Roger’s Rules

Springtime for al Qaeda?


You can always count on The New York Times. If there is even the shadow of a hint of an adumbration of a possibility in engaging in moral relativism to the advantage of our enemies (which means to the disadvantage of America), there they are, Johnny on the spot.

The latest example from the Times’s archive of moral equivalence is “The Poetry of al Qaeda and the Taliban.” The what  of al Qaeda and the Taliban? The poetry of terrorists and cullers of clitorises, the beheaders of journalists and assorted infidels, the blowers-up-of New York skyscrapers and Bali nightclubs?

Yes indeed. This emetic little piece, from yesterday’s “Opinion” pages, is by one by Faisal Devji, “A fellow of St. Antony’s College, Oxford, and the author of the preface for the forthcoming anthology Poetry of the Taliban.”

Eager to rush out and order that tasty-sounding volume? No, nor I. “Elegy for the statue of Bhudda I smashed.” “Ode to Wives I have Beaten.” “Threnody for the Multitude We Murdered in New York.” “Sonnets on Semtex.” “Ballad on a Beheading.” The possibilities are endlessly nauseating.

“Poetry,” writes Mr. Devji, “has long been part of Muslim radicalism.” So what? Hitler liked painting Alpine landscapes.  Big deal.  That didn’t make the Nazis any less thuggish. And the fact that Muslim terrorists retreat to rhapsody when they aren’t murdering people or maiming and otherwise brutalizing their womenfolk does nothing, absolutely nothing, to exonerate them. Mr. Devji argues that “By excluding the aesthetic dimension from our analyses of militant texts like those recovered from Osama bin Laden’s Pakistani lair, we miss a crucial opportunity to confront the humanity of their authors.” Wrong. By ignoring these disgusting sentimentalizing effusions, we avoid the moral trap of adumbrated by the phrase tout comprendre, c’est tout pardonner. The human, all-too-human face of evil is plenty conspicuous. Our problem is mustering the courage to see it plain and see it steady, avoiding the temptation of aestheticizing it out of account.