righteous and wrong


Obsessed as they are with their model of a “totalitarian threat” to Enlightenment liberalism, both Berman and Hirsi Ali fail to take account of well-documented facts that would challenge their presuppositions. Berman muddles kin-patronage politics, a constant in Arab societies, with fascism. Hirsi Ali—oblivious of changes in gender roles that are occurring within more developed Muslim polities, and ignoring the way that traditional systems of authority tend to oppress women in cultures as different as China, Japan, and India—confuses Islam (a malleable religious tradition) with patriarchy (a specific set of social relationships built around masculine power). As Julien Benda himself might acknowledge, a failure to look at all the facts, however complex they may be, is a kind of intellectual betrayal, a trahison des clercs.

more from Malise Ruthven at the NYRB here.