John Esposito did not start out as anything more than a mild-mannered low-level academic; one suspects he had no strong feelings about Islam, and was not prompted by any of the mental pathologies -- antisemitism, hatred of America -- that can produce the apologist for Islam. But as one crook of the Gilded Age, of the kind of Tammany Hall variety, said in his own defense, Esposito has "seen his opportunities, and he took 'em."
If ever that silly bumpersticker "Question Authority" was appropriate, it is in relation to the likes of Esposito, and Michael Sells, and tutti quanti. Whether on the take, or simply ill-informed, or lazy, or stupid, or some combination, they are guides to nothing and to nowhere. But their books could be given as incentives to those who sign up for Al-Jazeera on cable -- the perfect coffee-table accompaniment to so many of its programs.
Esposito has come a long way, the mediocre producer of nondescript texts and prettified couleur-locale "studies" of Islam, those coffee-table concoctions in which the pictures first overwhelm the reader -- those blue mosques, those Iznik tiles, those colorfully turbaned Turks -- and prevent any sober recognition of just how empty or misleading so many of the texts offered in these anthologies, or by Esposito himself, really are. All those pretty pictures make the reader swoon and overlook the fact that he has learned nothing about the actual contents of Qur'an, hadith, and sira.
No one of sense -- no one -- takes John Esposito seriously anymore. Esposito's loaded title The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality? pointed the way to his vacuous conclusion -- of course it is a "myth" and not a "reality." That was the book in which he mentioned the word "Jihad" exactly twice. He has tried to do a little better since, but now it is all about blaming one particular group of Muslims, the "Wahhabis."
Of course it was not a "Wahhabi" Muslim who murdered Theo van Gogh. It was not "Wahhabis" who have been killing Christians and Confucians in Indonesia, by the hundreds of thousands, over the past few decades, and destroying, in 2003 alone, more than 3,000 churches. It is not "Wahhabi" Muslims in Bangladesh who have been murdering Hindus -- 3 million since the 1971 war against West Pakistan. It is not "Wahhabis" who conducted, in Col. Ojukwu's words, the "Jihad" against the Christian Ibos in southern Nigeria who felt compelled to declare the independence of Biafra. It was not "Wahhabis" who have been making war on black Christians and animists in the southern Sudan, or now insufficiently "Arab" Muslims in Darfur. It was not "Wahhabis" but that severe and learned theologian of Shi'a Islam, the Ayatollah Khomeini, who set up the murderous, fanatical Islamic Republic of Iran -- about which, if you can stand it, you can find a great deal from many Iranian exiles, at www.faithfreedom.org.
Nobody needs Esposito's writings. Margoliouth and Schacht have recently been reprinted. Antoine Fattal's book on the legal status of non-Muslims under Islam never went out of print. K. S. Lal is easily obtained. Tritton, Arthur Jeffery, Armand Abel, Charles-Emmanuel Bousquet, Snouck Hurgronje -- they are all about to be reprinted, at least in relevant part. Of course, I don't think for a minute that Esposito, or any of his crew, are familiar with any of these great scholars, and dozens more. I doubt they've even read them. They seem actually to believe that the only person to have written about dhimmitude is Bat Ye'or, whom they like to airily dismiss as "polemical" so that they will not have to confront her meticulous, scrupulous, and irrefutable scholarship.
But what may be most interesting is the reply Esposito gave at a Muslim website some months ago, in which he noted that after 9/11 he -- John Esposito -- was "pleasantly surprised" to see that there had been no diminution in the number of "reverts"(or converts) to Islam.
Now we all know how keenly interested Muslims are in the rate of conversion, how important Da'wa is, how much an instrument of conquest it is believed to be -- for one is swelling the ranks of the recruits into the umma al-islamiyya, the Community of Believers, who owe their loyalty to that Community alone, never to the Infidel nation-state. We recall, do we not, that the very first thing Osama bin Laden inquired about on that first tape filmed after 9/11, and which pleased him mightily to discover, was the rate of conversion of Infidels. He was told, and gave a smile when he heard the news, that "people in Holland were converting at an even faster pace" than before.
Now here is John Esposito, now of Georgetown, formerly of Holy Cross. One might expect that he would be a student of Islam, but not an enthusiast, not someone delighted to receive news of the swelling of Muslim ranks. But this is what he said at this website:
"I was pleasantly surprised" to discover that the numbers of conversions [to Islam] have not gone down, but increased."
"Surprised" -- sure.
But "pleasantly" surprised? Why? Why would a certain John Esposito of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (or whatever it is called) be "pleasantly surprised" that there had been no diminishment, because of 9/11, in the number of converts to Islam?
In other words, why did John Esposito express precisely the same reaction as -- Osama bin Laden?
Were I the president of Georgetown, or an alumnus, or a parent, or a Congressman, or a journalist who had been told to "interview John Esposito," that is the question that I would first wish to have answered.
He's got a good thing going. $20 million for his "Georgetown" Center, which means a lot more for lean, mean, jogging John Esposito, and John Voll, and Yvonne Haddad.. And of course John Esposito is hardly alone in having earned, on some future gravestone, that epitaph which so many in the Western world over the past thirty years have earned, in Washington and London and Paris, in their own ways, as they did nothing to prevent Muslim immigration, nothing serious to limit OPEC revenues, and thought only of how to obtain some of those revenues for themselves, their friends, their relatives, their companies:
Shilling for Islam, undoing the West,
Radix malorum cupiditas est.