To the Editors:
This is a protest by non-Muslims, Muslims, and scholars of Islam, against the publication by The New York Review of Books, in your issue dated July 3, 2003, of a grossly unethical, factually incorrect, biased, and unfair attack on Stephen Schwartz and his book The Two Faces of Islam: The House of Sa’ud from Tradition to Terror, published by Doubleday.
In a violent diatribe drawing on a disreputable source, the www.antiwar.com Web site, Clifford Geertz described Mr. Schwartz as “a strange and outlandish figure.” However, he cites nothing about Mr. Schwartz that could fit such a description. That Mr. Schwartz grew up in San Francisco and was involved with the City Lights “beat” scene is an accident of his biography. That Mr. Schwartz underwent a political evolution away from the radical left is neither strange nor outlandish. Geertz distorts the record when he describes Mr. Schwartz’s tenure with The San Francisco Chronicle, which began with freelance contributions in the mid-1980s and continued with a ten-year period as a staff writer, as “a while.” He obviously did not bother to even look into any of Mr. Schwartz’s seven previous books.
Let there be no doubt whatever about the following: Geertz is wrong when he says Stephen Schwartz “has virtually nothing to say about the concrete details of intra-Islamic conflict.” Stephen Schwartz is a beloved figure to Shias and other anti-Wahhabi Muslims, who has contributed more to the well-being of the Shia community on a world scale than any Shia figure of modern times, by illuminating the origins of the Wahhabi oppression of Shias. He is also a beloved comrade of countless Balkan Muslims, Albanians, and Caucasian Muslims for his efforts to expose the truth about Slav Orthodox genocide. Stephen Schwartz is also honored as a sincere Sufi brother.
Geertz also states falsely, on the basis of no possible knowledge, “After completing his book (but before publishing it), Schwartz, by then Washington bureau chief of the Jewish Forward, went to work for the Voice of America.” Mr. Schwartz’s book was not completed until after his departure from VOA. Further, Geertz states that Mr. Schwartz’s VOA “firing was attributed to pressure from Colin Powell’s ‘dovish’ State Department in its struggle against Vice President Richard Cheney and the Pentagon ‘hawks.'” Nobody serious has ever suggested Mr. Schwartz or his VOA case had anything whatever to do with Vice President Cheney.
The New York Review of Books and Clifford Geertz owe Mr. Schwartz an apology.
Agha H. Jafri, Spokesman, Universal Muslim Association of America (UMAA);
Syed Mohammad Hijazi, President, Islamic Institute of New York;
Sheikh Fadhil al-Sahlani, President, Al-Khoei Islamic Center;
Sheikh Mohammad Sadiq Khadem, Chairman, Islamic Guidance Center of Brooklyn;
Sheikh Mohammad Sarwar, Director, Islamic Seminary, Huntington, New York;
Syed Mustafa Qazwini, President, Islamic Center, Los Angeles;
Parvez Shah, M.D., President, UMAA;
Nazish Agha, Chief Counsel, UMAA;
Jaffar Naqvi, President, Muslim Foundation, Inc.;
Abid Jafri, President, Jaferia Council;
Istafa Naqvi, President, Jafaria Association of North America;
Dr. Imdad Imam, President, Fatima Islamic Center of Albany, New York;
Masood Mirza, M.D., President, Society for Humanity and Islam;
Dr. Sakhawat Hussain, President, Al-Mehdi Foundation;
Ghassan Cheikhali, Principal, Razi School;
Syed Nawab Agha, American Muslim Congress;
Syed Zahir Ul-Hassan, President, Al-Mustafa Foundation, Hartford, Connecticut;
Syed Tanseer Raza, President, American Muslim Youth;
Enver Causeviå«c, Editor in Chief, Alisa Lekiå«c-Mehiceviå«c, Deputy Editor in Chief, Muhamed Hajdareviå«c, Foreign Editor, Fatmir Alispahiå«c, Columnist, and Salko Zuko, Journalist, Walter Magazine, Sarajevo;
Imam Senad Agicå«, Head Imam of the Bosnian Muslim community in the US;
Daut Dauti, Fakti Albanian Daily Newspaper, Skopje-Zurich;
Raymond Frost, Albanian Catholic Institute, University of San Francisco;
Shpresa Mulliqi, Haqif Mulliqi, and Donika Shahini, Association of Journalists of Kosovo;
François Guillaumat, Ph.D., Paris, France;
and more than 200 other signatures.
October 9, 2003