Hvorfor er fascisme kun ”totalitær”, når den kommer fra Islam?

TRANEKÆR (02.05.2010): Hvordan kan det være, at når fascistiske idéer har sit udgangspunkt i Islam, så foretrækker intellektuelle at kalde dem ”totalitære” i stedet? Fordi det ord er mere abstrakt, mindre belastet, lugter mindre dårligt… alt i alt – det lyder bedre. Det er blot en af Paul Berman’s konklusioner i hans nye bog ”The Flight of the Intellectuals” – ”De Intellektuelles flugt over Plankeværket”, kunne man måske kalde den på dansk. Læs Dwight Garner’s anmeldelse af bogen i The New York Times bogtillæg:


Paul Berman’s nye bog, “The Flight of the Intellectuals”.

Book review:
In Pursuit of Pray, Carrying Philosophy

By Dwight Garner
The New York Times
May 2, 2010

By Paul Berman
Melville House Publishing
299 pages, US $ 26,-

Paul Berman’s new book, “The Flight of the Intellectuals,” plural, might as easily have been titled “The Flight of the Intellectual,” singular. It is essentially a booklong polemic against one magazine article: a profile of the Islamic philosopher Tariq Ramadan, written by Ian Buruma, the Dutch academic and journalist, and published in The New York Times Magazine in 2007.

Mr. Berman’s book has already made some noise. Writing in Slate, Ron Rosenbaum compared its stinging ambience, nostalgic to some, to one of “those old Partisan Review smackdowns,” in which Dwight Macdonald or Mary McCarthy cracked some unsuspecting frenemy over the head with a bookcase and a tinkling highball glass. And for sure, everything about “The Flight of the Intellectuals” feels old school, from Mr. Berman’s tone (controlled, almost tantric, high dudgeon) to the spectacle of one respected man of the left pummeling another while the blood flows freely, and no one calls the police.

Those Partisan Review fights got serious, and so does this book. Mr. Berman accuses Mr. Buruma, in his Times Magazine profile, of not scrutinizing Mr. Ramadan’s family, associations or writings closely enough, of presenting him in a respectful light. Presenting him, that is, as the kind of moderate and charismatic Islamic thinker in whom the West might find a useful intermediary.

Mr. Berman’s book, portions of which first appeared in The New Republic, is a patient overturning of the rocks that, he argues, Mr. Buruma failed to look under. He writes about historical figures Mr. Ramadan professes to admire and notes the tiny degrees of separation that link them to Hitler and the Nazis during World War II. He points out Mr. Ramadan’s ambiguous comments about things like 9/11, the stoning of women in Muslim countries and violence against Jews. Mr. Berman detects a kind of seventh-century barbarism lurking behind Mr. Ramadan’s genial smile.

Mr. Berman branches out in his book’s final third to condemn liberal intellectuals (nearly all of them but especially Mr. Buruma and the British historian Timothy Garton Ash) and their house organs, including The New York Review of Books, on another, related, account. He writes that while they have admired Mr. Ramadan, they have been inexplicably critical of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born Dutch intellectual who has become a major critic of Islam and, as a consequence, will probably have a large security detail for the rest of her life. Ms. Hirsi Ali’s critics, who include Mr. Buruma and Mr. Garton Ash, find her personality “strident” and humorless, he writes, and feel she isn’t as important as she might be because having renounced Islam, she no longer speaks to or is in touch with the Muslim hive mind.

Somali-born Dutch intellectual, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who has become a major critic of Islam.
About these criticisms of Ms. Hirsi Ali, Mr. Berman is incredulous. “A more classic example of a persecuted dissident intellectual does not exist,” he notes about her. And yet, he writes, she is treated differently from Salman Rushdie, another writer who was subjected to death threats. “How times have changed!” he declaims. “The Rushdies of today find themselves under criticism, contrasted unfavorably in the very best of magazines with Tariq Ramadan,” who had ties to an organization that was known to be anti-Rushdie. “Here is a reactionary turn in the intellectual world — led by people who, until just yesterday, I myself had always regarded as the best of the best.”

He is withering about why this might be. Quoting another writer, he calls this “the racism of the anti-racists.” As self-hating Westerners, he suggests, Mr. Buruma and Mr. Garton Ash can be seen “groveling to Ramadan, who berates the West” while attacking the Somali dissident who embraces its values.

Fear is at work too, he says. About the chill in the intellectual climate, Mr. Berman writes: “Two developments account for it — two large new realities that, condensing overhead, have altered the intellectual atmosphere down below, almost without being noticed. The first of those developments is the spectacular and intimidating growth of the Islamist movement since the time of the Rushdie fatwa. The second development is terrorism.”

Mr. Berman, whose previous books include “A Tale of Two Utopias,” about the 1960s, and “Terror and Liberalism,” is skilled at the art of polemic: he builds his case slowly, citing the recent work of numerous scholars. There is especially fascinating material here about Hitler’s plan, aided by some Islamists, to extend the Final Solution to the Middle East. It was obvious that Hirsi Ali had received a dreadful treatment from journalists, who ought to have known better.

Mr. Berman can be bleakly funny. He criticizes Mr. Garton Ash for pointing out in The New York Review of Books that Ms. Hirsi Ali had been awarded the “Hero of the Month” prize from Glamour magazine, as if this were proof that she couldn’t be taken seriously. Mr. Berman responds, in one of this book’s more memorable utterances: “I can’t help observing that here may be proof, instead, that Glamour magazine nowadays offers a more reliable guide to liberal principles than The New York Review of Books.”

Mr. Berman has sensitive aesthetic as well as political antennas. For him, style makes the man. He deplores the “diffident cough” in Mr. Buruma’s writing and finds him “courteous and amiable” to a fault. He’s a writer, Mr. Berman says, who “would never stoop to using a strong adjective like “repulsive,” or any adjective at all, unless it were presented as a double negative.” He is even more brutal about Mr. Ramadan’s “faux esoteric and ecumenical guru tone, suitable for all denominations.”

“The Flight of the Intellectuals” is anything but diffident, and watching Mr. Berman pursue his philosophical prey is a bit like playing an academic version of a first-person-shooter video game: Modern Warfare: Bandit Pundit Edition. One’s goggles begin to steam up. Being inside Mr. Berman’s head can occasionally grate. As a writer he’s alternately emotive and pedantic, an emo-wonk. He’s self-congratulatory about his coups of reading and synthesis, his turning up of important details in other people’s footnotes. Yet his own book has no foot- or endnotes at all.

His litany of charges against the elusive Mr. Ramadan is largely circumstantial, although it must be said that the pile he amasses is plenty damning. Finally, Mr. Berman believes in straight talk and insists that we use words like “fascist” to describe some Islamist ideas rather than “totalitarian.” Why? “It is because totalitarian, being abstract, is odorless. Fascist is pungent. To hear that emphatic f-sound and those double different s’s is to flare your nostrils.”

Author Paul Berman
Mr. Berman’s nostrils have flared before about fascism. He is a liberal hawk who supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq, about which he deployed that particular f-word as well. “If only people like you would wake up,” he wrote in Dissent magazine in 2004, “you would see that war against the radical Islamist and Baathist movements, in Afghanistan exactly as in Iraq, is war against fascism.” He may very well be right. Yet fascism is a radioactive word that requires careful handling. It can lead some people — and here’s my own diffident cough — to impulsive action.

There’s a good deal of inside baseball in “The Flight of the Intellectuals.” Scores are settled that many readers won’t know or care about. But this bracing and volatile book is an important one and devastating in its conclusions about the secret history of some Islamists and especially about the reception of Ayaan Hirsi Ali. “It was obvious that Hirsi Ali had received a dreadful treatment from journalists,” Mr. Berman writes, “who ought to have known better.”

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