The Uncritical Bias of Ibn Warraq

While perusing the book store today I came across another title by the prolific “Muslim” apostate, “Ibn Warraq”. Mr. Warraq has made a career out of not being Muslim. His latest title is Why the West is Best. Here’s a sample of the uncritical bias Ibn Warraq often exhibits:

The great ideas of the West—rationalism, self-criticism, the disinterested search for truth, the separation of church and state, the rule of law and equality under the law, freedom of thought and expression, human rights, and liberal democracy—are superior to any others devised by humankind1.

While Ibn Warraq may feel very comfortable with his trump card of values, I notice one disparaging absence in his thesis, one often left out by Islamophobes: racism. The legacy and continued perpetuation of racist attitudes by the dominant white culture in America (i.e., the progenitors of Western culture) are woefully absent from their so-called “disinterested search for truth”. For the likes of Mr. Warraq, Pam Geller and their colleagues, America’s dirty little history of slavery and its continued legacy in American society goes untouched by their rational, self-critical pursuit of equality. How is it that America can be “the best” (an absurd notion that countries can be “ranked” somehow) and not a single critic of Islam—apostate or Right-Wing Christian—has addressed this topic. It is clear the reason why: America’s troubled past regarding slavery (and present!), in the eyes of Islamophobes and the proponents of white supremacy, is merely an inconvenience or unfortunate occurrence in the inevitability of American greatness. For me, this is the very definition of Western exceptionalism.

The issue at stake here is not merely Ibn Warraq’s racial agnosia (see Sherman Jackson’s piece on racial agnosia as well as a short article I wrote on being socially relevant) but the manner in which he casually essentializes the West and Islam: one is the transcendent bastion of all that is good, the other an ahistorical monolith that encapsulates all that is retrograde, defunct and barbaric. Reductionism at its best, Ibn Warraq’s truck with Islam is not with its “Muslim-ness” but in how it is not western (an idiom that falls in on itself as this author is both “western” and Muslim”). But perhaps most revealing is Ibn Warraq’s narcissism: Islam is bad, not because “it doesn’t work”, but because it didn’t work for Ibn Warraq. This line of thinking is similar to Irshad Manji’s, and thus my criticism is also similar. Despite Ibn Warraq’s claims to the contrary, Islam is more than capable of withstanding criticism from individuals as well as from other religious or civilizational traditions. Perhaps if Ibn Warraq were to approach his apostasy from that position: that Islam didn’t work out for him, then his criticisms would have more weight instead of sounding like a whining, snotty-nosed sore loser.

My point here is not simply to play the race card but rather to illustrate how those who claim, uncritically, that America or the West “is the best” often do so through myopic vision and reckless abandon. How do the likes of an Ibn Warraq justify their stance of “the West is the best” when examining the injustices that are rampant in American society? How would Ibn Warraq justify the claim as “best” when we look at the penal system in America and the vastly ill-proportioned number of Blackamericans who are in jail? How would the West be defined as “best” in light of the fact that the last one hundred years of war alone have been at the behest of Western powers? How can the West maintain its status as “the best” when it was responsible for the largest genocide in the last hundred years (yes, I’m talking about the Holocaust)? And yes, how does Ibn Warraq justify the West’s immanent “goodness” in light of a continued theater of aggression throughout the world? These are just to name a few (the list could go on and on):

  • The invasion of Granada.
  • The Bay of Pigs incident.
  • The dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan.
  • The scientific experimentation of America on its own subjects (Tuskegee).
  • The Guatemalan syphilis experiments.

If I didn’t like living in America I would move. It’s a simple as that. The West in general and American in specific are my homes. I don’t know any other way of life other than being a Westerner and an America. However, neither of those precludes being Muslim, ensuring America’s “goodness” or simply doing away with America’s and the West’s un-glorious history. Instead, I would settle for America (and the West) are as good as its people, as good as it wants to be. America’s greatness cannot be achieved by glossing over its history nor sweeping under the rug the injustices it still commits in the name of “freedom”. And yet it would seem that Ibn Warraq applies a strange brew of logic when determining “best”: it appears to have nothing to do with history.

  1. Why the West Is Best – My Response to Tariq Ramadan, from City Journal.