Clash of civilizations? You bet—it’s Western civilization versus the multiculturalist abettors of al-Qaeda and the ayatollahs.
Literary critic and cultural commentator Bawer (While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within, 2006, etc.) opens with the well-known story of The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie’s book that earned its author a death sentence courtesy of the Iranian mullahs. Rather than rise up to present a united front against censorship, many Western lit-biz types—from chain bookstores to Germaine Greer—opined that Rushie had it coming, a sentiment that plays out, by Bawer’s account, every time a newspaper editor censors a cartoon or column that might conceivably offend some fundamentalist Muslim anywhere on Earth. Bawer has a field day deriding the multiculturalists—academics, mostly—who would sooner consign their own culture to the flames than defend it against its many enemies abroad. “Multiculturalism,” Bawer writes, “means exalting non-Western groups, treating their collective values (however illiberal) as sacrosanct, and either choosing not to notice their lack of freedom or pretending there’s no such thing as freedom…” The author’s work has drifted toward the right over the years, but his argument is often well-reasoned and to the point. It is beyond question that the imams would not brook cultural criticism of this or any other ilk in the unlikely event that they came to power in Washington, D.C., or London. Still, Bawer’s argument occasionally takes silly turns, as when he condemns the Dixie Chicks for “telling their critics to shut up” via the documentary Shut Up and Sing, and the State Department for doing away with the useless term “Islamo-fascism.”
Merits discussion, despite its shrill moments and its tendency to paint all Muslims with an enemy-of-democracy brush.