[Fulcrum] 25 Feb 2009--Ben White’s review of Patrick Sookhdeo’s Global Jihad, published on the Fulcrum website, is a robust critique of the author’s stance on the issues addressed in the book. This paper is mainly a response to some of White’s specific criticisms, but some preliminary observations are in order regarding his methodology.
First, like all reviewers of all books, White has his own general worldview and specific standpoints, and these (inevitably and properly) inform his comments. But this process becomes less proper if it leads a reviewer into a fallacy, and it is hard to avoid the conclusion that it has done so in White’s review. The focus given to the person and activities of the author of the book is unusual if not necessarily excessive, but White also describes those who have endorsed the British edition as “senior figures, either retired or still active, from the military establishment” and those of the American edition as right-wing, neo-conservative, pro-Israel and supporters of George Bush.
The presence of these descriptions seems to be an attempt to denigrate the book by associating it with a particular political stance, which the author assumes to be suspect. But not only is this an imputation of guilt by association, which is hardly fair; it also disallows that the book may even in principle challenge the reviewer’s own worldview. The possibility that an assessment of the work on its merits might subvert some of the political assumptions that White brings to the discussion, and give more credence to some of those who have commended the book, should not be excluded from the start. Unless it is excluded, the approval of these people cannot rightly be used as a ground for criticising the text.