[Marxism] Islamophobic trash nominated for National Book Critics Circle award
lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Feb 8 07:35:52 MST 2007
NY Times, February 8, 2007
In Books, a Clash of Europe and Islam
By PATRICIA COHEN
Award nominations are generally occasions for exaggerated compliments and
air kisses, so it was something of a surprise when Eliot Weinberger, a
previous finalist for the National Book Critics Circle award, announced the
newest nominees for the criticism category two weeks ago and said one of
the authors, Bruce Bawer, had engaged in racism as criticism.
The resulting stir within the usually well-mannered book world spiked this
week when the president of the Circles board, John Freeman, wrote on the
organizations blog (bookcriticscircle.blogspot.com): I have never been
more embarrassed by a choice than I have been with Bruce Bawers While
Europe Slept, he wrote. Its hyperventilated rhetoric tips from actual
critique into Islamophobia.
The fusillade of e-mail messages on the subject circulating among the
Circles 24 board members mirrors a larger debate over a string of recently
published books that ominously warn of a catastrophic culture clash between
Europeans with traditional Western values and fundamentalist Muslims
books including Londonistan by Melanie Phillips, The Truth About
Muhammad: Founder of the Worlds Most Intolerant Religion by Robert
Spencer, and America Alone by Mark Steyn.
Most have been written by conservative authors and published by
conservative presses, but not all: the celebrated Italian journalist Oriana
Fallaci, who died last year, so angered Muslims with her strident books,
like The Force of Reason, that she was sued for defaming Islam. The
publication of such books coincides with a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment
and reports of violent attacks and plots by radical Muslims in Europe.
Bombings in London and Madrid, heated disputes over bans on women wearing
the veil, gang attacks on young Muslims, rioting in Paris and violence in
Berlin by disaffected Arab immigrants have brought to the surface anxieties
over the growing number of Muslims in Europe. In December the European
Union reported that Muslims faced deep-seated discrimination in education,
housing and jobs, but that they should also do more to integrate into
society. In this environment, it is no surprise that the books have
elicited a mixture of praise and contempt, raising the question of where
the line is between legitimate criticism and bigotry.
For Mr. Bawer, the condemnations are more evidence of liberals one-sided
blindness. 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 ones own
children in the name of honor, etc., etc., he wrote on his own blog,
www.brucebawer.com/blog.htm. In an e-mail message yesterday he said he did
not have anything to add to his posts.
Mr. Bawers book jacket is covered with admiring blurbs from well-known
conservatives, but he does not fit the typical red-state mold. An openly
gay cultural critic from New York who has lived in Europe since 1998, Mr.
Bawer has published books like Stealing Jesus, a harsh critique of
Christian fundamentalism. Some people think its terrific for writers to
expose the offenses and perils of religious fundamentalism just as long
as its Christian fundamentalism, he wrote on his blog.
While Europe Slept warns that Europe is at a Weimar moment, and that
by appeasing a totalitarian ideology it was imperiling its liberty.
Political correctness, he writes, is keeping Europeans from defending
themselves, resulting in Europes self-destructive passivity, its softness
towards tyranny, its reflexive inclination to appease. Reviews have
offered plaudits and condemnations, acknowledging that Mr. Bawer has
focused on a real problem, but complaining, as did a review in The
Economist, that Mr. Bawer weakens his argument by casting too wide a net.
Imam Fatih Alev, a board member of the Islamic-Christian Study Center in
Copenhagen, has not read Mr. Bawers book, but referring to the general
level of tension, he said in a telephone interview, I think there is of
course a legitimate concern with regard to the differences of culture. But
he added, The real problem is that the ones who ought to know better, who
are well educated and well informed on the diversity of culture, are
manipulating the debate.
In many senses it is a constructed idea that there is this very severe
difference between Western values and Muslim values, he continued.
Rushy Rashid, who has written a three-part memoir about growing up as a
Muslim girl in Denmark, said that the biggest clash is not between
Westerners and Muslims but inside the small groups of immigrants all over
Europe. Speaking generally about the cultural divide in Europe, she said
she does not believe in a clash of civilizations. When it comes to Muslim
immigrants, she said, the clash between the first, the second and third
generations is huge. She added, If you can digest that kind of a clash,
then you can overcome and integrate into the society you are living in.
Other authors, like Ian Buruma in Murder in Amsterdam: The Death of Theo
Van Gogh and the Limits of Tolerance, have taken a less apocalyptic tone
than some of the other books, while Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali immigrant who
settled in the Netherlands and worked with Mr. Van Gogh, a film director,
offers harsh criticism of Islam from an insiders perspective in her memoir
J. Peder Zane, the book review editor and books columnist at The News &
Observer in Raleigh, N.C., was on the eight-member committee that nominated
Mr. Bawers book. He said it was not a contentious selection. Mr. Zane
was furious at the way Mr. Weinberger used the nominating ceremony on Jan.
20 as a platform for his views. He not only was completely unfair to Bruce
Bawer, he said in a telephone interview, hes also saying that those of
us who put the book on the finalist list are racist or too stupid to know
Mr. Zane said he and four or five others booed when Mr. Weinberger, who was
nominated last year for his 2005 collection of essays, What Happened Here:
Bush Chronicles, made his comment to more than 200 people from the
publishing world. Mr. Zane then threaded his way through the crowd to tell
Mr. Weinberger he thought his comments in that setting were completely
inappropriate. Mr. Zane recalled, He flicked his hand at me like I was a
flea and walked away.
Mr. Weinberger could not be reached for comment.
Mr. Freeman, who said in an interview that he felt a moral responsibility
to speak out about Mr. Bawers book, added that he expected further debate
as more board members read the book before casting a final vote for the
Circles award winner on March 8. Of the five nominees in each category,
the book with the majority of board votes wins the award.
Apparently, Romano has joined the Islamophobic current now coalescing
around the Danish cartoons controversy. In an article titled Author sees
growing Muslim enclaves hoping to rule Europe, Romano finds much to agree
with in Bruce Bawers While Europe Slept How Radical Islam Is Destroying
the West From Within, the subject of his review. Romano also reports on
Alan Jamiesons Faith and Sword: A Short History of Christian-Muslim
Conflict and Efraim Karshs Islamic Imperialism: A History (Karsh is a
long-time Zionist apologist).
Bawer, according to Romano, is a gay, neoconservative American literary
critic from New York who has lived in Amsterdam. This might ring a bell.
Pim Fortuyn was another Dutch gay who considered Moslems a threat, stating
if it were legally possible, Id say no more Muslims should ever enter
this country Gay Islamophobia is a growing phenomenon internationally
apparently. In Great Britain, Peter Tatchell has charged George Galloway
with homophobia despite a voting record on gay rights that is quite
progressive. Tatchells slanders have been picked up in the USA by Doug
Ireland who repeats them on his blog.
This trope about Islam boring away from within is of course a throwback to
the 1950s when there was a red under every bed and when films like
Invasion of the Body Snatchers played the same sort of role as the
Arab-bashing True Lies and Rules of Engagement play today.
Romano writes that Karsh and Jamieson serve up further uncomfortable
tidbits. What might be uncomfortable to Romano? Forcing polygamy on
Christians? Burning Jews at the stake? Heres what he is worried about:
The great English historian Edward Gibbon thought Arabic might have become
the language of Oxford and Cambridge if Charles Martels Frankish army
hadnt stopped an expansionist Arab force at Poitiers in 732.
Oooh, what a scary idea. Speaking Arabic! One wonders if Romano has any
idea of the manner in which the filthy Islamic hordes ruled in Spain.
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