Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Is it me, or did it just get wordier and more self-exculpatory in here?

Paul Berman has a 28,000 word essay out about Tariq Ramadan. It is sitting on my monitor like a fat, evil toad, glaring balefully at me. Apparently in order to understand it you first have to read a 10,000 word essay by Ian Buruma. Oh dear god, is there no relent? I will have a go at it this evening. Meanwhile, via Matthew Yglesias, Brian Weatherson on the folly of the Govean "War of Ideas" (note that this concept of Goves, like so much else in "Celsius 7/7" is warmed over Berman), and Joshua Marshall on the general folly of Greatest Intellectual Struggles Of Our Time. So now all told that is about 50,000 words of essays to read. What a fucking day.

On a brighter note, check out offical AW hero of the week, Conor Foley, kicking ass and taking names with respect to the Sunday Nick Cohen article on the Comment About Hay-On-Wye Is Free website. It will be interesting to see how this one plays with the Reader's Editor.


Blogger ejh said...

Cohen disagrees with this view. According to him, and his co-thinkers, the UN is covering up a genocide in Darfur and is "close to being an accessory to mass murder".

But not as fucking close as Nick, a less generous retort might have continued.

Can "relent" be used as a noun?

5/30/2007 09:11:00 AM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

according to all dictionaries, no.

5/30/2007 02:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Three pages into the Berman article, I summarise the argument so far as follows:

Lots of decadent western intellectuals, such as Ian Buruma, think that Tariq Ramadan is a 'man we can do business with'. However, he is actually an ultra-conservative and apologist for the Muslim Brotherhood, and specifically its founder (and Ramadan's Grandfather) Hassan al-Banna. The Muslim Brotherhood is more influenced by European fascism than it is by Islam. I will also insinuate that Tariq Ramadan is some form of anti-semite.

5/30/2007 02:18:00 PM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

I am skim reading it, and I find myself rather uncharitably analogising it to the numerous late C19 tracts which made a great deal of how Karl Marx vociferously denied being part of a conspiracy and indeed repeatedly condemned the international bankers, thus proving how sneaky and insidious the Bolshevik/Banker conspiracy really was.

(I realise that it is rather unfair and nasty to make these slippery kindasorta insinuations of anti-Semitism, but given that the context is the Decent Left, I am not minded to feel so terribly guilty)

5/30/2007 02:51:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

As I am in a pedantic mood (you may prefer the term "donnish") I suppose I should observe that no C19th tract could have referred to the Bolsheviks since they did not exist until the following century.

5/30/2007 02:57:00 PM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

ahhh of course. but what is mere history compared to the power of alliteration?

5/30/2007 03:29:00 PM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

by the way I am now half way through and still Berman has not come up with anything solid at all.

5/30/2007 03:30:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Perhaps it melted into air.

5/30/2007 03:42:00 PM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...


page 8, now and Berman has got what I would regard as a solid "gotcha" if he had posted it in the comments section of, or even a reasonable quality Harry's Place post on how Ramadan is a little bit suspiciously quick to play the "Zionist" card. But jesus pleazus, the final 10 kilowords are going to have to be *fucking* good to justify what has gone so far. Also

By the time they arrived in Paris, their numbers had swollen to 100,000, and the protest had become known as the "March of the Beurs"--a slang word, friendly and not at all racist, for young Arabs.

I am not at all sure about this.

5/30/2007 03:50:00 PM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

I donnishly note that he's missing an "e" from "SOS Racisme".

5/30/2007 03:54:00 PM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

and he's made Bernard-Henri Lévy an "intellectual leader" of the French anti-racist movement

5/30/2007 03:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've read the whole thing now, and summarise each page below. It is quite a harrowing experience, which I do not recommend - a kind of compendium of all the worst aspects of Decency in one grisly article.

Page 4:

A number of writers have documented Tariq Ramadan's career from varying perspectives. I am not competent to judge between these accounts, but will nonetheless embark a lengthy exposition of Tariq Ramadan's politico-religious philosophy on the basis of a page or two from one of his books.

Page 5:

Tariq Ramadan is a 'Salafi reformist'. Ian Buruma thinks that this means nice people like Tariq Ramadan, but it also means Bad People like Sayyid Qutb, and Evil Terrorists, whom Tariq Ramadan does not condemn loudly enough. There are some familial and institutional links between Sayyid Qutb and Tariq Ramadan which are of little significance in themselves and which Ian Buruma does not refer to. However, the fact Ian Buruma does not refer to them means Ian Buruma is engaged in some form of conspiracy to disguise the true nature of Tariq Ramadan's views. Like the wily oriental he is, Ramadan disguises his true views behind a fog of ambiguity.

I don't have much understanding of Islamic philosophy, but I do know European political philosophy, and I can tell you that 'Salafi reformism' is a bit like Rousseau.

Page 6:

On the basis of an imprecise English translation of Ramadan's prose, I draw wide-ranging conclusions about his personality and politico-religious philosophy.

Ramadan's book about Muhammad is too favourable to Muhammad, and doesn't make clear enough what an evil anti-semite he was.

Page 7:

There is overwhelming evidence that modern France is anti-semitic. Anti-semitism is the most important racial prejudice in France today.

I insinuate that Tariq Ramadan might be an anti-semite, and that this is a particularly bad thing given the anti-semitism of modern France. Then I change my mind and decide that he isn't an anti-semite and agree with Buruma that he has often spoken out against anti-semitism. I then attack Ian Buruma for suggesting that he is alone among Muslim intellectuals for being opposed to anti-semitism.

Page 8:

French Muslims used to be anti-racist, but now they are sectarian Islamists, and this is Tariq Ramadan's fault. It is also the fault of decadent western intellectuals such as Ian Buruma, who are insufficiently willing to wage the 'battle of ideas'.

The anti-war alliance between Marxists and Islamists is actually very important, and not trivial. The people who marched against war in London in February 2003 were not actually marching against war, but in support of the alliance between the SWP and the MAB.

I draw wide-ranging conclusions about Ian Buruma based on a single sentence from his article in the New York Times Magazine.

Page 9:

Tariq Ramadan says he is against violence, and has repeatedly spoken out against violence. However, based on a tendentious reading of the subtext of a single word he uses in the context of his grandfather's views on Palestinian 'armed resistance', I insinuate that he is actually in favour of violence.

I also point out that he seems quite keen on Yusuf al-Qaradawi, and because al-Qaradawi is in favour of some kinds of violence, that means Tariq Ramadan is too. I therefore feel able to speculate that the allegations that Ramadan has funded terrorism might be true, though without presenting any evidence.

Even though Tariq Ramadan condemns terrorism, he has failed to distance himself from people who have sometimes expressed support for particular kinds of violence in certain specific circumstances. This means he really supports terrorism, sort of.

Page 10:

The ban on headscarves in French schools was introduced to ensure the schools were 'outside Islamist control'. There can be no other explanation for its introduction and no other factors influenced it. Because Tariq Ramadan opposed the law, this means he is on the side of the Islamists, and is an opponent of women's rights.

Tariq Ramadan opposes the stoning of women, but differs from Nicolas Sarkozy as to how the practice might be stopped. He also failed to condemn the practice noisily enough for Nicolas Sarkozy's liking, which means that he probably supports the stoning of women. Why do decadent western intellectuals think that Tariq Ramadan was right not to condemn the stoning of women?

Page 11:

Ian Buruma has criticised Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Why has he done this? Ayaan Hirsi Ali is great.

People who criticise the writing of Ayaan Hirsi Ali are on the same moral level as people who carry out anti-semitic attacks on the streets of Paris. The only appropriate position for a liberal to take on the topic of Ayaan Hirsi Ali is one of unquestioning support. The fact that some liberals are critical of her is a symptom of our decadent western intellectuals' failure to take part in the 'battle of ideas'.

The reason some western liberals criticise Ayaan Hirsi Ali is that they have a racist idea of non-westerners as 'noble savages'.

Both Ian Buruma and Timothy Garton Ash are part of a 'campaign against Ayaan Hirsi Ali', and are thus at the same moral level as the people who carry out anti-semitic attacks on the streets of Paris. Oh, and they are postmodern relativist multiculturalists, obviously.

Page 12:

People who criticise Ayaan Hirsi Ali are doing so because they are racist and opposed to the enlightenment. Timothy Garton Ash is a misogynist.

If one criticises Ayaan Hirsi Ali, one is 'slandering the friends of democracy'. There can be no rational explanation for criticising her.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is unquestionably the heir to the anti-communist dissidents in Eastern Europe during the cold war. Timothy Garton Ash is thus a bit like one of those western intellectuals who admired the Soviet bloc.

I continue to fail to discuss the substance of Ayaan Hirsi Ali's views, or why anyone might want to criticise them, while continuing to assert that her critics are variously racist, illiberal, relativist, anti-enlightenment, and postmodern.

Timothy Garton Ash once praised an Islamic scholar who MEMRI says said something silly about 9/11. This means that Timothy Garton Ash is a relativist and probably an appeaser of suicide terrorism.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is this generation's Salman Rushdie. Tariq Ramadan is an appeaser of suicide bombing.

Decadent western intellectuals are failing to confront Islamism and wage the 'battle of ideas'. In this, they lack the courage and intellectual honesty of Paul Berman.

5/30/2007 04:13:00 PM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

in days of old, when knights were bold and blogs did what they oughta
I picked a fight with Steven den Beste and invented a joke called "Shorter"

and I'll do it for this piece this evening, if it kills me. If it does kill me, I leave this blog to Captain Cabernet.

5/30/2007 04:29:00 PM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

actually, Simon, could I lift your excellent summary for the front page post please? I plan to do "the digested read, digested", which would be:

If only that bastard would admit he was a witch, we could burn him/

5/30/2007 04:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Go ahead.

5/30/2007 04:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is how Paul Berman gets Tariq Ramadan all wrong.

6/19/2007 07:36:00 PM  

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