My colleague and I have been discussing (or arguing about, if you like) the
Guardian story which reports that Paul Wolfowitz said the Iraq war was about oil. I have more doubts and qualms about the war than Jeremy does, but then as he concedes, I live in the US whereas he lives in the UK: the differences in our respective heads of state could account for our different views all by themselves. But one thing we do agree on is the irredeemable awfulness of Islamofascism, and that there is no proper opposition to it (with, as he points out, the honourable exception of Christopher Hitchens) on the Left.

Why is that? I think it has to do with the way the value of tolerance and acceptance is taken to trump all other values, and the way tolerance is then taken to mean never criticising or questioning. Above all it is taboo to say harsh things about Islam, because most Muslims are in the Third World: therefore it must be Eurocentric and colonialist and (worst of all) Orientalist to say there could be anything wrong with Islam, particularly so-called ‘moderate’ Islam.

Ibn Warraq says in an article on this site that Edward Said’s book Orientalism has a great deal to do with this reluctance to be skeptical or hostile towards Islam on the part of Western Leftist intellectuals. Therefore I was very interested to learn that Azar Nafisi talks about Said in her Teaching Lolita in Teheran, as mentioned in this interview in the Atlantic.

You include an ironic anecdote in your book, about an Islamist student who quoted Edward Said to denounce certain decadent Western authors—an anti-modernist invoking a postmodernist. But haven’t these sorts of contradictions been part of the revolution since the beginning, in the collaboration between the Islamists and the radical left?

Unfortunately (in my view at least) Nafisi then goes on to say that the great divide in Islamic society is not between religion and secularism. Well if it isn’t it ought to be, I think. A non-fundamentalist Islam would be vastly preferable to a fundamentalist one, but a secular society would be better than even a moderate theocratic one. No argument on that around here.

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