But relax: it’s just in books that “ominously warn of a catastrophic culture clash between Europeans with traditional Western values and fundamentalist Muslims” — including mine. It isn’t as if it’s really happening.
“In Books, a Clash of Europe and Islam,” by Patricia Cohen in the New York Times (aka New Duranty Times), with thanks to all who sent this in:
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.”
What race is Islam again?
The resulting stir within the usually well-mannered book world spiked this week when the president of the Circle’s board, John Freeman, wrote on the organization’s blog (bookcriticscircle.blogspot.com): “I have never been more embarrassed by a choice than I have been with Bruce Bawer’s “˜While Europe Slept,” he wrote. “It’s hyperventilated rhetoric tips from actual critique into Islamophobia.”
Freeman should be more specific about what he finds objectionable about Bawer’s superb book. If he could point out the actual instances of “Islamophobia,” we might be able to see what he’s really talking about.
The fusillade of e-mail messages on the subject circulating among the Circle’s 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 World’s 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.
Why doesn’t the Times explore that question in an honest way, instead of pretending, up to now, that these books don’t exist? I know this is the first time mine has been mentioned in its pages, except for when it was on the Times Bestseller List. This is the first time they’ve noticed Bawer’s book as well. The fact that they have reviewed neither book is just another indication of their tendency simply to ignore perspectives that do not coincide with their own.
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 one’s 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. Bawer’s book jacket is covered with admiring blurbs from well-known conservatives, but he does not fit the typical red-state mold.
That must confuse them so!
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 it’s terrific for writers to expose the offenses and perils of religious fundamentalism “” just as long as it’s Christian fundamentalism,” he wrote on his blog.
Exactly so. Read it all.