On May 12, senior associate for the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) Edward "Give War a Chance" Luttwak published a now infamous Op-Ed in the New York Times declaring that Muslims around the world are likely to consider a president Barack Obama an apostate, thus jeopardizing his and the nation's security.
The idea for this Times Op-Ed wasn't birthed in the mind of Luttwak, a man with no discernible background in Islam. In fact, it breathed its first breath on the day after Christmas, 2007, when lunatic fringer Daniel Pipes concocted the smear in his Front Page magazine, ostensibly to keep the words "Muslim" and "Obama" in the same sentence for just a little bit longer. Thanks to the New York Times it seems to have worked.
Shortly after the Op-Ed's appearance Ingrid Mattson, Daisy Khan, Hussein Rashid, Ali Eteraz and probably numerous other Muslim scholars and writers responded, all noting more or less the same thing: that this is a poor read of Shari'a and that the Muslim world is far too variegated to make such a sweeping statement.
Along comes Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na`im, one of the world's foremost Islamic Jurists, Professor of Law and Senior Fellow of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University and author, most recently, of Islam and the Secular State: Negotiating the Future of Shari'a. You'd think that a scholar of such renown would have no trouble getting published as an authority on Islam in order to set the record straight.
You'd be wrong. According to the email Religion Dispatches received from An Na'im on the 29th of May, he's had considerable difficulty: "please consider the attached draft op.ed. that I prepared some two weeks ago but have not succeeded in getting it published." [Update: Since RD published the statement on 5/29 Reuters' blog has written an article on it].
Imagine an opinion piece from a liberal Muslim think-tank associate analyzing the prospects of a conservative Jewish candidate in light of the Torah--say Deuteronomy 13:6-10, which calls for the killing of apostates--and then imagine one of the world's foremost Jewish scholars having trouble getting his analysis published.
A week after Luttwak's salvo the Christian Science Monitor dipped its toe into the brackish water by publishing another think tank-inspired Op-Ed by Shireen Burki making similar claims about Obama and apostasy. Burki, her faculty page notes, is an academic fellow for the neocon-friendly Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.
Well, ReligionDispatches has now posted a version of the Op-Ed that An-Na`im was unable to publish in response to these allegations, signed by professor/blogger Juan Cole, HuffPo contributor Ali Eteraz, syndicated columnist Mona Eltahawy, Islamica magazine editor Firas Ahmad, altmuslim founder and editor Shahed Amanullah and numerous others--all within the first 24 hours.
Below is the opening to the statement. On the page are instructions for signing...
Suggestions that Presidential candidate Barack Obama was a Muslim seemed to have subsided when his controversial pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, walked onto the stage. But even as Obama defended his Christian faith, and his choice of churches, speculation about his connection to Islam continues on-line as well as within the mainstream press, including an Op-Ed entitled "President Apostate" in The New York Times (May 12, 2008) by the military strategist and historian Edward Luttwak (and, exactly a week later, in a May 19 Christian Science Monitor Op-Ed entitled "Barack Obama-Muslim Apostate?"). Now, as if to flip the Muslim coin, Mr. Luttwak, Ms. Burki, and others speculate that Muslims will hold Mr. Obama to a higher religious standard because he does not embrace the religion of his father.
Mr. Luttwak argues that... Read more...