Self-described red-diaper baby, Radcliffe girl with cheek of tan (a little weak sun-taking, during that first job at Johnson State College, Vermont), a naif who — in the middle of New York City — was completely oblivious to, and shocked, shocked, shocked to discover, the “serial philandering” of her former husband (the man she thought was her eternal “soul-mate” earned his living as a joke-writer for someone, possibly Letterman, so she was being supported in quite a high style, presumably on the Upper West Side, by a husband who was very much a beneficiary, or part, of The System), Katha Pollitt is a girl — oops, woman –whose “feminist politics” have not entirely erased her inner essential sweetness.
Listen to her voice, that of a twenty-year-old, on a radio show. But she refuses to grow up. That’s sometimes okay. Yet one wishes that in one area she would decide to really start to inform herself, and thereby grow up about an ideology that, if she really thought about it, she would surely come to dislike and that would fill her with a dismay far beyond what the cheekbones of Katrina van den Heuvel may cause. She could start reading, on her own — Why I Am Not A Muslim by Ibn Warraq, or While Europe Slept by Bruce Bawer. Or The Dhimmi or Islam and Dhimmitude by Bat Ye’or.
Or, if she can get over his presumed “right-wing-ness,” even the guides to what is actually in the canonical texts of Islam — Qur’an, Hadith, Sira — by the notorious Robert Spencer. She might meet, over a period of a few weeks and sometimes tea, with Paul Berman. He’s no right-winger, he’s practically Village Voice People. She might read, and even try to think about enough to write about, Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is no right-winger. (I use such terms as “right-winger” only because I must get down in the muck in order to help clear it away.)
Katha Pollitt might read the books of Oriana Fallaci on the matter of Islam. But before she does, she should learn all about Oriana Fallaci’s aid to her father, and other partisans who fought as best they could against the Germans in World War II. She should familiarize herself with Fallaci’s attacks on the Vietnam War. She should find out about her Greek leftist lover, Panagoulis, killed by Greek rightists (those “colonels”), about whom she, Oriana Fallaci, wrote Un Uomo.
Now if that doesn’t get the attention of Katha Pollitt, what will? Rest assured that if Oriana Fallaci had been around in the 1930s, she would have fought in Spain, right alongside the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. That’s right — for Fallaci, fascism was fascism. And she knew Islam intimately. She had spent a lot of time interviewing the likes of Khomeini and Arafat (and even was subjected to Israeli fire, while accompanying a group of PLO fighters). And having learned all that, she can then read Fallaci’s expressions of horror at the demographic invasion of Tuscany, of Italy, of Western Europe, by those who are adherents of a faith that discourages free and skeptical inquiry, without which science is impossible, and discourages or rather prohibits, almost all forms of artistic expression save (Qur’anic) calligraphy and (mosque) architecture, that inculcates in Believers the necessary (by our standards) mistreatment of women, and the mistreatment of non-Muslims, and does not permit, is bitterly opposed to, the individual rights that the Declaration of the Rights of Man, the Bill of Rights, and the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man all uphold, rights that are flatly contradicted by the Shari’a.
Then she might start to see Islam in a more intelligent and truthful light. And then she herself might become a light unto, not the nations, but to The Nation, or at least to its more intelligent and mentally open-to-new-knowledge contributors, among whom I suspect there are at least three: the gourmand and fugitive versifier and very touching memoirist Calvin Trillin, and the unforgettable cheekbones — Right and Left — of the editor, Katrina vanden Heuvel.
But because we are all feminists now, we won’t dare to mention them, or their conceivable aid in making what Katrina vanden Heuvel says (on, say, Charlie Rose) more convincing to her rapt male listeners.