Sunday, September 24, 2006

Timothy Garton Ash on the Pope ... well, not quite on the Pope

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Timothy Garton Ash has an interesting article, "Islam in Europe," appearing in The New York Review of Books (Volume 53, Number 15, October 5, 2006), which -- despite the publication date -- was written on September 6 and therefore prior to the recent controversy over the Pope's Regensburg lecture, for Ash doesn't mention it.

However, he expresses himself in words strongly supporting free speech -- a position certainly of relevance to this past week's controversy:

[F]reedom of expression is essential. It is now threatened by people like Mohammed Bouyeri, [who murdered Theo van Gogh and] whose message to people like [the politically activist ex-Muslim] Ayaan Hirsi Ali is "if you say that, I will kill you." Indeed, [the writer Ian] Buruma tells us that Bouyeri explained to the court that divine law did not permit him "to live in this country or in any country where free speech is allowed." (In which case, why not go back to Morocco?) But free speech is also threatened by the appeasement policies of frightened European governments, which attempt to introduce censorship in the name of intercommunal harmony. A worrying example was the British government's original proposal for a law against incitement to religious hatred. This is a version of multiculturalism which goes, "You respect my taboo and I'll respect yours." But if you put together all the taboos of all the cultures in the world, you're not left with much you can speak freely about.
I find a lot to agree with in this passage, for the threat to free speech comes from more than one source. Ash identifies aggressive radical Islamism and enforced political correctness as the two current main sources, and I think that he's right.

On a connected point, I feel that I ought to add -- given my own, nagging doubts -- that Ash trusts Tariq Ramadan as the right spokesperson for a peaceful European Islam:
In the relationship with Islam as a religion, it makes sense to encourage those versions of Islam that are compatible with the fundamentals of a modern, liberal, and democratic Europe. That they can be found is the promise of Islamic reformers such as Tariq Ramadan -- another controversial figure, deeply distrusted by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the French left, and the American right, but an inspiration to many young European Muslims. Ramadan insists that Islam, properly interpreted, need not conflict with a democratic Europe. Where the Eurabianists [such as Bat Ye'or] imply that "more Muslim Europeans means more terrorists," Ramadan suggests that the more Muslim Europeans there are, the less likely they are to become terrorists. Muslim Europeans, that is, in the sense of people who believe -- unlike Mohammed Bouyeri, Theo van Gogh, and, I suspect, Ayaan Hirsi Ali -- that you can be both a good Muslim and a good European.

On this complex of thoughts, I confess to some doubts, for I see little these days to encourage me that a larger number of Muslim Europeans would mean a significantly larger number of Europeanized Muslims -- if by that we mean Muslims who are self-critical about Islam, who hold that religious identity is a matter for individual choice, and who accept the division between state and religion.

But I'm open to considering that the possibility exists, and on this point, Ash cites Ramdan's "systematic presentation of his argument from Islamic law and jurisprudence" on how "To Be a European Muslim: A Study of Islamic Sources in the European Context (Leicester: The Islamic Foundation; the date of first publication is given as 1999/1420 H)."

I suppose that I ought to read this if I want to understand Tariq Ramadan ... and the possibility of a Europeanized Islam (rather than an Islamized Eurabia).

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At 7:33 AM, Blogger Al-Ozarka said...

At this point in time, the only way I can be convinced of a truly peaceful Islamic Europe is if every Muslim-European leader stood up as one to condemn their terrorist brethren.

Let them tell Al-Quaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, Iran, and all of the islamothugs to "Give peace a chance".

Until that happens, I'm FORCED to judge Islamic professions of peace as nothing more than patronization.

When I see Muslim bloggers making headlines condemning the actions of "the few", I might then gain some trust. Until then....

At 8:32 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Daddio, from various conversations and from my reading of blogs, newspaper articles, and letters to the editor, your suspicion appears to be shared by an increasing number of people.

I've noticed this not only among those individuals who are conservative but also among some who are liberal or even on the left.

For instance, take a look at this blog entry at Contemporary Nomad and the comments posted there, which come from individuals who are probably liberal or slightly on the left.

As comment number seven by Ingrid implies, liberals and the left are "really beginning to sour on the whole Muslim thing." My impression is that Islamist intimidation may be losing its power over the Europeans.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:37 AM, Blogger Al-Ozarka said...

Thanks for the link, Jeffery. Interesting site, too!

At 4:35 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Yes, it is an interesting site, and if you like detective stories, or spy stories, you might be interested in reading their fiction. I read Olen Steinhauer's novel Bridge of Sighs and reviewed it, too.

Jeffery Hodges

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