The Spine

"What You Can't Say About Islamism" Or, For That Matter, About Islam.

By

Paul Berman, who writes regularly and provocatively for us, published on Saturday in the Wall Street Journal another one of his disturbing epistles about Muslims and Fascism, Jews and Liberalism, truth and falsehood that have made him perhaps the most disturbing of contemporary intellectuals. And certainly the most disturbing American intellectual in a circle that includes Bernard-Henri Levy, Pascal Bruckner, Alain Finkielkraut, all French. I mean "disturbing" as a compliment.

Berman is also a relentless intellectual, and maybe "disturbing" goes together with "relentless." He is convinced that Islamism, which is not a tiny heretical offshoot of the prophet or a minor grouplet sprinkled here and there among the faithful, is now mainstream and mainstream intimidating of the faithful. That is, they believe.

It is also mainstream intimidating of the liberals, yes, you and me. Well, certainly not me. OK, and not you, too. But there is an epidemic of tolerance--on the liberal campus, at liberal dinner tables, in liberal families, among the liberal "new world" entrepreneurs--for people who hate and often kill liberals (especially liberal Muslims). This tolerance extends to Jew-haters and Jew-killers. In the West, in fact, indulgence of the hatred of Jews among liberals and liberal Jews or Jewish liberals is so rampant that it has taken on a new disguise: the hatred of Zionism and disgust with the State of Israel, perhaps one of the three or four most liberal states in the world.

In our present Age of the Zipped Lip, you are supposed to avoid making any of the following inconvenient observations about the history and doctrines of the Islamist movement:

You are not supposed to observe that Islamism is a modern, instead of an ancient, political tendency, which arose in a spirit of fraternal harmony with the fascists of Europe in the 1930s and '40s.

You are not supposed to point out that Nazi inspirations have visibly taken root among present-day Islamists, notably in regard to the demonic nature of Jewish conspiracies and the virtues of genocide.

And you are not supposed to mention that, by inducing a variety of journalists and intellectuals to maintain a discreet and respectful silence on these awkward matters, the Islamist preachers and ideologues have succeeded in imposing on the rest of us their own categories of analysis.

Or so I have argued in my recent book, "The Flight of the Intellectuals." But am I right? I glance with pleasure at some harsh reviews, convinced that here, in the worst of them, is my best confirmation.

Read the rest at the Journal's website.

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