Thursday, July 11, 2013

A Shaw Thing?

The Australian's dirt unit is at it again:

"Anti 'Islamophobia' advertisements due to screen on major free-to-air channels from today rely on a fabricated quote from Irish playwright and avowed atheist George Bernard Shaw, from a book that does not exist, according to the International Shaw Society. The 30-second ads have been funded by the Sydney-based Mypeace organisation, which says it hopes to 'build bridges' between Muslims and other Australians... The advertisements quote Shaw proclaiming the prophet Mohammed was 'the saviour of humanity' in a book he is supposed to have written entitled 'The Genuine Islam'. But ISS treasurer Richard F Dietrich said he had compiled a complete list of Shaw's work, which did not include the book."  (Ads for Islam 'misquote Shaw from bogus book', Rachel Baxendale, 9/7/13)

And a good thing too because there is no such "book." Genuine Islam is actually the name of a Malayan Muslim periodical of the thirties.

Baxendale goes on:

"In his writings, Shaw described the religion in a 1933 letter to Rev Ensor Walters as 'ferociously intolerant'. 'Mahomet rose up at the risk of his life and insulted the stones (that the Arabs worshipped) shockingly, declaring that there is only one God, Allah, the glorious, and the great... And there was to be no nonsense about toleration,' Shaw wrote. 'You accepted Allah or you had your throat cut by someone who did accept him, and who went to Paradise for having sent you to Hell'."

Conveniently, she left out the letter's next sentence: "Mahomet was a great Protestant religious force, like George Fox or Wesley..." Wouldn't want to upset the Prods now would we?

Baxendale goes on to explain that the quote attributed to Shaw and intended for use in the Mypeace ads - "I have always held the religion of Muhammed in high estimation because of its wonderful vitality... I have studied him... and in my opinion far from being an Anti-Christ he must be called the Saviour of Humanity..." - appeared in the context of a conversation between Shaw and a Muslim cleric published in the abovementioned Malayan periodical, but separately, in a quotation box, and without attribution. Baxendale's inference is that it was therefore a complete fabrication. In fact, she refers to Shaw's Muslim interlocutor perjoratively as a "Muslim propagandist."

One scholar who has written honestly on the matter - having no axe to grind - is Rachel Leow in her blog, A Historian's Craft. Unlike Baxendale, she reserves an open mind on the issue of the quote:

"Where did it come from? Did the interviewers specially solicit a statement from Shaw? Under what conditions? Or did they cite it from some hitherto unknown-to-me book that Shaw has written on Islam? Did they simply cobble it together out of things he said later on, over post-interview tea and smokes? Did they... write it themselves? I have no answers to these questions, and perhaps more qualified scholars of Shaw might be able to point me in the right direction. I don't really think the interviewers wrote the quote entirely themselves, though, for reasons that involve the line at [C:1]."  (Being an unforgivably protracted debunking of George Bernard Shaw's views of Islam,, 3/12/08)

(For those wishing to dig deeper, I'd recommend reading Leow's post in its entirety.)

For an undisputed Shavian quote on the subject of the Prophet Muhammed, one need look no further than the Afterword to his iconoclastic 1932 short story, The Adventures of the Black Girl in Her Search for God:

"Six hundred years after Jesus, Mahomet made a colossal stride ahead from mere stock-and-stone idolatry to a very enlightened Unitarianism; but although he died a conqueror, and therefore escaped being made the chief attraction in an Arabian Chamber of Horrors*, he found it impossible to control his Arabs without enticing and intimidating them by promises of a delightful life for the faithful and threats of an eternity of disgusting torment for the wicked after their bodily death, and also, after some honest protests, by accepting the supernatural character thrust on him by the childish superstition of his followers; so that he, too, now needs to be rediscovered in his true nature before Islam can come back to earth as a living faith."  [*A reference to what Shaw calls 'Crosstianity'.]

Not, mind you, that that should be taken as in any way an authoritative assessment of the Prophet, any more than Shaw's favourable view of Stalin's Russia should be accepted as the last word on that subject.


Anonymous said...

I wonder if Shaw had any published views on the Bandit State?

Anonymous said... may be interested in;

"Arthur and the Acetone", 1936.

The censored short play is an emphatic repudiation of the Lord {Arthur} Balfour Declaration.

"Not another Ulster"...indeed.

MERC said...

Thank you. Let me just say for now that I'm on its track. Watch this space.