The Plank

Bawer's Power

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Bruce Bawer is one of our country's foremost cultural critics. Well, he is really not
"ours" anymore, as he moved to Scandinavia in 1998. Part of the reason for
his relocation was to get away from what he saw as a creeping Christian
fundamentalism in the United States, which he rightly loathed as a gay man.
His emigration was presaged in his 1997 book, Stealing Jesus: How Fundamentalism Betrays Christianity. Bawer is
also the author of A Place at the Table, a
groundbreaking work that challenged many assumptions about gay politics, and
he edited Beyond Queer, a collection
of essays by non-doctrinaire gay thinkers like Jonathan Rauch, Andrew Sullian,
Paul Varnell, and Norah Vincent, which is perhaps the most important work of
gay nonfiction since Randy Shilts' And the Band Played On.

So Bawer has long been a thorn in the side of the American literary left,
which likes its gays "queer," adherents to left-wing gay orthodoxy and unquestioningly loyal
members of the Democratic party. His latest book, While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam
is Destroying the West from Within
, confirms his intellectual
consistency; witnessing American religious fundamentalism, he moved to more
socially liberal Europe only to find that Europeans' vaunted cultural
tolerance was overlooking a strain of Islamist religious fundamentalism that puts Jerry
Falwell to shame.

While Europe Slept was nominated, much deservedly, for a National Book Critics Circle
Award, prompting an
d=print&oref=slogin&oref=slogin" target="new"class="articlelink">unusual
outcry
from some literary figures. Eliot Weinberger, a previous
finalist for the award, said at the organization's nominating ceremony that
Bawer engages in "racism as criticism" (he was appropriately booed). The
president of the organization's board, John Freeman, wrote on the Book
Critics' blog that Bawer's "hyperventilated rhetoric tips from actual
critique into Islamophobia."

Mr. Weinberger knows who the real fascists are. No, they are not the Muslims in Europe who murdered Theo Van Gogh and Pim Fortuyn, who widely support the imposition of Sharia law in England, or who kill their own sister for marrying the wrong person. In 2005, Weinberger's,What Happened Here: Bush Chronicles, was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award. It describes the 2000 Supreme Court decision as "the first coup d'├ętat in American history" and refers to the Bush Administration as our "unelected junta."

In other words, a heterodox, original and courageous work about Amerika to add to the shelf.

What heroes are Messers. Weinberger and Freeman for standing on behalf of
Europe's Muslims! But, unfortunately for them, their protestations are
futile. Judging by their last names, the Jihad is unlikely to spare them.

Update: A reader informs in the comments section that Pim Fortuyn was killed not by an Islamist but by an animal rights activist. I regret the error. But Fortuyn was killed for his outspoken opposition to Islamic fundamentalism nonetheless. In a fitting rebuke to the killer, Fortuyn's family wore fur coats to the man's trial.

--James Kirchick

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