Wednesday, September 15, 2010

On Tariq Ramadan and Islamist Jew Hatred

Due disclosure: I like Paul Berman's writings. I haven't read them all, but he always strikes me as a clear-eyed scholar who reads a lot and thinks about what he's reading. I'm saying this because in the case of an intellectual argument about a book I haven't read, my natural inclination, at least until I read the book, is to side with Berman. Not blindly, mind you, but at least initially.

The book under discussion being The Flight of the Intellectuals.

Mark Lynch, a professor at George Washington University and potentially a member of the class Berman criticizes, recently published a long review of the book, which he didn't much like. Now Berman has responded, he's been joined by Jeffrey Herf, and Lynch then responds to them responding to his responding to Berman; the discussion is here. Herf, in case you've missed it, is the author of the important Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World, so you can see where part of the argument goes.

More due disclosure: I have no empathy for any intellectual position which overlooks, excuses, or in any other way diminishes the significance of antisemitism. In my book, it's not possible to be moderate and reasonable if your being moderate and reasonable doesn't include the Jews. But maybe that's just me.

The best thing would probably to start by reading Berman's book, but if - like me - that's not something you've got the time for this week, the exchange is interesting.


Barry Meislin said...

Mark Lynch, a professor at George Washington University and potentially a member of the class Berman criticizes, recently published a long review of the book, which he didn't much like.

That Mark Lynch doesn't much like Berman's book ought to please Berman no end; for it is a clear sign of the book's inherent value and right-headedness---and the truth of its argument.

Lynch's disapproval should be seen as the highest form of recommendation; that there should be no doubt that the book should be read and that there is much, alas, to learn from it.

Michael J. Totten said...

Paul Berman's book is absolutely first rate.

Lynch is being dense. He's a smart guy and really should know better. He does indeed belong to the class Berman is criticizing, which partly explains his reaction.

Barry Meislin said...

...and really should know better.

Given who Lynch is, and what he represents, that is simply an absurd statement.

NormanF said...

Anti-Semitism has no shortage of eloquent defenders, Jews among them! You can ask Mark Elf why he believes Jews have a duty to eliminate the only manifestation of Jewish national self-determination on earth.

Its the only one that seems to exasperate its critics to no end.

Anonymous said...

I read the Berman book. I never heard of Mark Lynch. I will have to print the articles you linked to. I hope I will have the time to read them.

Berman's book is really worthwhile for the intellectual background it gives to the development of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the influential Arab thinkers of the last century. One of the things that seems to be forgotten in the Arab-Israel discussion, is the amount of Jew hatred cultivated amongst the Arabs for the last 100 90 years or so.

As for the critique of Tariq Ramadan, I think Berman was very fair minded.

I have the opportunity to hear Tariq Ramadan and Christopher Hitchens debate at the 92nd St. Y in October. I can't decide if I will have the stomach to go or not.


Anonymous said...

this is the original Berman-piece on Tariq Ramadan that was enlarged into the book’s-afraid-tariq-ramadan


Anonymous said...

here is Berman defending his book against a Yale-professor - I must get around to reading the man:
Arguments: Response to Andrew F. March

but it is quite an exemplary read in itself - I liked the way he established his right to judge based on his own field of expertise.

- you have read the book, does Berman get around to discussing Ramadan's father? There was this meeting if not mixing of Islam and communism. It sounds like the father's story might be interesting in that context.

he suggestion that you need to command an expertise on Islamic law in order to understand the doctrines of someone like Ramadan is a rigamarole that is trotted out to discourage everyone from reading and engaging in debate.