Vargas Llosa on Ian Buruma on Ayaan Hirsi Ali on…


In last Saturday’s Die Welt , reports signandsight,

Mario Vargas Llosa read with bated breath Ian Buruma‘s book “Murder in Amsterdam“, about the killing of Theo van Gogh and its consequences. Yet, as he writes in the literature section, he has little sympathy for Buruma’s criticism of Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Afshin Ellian as “Enlightenment fundamentalists”. “The people in the west have it good, they live in safety. And although newspapers and television tell them how terrible things are out there, they have forgotten that it is freedom, human rights and democracy – concepts that now sound like hollow phrases in their ears – that they have to thank for their standard of living and legal security. Which is why they are wallowing in self-pity and apathy, and why they get annoyed as soon as someone interferes with their comfortable life. If the culture of freedom survives the challenge of religious fundamentalism, it would not be going too far to say that it will mainly be thanks to new citizens like Afshin Ellian and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. They have first-hand experience of the horrors of religious obscurantism and political barbarity and they know the difference. Now they are rallying to the defence of the culture that they have made their own. They are convinced that threats and danger have a strengthening not a weakening influence.

Back on 27 May I reported here on Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s departure from Europe to join a conservative think tank in the US, a strange decision it still seems to me. Mario Vargas Llosa is a rather conservative thinker and I don’t believe that the “culture of freedom” will survive because Hirsi Ali joined the American Enterprise Institute. In Europe all these issues are bein intensely discussed right now. In France, BHL got his wish (see below): a law was passed that makes it a crime to deny the genocide of the Armenians in Turkey, modelled on laws in various European countries that make it a crime to deny the Shoa. Which causes problems to anyone who believes in absolute freedom of speech — and yet, Lanzman’s argument that denial of the act was part of the crime of the Shoa does make sense. But laws — divine or human — against lies — divine or human — have never worked, and, I think, never will. Here are a few points in this discussion, again summed up by signandsight in its recent magazine roundup:

In what up to now has been a rather loose debate, national differences are reemerging when it comes to bans, controls and laws. The English do not like it if the validity of another religion is questioned, the French take tough measures against denial of either the Holocaust or the genocide against the Armenians. In a controversial interview with journalist Elisabeth Levy about integration and interactions with Islamism, British-Dutch writer Ian Buruma gives multiculturalism another chance. At the same time he condemns the “watchdog mentality” of the west and urges more respect in general regarding Islam as a religion, and regarding adherents to the faith. “The French discourse deliberately denies the existence of differences, in the name of the principle of ‘equal rights for all.’ When it comes to classical multiculturalism, it can be summed up in one sentence: Live and let live. Whether they go to the mosque or develop their own culture, as long as they obey the law, we do not have to clash.”

In his Bloc-notes column, Bernard-Henry Levy again pleads for a law that criminalizes denial of the genocide against Armenians. He implicitly addresses the polemic of British historian Timothy Garton Ash, who made fun of him last week in the Guardian and referred to the position that even Holocaust denial must be allowed, in the name of freedom of opinion and freedom of scientific research. Levy asks – not unlike Buruma in relation to Islam – whether “a little dose of political correctness” wouldn’t be nice. He alludes to a recent argument expressed by Claude Lanzmann in “Temps modernes“: “Lanzmann recalls that in the Shoah, negation was part of the crime. Murdering and erasing the traces of the killing were one and the same act. I believe one must take a stand against this argument, which in principle functions exactly as the crime itself functioned.”

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