Monday, September 24, 2012

How to identify an expert on Islam

I always thought it was fairly easy; look at the study, research, writings, published papers, all that has been produced by that individual and then judge accordingly.  How wrong I was.  The Muslim Public Affairs Council has the guidelines under which someone can be called an expert, and wouldn't you know it all comes down to where you were schooled.  I may not be the sharpest tool in the box, but I know that neither a lambskin diploma or a fancy degree is any guarantee that the person who's name is on it knows anything at all about the subject listed on the certificate.  The MPAC believes if you have not been formally trained and that training can be verified, anything you say about Islam will be discounted and marginalized.

MPAC lists the top 25 least expert Islamic specialists, most names you will know.  Alas, I am not on it, but maybe one day...

From HNN September 24 by Daniel Pipes

MPAC Calls Me an "Expert on Islam"

Why thank you, Muslim Public Affairs Council, for this endorsement. It’s much appreciated, even if came in a 65-page pamphlet, Not Qualified: Exposing the Deception Behind America’s 25 Top Pseudo-Experts on Islam.

According to MPAC, a leading Islamist group based in Los Angeles, those 25 would be Andrew Bostom, William Boykin, Stephen Coughlin, Nonie Darwish, Steven Emerson, Brigitte Gabriel, Frank Gaffney, David Gaubatz, William Gawthrop, Pamela Geller, John Giduck, Sebastian Gorka, John Guandolo, Tawfik Hamid, David Horowitz, Raymond Ibrahim, Zuhdi Jasser, Andrew McCarthy, Walid Phares, Patrick Poole, Walid Shoebat, Robert Spencer, Erick Stakelback, David Yerushalmi … and me.

The gravamen of MPAC’s analysis is that members of this group overwhelmingly are not what it calls experts on Islam, where this term is defined as

[A]n individual who has formal academic qualifications in Islamic Studies from an accredited institute of higher education in the West or those institutes of higher education in Muslim-majority countries that rank among the world’s top 500 universities. In order to be classified as "expert", as defined above, one’s credentials must also be publicly verifiable.

According to MPAC, "Of the 25 people examined, only 1 (4%) had the qualifications to be considered an ‘expert’ on Islam." That 4% would be me. In another place, MPAC contradicts itself and allows that Raymond Ibrahim also has "the formal and verifiable academic credentials to be classified as an expert." Even more contradictorily, as the pamphlet title implies, MPAC says I am a "pseudo-expert" expert on Islam.

My first question is, why does MPAC chose individuals who make no claim to expertise in Islam (such as John Giduck and David Horowitz), but exclude critics with academic credentials in Islamic studies, such as Fouad Ajami, David Cook, David Forte, Efraim Karsh, Martin Kramer, Bernard Lewis, Michael Rubin, Philip Salzman, and Kemal Silay?

My main objection is to the emphasis on credentials. The field of Middle East studies demonstrates -- only too colorfully -- that possessing a PhD does not guarantee competence. Sadly, it’s almost the opposite.

It’s not where a person went to school in his or her twenties, thelanguages he or she knows, or his or her years living abroad that matters but the capabilities, knowledge, energy, and intelligence he or she subsequently displays. Speaking as someone who has the requisite degrees, languages, and years abroad, I despise this self-serving emphasis on academic pedigree which would exclude non-PhDs from commenting on things Muslim.

Yet the truth is, in most circles that paper on the wall carries enough gravitas where one can use it to go farther than a wall with nothing on it.  I agree with Pipes that academic competence comes from within and must be nurtured and grown until it displays itself as a mature, well reasoned argument.

Read it all

1 comment:

zahid said...

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