The enlightenment driven away
Well exactly. Just what I’ve been thinking, and fuming at, for weeks.
“The enlightenment driven away…” This very strong and bitter line [of Auden’s – OB] came back to me when I saw the hostile, sneaky reviews that have been dogging the success of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s best seller Infidel…Two of our leading intellectual commentators, Timothy Garton Ash (in the New York Review of Books) and Ian Buruma, described Hirsi Ali, or those who defend her, as “Enlightenment fundamentalist[s].” In Sunday’s New York Times Book Review, Buruma made a further borrowing from the language of tyranny and intolerance and described her view as an “absolutist” one…In her book, Ayaan Hirsi Ali says the following: “I left the world of faith, of genital cutting and forced marriage for the world of reason and sexual emancipation. After making this voyage I know that one of these two worlds is simply better than the other. Not for its gaudy gadgetry, but for its fundamental values.” This is a fairly representative quotation. She has her criticisms of the West, but she prefers it to a society where women are subordinate, censorship is pervasive, and violence is officially preached against unbelievers. As an African victim of, and escapee from, this system, she feels she has acquired the right to say so. What is “fundamentalist” about that?
What, indeed? What, what, what? I would really like to know. I read that nasty, ‘hostile, sneaky’ review of Buruma’s in the Sunday NY Times, and was thoroughly and profoundly irritated by it – as well as a little frightened. If he thinks that, he’d be willing to compromise on my rights as well as Hirsi Ali’s (not, be it noted, his own). I don’t want the Ian Burumas doing that. I find it alarming that they seem to be willing to consider it (and also, frankly, that they don’t even pause to notice that it’s other people’s rights that are in danger much more than their own, and to worry that that might make their own views look a little suspect).
The Feb. 26 edition of Newsweek takes up where Garton Ash and Buruma leave off and says, in an article by Lorraine Ali, that, “It’s ironic that this would-be ‘infidel’ often sounds as single-minded and reactionary as the zealots she’s worked so hard to oppose.”…Accompanying the article is a typically superficial Newsweek Q&A sidebar, which is almost unbelievably headed: “A Bombthrower’s Life.” The subject of this absurd headline is a woman who has been threatened with horrific violence…She has never used or advocated violence. Yet to whom does Newsweek refer as the “Bombthrower”? It’s always the same with these bogus equivalences: They start by pretending loftily to find no difference between aggressor and victim, and they end up by saying that it’s the victim of violence who is “really” inciting it.
The Bombthrower. Staggering, isn’t it.
Garton Ash and Buruma would once have made short work of any apologist who accused the critics of the U.S.S.R. or the People’s Republic of China of “heating up the Cold War” if they made any points about human rights. Why, then, do they grant an exception to Islam…?…Is it because Islam is a “faith”? Or is it because it is the faith – in Europe at least – of some ethnic minorities? In neither case would any special protection from criticism be justified. Faith makes huge claims, including huge claims to temporal authority over the citizen, which therefore cannot be exempt from scrutiny. And within these “minorities,” there are other minorities who want to escape from the control of their ghetto leaders…This is a very complex question, which will require a lot of ingenuity in its handling. The pathetic oversimplification, which describes skepticism, agnosticism, and atheism as equally “fundamentalist,” is of no help here. And notice what happens when Newsweek takes up the cry: The enemy of fundamentalism is defined as someone on the fringe while, before you have had time to notice the sleight of hand, the aggrieved, self-pitying Muslim has become the uncontested tenant of the middle ground.
Right. Hirsi Ali is the ‘bombthrower’ while people who are offended by dissent from Islam are her victims. Very strange.