Blog by John Miller

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Now for Round 2

For the last month, I have been trying to get Mark Steyn to verify a quotation he uses to characterize the threat that he feels Muslims pose to western civilization.

Now he has finally done that. What can I say? Congratulations. It’s a start. It’s progress.

At issue was the veracity of the quotation he picked up from Oriana Fallaci and used in a review he wrote in Maclean’s magazine of her book The Rage and the Pride. The quote was allegedly from the Ayatollah Khomeini: "A man who has had sexual relations with an animal, such as a sheep, may not eat its meat. He would commit sin."

In his Nov. 30 blog titled The Shagged Sheep, Steyn reveals: "When it comes to the Ayatollah Khomeini’s views on sheep shagging, my guide for many years has been a book called Resaleh Towzih al-Masael…. It was translated into English, unabridged, by J Borujerdi and published in 1984 by Westview in London and Boulder, Colorado under the title A Clarification of Questions."

He quotes from it:

#2631. It is loathsome to eat the meat of horse and mule and donkey and if somebody makes coitus with them, that is an intercourse, they become unlawful and they must be taken out of the city and sold elsewhere.

#2632. If they have intercourse with a cow and sheep and camel their urine and dung becomes unclean and drinking their milk will also be unlawful and they must be killed and burned without delay, and the person who had intercourse with them must pay money to the owner. Further, if he had intercourse with any beast its milk becomes unlawful.

I am willing to accept this as evidence that the late Ayatollah did indeed have something to say about having sex with animals. I am also willing to accept that it was not from the discredited Little Green Book, as I was led to believe by fellow blogger Deborah Gayapong (in the absence of any verification from Mr. Steyn), but from the English translation of a book, Resaleh Towzih al-Masael, which apparently had a blue cover when it was first published.

Journalists and even polemicists should document their sources, and it is every reader’s right to ask them to do so. That was all that I asked Mr. Steyn to do in my Nov. 13 blog (Open letter to Steyn): "I’m just saying that no one has verified that the Ayatollah ever said: "A man who has had sexual relations with an animal, such as a sheep, may not eat its meat. He would commit sin."

Do I owe Mr. Steyn or Ms Fallaci an apology? I do. I was incorrect to say that Mr. Steyn did not cite a source for the quotation in his review. He did (and I corrected that statement on my blog more than two weeks ago). He took it from Ms Fallaci’s book. And I was obviously wrong in saying there is no "Blue Book."

So if Mr. Steyn will be gracious enough to accept my apology for that error, perhaps he will answer three questions about the way he has been using the Ayatollah’s quotation:

1. Do you not see a fundamental difference between the Fallaci version and the version you now cite from A Clarification of Questions? You say in your most recent blog, "Now, it’s true that La Fallaci’s wording differs from Mr. Borujerdi’s. But so what?" I’ll tell you so what: Fallaci, and you, use the quotation to imply that the Ayatollah, and in fact a great many Muslims, condone bestiality. The quotes from A Clarification of Questions, on the other hand, make clear that he considered the practice "unlawful."

2. Are you aware that the translation of the book you cite has been called into question by the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Vol. 54, No. 2 (Summer, 1986), pp. 370 -371 The reviewer, Prof. Azim Nanji of Oklahoma State University, says A Clarification of Questions: An Unabridged Translation of "Resaleh Towzih al-Masael" is deeply flawed. Borujerdi’s translation, he says, "contains many errors and is very misleading in places." He calls it "a case of lost labour."

3. Now that you’ve found what purports to be the actual quote, why do you persist in using it to gleefully make sport of all Muslims, portraying them as uncivilized, vulgar, menacing people who are prone to do the unthinkable and shag or "roger" sheep? Here’s what you wrote in your Fallaci review: "I enjoy the don't-eat-your-sexual-partner stuff as much as the next infidel, but the challenge presented by Islam is not that the cities of the Western world will be filling up with sheep-shaggers. If I had to choose, I'd rather Mohammed Atta was downriver in Egypt hitting on the livestock than flying through the windows of Manhattan skyscrapers. But he’s not."

It is your use of the alleged quote to promote an inaccurate religious stereotype that I find dishonest. Bestiality is not condoned by Islam. That is a fact. It is prohibited.

You have admirable skills as a writer. You are also entitled to your point of view, and you obviously have a great many loyal followers who hang on your every word. That gives you power, and it should give you responsibility.

What responsibility do you have as a writer to avoid inaccurate stereotypes?

What onus do you feel, as a person who has considerable influence, to promote understanding, not just tear us further apart?

Why do you resort to personal insults when the issues -- most of which I raised and you have not addressed -- are journalistic: Do you select or exaggerate facts to justify your point of view, or is your point of view shaped by the facts?