Meet Ian Buruma, the New York Times’ Favorite Whitewasher of Islam

Over forty years ago, in The Painted Word, Tom Wolfe aptly described the Sunday edition of the New York Times as “that great public bath, that vat, that spa, that regional physiotherapy tank, that White Sulphur Springs, that Marienbad, that Ganges, that River Jordan for a million souls” -- an object into which one submerges oneself, “weightless, suspended in the tepid depths of the thing.”

Which is an elaborate way of saying that the Gray Lady, while occasionally, perhaps, running an op-ed that questions its editors' own opinions, strives not to mount a serious challenge to the worldview that keeps its reader base content in its ideological bubble.

So it is that as the Dutch elections approached (they're happening today), one thing was for sure: eventually the Times would run a long piece by Ian Buruma.

You see, when it comes to any given topic, the Times has figured out exactly who will deliver just the right goods -- who will serve up a picture that neatly jibes with the one that the Times, in its editorials and its delicately slanted news stories, has repeatedly fed to its devoted (not to say devout) audience. As I noted in my 2009 book Surrender, the years 2005-6 saw the publication of several important works about the Islamization of Europe -- among them Claire Berlinski's Menace in Europe, Melanie Phillips' Londonistan, Mark Steyn's America Alone, and my own While Europe Slept -- but the Times, whose reviews are a key factor in spreading the word about new books, didn't deign to review any of them.

Yet when Ian Buruma's Murder in Amsterdam came along in September 2006, the Times commissioned reviews for both its daily and Sunday editions. The reviewers themselves were honorably dubious about his take on the Dutch situation. But the Times immediately began inviting him to contribute pieces on the topic.

Why? Because in Murder in Amsterdam, Buruma -- a former critic of Islam -- had changed his tune. Dramatically.

The book (which I reviewed here) was about the 2004 slaughter of Muslim critic Theo van Gogh and the background thereto. In it, Buruma (a Dutchman and a longtime professor at Bard College in New York) wrote about van Gogh, about van Gogh's courageous predecessor Pim Fortuyn (who'd been assassinated in 2002), and about van Gogh's equally brave collaborator Ayaan Hirsi Ali in such a way as to darken their reputations.

At the same time, he sought, in his accounts of interviews with jihad-supporting Dutch Muslims, to dance smoothly around their actual horrifying beliefs and objectives and to make them come off as reasonable social critics. Masterfully, Buruma strove to avoid such ticklish topics as honor killing, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, and the jihadist determination to destroy individual freedom, banish women's equality, and execute gays, apostates, and rape victims.