May 31, 2007

A “REACTIONARY TURN IN THE INTELLECTUAL WORLD,” in the reception of Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Full story (registration required) here. And here’s an excerpt:

About Hirsi Ali we do not have to wonder: where does she stand on the question of stoning women to death? Or on the obligation for husbands to beat their wives? Read one page by her and you will know the answer; and if you read two pages, you might begin to suspect that, on the television screens of France, the man who defended the oppressed of the oppressed in the poorest neighborhoods of Europe was Nicolas Sarkozy. But that has got to be the problem from a perspective like Buruma’s. This talk of women’s rights–doesn’t it point ultimately in directions that ought to be regarded as (here is the mystery of our present moment) conservative? Better the seventh century than Nicolas Sarkozy. . . .

But this means only that Hirsi Ali’s critics have lost the ability to distinguish between a fanatical murderer and a rational debater. Here is “the racism of the anti-racists,” in Bruckner’s phrase. It is the racism that, while pretending to stand up for the oppressed, would deny to someone from Africa the right to make use of the same Enlightenment tools of analysis that Europeans are welcome to use. Bruckner took note of the nasty personal tone with which Hirsi Ali had been discussed–the masculine condescension, to mention one aspect, which scarcely anybody could have missed in Garton Ash’s New York Review essay, where he suggested that Hirsi Ali’s literary success must be owed significantly to her looks. . . .Salman Rushdie has metastasized into an entire social class, a subset of the European intelligentsia–its Muslim wing especially–who survive only because of their bodyguards and their own precautions. This is unprecedented in Western Europe during the last sixty years. And yet if someone like Pascal Bruckner mumbles a few words about the need for courage under these circumstances, the sneers begin.

The progressives aren’t looking particularly progressive these days.