BEWARE THE CHERRY-PICKER
ROBERT J. LEWIS
culture is the predominance of an idea
which draws after it this train of cities and institutions.
Let us rise into another idea; they will disappear.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
man hears what he wants to hear,
and disregards the rest
The first cherry-pickers
were instructed to pick only the ripe and ready during
the harvest season. Since then the appellative has come
to mean choosing from arguments or points of view to advance
an agenda or cause. In op-ed or advocacy journalism, the
designation is usually accusative and/or pejorative, referring
to “the suppressing of evidence, or singling out
data” in the defense or promotion of an opinion
or belief. When one journalist accuses the other of cherry-picking,
you can be near certain that he/she is also a cherry-picker
from the other side of the fence.
makers, almost all of whom are quickly forgotten once
their time has passed, routinely resort to cherry-picking
in staking out their positions. Where the greater truth
lies, typically lies outside their concern. For this reason,
journalists, however clever and persuasive, are rarely
wise. If they were interested in the whole truth and nothing
but, they wouldn’t be journalists.
who are hired to argue and defend behaviour to which they
might be personally opposed, cherry-pickers are fully
committed to the perceptions and positions they support
and defend; and where the means – cherry picking
– justify the ends, their aim is to convince their
readership to think and feel exactly as they do.
In the wide
wake of more than a quarter century’s worth of Islamic
founded and funded terrorism, journalists, en masse,
have been quoting (indicting) the Quran, insisting that
it is – at its essence -- a manual of war, especially
compared to the more ‘benign’ Christian, Jewish,
Hindu and Buddhist holy texts.
many Muslims regard the cherry-picking journalist with
the same suspicion and contempt many of us have for lawyers.
Joke: What’s the difference between a dead snake
and dead lawyer on the highway? There are skid marks
in front of the snake.
their quotidian, Muslims know, as lived experience, that
the Quran is much more than the sum of its intolerance
citations and wrath directed towards the infidel. Having
personally spent ten months of my life traveling and living
in Tunisia, Turkey and Morocco, I can unreservedly state
that Muslims are more God-fearing (Ten Commandment bound)
than Christians/Jews/Buddhists, that, in times of peace,
it is safer to travel in the above three countries than
in most western countries. If the true value of a religion
is revealed in its ability to instill the fear of God
– the believer believes trespassing entails very
real theological consequences -- Islam is by far and away
the word’s most successful religion. Would I rather
that my car break down in a poor village in a Muslim country
than anywhere in Catholic Peru? Categorically, yes.
cherry-picker, for whom there is a direct link between
the Quran and Islamic terrorism, be made to account for
the millions upon millions of decent, well-intentioned
Muslims who go about their day with little else on their
minds but paying the rent, raising kids and dressing or
undressing for inclement weather? If we agree that good
Muslims haven’t accidently lurched or lucked into
their goodness, their views must have been shaped by other
well-intentioned Muslims who cherry-picked the Quran for
good. Which means the Quran can serve both good and evil,
a judgment that surely approximates its truth more than
either one point of view or the other.
"the taking of one innocent life is like taking
all of Mankind . . . and the saving of one life is like
saving all of Mankind" - Holy Qur'an, 5:33.
“Avoid Cruelty and injustice . . . and guard yourselves
against miserliness, for this has ruined nations who
lived before you.”
“(God) has revealed to me that you should adopt
humility so that no one oppresses another.” Riyadh-us-Salaheen:1589
“All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has
no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any
superiority over an Arab. . . Do not, therefore, do
injustice to yourselves.” Prophet Muhammad (s),
and anxious are those journalists railing against the
teachings of the Quran, accusing it in the court of public
opinion of being an accessory to terrorism, they are worrisomely
cancelling (peripheralizing) millions of decent Muslims
who, no less than the twisted terrorist, have been informed
by the Quran.
to Trevor Phillips (What British Muslims Really Think,
2016), today only "39 per cent now think a woman
should always obey her husband; 18 per cent sympathize
with people who take part in violence against those who
mock the Prophet; and 4 per cent have sympathy for people
who take part in suicide bombing to fight injustice,"
which leaves a lot of very decent, law-abiding Muslims
unaccounted for, especially in North America where they
are more efficiently integrated into their communities
than in Europe.
That the western
leaning, secularized Muslim is lumped together with the
jihadist is not only simplistic, it is counterproductive
and exposes western journalism at its reductive nadir.
There are millions of Muslims, like Christians, who identify
as Muslim or Christian, but are thoroughly secular in
their day to day lives. Surely the West can do better
than alienate millions of like-minded, potential allies
simply because they are Muslim? You don’t cut off
an arm to relieve a finger infection. Which isn’t
to say that immigration policy, in the name of political
correctness, shouldn’t turn a blind eye to the innate
incompatibility between Christianity and Islam. But in
respect to the growing number of Muslims who are no longer
there for their holy texts, for whom the law, and not
God, is the ultimate authority, they should be embraced
and their numbers made to increase.
of the Hadith and Sura is on its way out. In the Muslim
heartland, in desert communities and along the great camel
routes the traders’ first and second priorities
are water and an Internet connection. In the cities, especially
among the young, jeans are replacing the djellaba, and
the voice of the second sex is no longer an inaudible
whisper in the winds of change. The writing is on their
Wailing Wall, just as the war ISIS and jihadists are waging
against modernity is more of a DLS (desperate last stand)
than any meaningful territorial offensive.
cherry-picking Muslim parents, looking to instill the
equivalent of the Ten Commandments in their children,
merely have to open the Quran or look to the speeches
of The Prophet for confirmation of their private beliefs
and guiding principles in raising their families. Which
begs the question: Since the Quran can be used for both
good and evil, how should we receive the basket of goods
offered up by the cherry-picking journalist? With measured
skepticism because the positions he stakes out take precedent
over according the whole truth the respect and disinterested
coverage that is its due.
bear in mind that not only the Quran but the Bible can
be mined for all sorts of defective, tendentious thinking.
If you believe in women’s natural inferiority, the
cherry-picker will find a bumper crop of edibles throughout
Ephesians 6:9: Wives, submit yourselves to your own
husbands as you do to the Lord . . . as the church submits
to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands
If you’re an indignant Cypriot Turk with a long
memory looking to shape your children’s view of
the nation of Zorba, how about this: Titus 1:7: Cretans
are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.
And before we sanctimoniously indict Islamic law, where
the thief must relinquish the hand that has stolen,
we should pay heed to the wisdom of Matthew 5:21: And
if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off
and throw it away.
In respect to injunctions regarding the child’s
obedience towards a parent, and every demographer's'
secret wish, the Bible doesn’t mince its words:
Matthew 15:19: Anyone who curses their father and
mother is to be put to death.”
There are of course instances where we wish the cherry-picker
had been able to make a more effective case. The much discredited,
racked Catholic Church would be in seventh
heaven had the following injunction been observed:
from Corinthians 7:16: Now to the unmarried . . . if
they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for
it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
humble beginnings to the 1139 Second Lateran Council --
the golden years of Catholicism -- celibacy wasn’t
a requirement for the priesthood. Since then more than
a million children (conservative estimate) have been sexually
abused by pedophile priests. Pope Francis was alleged
to have said that 2%
of all priests (the leprosy within
the church) are pedophiles.
With all due
respect to the sum of facts and arguments eloquently laid
out by the cherry-picker, the very existence of jihadism
and ISIS tells more about human nature than the Quran.
The real issue driving the clash of civilizations is power.
Islam is on the wane, and the old guard, comprised of
literalists and androcentrics, are desperately trying
to staunch the bleeding: the Em-pyre Strikes Back.
Does it not
reflect poorly on the cognitively challenged West if it
can’t distinguish between good and bad Muslims,
between ally and enemy? Are we at war with the world’s
2.3 billion Muslims, or a fringe group of frustrated,
renegade misfits looking for a cause?
If the pleasure
principle remains the great predictor of human behaviour,
Islam's miserly menu cannot compete with secularism, western
hedonism. With instant electronic access to the pleasure
zones of the world, fewer and fewer Muslims are there
for their holy texts. Holy writs and rules notwithstanding,
freedom is the pain no one can refuse, and once enjoyed
cannot be wished away. “Although everybody knew
it as freedom from the laws of Islam, no one was quite
sure what else Westernization was good for,” writes
Ohran Pamuk in Istanbul: Memories and the City.
in full ascendency (all toll roads lead to the bacchanalia),
this turning away from God to the gods will be necessarily
fraught with peril, and there will be casualties, some
of whom will be vulnerable to radicalization. In the West,
this turning away -- that began with the separation of
Church and state -- was very gradual, when authority was
incrementally devolved from God to “the law,”
at which point if there was no hiding from God you could
always circumvent or rewrite the laws. In Islam, religion
and law have always been intricately intertwined, and
there is no avoiding the inner turmoil and dislocation
that ensue when a devout Muslim is suddenly exposed to
a radically dissimilar value system. In the wake of this
tectonic collision between East and West, a huge nowhere
zone must arise, where the nowhere men (the rootless and
disenfranchised) gather, sandwiched between the past and
modernity, torn between the call of the muezzin during
the day and Happy Hour in the late afternoon. Coming to
their rescue, their succour, providing them with purpose,
self-esteem and community, is the cherry-picking jihadist
for whom the Quran is merely a means to an end, the birth
of nation, the noble struggle for survival in the face
of insurmountable odds.
Very impressed with your very objective and well reasoned article.
This will definitely get you on the goods with the Muslim.
However, I disagree with many of your tenets.
The measure of a religion is NOT FEAR OF GOD. (Certainly
not of Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism). Though it is absolutely
the measure of the Muslim religion.
Deaths? Yes many. But why blame the religion for man’s
obtuseness and pride.
(Nothing in the Gospels, which few nowadays bother reading,
incites/preaches ‘hatred’). And so, for example,
the Spanish Inquisition was State sponsored and not Vatican
backed. The Papacy was against it from the get-go. But,
the times being what they were, try as they might, Spain
being a mighty power, weak Popes – not all popes --
to protect their own (yes, Vatican had its state interests
as well . . . it wasn’t all squeaky clean) yielded
to the butcheries, but certainly did not fuel the horrors,
encourage the massacres from the pulpit.
The Spanish State persecuted Lutherans and other non-Catholic
groups as well as converted Muslims and Jews. (I say converted
as non-converted groups, non-Christians, i.e. Jews and Muslims
could not be persecuted. I suspect few know this fact).
It persecuted all militant, unrecanting dissidents in order
to instil fear of the state, maintain power which would
later bring them to the Americas. So no, not fear of God
but fear of the state. Catholicism was the glue used to
keep the Spanish state together. And do you really think
Hitler did what he did on ‘religious’ grounds?
Do you think he was an altar boy? Do you think he gave a
care about Christianity? No. He was a racist. That he was
born Catholic is incidental to his being. Christianity was
a means to that end.
In Ireland, North and South killings were the result of
political allegiances. North went with Britain, South wanted
independence. It just so happens the South is Catholic,
north Protestant, but the fighting is not, as many seem
to suggest, the result of religious ideological differences.
Religion is just a way to identify the other guys. If you’re
Catholic your a Paddy, and that is that.
My point being that comparing Islam and Christianity on
death counts is misleading. Compare the ‘theology’
and the ‘teaching.’
The cherry-picking reader will not be inconvenienced by
also by Robert J. Lewis:
is Smarter Than the West
Divided by Two
Me With That Music
Sinking of the Friendship
The Great Escape
on a Hot Tin Roof
A Line in the Wilderness
Rooms & Infidels
Idea Will Travel
Reader Feedback Manifesto
Caste the First
Let's Get Cultured
Being & Baggage
The Eclectic Switch
What is Beauty?
In Defense of Heidegger
and Paradise Now
Death Wish 7 Billion
My Gypsy Wife Tonight
On the Origins of
Love & Hate
Divine Right and
the Unrevolted Masses
Cycle Hype or Genotype
The Genocide Gene