Pascal Bruckner on Ayaan Hirsi Ali

I have never been a fan of Pascal Bruckner, someone I associate with the emergence of the neo-con French philosophers known as the “Nouveaux Philosophes.” Indeed, I thought that the book that brought him first fame, the 1983 Le Sanglot de l’Homme blanc (The Cry of the White Man) was & remains a mean-minded and unjustified attack on pro-third-world thinkers. And that was only the beginning. More recently he became an active militant of the US-government’s cause and for the so-called “preventive war”, signing letters and petitions in favour of Donald Rumsfeld, along with Romain Goupil and André Glucksmann (Le Monde, 4 March 2003). And yet, the piece below which I first read a few days ago in German and which is now available, thanks to signandsight, in English translation, has much to recommend it — or at least to have argument with. At its core lie the two antagonistic Euro-visions of how to deal with the ethnic and cultural minorities inside its various national borders: the Gallic sense of the need for complete integration and equality (that is the theory, not the practice) under a universal sense of human rights based on concepts derived from the European Enlightnment; and on the other the recent British & Dutch (though first: Canadian) model of multicultural development that for the sake of non-interference in the religious and cultural affairs of minority communities will allow behaviors unacceptable and judged criminal by the white majority culture. Here are the opening paragraphs of Bruckner’s piece. You can read the rest overe there.

Enlightenment fundamentalism or racism of the anti-racists?

Pascal Bruckner defends Ayaan Hirsi Ali against Ian Buruma and Timothy Garton Ash, condemning their idea of multiculturalism for chaining people to their roots

“What to say to a man who tells you he prefers to obey God than to obey men, and who is consequently sure of entering the gates of Heaven by slitting your throat?” – Voltaire

“Colonisation and slavery have created a sentiment of culpability in the West that leads people to adulate foreign traditions. This is a lazy, even racist attitude.” – Ayaan Hirsi Ali

There’s no denying that the enemies of freedom come from free societies, from a slice of the enlightened elite who deny the benefits of democratic rights to the rest of humanity, and more specifically to their compatriots, if they’re unfortunate enough to belong to another religion or ethnic group. To be convinced of this one need only glance through two recent texts: “Murder in Amsterdam” by the British-Dutch author Ian Buruma on the murder of Theo Van Gogh (1) and the review of this book by English journalist and academic Timothy Garton Ash in the New York Review of Books (2). Buruma’s reportage, executed in the Anglo-Saxon style, is fascinating in that it gives voice to all of the protagonists of the drama, the murderer as well as his victim, with apparent impartiality. The author, nevertheless, cannot hide his annoyance at the former Dutch member of parliament of Somali origin, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a friend of Van Gogh’s and also the subject of death threats. Buruma is embarrassed by her critique of the Koran.

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2 Responses

  1. Andrew Shields says:

    There’s a related piece by another writer you may not like much otherwise: Francis Fukayama. You can find it here:

  2. Douglas Barbour says:

    That’s a fascinating piece by Bruckner, the whole of it. As a Canadian, I think (despite our New Canadian Government, which is all too like the Bushies, but that’s another story), our approach to multiculturism is a bit more complex than he paints it (I suspect the same to be true of the Netherlands etc, too). Indeed, our laws simply don’t allow for some of the practices he suggests these countries (nations? that term is one of our continuing questions) allow religious minorities. Well, many of us, certainly me & a lot of people I know, would never agree that people of whatever faith should be allowed to follow those precepts of same that led to such things as female circumcision, let alone suicide bombing etc…. And now, a small town in Québec has posted a notice to possible immigrants stating that certain acts will not be allowed there; and this has caused a bit of a ruckus, to be sure. Which is to say, that Canada, like the Netherlands, etc., ‘contains multitudes’, even if multicultural ones, and cannot be so easily defined even in that context. And the discussion does continue, even as we also celebrate our multiculturalism….

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