Pankaj Mishra

Ugly stuff from Pankaj Mishra.

Bestselling authors like Ayaan Hirsi Ali may be the “new heroes”, as the writer Peter Beinart puts it, of the Republican party’s crusade against Muslims. But “professional” former Muslims have long provided respectable cover for the bigotry and, more often, plain ignorance of mainstream western commentators on Islam…Most of these ex-Muslim “dissidents” lucratively raging against Islam in the west wouldn’t be able to flourish without the imprimatur of influential institutions and individuals in the US and Europe.

Most of what “professional” ex-Muslim “dissidents” lucratively raging against Islam? It’s not lucrative for all ex-Muslim dissidents, after all – in fact it’s not lucrative for any of them except possibly Hirsi Ali, and she has heavy expenses because of the death threats. And for most of them it’s unpaid work, and thankless besides. Sara Mohammed doesn’t find it very “lucrative,” I can tell you. Few ex-Muslim dissidents find it all that lucrative to defend women’s rights and gay rights and human rights, and they find it not all that easy or popular, either, in a world where Pankaj Mishras are always ready to sneer and throw mud.

Certainly, the story of Hirsi Ali’s life attests powerfully to the degradations suffered by many women in patriarchal cultures. There is no question that she should feel free to say that Muslims are programmed to kill infidels and mutilate female bodies, however much these opinions may offend some people. There is little reason, however, for most of her opinions to claim serious intellectual attention.

Oh really? Why not? (Because they “offend some people,” of course. Stupid question.)

Yet the mildest criticism of Hirsi Ali’s naivety triggers a tsunami of vitriol from her army of prominent supporters. In recent months Clive James as well as Melanie Phillips have rebuked Ian Buruma and Timothy Garton Ash for not joining the chorus of praise for Hirsi Ali, a defender of the western Enlightenment, and for being “soft” on apparently closeted jihadists like the Muslim academic Tariq Ramadan.

No. Not for not joining the chorus of praise for Hirsi Ali; not at all; for calling her “an Enlightenment fundamentalist” and other patronizing clueless nonsense.

Thus the writer Paul Berman, a self-described “laptop general” who first stalked Ramadan and hounded Buruma and Garton Ash in the New Republic – once the principal periodical of liberal America – and then expanded his 28,000-word indictment into a much-reviewed book…

And so on and so on, as if there were something deeply sinister about Paul Berman’s analysis – not “stalking” – of Ramadan, or as if it were obviously illiberal of the New Republic to publish it, or as if he had no business writing a book on the subject, or as if it should have gone unreviewed. It’s ugly, nasty, bullying, innuendo-laden stuff.

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