Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Timothy Garton Ash needs a trip to the woodshed

Following a link I found on Dr. Hodges's fine blog, I read Timothy Garton Ash's article in the New York Review of Books titled "Islam in Europe." Dr. Hodges rightly commends Ash for taking a pro-free speech stance. I, however, couldn't get past Ash's tone, especially regarding his snooty attitude toward feminist Ayaan Hirsi Ali (for the record, Dr. Hodges's post on Ash isn't a ringing endorsement of the man, either).

Ash spends time noting the many horrors Ali has gone through, including the barbaric ritual of clitoral circumcision ("genital mutilation" according to Ali). After duly acknowledging Ali's many travails (including currently living under threat of death for having made the film "Submission" with Theo van Gogh, who was killed by a Muslim named Mohammed Bouyeri in 2004), Ash makes this condescending assessment:

Having in her youth been tempted by Islamist fundamentalism, under the influence of an inspiring schoolteacher, Ayaan Hirsi Ali is now a brave, outspoken, slightly simplistic Enlightenment fundamentalist. In a pattern familiar to historians of political intellectuals, she has gone from one extreme to the other, with an emotional energy perfectly summed up by Shakespeare: "As the heresies that men do leave/are hated most of those they did deceive." This is precisely why she is a heroine to many secular European intellectuals, who are themselves Enlightenment fundamentalists. They believe that not just Islam but all religion is insulting to the intelligence and crippling to the human spirit. Most of them believe that a Europe based entirely on secular humanism would be a better Europe. Maybe they are right. (Some of my best friends are Enlightenment fundamentalists.) Maybe they are wrong. But let's not pretend this is anything other than a frontal challenge to Islam. In his crazed diatribe, Mohammed Bouyeri was not altogether mistaken to identify as his generic European enemy the "unbelieving fundamentalist."

Mr. Ash: fuck you for looking down your nose at someone like Ali. I have a feeling that if a guy dipped a baseball bat in a vat of glue, then rolled the bat in broken glass, then smacked your crotch with it a few times, your worldview after such an experience might strike others as a bit simplistic, too. You've got a lot in common with the lefty college students in Korea who shamelessly hound defector Kang Chol Hwan (author of The Aquariums of Pyongyang) with their heedless marxism.


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