One of the disturbing things about many leftists, including a number who have commented to this blog, is that they dismiss ideas they find distasteful with the flick of the wrist and don’t bother to articulate the grounds for their disagreement. They frequently misstate the conservative positions they don’t like, calling them racist, sexist or homophobic. For some reason, they have to reduce all conservative attitudes and ideas to our supposed antipathy to some group.
We see this phenomenon in the reaction to Bruce Bawer’s most excellent book, While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within. While Bruce makes clear that his problem is not Islam itself by the radical Muslims in Europe who refuse to integrate into the societies which welcome them, while challenging the very values — and freedoms — of those societies, many of his critics read his criticism of the radical Islamicists as an antipathy to the very faith itself.
Just two weeks ago, when announcing that Bruce’s book was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle award, Eliot Weinberger faulted the author for engaging in
“racism as criticism.” It seems he must have read some dishonest critique of the book rather than the book itself.
The president of the Circle’s board probably also failed to read the book, saying its “hyperventilated rhetoric tips from actual critique into Islamophobia.” Hyperventilated rhetoric? Hardly. I read the book and found that Bruce makes his case by laying out the facts and drawing thoughtful conclusions from them.
After the attacks of 9/11, I wonder what it is about certain members of the intellectual elite that they see any criticism of radical Islamicists as a manifestation of Islamaphobia or racism. As Bruce puts it on his blog:
One of the most disgraceful developments of our time is that many Western authors and intellectuals who pride themselves on being liberals have effectively aligned themselves with an outrageously illiberal movement that rejects equal rights for women, that believes gays and Jews should be executed, that supports the coldblooded murder of one’s own children in the name of honor, etc., etc. These authors and intellectuals respond to every criticism of that chilling fundamentalist code – however cogent and correct the criticism may be – by hurling the “R” word.
We need to understand how Islamic fundamentalism threatens the values, including tolerance, of Western society — and how that fundamentalism differs from the attitudes of the Islamic culture that flourished in the first centuries of the faith. For the pluralism we now enjoy in the West has antecedents in the Islamic culture around the turn of the last millennium where Islamic scholars were eager to translate classical works into Arabic and integrate their ideas into their theology while welcoming scholars of other faiths into their cities.
In his book, Bruce does a good job of showing how Islamic fundamentalism, on the rise in Europe, threatens the very values of Western civilization. And he also shows how that fundamentalism hurts many Muslims who have different ideas of their faith. Hardly racism that. It’s too bad too many on the left, particularly among the literary elite, misrepresent Bruce’s ideas. It seems that they, like some of our critics, prefer labeling him with the simple terms they use to dismiss many conservative ideas to arguing with the actual points he makes in his book.
I’m delighted that Bruce’s book was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award. It is well deserving of such an accolade. It’s a good read, a timely book and an important one. Now only is it well-written, but it’s well-argued as well. Rather than take my word for it, read the book yourself. And you’ll see that far from being a racist tract, it’s a serious essay on perhaps the most pressing issue of our time.