Talk:Bat Ye'or

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lead[edit]

The lead currently says "Ye'or's work on the history of religious minorities under Islamic rule and her use of the term dhimmitude have been widely criticized by academic specialists in the field, although it has also received positive assessments from other scholars and popular writers". I made this change but it was reverted.
It seems to me that about half the scholars we have listed in the body of the article say something positive and about half are critical. That would make the lead an NPOV violation as it strongly implies there is much more criticism than positive reviews, and says the criticisms come from "specialists" while the rest are just "other scholars". No More Mr Nice Guy (talk) 01:59, 14 January 2016 (UTC)

I also just noticed that the current text is only a couple of weeks old, and put there by the user who reverted me. I think BRD comes into play here as well. No More Mr Nice Guy (talk) 02:04, 14 January 2016 (UTC)

It's an accurate summary of the relevant section. The criticism comes from leading specialists in pre-modern Islamic history, including specialists in the history of religious minorities under Muslim rule. It reflects a mainstream view among specialists in the field. The praise comes from historians who specialized in other areas and popular writers. The only historian of academic stature there is Martin Gilbert. Please refer to the section "Indicate the relative prominence of opposing views" under WP:NPOV. Eighteen days and about a thousand views since the edit is rather late for a revert. Eperoton (talk) 02:17, 14 January 2016 (UTC)
Gilbert and Lewis are leading historians who have dealt specifically with the history of Jews in the Islamic world. The current formulation is POV. If you object to my more neutral version, I will revert to the longstanding version of two weeks ago, which has implied consensus since it was in the article for years, until we can figure out something we both agree to per WP:BRD. No More Mr Nice Guy (talk) 02:29, 14 January 2016 (UTC)
There was no consensus version of this passage, because the previous lead failed to summarize the controversies surrounding her work (see "Inadequate lead" above). Lewis calls her notion of dhimmitude a myth. How is that not a criticism? Gilbert's primary research was not in this area, and his passing mention ("expert on the plight...") is hardly praise of her body of work. Again, NPOV doesn't mean presenting a false equality between a mainstream view among RSs on one hand and a view of polemicists and a cryptic comment by Gilbert on the other (it's hard to resist bringing his "100 percent accurate" comment about her Eurabia book into this discussion, but I'll try). Since this is getting into policy interpretation, let's consult Doug Weller, who is an admin previously involved in the lead discussion. Eperoton (talk) 02:52, 14 January 2016 (UTC)
Gilbert wrote a book about the history of Jews in Islamic lands which was published by Yale University Press. See here. He's a specialist any way you look at it. But by all means, any 3rd opinion is welcome. No More Mr Nice Guy (talk) 03:01, 14 January 2016 (UTC)
I'm aware of this popular synthesis, but I'm not aware of any primary research he's done in this area. Like Lewis, he draws on Ye'or extensive knowledge of primary sources of a particular kind, and his cited comment reflects that, but it is not a praise of her books. I'm not opposed to tweaking the phrasing, but I am opposed to failing to acknowledge prevailing expert opinion. Eperoton (talk) 03:58, 14 January 2016 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────

Doug may be too busy with WP:ARB. Let's clarify the nature of our disagreement. Please tell me which, if any of the following statements you agree with:

1) WP:NPOV requires us to reflect the relative level of acceptance of conflicting assessments by authors of RSs.
2) Critical assessment of Ye'or's work on the history of religious minorities under Islamic rule and her use of the term dhimmitude is the prevailing view among specialists in the field.
3) The article supports the statement that they have been widely criticized by specialists in the field.
4) The article doesn't support the statement that they have been praised by specialists in the field.

The next step in WP:DR would depend on whether our dispute is about policy interpretation, source interpretation, wording, or some combination of these. Eperoton (talk) 03:13, 15 January 2016 (UTC)

I agree with 1 and 3, disagree with 2 and 4. Our dispute seems to be about WEIGHT. No More Mr Nice Guy (talk) 07:08, 15 January 2016 (UTC)
Do you disagree with 2 because you believe that Gilbert's comment should be given the same weight as the cited criticism by Lewis, Cohen, Sells, Griffith, Robinson, Betts and Beinin? (I'm including Betts because he's written a book on the subject like Gilbert and Beinin because he's a specialist in the modern period of this history) Eperoton (talk) 14:03, 15 January 2016 (UTC)
I think Lewis and Gilbert are both experts in this specific field who have given positive (doesn't have to be exclusively positive) reviews of her work. I think Cohen is as well. Not sure about Betts or Sells, which of their works do you think are pertinent to this specific field? Beinin's knowledge relevant here seems to be specific to Egypt? Griffith's expertise seems to be linguistics? No More Mr Nice Guy (talk) 23:30, 15 January 2016 (UTC)
Which positive reviews by Lewis and Gilbert are you referring to? I'm not going to split hairs over Gilbert's comment, but the only one from Lewis I see in the article is not positive. Sells' specialty is in literary analysis, so we can remove him from the equation. Betts has a book called "Christians in the Arab East: A Political Study". Griffith's specialty is history of Christians under Muslim rule ([1]). Beinin has many publications on modern-era social history of the Muslim world, including a book about Egyptian Jews ([2]). Eperoton (talk) 02:47, 16 January 2016 (UTC)
No More Mr Nice Guy, is this discussion still ongoing? Eperoton (talk) 00:34, 20 January 2016 (UTC)
Sorry, completely forgot about this.
I just looked at the stuff we have in the article again. We don't have a direct positive review from Lewis, although he cites her (the part about his opinion in "dhimmitude" in general seems kinda synthy, he doesn't mention Bat Ye'or at all). Gilbert's review is also mainly acknowledging she is an expert. Cohen's review is mixed. The others 3 experts are negative. Here's Norman A. Stillman saying her book is not good but her arguments have merit. This does not seem like resounding critical reviews by experts which would justify the kind of language we had in the article. No More Mr Nice Guy (talk) 07:54, 20 January 2016 (UTC)
@No More Mr Nice Guy: Lewis' comment (which, like Gilbert's and Cohen's comments, is not a review) criticizes the notion of dhimmitude, which has been single-handedly championed by Ye'or in scholarly circles, and it is precisely what the text you removed referred to. Where is the synthesis? And where is the mixitude (pardon the pun) of Cohen's comment about dhimmitude? Are you suggesting that his "keeping in mind" clause refers to Ye'or's use of this term? Stillman's review is a good addition to the discussion, since he's one of the leading specialists in the field. He writes: "As with her previous books, this one marshals a great deal of evidence, and has some very valid points to make, but again, as with her former efforts, the material is so one-sidedly selective, so oversimplified, and her rhetoric so hyperbolic and bathetic that whatever merits there are in her arguments are thoroughly overshadowed by the tendentiousness of the polemics". No matter how negative a scholarly review, tradition dictates that the reviewer should find something positive to say, and this is about as resounding a criticism and you'll find in this genre of writing. The only assessment that could be construed as praise from a specialist we have so far is a tangential comment from Gilbert. If you disagree that it justifies giving more weight to criticism than praise in the lead, I think the time is ripe to escalate WP:DR. Eperoton (talk) 15:18, 20 January 2016 (UTC)
I think Gilbert and Lewis make it clear they think she's an expert. You should continue reading Stillman's review. I don't think he's just making perfunctory positive statements.
I really don't feel strongly about this. I read the lead and then the reception section and it did not seem NPOV. Let's get another pair of eyes in here and I think we can solve this quickly. Would you like me to ask at WP:3O? No More Mr Nice Guy (talk) 20:33, 20 January 2016 (UTC)
@No More Mr Nice Guy: Sure, let's get a third opinion. I'll be sure to finish Stillman's review, though I feel compelled to add that citing someone's work or even noting their expertise in a certain domain is not the same as praising their work or terminology. Eperoton (talk) 21:09, 20 January 2016 (UTC)

Third Opinion[edit]

A third opinion has been requested. Because the above discussion has been lengthy, I will ask someone to restate concisely what the question is. Robert McClenon (talk) 20:55, 21 January 2016 (UTC)

@Robert McClenon: Thanks for joining us, Robert. The dispute is over how the content in the section Reception and criticism/Dhimmitude should be summarized in the lead. The discussion in the section above is lengthy, but it will be helpful to review it since it contains a debate about credentials of the authors and additional details. The alternative proposals are:
  1. Due to her startling theories and much of her research being original, Ye'or has become a figure of controversy.
  2. Ye'or's work on the history of religious minorities under Islamic rule and her use of the term dhimmitude have been widely criticized by academic specialists in the field, although it has also received positive assessments from other scholars and popular writers.
  3. Ye'or's work on the history of religious minorities under Islamic rule and her use of the term dhimmitude have received both criticism and positive assessment from academic specialists in the field, other scholars, and popular writers.
Eperoton (talk) 21:07, 21 January 2016 (UTC)
The first option is the longstanding version. The other two are a fair representation of the dispute. No More Mr Nice Guy (talk) 23:24, 21 January 2016 (UTC)
On the one hand, I think that the third version is the most neutral. I am closing the third opinion request because I have offered an opinion. If the editors do not agree, the next step may be a Request for Comments. Robert McClenon (talk) 01:47, 23 January 2016 (UTC)
@Robert McClenon: Could you explain your reasoning? Did you find that the prominence of critical and positive views was comparable in the quoted RSs? Which authors did you count as specialists in the field? Eperoton (talk) 04:42, 23 January 2016 (UTC)
To explain, the first one uses judgmental words such as "startling" in the voice of Wikipedia, and that itself comes across in Wikipedia as startling. The second seems to focus more on negative comments than on positive comments. The third focuses equally on negative comments and on positive. If an editor thinks that we should mostly focus on negative comments, I would suggest a middle-weight rather than light-weight process, either dispute resolution or Request for Comments. Improving the wording is a good idea. If the editors don't agree that improving the wording of the third version is appropriate, they may try a Request for Comments. If they want to improve the wording of the third version, they may discuss here, or ask for a moderator. Robert McClenon (talk) 21:37, 23 January 2016 (UTC)
I agree with Robert that of the three, the third one comes across as more neutral. However, all three suffer from unacceptable language like "startling" theories (unsubstantiated opinion in Wikipedia's narrative voice), "widely" criticized (weasel word), and "popular" writers (peacock term). MOS:WTW has more guidance on avoiding such language.
I prefer the third one with the qualifiers removed, for example "Ye'or's work on the history of religious minorities under Islamic rule and her use of the term dhimmitude have received both criticism and positive assessment from academics, scholars, and writers." ~Amatulić (talk) 16:34, 23 January 2016 (UTC)
Thanks for joining us, Amatulic. We can tweak the exact wording later ("popular writer" here isn't a peacock term; it serves to distinguish academic historians from authors writing exclusively for a popular audience). Let's first work to get a consensus on the requirements of WP:NPOV, in particular WP:WEIGHT: "Neutrality requires that each article or other page in the mainspace fairly represent all significant viewpoints that have been published by reliable sources, in proportion to the prominence of each viewpoint in the published, reliable sources." The question is whether critical and positive assessments have roughly equal prominence in the RSs in general, and the quoted RSs in particular. I have argued that they do not. Among academic specialists in this area of history, the cited commentary by Lewis, Cohen, Griffith, Robinson, Betts, Beinin, and Stillman (quoted above) are exclusively or predominantly critical. The cited comment by Gilbert is the only predominantly positive one (though, as I've argued above, it's not a general endorsement of Ye'or's books or terminology). We have gotten distracted previously by aspects of the specific wording I proposed, so I'd like to bring back this discussion to the essence of the dispute.
By the way, here's a quote from a review by Robinson, which should supersede the passing comment of his quoted in the article now: "[...] readers interested in a dispassionate account of confessional relations or a nuanced discussion of the widely diverse experience of Jews and Christians in the dar al-Islam will need to look elsewhere: [...] this is a work of polemic -- scholarly polemic, but polemic just the same. To list errors of fact would probably fill this entire number of the Bulletin [...]" Chase F. Robinson. Review of "The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam, from Jihad to Dhimmitude: Seventh-Twentieth Centuries by Bat Ye'or, Miriam Kochan, David Littman". Middle East Studies Association Bulletin. Vol. 31, No. 1 (July 1997), pp. 97-98 Eperoton (talk) 17:11, 23 January 2016 (UTC)

New proposal for lead[edit]

Let me try to make another proposal, which avoids inessential points that have caused objections before but tries to preserve the ones that I think are essential for compliance with WP:NPOV: "Ye'or's work on the history of religious minorities under Islamic rule and her use of the term dhimmitude have had a predominantly critical reception among academic specialists in the field. Her books have also been praised by authors known for criticism of Islam." What I'm trying to avoid is having a rough equivalent of the statement "The theory of evolution has met both acceptance and rejection among natural scientists and traditional theologians." We should indicate the prominence of each opinion in the respective group holding it. Eperoton (talk) 21:41, 23 January 2016 (UTC)

Sorry about the slow replies, this page slides very quickly down my watchlist. I had no idea editors offering 3O were not supposed to get involved in debates.
I think my main problem with your suggestion is the labeling of writers as "known for criticism of Islam" without a source framing it like that. I don't have an issue with saying experts are predominately critical. No More Mr Nice Guy (talk) 21:56, 25 January 2016 (UTC)
Ok, how about "by authors such as Robert Spenser"? Eperoton (talk) 22:16, 25 January 2016 (UTC)
@No More Mr Nice Guy: Another idea. Let's cite all the specialists (including Gilbert) for the first sentence and then add "Her work in this area has been praised by other authors", citing Jensen, Spenser, and Manji. Eperoton (talk) 15:17, 26 January 2016 (UTC)
I'm not sure we should be naming people in either part of this sentence. I think keeping it in general terms would be more neutral. Also, I doubt "other authors" have only praised Bat Ye'or and/or her work. No More Mr Nice Guy (talk) 18:50, 26 January 2016 (UTC)
@No More Mr Nice Guy: Yes, I wasn't proposing naming anyone, just putting references in the lead. For the second sentence my goal is to reflect the praise she has received from the three authors who aren't covered by the statement on specialists and who seem to be representative of a broader class of critics of Islam (a quick search yields this from Pamela Geller: "Longtime Atlas readers know of the admiration and reverence I have for historian Bat Ye'or's unparalled scholarship and brilliance.") Would you like to make a proposal? Eperoton (talk) 19:25, 26 January 2016 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── There is no prohibition against editors offering outside opinions from becoming involved in the discussion, particularly if asked for clarification. We are all volunteers here, and as long as participation is constructive and not disruptive, we can do, or not do, as we please.

I propose something along the lines of this: "Academic specialists in the field have criticized Ye'or's work on the history of religious minorities under Islamic rule and her use of the term dhimmitude, although other authors have praised her books."

We have a guideline on lead sections, WP:LEAD. The only purpose of this sentence is to provide an overview of the "Reception and criticism" section in the article. As such, it can be a general statement, deliberately omitting details, and doesn't require sourcing in the lead as long as sources are provided in the body. ~Amatulić (talk) 19:28, 26 January 2016 (UTC)

That's fine with me. Eperoton (talk) 19:44, 26 January 2016 (UTC)
I think it should include that it's "predominantly" critical, and again, I doubt other authors only praise her work. The "although" is editorializing. No More Mr Nice Guy (talk) 19:58, 26 January 2016 (UTC)
Adverbs don't add value to a sentence (that's just my opinion), so I worded my proposal in an active voice so that adverbs are not required. Saying simply "Academic specialists in the field have criticized...." should be enough. There is no need to use weasel words like "preominantly criticized" or "most academic specialists". What it says is factual, it doesn't say all or none or most or some, it just states that her work has been criticized by specialists, which is all that's needed for a neutral lead sentence.
I agree with removing "although", thanks for catching that. Let's remove it and simply start a second sentence "Other authors have praised her books." The point is to convey that she gets mixed reviews, one kind of review from one community and another kind from another community. ~Amatulić (talk) 20:05, 26 January 2016 (UTC)
@Amatulic: As I wrote above, I'm not opposed to your phrasing, but I agree with No More Mr Nice Guy in preferring "predominantly" with the passive voice. First, because it's an accurate summary of a reasonably thorough literature review (WP:WEASEL has a special qualification for lead usage), and, secondly, because it precludes a misreading of the two statements as "Some specialists have criticized. Others have praised". To address NMMRG's other concern, I would also suggest being more precise: "Her work on this subject has been praised by some authors writing for a popular audience". Eperoton (talk) 04:52, 27 January 2016 (UTC)
@No More Mr Nice Guy:, @Amatulic: We seem to be closing in on a consensus. Let's go the last mile (or, hopefully, the last inch). Eperoton (talk) 13:36, 31 January 2016 (UTC)
Your last suggestion is fine with me. No More Mr Nice Guy (talk) 21:33, 31 January 2016 (UTC)
Sounds reasonable to me too. Let's go with it. ~Amatulić (talk) 02:07, 1 February 2016 (UTC)

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