A sorry tale of intellectual apologists (A new book takes on the accused appeasers of Islamist terrorism)

US author Paul Berman

The disturbing, and increasing, phenomenon of rationalizations – or outright apologies – for radical Islam by Western intellectuals and journalists (a spectacle on display consistently at the Guardian) is dissected by Paul Berman in his new book, Flight of the Intellectuals.

From The Australian, August 28.

THERE is an almighty stoush brewing in the ranks of the intelligentsia in the US and Europe. It conjures up those heated polemics of the engaged intellectuals that Woody Allen mocks in Annie Hall when Alvy tells Robin, “I’m so tired of making fake insights with people who work for Dysentery.” “Commentary,” says Robin. “Oh really,” says Alvy. ” I heard that Commentary and Dissent had merged and formed Dysentery.”

In one corner are Christopher Hitchens and Melanie Phillips; in the other are Ian Buruma and Timothy Garton Ash; and they are slugging it out in the pages of The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, The Spectator and The Guardian over first an essay and now a book by Paul Berman about, among other things, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Tariq Ramadan.

Of course, this is to some extent a fight among friends: Hitchens at least counts Buruma, Garton Ash and Hirsi Ali as such, but the criticism is no less impassioned for that — as one may expect since the topic is the moral cowardice of Western intellectuals in general, and Buruma and Garton Ash in particular, in response to the threat of Islamic terror.

When Salman Rushdie was forced into hiding in 1989 after a fatwa by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Western intellectuals rallied to his defence.

Yet when Hirsi Ali was forced into hiding in 2004 after her friend and artistic collaborator, film director Theo van Gogh, was murdered by an Islamist who pinned to the dead man’s chest a death threat to Hirsi Ali, support for her was qualified with condescension.

See rest of the essay, here.

Here’s a link to Paul Berman’s original essay in TNR about Ramadan, “Who’s Afraid of Tariq Ramadan”.

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