Tuesday 26 June 2007

An unwillingness to call things by their true name

The Drink Soaked Trots offer a useful analysis of Ian Buruma's article in today's Guardian, in which he uses sweeping generalisations to dismiss those who voice concerns about the threat posed by Islamism.

In one of my first posts on this blog, I explored the curious tendency among some 'liberal' Christian commentators (Bunting, Armstrong, Dalrymple, Odone et al) to offer apologies for Islamic fundamentalism. I saw this habit as rooted in a combination of 'post-missionary' guilt, misguided ecumenism, solidarity in the face of perceived secularist pressure, and an unconscious fascination with and envy of the 'Other' of Islam.

Buruma's article is an example of a parallel tendency among some faux-liberal secular commentators. They'll go to any lengths to avoid direct criticism of Islam or Islamism: this usually means the old trick of changing the subject to western foreign policy or (as in Buruma's piece) the shortcomings of the neoconservatives. As with their liberal Christian counterparts, it's as though head-on criticism of Islamism would be such a huge challenge to the deep structures of their worldview, that it's got to be avoided at all costs. Buruma's column today can be seen as part of this strategy of avoidance: you can almost hear the sighs of relief as Guardian readers come to the end - 'Phew! That means we don't have to be critical of Islam and can go on condemning the west instead.'

Coincidentally, David Thompson today provides an extract from a recent lecture by Salman Rushdie in which he describes the climate of intimidation that surrounded the Danish cartoons affair. Rushdie talks about the 'curious climate that we’re living in, where people are falling over backwards not to name the phenomenon that’s taking place, which is a progressive intimidation of the world in which we live' and the way in which 'things that we value a great deal are being eroded by this kind of intimidation and cowardice, and by an unwillingness to call things by their true name.'

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