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Roger L. Simon

Dear Salim,

I am sorry I have not responded to your new letter sooner, but my day job here at PJM keeps me a bit busy. Moreover, to be completely honest, I was not really sure what I wanted to say. I have been rendered relatively speechless by events, violent and otherwise, in the Islamic world, trying to make heads or tails of them. By that I mean largely the Arab Islamic world — Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Bahrain, etc. — but also the always popular Islamic Republic of Iran, whose hideous government is close to the greatest misuse of religion in the history of the world.

But it is those events that are prompting me now to write back in our ongoing discussion of Islam and the West and I hope you will bear with me as I try to connect them up. I am not happy and I am not optimistic.

Of course, at the beginning of the events in Egypt I was trying to be, optimistic that is. Democracy is generally a good thing and Mubarak a bad thing — simple (almost simple-minded) as those statements are. I picked up my Skype phone and made a call to an acquaintance of mine, the estimable blogger Sandmonkey (Mahmoud Salem), who was in the thick of things in Cairo. The interview I recorded with him made the rounds of the Internet and contained such information as the Muslim Brotherhood was not that heavily involved in the demonstrations and that both sides in Egypt were accusing the other of being under the influence of The Jews.

The latter did not surprise me. The former proved to be dead wrong. Several days later the Islamist al-Qaradawi was able to muster two million supporters in Tahrir Square, the largest demonstration, I believe, so far. The Al-Jazeera commentator banned Google-activist Wael Ghonim from the stage, as I imagine you know.

Since that time, I have been trying to reach Sandmonkey because I was disappointed to learn he too has now appeared to have joined the rabid pack seeking a rapid renegotiation of the Egyptian peace treaty with Israel. I thought my friend Mahmoud would have had the maturity and sophistication to realize that the Jews are the least of Egypt’s problems. In fact, it is obviously the reverse — the more Egyptians fixate on Israel, the less they fix themselves. Indeed I suspect Mahmoud knows that. But you have to go along to get along — or something like that.

Not that the Europeans are any better. Indeed, they may be worse. The recent revelations of corruption at the vaunted London School of Economics — administrators enriching themselves from Gaddafi, who has always been nothing more or less than a mass-murdering sociopath — is again, like the obsession of both sides of the Egypt crisis with the Jews, as totally unsurprising as it is typical of the European intellectual classes. Also typical is the etiology of the LSE affair. It is not just greed and a cozying up to another tyrannical dictator/energy source; it is also, once again, a covert attack on the Jews under the guise of anti-Zionism, for it was nowhere more than at LSE that endless chastisement of Israel, accompanied by calls for economic sanctions and educational boycotts, was and is a constant drumbeat.

Although you will never see it on the pages of the Guardian or the Independent, the cause of that drumbeat, that need to hold Israel to a higher standard than any other nation, could also not be more obvious. It is titanic (and justifiable) guilt over the Holocaust. What Europe did to the Jews, marching innocent human beings into gas chambers, is arguably the most monstrous crime in recorded history. Europeans desperately want something to be wrong with the Jews to exonerate themselves, to some degree anyway, for that unconscionably reprehensible act.

Which leads me back to your recent letter. You would like us to be patient with the Islamic world because it took the West so long to reach even a modicum of civilized maturity.

Well, you’ve got a point there. We are, after all, not so many years from Robespierre and the Reign of Terror, not to mention that Holocaust and the Gulag and other similar atrocities. We should give the Islamic world another couple of centuries to right itself.

The questions are: Can we and Will it?

Excuse me if I am skeptical on both counts.

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