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Unholy Alliance March 24, 2006

Posted by papundit in Uncategorized.
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Bruce Bawer, writing in the Winter 2006 issue of The Hudson Review, examines the growth of Islamic fundamentalism in Europe as well as scholarly responses to the issue. This article is a helpful summary of academic thought on Islamofascism. In particular, Bawer points out the dangerous consequences of interpreting Islamofascism through the lense of moral relativism.

"In Generous Betrayal, Wikan told several stories to illustrate how a misguided 'respect' for immigrant-group traditions leads to a denial of individual rights. One such tradition is forced marriage. Wikan wrote of Aisha, a Norwegian-born girl whose parents transported her to their homeland, Morocco, to be married against her will. Aisha, then fourteen, knew what was coming and begged Norwegian child-protection authorities for help; but, not wishing to be seen as culturally insensitive, they refused to get involved. Another such tradition is 'honor killing,' whereby family honor is restored through the murder of a female relative who is seen as having sullied it—by, for example, being raped. Wikan drew attention to this practice in her book For ærens skyld (For Honor’s Sake), which is troubling not only for its account of girls and women brutally executed by their families but also, alas, for Wikan’s dismaying insistence on seeing the murderers, too, as victims, her argument being that their cultural ideology binds them to obligations that they cannot shirk.12 (Using similar logic, one might maintain that a guard at Auschwitz was as deserving of pity as the children he shoved into the gas chamber, since he was, after all, a helpless instrument of Nazi racial theories.)"

Bawer also reviews Unholly Alliance by David Horowitz, who is "appalled by left-wing American academics and activists who claim to support the rights of women and gays but who, since 9/11, have romanticized, whitewashed, and marched alongside Islamic fundamentalists who reject those rights." Yale University's decision to recruit former Taliban spokesman Sayeed Rahmatullah Hashemi as a special student while simultaneously filing briefs with the Supreme Court to block the U.S. military from recruiting on campus is a strong example of this disturbing trend. Bawer writes,

"As Horowitz underscores in Unholy Alliance, this partnership between certain leftist elements and Islamic fascists is founded not on shared beliefs but on shared hatreds (America, capitalism) and shared mindsets (puritanical, apocalyptic, utopian): 'Both movements are totalitarian in their desire to extend the revolutionary law into the sphere of private life, and both are exacting in the justice they administer and the loyalty they demand.'… Horowitz recalls the historical connections between Western totalitarianism and Muslim extremists: 'During the 1930s and after, Arab nationalism in Palestine, Syria, and Iraq modeled itself on Italian and German fascism. In the 1950s Arab nationalists forged military and diplomatic alliances with the Communist bloc and incorporated the Marxist indictments of the West in their own.' Later, the Ayatollah Khomeini won the support of Western leftists 'by portraying his movement as a revolution of the oppressed.' And today, many of those who view Castro as a heroic David to America’s Goliath have little trouble casting Islamist leaders as valiant underdogs. Though Horowitz has been accused of labeling opponents of the Iraq War anti-American, he makes it clear that while he respects principled antiwar positions, he doesn’t respect those who deny the reality of oppression in the Muslim world or who glibly equate Western democracy with, say, the tyranny of the Taliban."

Bawer heaps scorn on Timothy Garton Ash's Free World, comparing reading his book with stepping "through the looking glass from reality into fantasy….his book’s main value, it turns out, is that it is an absolutely perfect example of today’s European-elite mentality in all its arrogance, self-delusion, and folly." Bawer critiques Ash and those who would deny the importance of spreading "freedom" in the Muslim world. His analysis (note: the bold highlights are mine) is worth reading in its entirety:

Though his book is entitled Free World, freedom doesn’t figure importantly on his radar screen. Indeed, despite his conspicuous use of the word “freedom,” he seeks, in good European-establishment fashion, to shift the focus from freedom to poverty: instead of freeing people from dictators, he argues, we should secure them “freedom from want.” It’s a clever argument—argue with him, and you sound as if you don’t care about poverty. But he’s playing a semantic shell game, hijacking the word “freedom” and implying that freedom is somehow inimical to economic welfare, when in fact the opposite is the case. As for his subtitle’s reference to “the surprising future,” there’s nothing at all surprising here: his references to such things as America’s failure to ratify the Kyoto accords and the need for America to respect the UN are standard establishment boilerplate.

Garton Ash is also typical of the European elite in his removal from the reality of human suffering. Apropos of the toppling of Saddam, he’s able to write that “What qualifies as genocide is also a matter for the most serious debate.” (How many graves full of dead children are necessary? Let’s have a conference about it.) And he holds up as role models the leftist West German politicians who, eager to reunite their country, “plugged away at it for twenty years” by appeasing Soviet Communism and eventually achieved their goal only because Communism collapsed—no thanks to them. “Never mind the different route,” he says blithely—eager to blur the distinction between whitewashing Communism and liberating people from it. Like other European elitists, moreover, he distrusts genuine (i.e., national) patriotism but adores the EU, thinking out loud about the need for a factitious European patriotism (“flags, symbols, a European anthem we can sing”) to encourage “emotional identification with European institutions.” He further argues that the EU should be led by Germany, France, and Britain. How is any of this compatible with democracy? It’s stunning how remote that question often seems in this book—which is largely a prescription for manipulating the masses. His romanticism about the EU recalls earlier European romanticisms (about Napoleon, the Third Reich, Communism) in that it, like them, has nothing to do with a love of freedom and everything to do with an elite’s desire to forge a Greater Europe.

Why does Europe need an EU? Garton Ash’s answer: “To prevent our falling back into the bad old ways of war and European barbarism.” But how is the EU necessarily a guard against that barbarism? Can’t he see in his own attitudes toward terrorism and European Muslims a suicidal echo of “bad old” European appeasement? He applauds the Europeans whose street protests against the U.S. invasion of Iraq gave birth, in his view, to a new Europe—but doesn’t it trouble him that many of them waved signs equating American leaders with Saddam, thus evincing the familiar European inability to choose democracy over dictatorship? He favorably quotes a postwar observation by Bertolt Brecht: “The womb is fertile still, from which [Hitler] crawled.” For Brecht, the womb was capitalism; Garton Ash disagrees, saying that it was “human nature, additionally misshaped by some distinctively European forms of stupidity.” But he avoids mentioning that Brecht was a committed Stalinist, and thus hardly a shining light for the new Europe but rather a cautionary example—an embodiment of the time-honored European knack for rejecting one form of tyranny while embracing another. For Garton Ash to identify nation-states with Europe’s historical problems while holding up an undemocratic EU superstate as a magical solution to those problems seems benighted in much the same way as Brecht’s damning Hitler only to praise Stalin. What Garton Ash fails to see is that the “distinctively European forms of stupidity”—as exemplified by Brecht himself—amount to an attraction to tyrants and a failure to appreciate and defend liberty.

This failure is on view throughout Free World. He writes that “even if it were possible for the United Nations to be composed entirely of crypto-Americas [i.e., democracies], this would be deeply undesirable, on grounds of, so to speak, the biodiversity of world politics—not to mention sheer boredom.” This may well be the most offensive sentence in the book: better, apparently, to have millions living under autocrats’ heels than under democracy, because it makes the UN more interesting for the likes of Timothy Garton Ash. (This is not the only place in the book at which Ash sounds like a farcically self-absorbed star academic out of a David Lodge novel.) Similarly, he sneers—with spectacular unoriginality—that “the recipe for human happiness is mysterious and cannot be purchased at Wal-Mart.” Well, you can certainly get more happiness at Wal-Mart than you could’ve gotten at a food market in Soviet-era Moscow. One could argue, by the same token, that human happiness can’t be engineered by social-democratic nanny states, either—a statement that would at least be relevant in this context, for while the U.S. doesn’t pretend to supply happiness (the founding American idea is that the state stays out of your business, giving you space to find your own happiness), the premise of European social democracy is that government, if it’s intrusive enough, can come up with a recipe that optimizes the happiness of its citizenry.

In his last chapter, Garton Ash, referring to America, asks: will “the free remain indifferent to the misery of the unfree?” Whatever one’s position on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the fact is that thousands of American soldiers in those countries have put their lives on the line precisely because they are determined to bring freedom to the unfree. But, again, he isn’t talking about this; he’s talking about important stuff, like going to high-level conferences and participating in dialogue. By way of dismissing the differences between Western and Islamic cultures, he writes that “to see your daughter raped in front of your eyes by a militia gang is as soul-rending for a Muslim mother as for a Jewish mother.” Perhaps—but it wouldn’t occur to a Jewish parent that the girl should then be murdered for having dishonored the family. (Such honor killings, though now routine in Europe, aren’t a part of Garton Ash’s reality.)

Reading Bawer's article and the books he cites will give you a more informed view of Islamofascism. Anyone who seriously values human rights– especially women's rights– should be concerned about this issue and the apologist interpretations of honor killings, terrorism and other fundamentalist actions by some left-wing academics. Evaluating Islamofascism through a framework of moral relativism will not protect us from the very real threat it poses to the freedoms Americans value. Those who chose to serve as apologists for terror should be reminded of Winston Churchill's observation that "An appeaser is one who feeds the crocodile hoping it will eat him last."

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