I just finished Paul Berman’s ‘Flight of the Intellectuals‘ and while not a tour de force like its prequel, ‘Terror and Liberalism’, was a phenomenal read. I will give a full length review after my vacation (warning GPP is going on a two week travel break), but right now I will highlight to key part of the book’s conclusion. This section features Berman building his theme of Western intellectuals failing to stand up to the Islamist’s ideology, which he clearly lays out was partly fathered by European fascism, while at the same time spitting venom at actual liberal people with Muslim backgrounds, such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The following sections immediately follow a listing of Western intellectuals (some with Muslim backgrounds) who require bodyguards to protect them from Islamist violent radicals. The list is sadly long. Enough of me, here’s Berman:
‘And so, Salman Rushdie has metastasized into into an entire social class. It is a subset of the European intelligentsia-its Muslims free-thinking and liberal wing especially, but including other people, too, who survive only because of bodyguards and police investigations and because of their own precautions. This is unprecedented in Western Europe since the fall of the Axis. Fear-mortal fear, the fear of getting murdered by fanatics in the grip a bizarre ideology-has become, for a significant number of intellectuals and artists, a simple fact of modern life. And yet, if someone like Pascal Bruckner intones a few words about the need for courage under these circumstances, the sneers begin-”Now where have we heard that kind of thing before?”- and onward to the litany about fascism. In the New York Times Magazine Ian Buruma held back from hinting even obliquely at the genuinely fascist influences on [Tariq] Ramadan’s grandfather, the founder of the modern cult of artistic death-Hassan al-Banna, who spoke highly of Adolf Hitler and helped the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem escape from getting tried at Nuremburg. Yet Pascal Bruckner, the liberal-here is somebody, Buruma would have us think, on the brink of fascism!’….[Pg. 296]
‘The Rushdies of today find themselves under criticism, contrasted unfavorably in the very best of magazines with Tariq Ramadan, who is celebrated as a bridge between cultures-Ramadan, an alumnus of the anti-Rushdie Islamic Foundation in Britain. Ramadan, who, even in 2009, managed to commend in a single sentence of his book Radical Reform both Sheikh Qaradawi, the theologian of the human bomb, and the Egyptian sheikh Muhammad al-Ghazali, who publicly defended the assassination of Foda. And yet, if there is a menace to society, nowadays it is said to come from Hirsi Ali or some other vocal and articulate opponent of the violent sheikhs-the European intellectuals from Muslim backgrounds who, in their unforgivable departure from the child-like image of how Muslims are supposed to behave, have arrogated to themselves the right to update a few ideas from John Locke or John Stuart Mill or Bertrand Russell. During the Rushdie affair, liberals who called for courage were applauded. Liberals from Muslim backgrounds were positively celebrated. But not today.’ [pg. 298]
Hopefully, you were able to follow Berman’s thinking in these paragraphs. If so, please give GPP your thoughts. If not, please give GPP your confused thoughts.