Why the West is Best: A Muslim Apostate’s Defense of Liberal Democracy.
By Ibn Warraq, Encounter Books, 286 pages, $19.
One principal reason why the Islamic jihad is advancing with such confidence around the world today is because its chief competitor, the West, has lost its nerve. The iron and unquestionable dogma of multiculturalism has eaten away at its self-confidence and left only a relativism that walks to the brink of excusing genocide. Instead of defending its principles of liberal democracy and attempting to convince the Islamic world of their virtue and utility, the U.S. and Europe appear to stand for no principle more noble or compelling than majority rule. If, in any given country, a regime takes power dedicated to implementing a vision for society that is absolutely opposed to basic notions of human dignity and human rights, that’s fine with Washington and Brussels, as long as the majority voted for it.
And so the U.S. intervened military in Iraq and Afghanistan only to
oversee the adoption of constitutions in both countries that enshrine
Sharia as the highest law of the land. This was tantamount to tacit U.S.
approval for stonings, amputations, restrictions on the freedom of
speech and freedom of conscience, and the institutionalized
discrimination against women and non-Muslims, since all of this is
mandated under Sharia. Anything else, particularly any defense of the
humane values of Judeo-Christian and/or Catholic civilization such as
was once mounted against the Communist bloc on Radio Free Europe and the
Voice of America, would have been seen as ethnocentric and parochial.
But now a man of the East who came to the West as a youth and
gradually realized that it stood for a vision of the human person and
human society that far surpassed anything in his native culture has
written a courageous and insightful new book that shows that the West
can and should stand for more than mere head-counting, and above all,
should stand up for itself: Ibn Warraq’s Why the West is Best: A Muslim Apostate’s Defense of Liberal Democracy.
Ibn Warraq is a Pakistani ex-Muslim who writes under a pseudonym as a consequence of Islam’s death penalty for apostasy — and because his previous books have roused the ire of Islamic hardliners. His 1995 manifesto, Why I Am Not A Muslim, was a searing criticism of the brittleness, brutality, and barbarism of Islamic culture; he followed that with a series of scholarly collections that struck at the very foundations of Islamic faith, including The Quest for the Historical Muhammad, What the Koran Really Says, and The Origins of the Koran. His work, however, is not just about what he rejects, but what he accepts: his defense of the West and its values began with the brilliant Defending the West: A Critique of Edward Said’s Orientalism and now continues with Why the West is Best.
Ibn Warraq writes with an unusual depth, elegance and breadth of erudition, enhanced by an extraordinarily perceptive eye; thus one of the most remarkable and winning chapters of a book that is remarkable and winning throughout is its first, an examination of how daily life in New York City, even in these anxious days, manifests some of Western civilization’s finest qualities: efficiency and sense of responsibility; a love for humanity and its best manifestations, such as music, humor, and intellectual curiosity; a genuine multiculturalism, and above all, a living respect for freedom. “The multifarious interests of free men and women,” he observes, “are mirrored in the extraordinary number of activities available for the enthusiast, the curious, the intellectually and culturally alert”¦.New York stands as a concrete definition of Western civilization in its energy and creativity, its air of unlimited possibility.”
But Ibn Warraq’s notion of unlimited possibility is not mere libertinism. He notes that while “the origins of the modern West are often seen in the Enlightenment,” its cultural splendors and the habits of mind it encourages must also be traced to Athens, Rome, Jerusalem, and “Judeo-Christianity,” which “added a sense of conscience and charity, tempering justice with forgiveness, and the concept of linear rather than cyclical time, which allowed for the possibility of progress. The Middle Ages brought a deeper synthesis of Athens and Rome with Jerusalem, laying the foundations for the scientific revolution, the industrial revolution, the Enlightenment, and pluralistic liberal democracy.”…