm

Hi, John.

I haven’t had the opportunity to read your book yet. Here at the Lake we have many 9-11 Theories. During your research and writing did you come across explanations for the involvement of the Saudi’s and why all planes were grounded aside from the planes the Bush family allowed for the Bin Laden families to leave the US?

John Feffer August 4th, 2012 at 2:38 pm
In response to azhealer @ 22

Iran’s rhetoric toward Israel is matched by israeli actions toward Iran. Has Iran assassinated Israeli nuclear scientists? Made credible — and I repeat, credible — threats to destroy Israel’s nuclear complex? Joined up with another country like North Korea to introduce a computer virus into Israel to undermine its nuclear deterrence?

Look, I’m no fan of Iran’s foreign policy. But we’re not going to get a different one by using nothing but sticks. Change will come in Iran, but not by way of a fighter jet and drone attacks…

DWBartoo August 4th, 2012 at 2:39 pm
In response to John Feffer @ 24

Do you expect Obama to address these larger issues in a “next term”?

If so, then what is the reason for these hopes if, indeed, you do have such hopes?

Who, for example, is Obama listening to that might give you cause for such hope?


Siun August 4th, 2012 at 2:40 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 28

Good question DW.

azhealer August 4th, 2012 at 2:41 pm

The difference- if Iran came to Israel with an offer of real peace tomorrow- the Israelis would take it.

Iran would not even sit down with Israelis– just look at the beyond disgusting, despicable, repugnant behavior of some of the Muslim country’s athletes’ behavior toward Israel’s athletes.

hpschd August 4th, 2012 at 2:42 pm

“The motivation behind political Islam is justice”, p. 187

Would you talk about this? Does this apply to the Muslim Brotherhood for example?

PeasantParty August 4th, 2012 at 2:43 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 28

I would think there would be no change if he allows the same advisors and committee members intact.

John Feffer August 4th, 2012 at 2:43 pm
In response to CTuttle @ 25

A while ago I wrote a piece called “Two Cheers for the Muslim Brotherhood.” I talked about the shift the Brotherhood has made toward a political strategy and away from a military strategy. I wrote about how the MB has been a force for good in terms of democratization. Of course, I said “two cheers” not “three cheers” since there are still some objectionable elements to many of the MB’s policies.

Part of this transformation has been a recognition that it must engage in a politics of accommodation once it takes power. In a more democratic society, such accommodation is a sign of political maturity. In a less democratic society, which Egypt alas is struggling with, such accommodation might be a step backward. And I’m sure the Tahrir protestors are not happy with the persistent influence of SCAF. Will we see a Turkish solution in which the Islamists progressively shunt the military out of power in Egypt? I hope so. But it wasn’t easy in Turkey either.

Jim August 4th, 2012 at 2:46 pm
In response to John Feffer @ 12

Disputes settled according to Islamic Law, which values women far less than the rest of the civilized world. Sharia courts do not belong in non Muslim countries, period. And I’d hardly equate Israel and Europe.It’s amazing how everyone has to bend to Islam’s demands. I have no Idea why, it’s a barbaric disgusting religion.

John Feffer August 4th, 2012 at 2:47 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 26

I didn’t really address the various alternative 9-11 theories. The book focuses on anti-Islamic sentiment, so of course I talked about my own theory concerning al-Qaeda and its reasons for launching the attack. I basically argue that al-Qaeda was as much or more concerned about rescuing its steadily declining reputation than in striking an effective blow against the United States. As I’ve written elsewhere, bin Laden was also hoping that the United States would engage al-Qaeda as a “civilizational adversary,” thereby conferring precisely that legitimacy on the organization and, and this was beyond perhaps even his wildest dreams, practically bankrupting the United States in the process.

Zaid Jilani August 4th, 2012 at 2:47 pm


I was at an event a few months ago where a speaker read a statistic: 98 percent of American Muslims are in three professions: doctors, engineers, and small business owners. The speaker said this is a big part of the reason American Muslims fail to get influence in American society — they don’t become journalists, politicians, playwrights.

On the other hand, the speaker noted that they’ve tried to make an American edition of “Little Mosque on the Prairie” — a popular sitcom show in Canada featuring Muslim families — in the U.S. several times, but have been unable to do so. One Hollywood type apparently even asked, “Does it have to be a mosque?”

So how much do you attribute the minor role of American Muslims in American society to their own choices — how the community has sought to stay out of the humanities and politics — versus the natural exclusion new immigrants to the U.S. have to go through?

DWBartoo August 4th, 2012 at 2:47 pm
In response to John Feffer @ 33

Perhaps, we, American citizens, ought also seek to lessen the power of the military … or at least, its “profitability”?

How might “the people” encourage the political class in this nation to seek diplomatic rather than military “solution”, John?

I think now of the use of drones, specifically, in “secret” wars launched from secret “bases”.


CTuttle August 4th, 2012 at 2:47 pm
In response to John Feffer @ 33

Doesn’t the Muslim Brotherhood also vary widely in their constructs and even ideology from country to country in the MENA…?

PeasantParty August 4th, 2012 at 2:48 pm
In response to Jim @ 34

Thank you for your thoughts, however please be advised that all of the religions hold the same aspects.

John Feffer August 4th, 2012 at 2:48 pm
In response to Jim @ 34

Do you believe that courts run according to Jewish law belong in the United States? In Europe? Because, as I said, they function quite well. Do you consider Judaism to be a barbaric, disgusting religion? Islamophobia bears quite a few resemblances to anti-Semitism…

Siun August 4th, 2012 at 2:49 pm

The Muslim Brotherhood has represented the popular positions of the majority of Egyptians – many of my Egyptian friends here are quite pleased with their succes is the elections even as they are opposed to the continue role of SCAF. While I certainly support the secular Tahrir activists, it seems important that we understand and honor the actual views of the majority as well. Here in the West, we tend to demand more “liberalism” from Muslim societies than we practice ourselves.

Zaid Jilani August 4th, 2012 at 2:52 pm
In response to Jim @ 34

How do you view the courts in Britain as any different than arbitration?

John Feffer August 4th, 2012 at 2:52 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 28

I don’t have any illusions about Obama, either now or in his next term (I wrote a piece called the Goldilocks Apocalypse before the 2008 elections that laid out my concerns about his foreign policy). Yes, he promised to withdraw from Iraq, but only to refocus on Afghanistan. He was not and will not be a “peace president.”

Still, if he’s reelected, he might do things to live up to his Nobel Prize. George W. Bush, in his second term, cast around for something to burnish his reputation, and he seized on North Korea. Who would have thought that the president who included North Korea in his axis of evil would then make a 180 degree shift and negotiate seriously with the country.

So, if Obama does seriously pursue Israeli-Palestinian peace — and push hard against Netanyahu — he will do so not out of any idealism but for practical reasons.

PeasantParty August 4th, 2012 at 2:53 pm

Do you know of a religion that holds Women in high esteem and first or equal with men? I think you would be much more interested in the Book Salon interview than in bashing a religion.

John Feffer August 4th, 2012 at 2:53 pm
In response to azhealer @ 30

Netanyahu? Sit down with the Iranians? Dream on…

Siun August 4th, 2012 at 2:56 pm

I take it you have not read John’s book – nor any other legitimate works on Islam.

John Feffer August 4th, 2012 at 2:56 pm
In response to hpschd @ 31

Justice is essential to Islam (as it is to Judaism and probably most religions). Political Islam has focused a great deal on the downtrodden. It’s no mystery why Islamist organizations devote so much of their time to social work — distributing food, health care, and so forth in poor communities. This effort to pursue justice — the amplifying of the demands of the downtrodden — has shaped their political platforms as well.

That said, such groups don’t always realize their principles when in power. But that, alas, is a feature of Western political parties as well…

DWBartoo August 4th, 2012 at 2:56 pm
In response to John Feffer @ 43

I sincerely hope that you are correct, John, in your faint hopes.

However, it has been my observation, and recently, on another Book Salon, one of Obama’s ardent supporters confirmed my observation, unintentionally, I am certain, and said that Obama is unlikely to do anything unless he perceives some personal “advantage” in so doing …


John Feffer August 4th, 2012 at 3:01 pm
In response to Zaid Jilani @ 36

That’s a really interesting question. It’s certainly true that Hollywood is not overly populated with Muslim Americans. This has produced all the terrible examples in Jack Shaheed’s Reel Bad Arabs. And today, in the more PC environment, it has produced a myopia. Perhaps if there were more Muslim American playwrights like Wajahat Ali, we would see more complex depictions of Muslims in US films and on TV. As it is, we are still waiting for our Qosbi Show.

One more thing. The Cosby Show was successful in transforming U.S. attitudes about African-Americans, and Will and Grace similarly successful on LGBT issues, because of the prior efforts and successes of social movements. I don’t think we’ll see a successful Qosbi Show until there is a successful social movement of Muslim Americans (and, thankfully, we are seeing more and more very vocal and well-organized efforts coming from Muslim Americans)

PeasantParty August 4th, 2012 at 3:02 pm


I watched some of the interviews of the Summer Games. One young man from Afghanistan said that his $20,000.00 reward would make him extremely rich for representing his country.

My mind quickly went to the amount of money the US pays families there to settle blood libel over deaths. Do you think the deaths from decades of Isreali oppression might be some of the largest parts of contention?

John Feffer August 4th, 2012 at 3:03 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 37

This is a big question and one that perhaps goes beyond the scope of this discussion. But, briefly, we have to sever the connection between jobs and the military. Right now, even progressive politicians will vote for ludicrous Cold-War era systems simply because they mean jobs for their districts. Unless and until we create other economic opportunities for those workers, and convince the politicians that these opportunities are better than military manufacturing, we’ll be stuck with the gross obesity of the Pentagon.

John Feffer August 4th, 2012 at 3:04 pm
In response to CTuttle @ 38

yes, the MB does differ country by country. And it is reacting to different conditions. But, in general, we have seen an evolution in the Brotherhood’s approach to politics.

DWBartoo August 4th, 2012 at 3:04 pm

Perhaps it were wise, Jim, to recall that it was a “Christian” nation which dropped atomic weapons on a civilian population, not once but twice …

That it is a “Christian” nation which is the major destructive force in the world, today.

I can think of no “major” religion, the three who worship the SAME “God”, certainly, which has ANY moral “high ground” to claim or to “stand” upon.



Siun August 4th, 2012 at 3:05 pm
In response to John Feffer @ 49

Bravo’s Shahs of Sunset was apparently successful though TLC’s All American Muslim was not – sadly since it was the most realistic view.

John Feffer August 4th, 2012 at 3:06 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 48

Yes, he’s a politician first and foremost. It’s our job as citizens and activists to make sure he does the right thing even if it’s for all the wrong reasons….

DWBartoo August 4th, 2012 at 3:06 pm
In response to John Feffer @ 51

Well said, John, and to the very central point of “our” time.

Our “political economy” is morally bankrupt and our “notions” of the Rule of Law, threadbare.


eCAHNomics August 4th, 2012 at 3:08 pm

Haven’t read the comments yet, so skip this Q if it’s already been covered.

Didn’t the Xtians lose the crusades?

I read a book about the crusades from the Islamic POV & they seemed to be more of a mosquito bite than anything serious.

IOW, so the book argued, Muslim’s already controlled the ME & except for some fringe Xtain victories for short-run periods, the crusades never amounted to a hill of beans from the Muslim’s POV.

After reading that book I decided that the Xtian-Muslim antipathy was the sore loser syndrome.

Do I understand that correctly?

John Feffer August 4th, 2012 at 3:10 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 50

Any settlement in the Israeli-Palestinian issue is going to involve some very painful “truth and reconciliation.” In exchange for finally getting their own country, with their own foreign policy and their own economy, Palestinians will make some sacrifices. And one of the most painful ones will be this issue of justice for those who lost their family members, their land, their livelihoods. That’s why it’s essential that the United States play a true “honest broker” role in this process by helping the weaker party and restraining the stronger party. I haven’t seen much evidence that Washington can or would play such a role. But, as I said, the shift in discourse on the issue over the last couple years has been quite surprising….

CTuttle August 4th, 2012 at 3:10 pm

Do you see any chance of a seismic shift away from the AIPAC/PNAC/AEI/Brookings/NED/TED Neocon/Neoliberal current policies at Foggy Bottom and the Pentagon…?

John Feffer August 4th, 2012 at 3:12 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 53

Yes, I would second that. Often people will say, yes, but what about the Buddhists! Surely Buddhism is a religion of peace, etc. And yes, that’s true. But as we’ve seen in Burma and other countries, many terrible things have been done in the name of Buddhism as well.

John Feffer August 4th, 2012 at 3:14 pm
In response to Siun @ 54

Yes, All-American Muslim was not a big hit with the TV audiences. Why? Because it was a reality show and the reality of the Muslim families participating in the exercise was all too prosaic. That was the great irony of the show. Muslim Americans were just a little too much like everyone else to warrant spending time watching their lives. The show drove home its major point — that Muslim Americans are no different from any other Americans — and failed precisely for that reason.

DWBartoo August 4th, 2012 at 3:17 pm
In response to John Feffer @ 60

Yes. I can think of no “organized” religion or “philosophy” which has not embraced “organized mayhem” … otherwise known, simply, as “war” …

THAT might possibly be a topic, John, for another book?


hpschd August 4th, 2012 at 3:18 pm

As Christianity is not the Bible, Islam is not the Qu’ran. The map is not the territory. John’s book chronicles the history of the West’s attitudes toward the Muslim culture.

Cultural divides are serious matters.

The talk is always “let’s try to understand and relish our differences.” – DFH nonsense. (Confession – I am a DFH)

The problem at hand is that for over 1000 years the dominant western (Christian) culture did not like the competition, and used all the classic techniques to slander and condemn and vilify (and kill off) the competition. It worked really well, and now we are stuck with the consequences.

For a while we had the godless communists to draw our attention, but that has turned out strangely as we now owe some of them a lot of money.

After 9/11 all the old islamophobia was dusted off and broadcast all over the West. Worked like a charm.

In the last chapter, John says, “After all, it’s not really about Muslims. It’s about us, the West, the non-Muslim West. We have yet to come to terms with the Crusades that still reside so deeply within our own hearts…”

John Feffer August 4th, 2012 at 3:19 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 57

That’s a reasonably fair characterization. Muslim accounts of the Crusades didn’t treat them as world-historical as the Christian accounts do. The Europeans established some settler states that lasted for a couple hundred years in some cases. They scored a handful of military victories. But, honestly, the engagement with the Muslim world had a greater impact on Christian Europe in terms of every major aspect of civilization. Christian Europe learned philosophy, mathematics, sanitation, agricultural techniques, inventions from China, and on and on. What did Muslims learn about Christian Europe? Not a great deal.

John Feffer August 4th, 2012 at 3:22 pm
In response to CTuttle @ 59

TED? I like the inclusion of TED in your list.

I don’t see a seismic shift philosophically, not in the short term. But if the United States has to cut a trillion dollars from the military over the next 10 years ($500 billion that Obama has proposed plus $500 in sequestration), then we might begin to see some changes. The United States will simply not be able to maintain its empire of bases, its “Pacific pivot,” its increasing penetration of Africa.

Sequestration might not happen, of course. But we have the best chance since the end of the Cold War to scale back the military industrial complex. I hope we don’t blow it…

John Feffer August 4th, 2012 at 3:23 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 62

a great book idea, but probably not by me. I thought that Steven Pinker’s book on the history of violence, notwithstanding some flaws and grandstanding analysis, a great effort in that direction….

Ludwig August 4th, 2012 at 3:25 pm

Do you cover convivencia which the Spanish like to be proud of (for the purposes of tourism?)

DWBartoo August 4th, 2012 at 3:25 pm
In response to hpschd @ 63

Superb, insightful, and spot-on comment, hpschd.


hpschd August 4th, 2012 at 3:29 pm
In response to John Feffer @ 64

Last night I looked up and found Aldeberan (the follower), and “The Big Dipper” – Dubhe, Merak, Phecda, Megrez, Alioth, Mizar, (couldn’t see Alcor), and Alkaid.

Arabic names.

John Feffer August 4th, 2012 at 3:29 pm
In response to Zaid Jilani @ 4

coming back to your last question here Zaid: how does the narrative of Crusade 2.0 serve as a corrective to the current discourse about the West and islam?

In the last chapter, I make three suggestions. The first is the end of wars of intervention and occupation in the Muslim world. There can be no reset in the relationship between the West and Islam without ending these wars and occupations. Washington can talk endlessly about intentions and “smart power” and so on. But as long as the United States is destroying countries rather than helping to rebuild them, the Crusades of old will continue to haunt us. The same applies to Israel.

DWBartoo August 4th, 2012 at 3:30 pm
In response to John Feffer @ 66

I am not familiar with Pinker’s book, John, yet I suspect that an “excused” propensity toward violence, which is NOT human “nature”, btw, is a “topic” which civil society and humanity MUST take up and consider “going forward”, or we may well not … be around to “go” … forward, for any number of reasons, including violence toward nature and the environment.


Watt4Bob August 4th, 2012 at 3:31 pm

As concerns sharia law and Islamic courts;

I think there is a widely held misconception that Islamic courts act somehow in opposition to the regular court systems in our country.

Anyone who puts the least bit of effort into understanding the role of religious courts would find that they do not replace our ‘normal’ judicial system, instead they augment our system by easing the heavy load on the courts, by taking on some disputes, especially civil actions that involve parties whose common religion and culture makes mediation easier within a framework tailored to their religious convictions.

I believe much of the opposition to ‘Islamic courts’ is based on the groundless fear that American Christians could somehow find themselves in an Islamic courtroom, facing a biased system that would favor the rights of a Muslim plaintiff, over their own.

This is a baseless fear, but the sort of thing that demagogues use to inflame their followers.

John Feffer August 4th, 2012 at 3:32 pm
In response to Ludwig @ 67

I do write about convivencia. I found David Levering Lewis’s book quite helpful in that regard. There are several models from the past that are worth examining, and certain periods of Muslim rule in Iberia (but not all) can serve as such a model when Muslims, Christians, and Jews lived in relative harmony. Other examples would include communities during the reign of Frederick II (who even created a Muslim city-state in Italy so that he could consult with Muslim scholars at his leisure).

John Feffer August 4th, 2012 at 3:34 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 71

you should definitely pick up Pinker’s book. he shows quite convincingly that, rather than an essential part of human nature, violence ebbs and flows according to social conditions. And the everyday violence that people once experienced — during the Middle Ages, for instance — has declined rather remarkably in recent years.

DWBartoo August 4th, 2012 at 3:34 pm
In response to Ludwig @ 67

Excellent question, Ludwig.


CTuttle August 4th, 2012 at 3:35 pm
In response to John Feffer @ 70

…Washington can talk endlessly about intentions and “smart power” and so on. But as long as the United States is destroying countries rather than helping to rebuild them, the Crusades of old will continue to haunt us. The same applies to Israel.

Amen, John…! I think Pogo said it best “We have met the Enemy… and He is Us!” ;-)

John Feffer August 4th, 2012 at 3:37 pm
In response to Watt4Bob @ 72

Yes, precisely. There is no situation in the United States in which sharia law has trumped U.S. law. The 300-plus page report from Frank Gaffney’s outfit on the “threat of sharia law” was able to come up with only one example, from New Jersey, in which a judge referred to sharia law in his verdict — mistakenly — and his decision was almost immediately overturned. The “threat of sharia law” is a non-threat, a manufactured threat, something even more ridiculous than the threats of communist infiltration during the Cold War.

CTuttle August 4th, 2012 at 3:37 pm

John, did you mention the ‘Three Cups of Tea’ fiasco in your book…?

hpschd August 4th, 2012 at 3:38 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 68

Thanks, DW
John is the inspiration and our guide.

DWBartoo August 4th, 2012 at 3:39 pm
In response to John Feffer @ 74

I shall seek out his book, John, thank you.

However, I rather suspect that, as the elites force all of us into a neo-feudal economic system, as Marcy Wheeler has very appropriately termed it, that “official” violence will increase dramatically … as we see in the repression of Occupy … executed in a clearly systematic and unified fashion.

“Homeland Security” will not be premised upon the well-being of the many.

Even that term, “Homeland”, is suggestive of the future mind “set” …


Ludwig August 4th, 2012 at 3:39 pm

John, I am curious how Islam dealt with the Protestant revolution. Do you include any Islamic insight on the “enlightenment” in the West?

John Feffer August 4th, 2012 at 3:40 pm
In response to John Feffer @ 70

In terms of the other two suggestions in my conclusion, I recommend that we stop using the phrase “Judeo-Christian.” The term was originally put forward in the 19th century to diminish Jews through hyphenation. More recently, the phrase has come to represent Christian fundamentalist for Israel. Every time we use the phrase “Judeo-Christian” we deny the contributions of Muslim Americans to American society.

John Feffer August 4th, 2012 at 3:42 pm
In response to CTuttle @ 78

I didn’t. It was a very sad scandal, sad not because of Mortenson but because so many people wanted to do something different in Pakistan and its environs and just didn’t know what else they could do. He effectively manipulated liberal horror over the war (including the horror of liberals who initially supported the war)…

CTuttle August 4th, 2012 at 3:42 pm
In response to John Feffer @ 82

I liked the fact that Rep. Ellison had used Jefferson’s Koran when he was sworn in…!

Zaid Jilani August 4th, 2012 at 3:42 pm
In response to Watt4Bob @ 72

I actually did a lot of writing on Sharia hysteria back when I worked at ThinkProgress. At one point, over a dozen states were considering “sharia law” legislation. A lot of it was pushed by Frank Gaffney, who John delves into in the book.

August 4th, 2012 at 3:44 pm
In response to CTuttle @ 84

An excellent way to put the issue on the Plate.
Me too.

John Feffer August 4th, 2012 at 3:47 pm
In response to Ludwig @ 81

I don’t, but it’s a very interesting question. I interviewed John Esposito, who is an expert on Islam but who was also in Catholic seminary as a young man. He watched in wonderment at the changes that took place within Catholicism as a result of Vatican II. This was, in some sense, a much delayed though incomplete internal enlightenment within the Church. He believes a similar process in taking place in the world of Islam today. there is a similar spirit of ferment, as different voices are being heard within Islam, as different interpretations are being tested, and, of course, as more conservative elements dig in their heels and resist.

In terms of the enlightenment more generally, it is important to remember that so many of the “intolerant” aspects of Islam that Islamophobes always quote — homophobia, sexism, and the like — were prominent features of Western societies until relatively recently. In other words, the Enlightenment was not a single moment of time. We are still all struggling through our own Enlightenments…

hpschd August 4th, 2012 at 3:47 pm

John, I was taken by your description of jihad liberals (like Michael Ignatieff). The crazies are not all on the Right.

DWBartoo August 4th, 2012 at 3:48 pm
In response to John Feffer @ 82

One sincerely hopes that your suggestion, John, might become widely embraced.

We might even get to the place, as a society, where religious “affiliation” is no longer a “marker” of social or political acceptability.

Indeed, we might even reach the place where religiosity is no longer a “measure” of competence or capacity, generally.

That would be the realization of not merely freedom “of” but “from” … “religion” and that could not fail to be anything but a good thing.


John Feffer August 4th, 2012 at 3:49 pm
In response to Zaid Jilani @ 85

In a rational world, the work that you and ThinkProgress did on the sharia issue should have put the issue to rest. But it still lives on, alas.

I was struck by a commentary in the New York Times recently, by Charles Haynes (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/guest-voices/post/combating-islamophobia-at-long-last-a-sense-of-decency/2012/07/28/gJQABI4LGX_blog.html) in which he calls John McCain’s repudiation of Michelle Bachmann the “have you no shame” moment in the history of Islamophobia. I certainly hope so. But unfortunately, I don’t think that Bachmann, Geller, and their cadre have any shame….

John Feffer August 4th, 2012 at 3:52 pm
In response to hpschd @ 88

Yes, absolutely, Islamophobia is not just a flavor of the Right. These “jihadi liberals” have crossed over, with their Islamophobia, in much the same way that leftists became “Cold War liberals” half a century ago. With people like Peter Beinart, the former New Republic editor who supported the war in Iraq, we have seen a doubling back, a recognition of how their views were shaped in the crucible of error. But he still remains an exception among the “jihadi liberals.”

BevW August 4th, 2012 at 3:52 pm

As we come to the end of this Book Salon discussion,

John, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending the afternoon with us discussing your new book.

Zaid, Thank you very much for Hosting this great Book Salon.

Thanks all, Have a great weekend.

Tomorrow: Rory O’Connor / Friends, Followers and the Future: How Social Media are Changing Politics, Threatening Big Brands, and Killing Traditional Media; Hosted by Beth Becker

If you would like to contact the FDL Book Salon: FiredoglakeBookSalon@gmail.com

DWBartoo August 4th, 2012 at 3:53 pm
In response to John Feffer @ 87

John, it is a distinct pleasure to listen to you “pontificate”.

“We are still all struggling through our own Enlightenments”.

Perhaps, we may yet come to realize that LIFE, the opportunity of understanding which it presents each and every one of us, is what our human experience is about, and not the mad pursuit of power or wealth …


Ludwig August 4th, 2012 at 3:53 pm
In response to John Feffer @ 87

Yes, it would be interesting to have an Islamic de Toqueville’s perspectives on the Reformation. Thanks.

Zaid Jilani August 4th, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Great being here and definitely check out Crusade 2.0 if you’re interested in the tensions between the West and Muslims — and how we end our latest crusade. Thanks, John.

DWBartoo August 4th, 2012 at 3:55 pm

John, I thank you, this has been a most excellent Book Salon.

Zaid, I thank you for hosting.

Bev, my profound thanks, as always.

And Firedogs, well, you are all simply superb … and I thank each of you from the very bottom of my rotten little heart.


John Feffer August 4th, 2012 at 3:56 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 89

I agree. I personally am not religious. But I’ve worked with religious people my whole career. And I’ve come to recognize that religion is a very important source of meaning and strength for people. it is an integral part of culture, of how we make sense of the world and our place in it. I want to make sure that our society respects everyone’s choice in this regard, including the choice of people like me, to have no religion.

Watt4Bob August 4th, 2012 at 3:56 pm
In response to Zaid Jilani @ 85

It’s truly amazing the amount of damage one demagogue can do, and we should be ashamed, as a country that we are so ill informed as to be vulnerable to that sort of willfully instigated hysteria.

OTOH, our people should be proud to live in a country that routinely builds accommodation into it’s court systems that allow people who hold minority faiths to feel secure that their cultural values will be respected during legal conflicts.

CTuttle August 4th, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Mahalo Nui Loa, John…! I’m truly looking forward to reading your book…!

Mahalo to Zaid for hosting, and, Bev for another excellent Book Salon…! *g*

John Feffer August 4th, 2012 at 3:58 pm

Thank you everyone for the great questions and the spirited exchange. Thank you, Zaid, for hosting — it was a pleasure to meet you virtually. And, as always, thanks Bev, for setting everything up. I look forward to continuing these conversations on-line and elsewhere…

all the best,

PeasantParty August 4th, 2012 at 3:58 pm


Thank you so much for the wonderful Book Salon. I will read your book. Your responses and thoughtful answers recommend an insightful read!

hpschd August 4th, 2012 at 3:58 pm

Thanks John and Zaid and Bev and all.

John, I really appreciated the way you connected the Crusades, the Cold War and the “War on Terror”. It worked really well, great book. Recommended

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