Home/Daniel Larison/Berman, Buruma and Anti-Islamism

Berman, Buruma and Anti-Islamism

Conor Friedersdorf points to an odd passage from David Pryce-Jones:

Mark Steyn is a humorous writer, but he has a serious purpose, namely to point out that the Western world has Islamist enemies who wish it ill. We could deal with those Islamists except for one thing: A large segment of our fashionable opinion-makers, so to speak the Burumas of this world, think that Islamists aren’t as bad as all that; and if they are, then we are still worse, and what we stand for isn’t really worth defending. So the public doesn’t know what to think, and a few self-appointed custodians push them into all manner of doubt and guilt by accusing anyone who criticizes, or — horrors! — laughs at Islamists of Islamophobia, racism, fascism, etc. etc.

It should go without saying that Steyn has been treated abominably, and his case is a good example of why it is extremely dangerous to criminalize speech. Still, it is telling that Pryce-Jones feels compelled to drag Paul Berman and Ian Buruma into the discussion, since Berman and his bizarre obsession with Tariq Ramadan and Buruma are perfect examples of how overwrought, alarmist and ridiculous our would-be anti-Islamist champions tend to be. These champions give the impression that they are a tiny band of courageous souls resisting the tide of indifference and appeasement that is otherwise taking us all to oblivion, but somehow they wind up critiquing figures such as Ramadan (or Rauf) who pose no conceivable threat to them or to anyone else. The less dangerous the Muslims in question are, the more insidious and subversive they are made out to be.

Obviously, there has been no shortage of self-appointed protectors who want to warn the public about threats from Islamist groups, and for the most part mainstream media outlets have repeated these warnings or served as venues for the issuing of such warnings. The point isn’t that there aren’t threatening, hostile Islamists in the world, but that they are largely so powerless, so irrelevant, and so few in number that it makes no sense that they inspire so much panic and alarm. Scoffing at the alarmists shouldn’t blind anyone to real Islamist threats when they exist. On the contrary, criticizing the people who routinely exaggerate the power of Islamists is an important part of confronting the threats that actually exist. It is also an expression of confidence in “what we stand for” that we don’t believe our way of life can be destroyed by such relatively weak foes.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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