Ibn Warraq: In Defense of Ayaan Hirsi Ali & Afshin Ellian


by Ibn Warraq (February 2011)

Paul Berman's book, The Flight of the Intellectuals, which was neglected or dismissed by many in the liberal press without its reviewers seriously engaging with its arguments, deals essentially with two matters. First, there is the unpleasant spectacle of liberals, such as Ian Buruma, making excuses for, and even defending, illiberal ideologies and their apologists, while at the same time attacking, often in a shamefully ad hominem manner, the defenders of such classical liberal causes as freedom of speech, and religion, and the rights of women suffering under theocratic tyranny. Second, Berman endeavours to disentangle the true ideas and intentions from the subterfuge and prevarication of Tariq Ramadan. I hope to address soon Berman's arguments against Ramadan, but here I offer my own critique of one of Ramadan's defenders, and an object of Berman's critical analysis, the writer Ian Buruma.

Ian Buruma and Murder in Amsterdam.

I have admired Buruma's writings for many years for their clarity and tough-mindedness; he was not afraid to dissect the fashionable. Furthermore, he endeared himself to me for three reasons. First for his fictional biography[1] of the great Indian cricketer Ranjitsinhji Vibhaji Jadeja Maharaja Jam Sahib of Nawanagar [died 1933]. Like Buruma I was a cricket fanatic, and like Ranji, a Gujurati, born not far from the Indian Prince's Princedom. Second, much to my delight Buruma skewered the pretensions of Arundhati Roy, the Indian novelist who was suddenly given, after the success of her first novel, far too much space in the Western press to spew out anti-Western hate. Third, Buruma was not impressed by Edward Said's autobiography; he found it self-pitying. I quoted Buruma's review in my own critique of Said, Defending the West.
Hence my disappointment, even dismay, at reading his Murder in Amsterdam, where understanding of what some call "Islamism" and "Islamists" such as Mohammed Bouyeri has given way to apologetics pure and simple; one noted Dutch scholar of Islam went so far as to call his account an apology for murder.

Buruma's book, easy to read, informal and chatty, is a kind of anecdotal, personal journalism much in fashion that leaves many doubts as to his methodology and reliability. Did he tape record the extensive conversations, or did he take longhand notes? A closer look at his style reveals some troubling aspects.[2]

Many people interviewed later complained, in the leading national daily, NRC Handelsblad, that they had not been informed that he, Buruma, intended to publish their comments, and furthermore, some of them said, he had misquoted them. These included journalists such as Theodor Holman and Bart-Jan Spruyt, and academics like Paul Scheffer, Frits Bolkestein, and Afshin Ellian. Philosopher Paul Cliteur also had a chat with Buruma, and was not at all "aware of Buruma's plan to use the information to be quoted in the book."[3]

Max Pam, a writer and friend of Theo van Gogh, writing in the national daily broadsheet de Volkskrant complained that there were 125-150 factual errors- in a book of 264 pages of text. Abigail Esman in Radical State, her recent book on the Netherlands, also claimed to have found some errors herself. I noticed two significant mistakes to which I shall return later. Buruma dismisses the inaccuracies as "ridiculous in their pettiness"- displaying a cavalier attitude to the truth, and it bespeaks scant professional ethics. There are differences between the Dutch edition of the book, and the two Penguin editions in the United States. Buruma seems to have taken some of the complaints seriously enough to make the changes, others he has refused to rectify.

Lees hierr verder.

4 opmerkingen:

  1. Deze reactie is verwijderd door een blogbeheerder.

  2. Sunday, 6 February 2011
    Winter of Discontent

    For the purposes of sneering at Ayaan Hirsi Ali's Nomad in last week's Times Literary Supplement, Muslim revert Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad reverts to his more prosaic infidel name, Tim Winter. Winter, who has form, is Shaykh Zayed Lecturer of Islamic Studies in the Faculty of Divinity at Cambridge University. What Islam, that most eartbound of ideologies, has to do with divinity is a question I leave to Rebecca Bynum in her new book Allah is Dead.

    Winter's review, unfortunately not available online, drips with condescension. Here are some telling excerpts:

    There is something formulaic about her pilgrimage from Muslim to atheist certainty, in a book in which everything seems crafted by a steady teleology to show "why I chose America".


    [S]he effectively exchanges one fundamentalism for another. In Nomad, Islam is no longer the complex, decentred civilization known to Islamic Studies, but is a single essence, fully summarized by literalist interpretations of the Qur'an's most stringent verses.

    Perhaps this is because those "literalist interpretations" made familiy members cut her clitoris off. A nuanced, non-"essentialist" interpretation of that particular hadith would have been rather less painful. Winter ends with a characteristic veiled threat:

    [G]estures such as the Swiss minaret ban (which Hirsi Ali supports) are likely to intensify Muslim disdain for Western hypocrisy and Islamophobia.

    It was worth wading through Winter's dreck just to see it power-hosed away this week by writer and journalist Clive James, whose letter to the TLS is online here:

    If “there remains something formulaic about [Hirsi Ali's] pilgrimage from Muslim to atheist certainty”, wouldn’t that be because there was something even more formulaic about the determination of men in her religion – or in her local branch of that religion, if you wish – to mutilate their female children? Just such a dreadful thing happened to her, yet she wishes for her assailants nothing worse than a change of mind, while they, for her, wish death.

    And why shouldn’t Ayaan Hirsi Ali, no matter how enslaved to the American Enterprise Unit, find the Archbishop of Canterbury one of the “accomplices of jihad” and “a cultural and moral relativist” (her phrase each time, and each time quoted scornfully by her reviewer), if the Archbishop is so keen to open a window, be it ever so small, for sharia to make its way into British law? You don’t have to be an atheist to decide that the Archbishop, one of the most learned men of his calling, is, on this issue, as dense as plutonium. When Ayaan Hirsi Ali hears about sharia getting within a hundred miles of any democratic legal system, she feels it like a knife, or a razor. Is that so hard to understand?

    Lees hier verder:

    Winter of Discontent

  3. Lange stuk maar zeer de moeite waard. Heel mooi uitgelegd, in een woord: fantastisch...