Sakset/Fra hofta

Bruce Bawer anmelder Ibn Warraqs nye bok Why the West is best, i Han er full av overraskelse og lovord over hvor friske øyne Warraq greier å se Vesten med.

Warraq ser verdien av ting vi er likegyldige eller passive overfor. Et typisk forfallstegn: vi forstår ikke verdien av det vi bygger på, og derfor forfaller det. Små ting som offentlige bibliotek, eller bykulturen i New York. Noe så ubetydelig som sangbøker, har spilt en viktig rolle.

Warraq devotes several pages to a celebration of Tin Pan Alley, noting perceptively that the Great American Songbook is not just a collection of pretty tunes and clever lyrics but a life-affirming cultural inheritance that “lend[s] dignity to the lives and struggles of ordinary people” and “cross[es] all the boundaries of race, class, and religion.” He pays tribute to American humor, noting that the abundance of comedy clubs in a city like New York “is a sure sign of a healthy society.” And he expresses admiration for “[t]he civilized pleasure of alcohol,” citing the philosopher Roger Scruton’s thumbs-up for American cocktail parties, which “immediately break the ice between strangers and set every large gathering in motion.”

In praising all these things about New York, of course, Warraq is not only extolling the core values of the West itself but, implicitly or explicitly, rebuking non-Western – and especially Muslim – culture.  Islam, after all, abhors a library or magazine rack which has not been cleansed of “offensive” items, and it frowns on music, humor, and the consumption of alcohol.  These, Warraq wants us to realize, are not minor issues – they are the kinds of things that make the difference between a happy life and a miserable one.  For him the Declaration of Independence’s foregrounding of the right to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” is no mere rhetorical flourish – it sums up the rich possibilities and promise of life in the West as opposed to life in the less happy regions of the world.

Nedrakkingen på vestlig kultur er noe amerikanerne har praktisert i lang tid. Men tidene er blitt hardere. Budskapet glir ikke like lett ned som før.

Warraq also highlights the importance to the rise of Western civilization of such things as literacy, the recognition of the importance of the freedom to criticize, Spinoza’s introduction of Biblical criticism, and the introduction of the newspaper.  (“Newspapers,” he notes, “did not appear in the Islamic world until the nineteenth century.”)  In addition, he very effectively takes on the argument that the West won its prosperity at the expense of “exploited” non-Western peoples, the romantic myth that “Native Americans and other primitive cultures lived in harmony with nature before the white man’s arrival,” and the uninformed notion that Western civilization is uniquely violent and other cultures uniquely spiritual.

Warraq har pakistansk bakgrunn. Han snakker av erfaring når han beskriver arabisk imperialisme. Hvorfor har så mange vestlige nedsablet sin egen historie som kriminell, men omfavnet den arabiske imperialismen, som har få om noen forsonende trekk og er mer uforsonlig og håpløs.

Warraq points up one substantial irony that should receive a great deal more attention – namely, that many of the same people who consider Western imperialism an unmitigated evil hold up Arab imperialism, which crushed “many ancient, advanced civilizations” without mercy, “as something admirable and a justifiable source of Muslim pride.” In a wonderful passage, he observes that

Muslims despise any coreligionists who accept what they regard as alien Western values, yet fail to consider that they themselves could justifiably be seen as “traitors” to the culture of their ancestors.  Muslims in present-day India are descendants of Hindus; in Iran, of Zoroastrians; in Syria, of Christians.  A vast number of Muslims throughout the world have been persuaded to accept a religion that originated thousands of miles away and to bow toward Arabia five times a day – a vivid symbol of cultural imperialism.  Before they can read or write their national language, they are taught to recite a book in a language they do not understand.  These Muslims learn more about the history of a people remote from them geographically and ethnically than about their own countries before the advent of Islam.

Warraq skriver at araberne greide den bedrift å få de undertvungne folkene til å tro at de ble reddet av islam. De kastet sin historie på båten og omfavnet en tro og en kultur langt borte fra.

Noe av den samme underkastende, unnvikende holdning ser vi i dagens Europa. Er det fordi islam greier å spille på kristen skyldfølelse?

as Warraq so pithily puts it, “[t]he Arabs turned out to be the most successful imperialists of all time, since so many of those conquered by Arabs came to believe they were thereby saved and that their whole prior cultural heritage was worthless.”

A Muslim Apostate’s Defense of the West

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