“The forces of fundamentalist Islam are on the offensive in this, the 800th anniversary year of the conquest of Jerusalem. The rest of the world should not rest easy.” — Listener blurb.
John Laffin (1922-2000) was another of those purveyors of spurious scholarship/expertise who are greeted by naive, semi-educated New Zealanders with a respect, bordering on awe, that they don’t in any way deserve. It is appalling that such people, with an unscrupulous publicity machine behind them, are able to find so much space in the country’s newspapers and magazines for their sensational nonsense, while others, who have a genuine contribution to make to a debate, are sidelined or summarily dismissed. When the “popular press” is bamboozled by this bogus erudition, the journalistic credulity is deplorable enough. When a magazine of the stature of the NZ Listener falls victim, one is doubly disappointed. In his letter to me of March 23, 1987, the editor of the Listener, David Beatson, says: “I regard it as part of the Listener’s editorial function to publish articles reflecting all shades of opinion on any contentious matter.” But is this principle to be extended to crackpot opinion, and to statements of opinion in which there is a fudging of the facts and — as in this case — a blatant attempt to whip up paranoia? Mr Beatson continues: “Fairness demands that we publish a representative selection of letters we receive responding to issues covered…” But letters, which sometimes have their most compelling points excised, can hardly be said to restore balance. And they can, in some cases, compound the confusion by introducing new factual inaccuracies. For instance, Alexandra Barratt and Shaista Shameen, of the Centre for Women’s Studies at the University of Waikato, say in their letter to the editor of April 18, 1987, on the subject of “female circumcision”, that “Reduce the sexual organs but do not destroy them” is a verse in the Qur’an. In reality, it is a hadith, or saying of the Prophet, of dubious authenticity. Although I pointed this out to the editor, the error was allowed to stand.
I have found no evidence that Laffin was a fellow of the Royal Historical Society, or even that he ever attended a university. According to Abdur Razzaq (in a personal letter to me dated March 26, 1987), he did not hold a Ph.D and did not meet some of the people he claimed to have met.