April 7, 2003

Will The Left Wake Up?

A new book by liberal intellectual Paul Berman makes the case that radical Islamist totalitarianism has its roots in Western traditions, not anything in Arab culture. Andrew Sullivan expresses hope in his latest Sunday Times piece that others on the left will "move away from their reactionary anti-Americanism toward the true liberal faith" and confront this new brand of fascism. An excerpt:

This fusion of totalitarian politics and the methods of terror were imports from the West, Berman shows, from the nihilists of the late nineteenth century, and the fascists and Stalinists of the twentieth. Who is Saddam, after all, but another Mussolini or Hitler, reborn in Islamic guise? Look at the personality cult, the secret police, the mass murders, the purges, the vast and inhuman wars, the scapegoating of the Jews, the vicious genocide against the Kurds (whose only crime was not to be Arabs). This kind of regime was invented not in Mesopotamia but in Europe. Likewise, the roots of Islamism - in the early years of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood - are also directly linked to the fascist movements in twentieth century Europe. A man like bin Laden is a classic Western figure, educated in the West, with a vast fortune built on Western oil trade, and methods that have far more to do with Stalin than with Islamic tradition.

What Berman is essentially arguing is that the notion that Arab or Muslim societies and cultures are somehow indigenously incapable of liberal democracy, that they should be consigned indefinitely to rule by fascist tyrants is a form of racist condescension that has no place in civilized discourse, let alone on the left.

Read it all.

Posted by dan at April 7, 2003 1:58 AM